Five Days Out of Time

John Opsopaus


August 24 begins the "five days out of time" when, according to Plutarch (Isis & Osiris, ch. 12), five principal Egyptian Gods were born.

The civil calendar that was introduced in Egypt between c.2937 and c.2821 BCE had 12 months of 30 days each. Five epagomenal days, "days out of time," were placed between the 30th of the last month and the first day of the new year to bring the total to 365. Although the rising of Sirius (Sothis) originally marked the new year (Thoth 1), the missing quarter day in the civil calendar caused a "wandering year" as the rising of Sirius cycled through the days of the year; it returned to Thoth 1 every 1461 (civil) years, the Sothic Cycle. (For example, this occurred in 1320 BCE and 139 CE.) When the Julian calendar was introduced in Egypt in 22 BCE, New Year was fixed to its date that year, August 29. Therefore, in terms of the new, fixed Alexandrian year, the five epagomenal days were Aug 24 - 28. However, in terms of the rising of Sirius (Aug 4), they are Jul 30 - Aug 3. Both the Alexandrian and Astronomical dates are shown below.

A Retelling of the Myth

At the beginning of time, Rhea, the Goddess of the rhythmic flow (rhoe) of Nature, was married to Kronos, who is also God of Time (Khronos). But Rhea fell in love with the Sun and coupled with Him, and when Kronos discovered this He cursed His wife, saying "You may not give birth in any month of the year." In this way He hoped to prevent Her from bringing forth the progeny of the Sun.

Later Rhea and Hermes fell in love, so He gambled with the Moon and won the seventieth part of Her light. He made five days out of this light (for that is a seventieth part of the 29 days of illumination of each of the twelve lunar months), and put them together outside of all Her months. In this way Rhea was able to bear Her children in these five days out of time.

On the first day (8/24; 7/30) was born Osiris (whom we call Dionysos), first son of the Sun.

On the second day (8/25; 7/31) was born the elder Horus (whom we call Apollo), the second son of the Sun.

On the third day (8/26; 8/1) was born Typhon, the son of Kronos, who burst in an untimely way from His mother's side. (The Pythagoreans call Him the "Tear of Kronos.")

On the fourth day (8/27; 8/2) was born Isis (whom some call Demeter), the daughter of Hermes.

On the fifth day (8/28; 8/3) was born Nephthys (whom we call Persephone), the daughter of Kronos.

Now Osiris and Typhon are opposed, as are Isis and Nephthys. Osiris and Isis are wedded, as are Typhon and Nephthys.

Isis and Nephthys are birth and death, the two faces of the Moon, for life waxes and wanes like the moon. We see this on the sacred sistrum (rattle) used in the Rites of Isis, for opposite from Her face is the face of Nephthys. As Osiris coupled with Isis to bring forth Horus, so He also coupled with Nephthys to bring forth Anubis. But after Anubis was born, Isis became His foster mother, and so he is is like the horizon, which divides what is below the earth (Nephthys) from what is above the earth (Isis). For Horus is perfected creation, the celestial sphere, while Anubis is mundane creation, the earthly plane.

Osiris and Typhon are the two faces of the Sun, one vivifying, the other scorching, the two waters: nourishing fresh and bitter salt, creation vs. destruction, origination vs. restraint, Spring vs. Autumn, moisture vs. drought, plenty vs. scarcity, health vs. fever (typhos), identity vs. difference, reason vs. irrationality. In sum, Osiris is Order and Typhon is Chaos; neither can be eliminated. From Aphrodite and Ares (Love and Strife) comes Harmonia (who represents structure, which requires both identity and difference).

Osiris and Isis made love while still in the womb of Rhea, and from Them Horus was born. Thus the Sun impregnated the Moon. As Osiris is the origin, so Isis is the recipient; as Osiris is the creator, so Isis is the preserver; Osiris receives everything that is fair and good, Isis distributes them to the world; He is conceptual, He is material. Isis is called "the gentle nurse and all-receptive"; She is the female principle of Nature, the Earth, matter, the seat and place of generation, receptive of every form of generation.

The story is told of how Isis found Osiris hidden in the forest; He could not move because His legs were grown together, but Isis separated them and led Him out of the forest. Thus Being is hidden, but becomes manifest as Becoming when subjected to the divisive force of Matter and brought into the world.

Therefore Horus, the child born of Isis and Osiris, is called the Perfected Result, the celestial world, the image of being in matter. Because matter (and hence becoming) is part of his nature, generation and destruction is part of Him; He is not eternal, but is ever reborn. (So Typhon accused Him of illegitimacy, saying He was not divine, but Hermes defended Horus with His words, and together They pushed Typhon back.)

Isis is flowing (the power of moisture), while Typhon is hindering (the power of dryness). Osiris, Isis and Typhon are the creator, preserver and destroyer. When Osiris and Isis coupled They became the androgynous Moon, the mother of the world, and Typhon is the Sun, which two periodically eclipse each other.

Correspondences of The Five Days

Day Alex. Astr. Egypt. Greek Element Color date date God God ----------------------------------------------------------- I 8/24 7/30 Osiris Dionysos water black II 8/25 7/31 E. Horus Apollo white III 8/26 8/1 Typhon Heracles fire red IV 8/27 8/2 Isis Demeter earth variegated V 8/28 8/3 Nephthys Persephone [air]


Finegan, Jack (1964). Handbook of Biblical Chronology: Principles of Tine Reckoning in the Ancient World and Problems of Chronology in the Bible. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, pp. 23-29.

Plutarch, Isis and Osiris, in vol. V of the Moralia, tr. Frank Cole Babbitt, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1936. In addition to ch. 12, other material used here can be found on pp. 356F, 359E, 361E, 362B, 365B, 363E, 364A-D, 367C-E, 368C-E, 370C-E, 371A-C, 372A, E-373F, 374A, C, 375B-D, 376C-377C, 382C-D.

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