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The shadow of Hathor is still present in many places related to the monumental history of ancient Egypt. She was one of the most important goddesses near the Nile and remains one of the best-known symbols of ancient Egyptian religion .
Who Worshipped the Goddess Hathor?
Hathor was a goddess of joy, feminine love, and motherhood. She was worshiped by both royalty and the common people. She was thought to have supported women in childbirth and also looked after music, dance, and fertility. She was a goddess of miners as well.
The goddess was known as the Mistress of the West, Mistress of Turquoise, and Mistress of Foreign Lands. The oldest information about her comes from the Fourth Dynasty (c. 2613 -2494 BC), but there is some information suggesting that her cult may be older. She was also worshiped by the pharaohs of the New Kingdom (c. 1550 – 1069 BC).
Depiction of Hathor at Hatshepsut’s temple. ( David Bleja /Adobe Stock)
The female king, Hatshepsut, added a small shrine dedicated to Hathor in her mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri. For powerful women, Hathor and Sekhmet together contained all the attributes which they needed. However, male rulers of Egypt also worshiped Hathor. For example, Ramesses II built the lesser of his two temples at Abu Simbel for Hathor and his wife Nefertari. Hathor was also popular during the Ptolemaic Period (332 – 30 BC).
The Cult of the Cow Goddess
Hathor was depicted as a woman with the head of a cow, ears of a cow, or simply as a cow. A cow appearing on the belt of the King on the Narmer Palette in all likelihood points to her. The artifact is dated to the pre-dynastic era and may be the earliest presentation of Hathor. She also appears in the Pyramid texts, which state that the King's apron comes from her.
- The Tattooed Priestesses of Hathor
- The sacred and magical sistrum of ancient Egypt
- The Cataclysm of Ra
Cows appear on the Kings belt and the top of the Narmer Palette.
Some of the most precious statues of Hathor come from the reign of Amenhotep II (c. 1427-1400 BC). He portrayed himself as an adult who stands in front of Hathor (depicted as a cow) asking her for protection. Although Hathor was sometimes presented as a woman with the head of a cow, more often she was as a beautiful, slender woman dressed in a headdress with a pair of cow's horns and with a sun disc between them. In the Book of the Dead of Ani, she is depicted as a cow who welcomes the deceased to the afterlife.
Her symbol was a sistrum – a musical instrument which made a noise like a tambourine. In mythology, she had healing powers. For example, she healed the eyes of Horus after Seth gouged them out. In the story, Hathor found him weeping in a desert, caught a gazelle, and milked it. She poured the milk into the eye of Horus and restored his sight.
Hathor as a cow, wearing her necklace and showing her sacred eye – Papyrus of Ani.
The Goddess of a Hundred Temples
There were temples dedicated to Hathor all over Egypt. Nowadays, the most famous one is located in Dendra, which lies about 60 km (37 miles) north of Luxor. The first shrine of Hathor existed there from the Predynastic Period. It was rebuilt during the reign of Khufu (c. 2589 – 2566). The shrine became dedicated to Hathor, Lady of the Pillar, and her son Ihy, who was a sistrum player. Ihy was depicted as a naked child holding the instrument.
Hathor at the Temple Complex at Denderah in Egypt. ( quasarphotos /Adobe Stock)
The temple was rebuilt many times and finally it became a large building during the Ptolemaic Period. Unfortunately, the pharaoh who decided to build the temple did not leave a cartouche with his name. The temple is unfinished and there is no pylon or open court in front of the main part of the building, known as the Hypostyle Hall. The last part to be built is dated to the reign of Emperor Tiberius (14-37 AD), suggesting that Hathor was still worshiped after the fall of the last Ptolemaic queen, Cleopatra VII.
The Hypostyle Hall. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )
Another center of Hathor's cult was located at the Temple of Philae . It was mainly a sanctuary of Isis, but Hathor was honored with a shrine. The temple of Philae influenced the depiction of both goddesses so much that in the later period of Egypt’s history these two deities were often regarded as one because they were both mother goddesses. And when they appeared as beautiful women, they were sometimes presented in such a way that they could be considered as both Isis and Hathor. The temple was also a place where Hathor was commemorated as a goddess of music and dance.
During the New Kingdom Period, Hathor was a very popular motif in Deir el-Medina , the village occupied by the craftsmen who worked in the Valley of the Kings. Archaeologists unearthed several chapels dedicated to Hathor in the village. Most of them come from the period of the reign of Seti I and Ramesses II, but the youngest ones are dated to the Ptolemaic Period. Craftsmen set up stelae in honor of Hathor. The stela of Nefersenut presents a craftsman with his son, both kneeling in front of Hathor with an offering.
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Hathor passing the Ankh to Seti . ( BasPhoto /Adobe Stock)
During the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055 – 1650 BC), Hathor was also worshiped at Byblos in Lebanon. Excavations confirmed the theory that her cult was very popular and she was called the Lady of Byblos. Temples in her honor were also found in Nubia, including Aswan, the Temple of Kalabsha, Sinai, Faras, and Abu Simbel.
