Celebrating the Birthdays of the Gods

by Emily K. Jones

As we approach the end of summer and the advent of the harvest season, I look forward to experiencing one of my favorite and most magickal seasonal celebrations: the birthdays of Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis and Nephthys.  Although I look forward to and honor each of the eight Sabbats on the Wheel of the Year, it is this “extra” Sabbat, the birthday party for my Gods, that has become the most magickal and powerful highlight of my ritual year.

In order to bring their calendar of 12 months consisting of 30 days each into alignment with the length of the solar year, the ancient Egyptians created the epagomenal days, a short month of five days that were the birthdays of the aforementioned Gods and Goddesses.  Every year, I celebrate these birthdays, which on our modern calendar coincide with July 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18.  Since I have started doing this, these five days have come to be my favorite seasonal celebration and I consider this time of year to be at the heart of my spiritual practice.

If you are already working with the Egyptian pantheon or wish to start working with them, I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the epagomenal days to bring the magick of these ancient deities into your life.  I suggest that you begin by finding a version of the story of their births that appeals to you.  My favorite version of the births of these Gods and Goddesses is the one written by Normandi Ellis.  This version can be found in both the book Feasts of Light by Normandi Ellis and the book The Passion of Isis and Osiris:  A Gateway to Transcendent Love by Jean Houston.  On July 13, start by reading the entire story and then setting up an altar to honor the deities.  If you have statues of Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis and Nephthys, place them on the altar.  If you do not have statues, you can use pictures, crystals or candles to represent the deities.  My suggested candle or gemstone colors are green for Osiris, yellow or gold for Horus, red for Set, blue for Isis and black for Nephthys.  Once I have the representations of the deities on the altar, I like to cover them with a red scarf to symbolize their presence in the belly of their mother, the Goddess Nut.

On July 14, read the story as far as the birth of Osiris.  You can cast circle and hold a formal ritual each night as you celebrate the birthdays, or if you prefer, you can keep it more informal.  I choose to go the formal ritual route.  I like to read the story out loud.  Remove the scarf from the object on your altar that you have chosen to represent Osiris.  If you have a candle for him, light that candle and welcome him.  Light some incense as an offering to him.  I like to use cedar or Egyptian musk incense, but use whatever scent feels right to you.  You can write your own invocation for him, use a passage from the Book of the Dead or simply let the story invoke him.  I like to have a birthday card for him.  I spend some time focusing on the candle flame and meditating about where and how I work with the energy of Osiris in my life.  Osiris is the benevolent, civilizing ruler, the sacrificed vegetation God and the lord of the dead.  If I have any requests or messages I wish to send to Osiris, I write them down and place the paper with the birthday card.  Once my meditation time is complete, I burn the card and paper in my cauldron with the intent of my birthday message reaching Osiris.  You may also want to ask Osiris if he has any messages for you and then spend some time listening for an answer.  When I am done spending time with Osiris, I extinguish the candle, leaving the Osiris portion of the altar uncovered.

On the following day, July 15, read the part of the birthday story that details the birth of Horus.  Uncover the representation of Horus on your altar, then light a candle and burn some incense for him.  For Horus, I like to use frankincense, sandalwood or lotus incense.  Use whatever form of invocation you prefer to call Horus and welcome him.  Meditate on Horus and his energy.  Horus is the far seeing hawk of gold, a solar God of protection who sees things from his higher perspective as he soars above the earth.  As you did with Osiris, spend some time communing with Horus and then deliver your birthday message to him in whatever manner seems appropriate to you.  After you deliver your message, listen for whatever messages he might have for you.

The birthday celebration on the third night, July 16, is dedicated to Set.  Proceed as you did on the first two nights, casting circle and calling quarters if you wish, then reading the portion of the story concerned with the birth of Set and uncovering his image.  Dragon’s blood is the incense I prefer for offering to Set.  Some people may find it difficult to work with Set, particularly if they do much work with Osiris, Isis or Horus.  Set is the rebel God, the murderer of Osiris who usurps his throne.  If you find it hard to relate to Set, spend some time really thinking about where the energy of the rebel has been a factor in your life.  You might also want to think about what legitimate reasons Set might have had for choosing to rebel.  If, after your meditation, you determine that Set is not a God you are comfortable working with, simply send him a happy birthday wish and let him know that you do not wish to work with him at this time.

The celebration on the fourth day centers on the birth of Isis.  Another name for this celebration is The Night of the Cradle.  For me, July 17 is one of the most joyous and sacred days of the year because it is the birthday of my patron Goddess Isis.  Begin your celebration of this birthday in the same manner you have been using for the previous three birthdays.  Kyphi is the scent that I like to use for Isis, but any incense you associate with the moon, magick and the divine feminine should do.  You can find many lovely invocations to Isis or you could write your own invocation if you are inspired.  Spend as long as you like meditating with Isis.  In my work with her, I have found her to be extremely accessible and compassionate with a lot to say.  She is a Goddess of magick and mystery, a great magician who creates through the power of utterance and a devoted wife and mother.   In addition to the birthday card and message, I like to offer an additional gift to her, such as flowers.

July 18 marks the final day of birthday festivities.  Nephthys is the Goddess born on this day.  As you approach your altar on July 18, the representation of Nephthys is the only one that should still be covered.  Read the story of her birth, then uncover her representation and light her candle and incense.  Jasmine is the scent that I prefer to use for Nephthys.  Nephthys is a Goddess of the shadows, a dark reflection of her bright sister Isis.  Although she is young in age, many people find working with Nephthys very similar to working with the energy of the Crone.  She can be very helpful for engaging in shadow work.  If you spend some time meditating and communing with Nephthys, she will let you know where and how you might benefit from working with her.  After you have delivered your birthday card to Nephthys, you might want to spend some time contemplating all five of these deities.

You can either take down your altar at the close of the epagomenal days, or leave it up for awhile if you intend to continue working with these Gods and Goddesses.  You may find, as I did, that taking time to honor and celebrate the birthdays of Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis and Nephthys helps you build a rich and deep connection to these deities that enriches you and your magickal practice throughout the entire year.

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