The Truth About Ancient Egypt's 'Festival Of Drunkenness'

Tired of the same old humdrum church services, all wrapped up in your stuffy Sunday best, and nodding off in an uncomfortable pew to hymns that weren't fun even when they were new?

Try worshiping Ra, the ancient Egyptian god of the sun. Every year on the 20th of Thoth (sometime in mid-August), the annual Festival of Drunkenness was held — a religious experience normally reserved for nightclubs and key parties. The town-wide fete usually climaxed in an orgiastic free-for-all before all the drunken party animals (excuse me, devoted acolytes) fell asleep on top of each other in a heap of sweat and — well, you know.

Of course, when you base your "religion" on something so irreverent as inebriated debauchery, there's always a doubt as to what actually inspires so much of the religious zeal. As is the case with Antony and Cleopatra's drinking club, we're left with a few questions about the truth behind ancient Egypt's Festival of Drunkenness.

Despite thinking up all of creation out of the blue, gods often display a concerning lack of imagination when it comes to problem solving. According to Ancient Origins, an ancient Egyptian text called The Book of the Heavenly Cow tells how Ra became displeased with the confused little human subjects he'd created. As is the wont of gods, he chose to destroy them all.

Ra to the Ancient Egyptians: That's my bad, y'all

So Ra and some other irascible know-it-alls thought it best to turn his eyeball into his daughter Hathor, then turn her into a lion and send her into the desert to seek out the frightened people who had fled the cities when they'd heard the gods whispering overhead. She stalked the dunes, indiscriminately slaughtering the rebellious humans and drinking up all their blood.

Then Ra regretted his decision and took up the yoke of the savior of mankind. Or he'd planned it that way from the beginning, depending on which text you consult. The Ancient History Encyclopedia says that Ra was fine with the bloodshed until the other gods on the council suggested he save humanity to teach them a lesson.

Whatever his motive, Ra ordered his servants to mix 7,000 jars of beer with crimson hematite to make it look like dark red blood. He then flooded the palm fields with the fake vital fluid, and when Hathor roared awake and saw an ocean of blood, she immediately set to chugging. She got so drunk that she passed out and completely forgot about devouring humanity.

The ancient Egyptian Festival of Drunkenness was a way to thank Ra for not finishing the job he'd started. And what better way to celebrate our survival than a massive bout of ecstatic procreation?