Sed Festival Ancient Egyptian Ritual Tested Pharaohs

Detail from an ebony label of the First Dynasty pharaoh Den, depicting him running around the ritual boundary markers as part of the Sed festival. Credit: Wikipedia

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Left: Mace Head Of King Narmer. Credit: Public Domain – Right: The Sed Festival. Credit: I Like Egypt

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There is however, clear evidence that the First Dynasty pharaoh Den and the Third Dynasty pharaoh Djoser participated in the Sed festival.

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In the Pyramid of Djoser,built byImhotepthere are two boundary stones in his Heb Sed court, which is within his pyramid complex. He also is shown performing the Heb Sed in afalse doorwayinside his pyramid.

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All pharaohs regardless of gender had to be tested. AtKarnak, one of the greatest temple complexes in the world, there are blocks from the reconstructed Red Chapel that show queenHatshepsutas king, running with the Apis bull between the markers. Depictions found inside the Temple of Aten at Karnak show that pharaohAkhenatenand his wife, queenNefertiti, as well as their daughter celebrated the Sed festival.

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Although the Seb festival was held after a pharaoh had been on the throne for 30 years, there is evidence that some rulers, including those with relatively short reigns, celebrated their royal jubilee earlier. Egyptologists think that a ruler with bad health could alter the normal span between the Sed festivals.

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During this ceremony, the pharaoh made various offerings to the Egyptian gods and was re-crowned. The exact date of the festival is uncertain, but its very possible the celebration took place sometime during the Koaik, the fourth month of the Egyptian calendar.

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Ellen Lloyd is the owner of AncientPages.com and an author who has spent decades researching history, ancient mysteries, myths, legends and sacred texts, but she is also very interested in astronomy, astrobiology and science in general

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It is unknown when the Sed festival took place for the first time, but the first sign of the ancient ritual seems to be documented on the Narmer macehead, an Egyptian artifact dated to the Early Dynastic Period reign of king Narmer. Though it should be stated that some Egyptologists question whether the decoration on this mace head really represents the Heb-Sed ritual.

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Egyptologists have suggested that the Heb-Sed festival may have been introduced to replace a ritual of murdering a pharaoh who was unable to continue to rule effectively because of age or condition.

Sooner or later every great leader must prove his competency to remain in power. In ancient Egypt there was a test for pharaohs. Being in good physical condition was a requirement for pharaohs. The Seb festival, also referred to as Heb-Sed or the royal jubilee was celebrated after a pharaoh had ruled for 30 years.

EgyptEgyptian RitualFalse doorsHeb-SedImhotepKarnakKoaikNarmerPharaoh AkhenatenPharaoh DjoserPharaohsQueen HatshepsutQueen NefertitiRitualTest

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The purpose of the festival was to renew the pharaohs potency to rule over the land. During the festival, the pharaoh had to run a fixed course to prove that his fitness was well intact. The Sed festival was one of the oldest and longest-running rituals in Egyptian history.

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