Papyrus with a calendar of lucky and unlucky days

From Saqqara, Egypt
Late 19th Dynasty, around 1225 BC

Even ancient Egyptians had good days and bad days

It was important to many people whether a day is lucky or not. Today we might check our horoscopes in the newspaper, while in ancient Egypt it seems that they consulted calendars that kept track of the goodness or badness of particular days. The oldest surviving Egyptian calendar of lucky and unlucky days dates to the Middle Kingdom (2040-1750 BC). This papyrus, which contains parts of the records for eight months, is one of the most extensive and dates from the late Nineteenth Dynasty (around 1225 BC).

The entry for each day is prefaced by three hieroglyphs that indicate 'good' or 'bad'. The 'bad' hieroglyphs are written in red. If a day is partly good and partly bad, the relevant hieroglyphs can be mixed to represent the assessment of the day. The character of a day often derives from events told in mythological history.

An example of a bad day: 'Do not go out on this day. Do not turn your back to do any work at sunset. Whoever is born on this day will die through a serpent'.
An example of a good day: 'This is the day on which the gods received their hearts. The world keeps the festival'.

For some days the text is quite obscure, and others may not appear to the modern reader as good or bad as they did to the Egyptians.

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Papyrus with a calendar of lucky and unlucky days

Insect holes (front)

 

More information

Bibliography

R.B. Parkinson and S. Quirke, Papyrus, (Egyptian Bookshelf) (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

C. Leitz, Magical and medical papyri of (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

Dimensions

Height: 19.500 cm

Museum number

EA 10184

YCA70400

Location

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