Egyptians Got Drunk To Celebrate Beer Defeating The Gods
Many cultures have their own drunken festivals. Just last week, for example, we celebrated St. Patrick's Day. Other alcohol festivals include Marathon Monday, Mardi Gras, New Year's Eve, and of course payday. But while we celebrate all these days by drinking, they aren't officially Festivals of Drunkenness. In that sense, the Ancient Egyptians had us beat.
Their annual Festival of Drunkenness, less commonly known as the Tekh Festival, was devoted to the "lady of drunkenness," the goddess Hathor. Everyone got very drunk, collapsed in a stupor, then awoke to drums (the drummers didn't pass out, as drummers all have a high tolerance for alcohol). Still drunk on waking, people would "experience the goddess intimately." This either means they were on psychedelics as well as booze or that they all had an orgy; either way, everyone had a good time.
They celebrated alcohol for all the expected reasons (alcohol means joy and life and wealth), but also because in their mythology, beer had once saved them all.
Once upon a time, Ra figured it was time to destroy humanity, so he sent down Sekhmet, the goddess of plagues and war. Sekhmet took to gobbling people and drinking their blood. Ra eventually changed his mind and wanted to call Sekhmet off, but she was now unstoppable. So he dispatched Tenenet, the goddess of beer, to dye a load of beer red and leave it where Sekhmet would find it. Sekhmet thought beer was blood and chugged it down and fell asleep. Then she awoke, permanently transformed into Hathor, a benevolent goddess.
With that setup to the holiday, we're surprised the Egyptians didn't dye the river red every year for the celebration, like Chicago dyes its river green every St. Patrick's day. The reason they didn't? The Nile turned red naturally once a year, with sediment following the annual floods, and they already associated this phenomenon with the river looking like booze.
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For more drunken festivals, check out:
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Top image via Wiki Commons