The Shadow of the Goddess
Nowadays, Hathor is still one of the most popular goddesses of ancient Egypt. Along with Isis, Sekhmet, and Bastet, she appears as one of the symbols of ancient religion, femininity, and legendary ancient Egyptian beauty.
Many tourists, while visiting Sinai, buy jewelry with turquoise. In ancient times, Sinai was the most important source of this stone for the Egyptians. The miners believed that Hathor protects them, so they used to offer her beautiful stones in the temples. The beautiful face of Hathor is still as magnetic and mysterious as the history of her country.
Hathor: The ancient Egyptian goddess
Hathor with Ramses II & Amun / Photo Courtesy: [Rocco Lucia / Flickr]
Among the deities of the ancient Egyptian religion, Hathor was considered one of the most popular goddesses. Her widespread worship and many legends described her as a mother goddess, as well as the patron goddess of the sky, the arts, joy, motherhood, marriage, festivals, miners, and love, to name a few. Due to the fact that she was a strong, feminine figure who had the backs of ladies everywhere, she was particularly admired among women.
As her fame and popularity grew over the centuries, her attributes were later adopted by several goddesses such as Isis and Sekhmet. In fact, many consider Hathor to be the primeval goddess who all other Egyptian goddesses either evolved from or were in some way based on.
As strange as this may sound, ancient Egyptian mythology was incredibly flexible, with one diety sometimes evolving into another. Occasionally two different deities were even considered different aspects of the same god or goddess.
Hathor, the Turquoise Goddess
Hathor was a goddess of joy, feminine love, and motherhood. She was worshiped by both royalty and the common people.
The goddess was known as the Mistress of the West, Mistress of Turquoise, and Mistress of Foreign Lands.
Although Hathor was sometimes presented as a woman with the head of a cow, more often she was as a beautiful, slender woman dressed in a headdress with a pair of cow’s horns and with a sun disc between them.
In mythology, she had healing powers.
Temples dedicated to Hathor were all over Egypt. Nowadays, the most famous one is located in Dendra, which lies about 60 km (37 miles) north of Luxor. The first shrine of Hathor existed there from the Predynastic Period.
She was known as the mother of god and the daughter of god, the eye of god, the creatrix of the rays of the sun, the embodiment of the circular essence of life. She was the Lady of the Limit or the one who spreads to the edge of the universe and the Lady of the West who welcomed souls to the afterlife.
Hathor, along with the goddess Nut, was associated with the Milky Way during the third millennium B.C. when, during the fall and spring equinoxes, it aligned over and touched the earth where the sun rose and fell. The four legs of the celestial cow represented Nut or Hathor could, in one account, be seen as the pillars on which the sky was supported with the stars on their bellies constituting the Milky Way on which the solar ship of Ra, representing the sun, sailed.
The Milky Way was seen as a waterway in the heavens, sailed upon by both the sun deity and the moon, leading the ancient Egyptians to describe it as The Nile in the Sky.
Thou art the Mistress of Jubilation, the Queen of the Dance, the Mistress of Music, the Queen of the Harp Playing, the Lady of the Choral Dance, the Queen of Wreath Weaving, the Mistress of Inebriety Without End.
The worship of Hathor was so popular that more festivals were dedicated to her honor than any other Egyptian deity, and more children were named after this goddess than any other deity.
Although in time she came to be considered the ultimate personification of kindness and love, she was initially literally a blood-thirsty deity unleashed on mankind to punish humans for their sins. An ancient tale similar to that of the biblical flood tells of the great god Ra becoming enraged at human ingratitude and evil and releasing Sekhmet upon humanity to destroy them.
The Five Gifts of Hathor
A part of the initiation into her cult appears to have been a ritual known as The Five Gifts of Hathor in which a communicant would be asked to name the five things they were most grateful for while looking at the fingers of their left hand. As the poor of Egypt did not own their own land, but labored for others in the fields, their left hand was always visible to them as they reached out to harvest grain which would then be cut by the blade in their right hand. By naming the five things one was grateful for, and identifying them with the fingers of the left hand, one was constantly reminded of the good things in one’s life and this kept one from the `gateway sin’ of ingratitude from which, it was thought, all other sins followed. For the more affluent of Egypt, considering the Five Gifts would have been a way to keep from envying those more prosperous than oneself and a means by which one was reminded to be humble in the face of the gods.
Unlike other deities of ancient Egypt, whose clergy needed to be of the same sex as the deity they served, those who served Hathor could be men or women. Hathor’s cult center was at Dendera, Egypt, but she was widely regarded and worshiped throughout Egypt to the extent that she was also honored as a goddess of the afterlife in the Field of Reeds (the Egyptian land of the dead.
Hathor was also the “Lady of Greenstone and Malachite” and “Lady of Lapis-Lazuli”, presiding over these materials as well as being a goddess of the fringes where they were mined. (Malachite is a banded light and dark green semi-precious stone that was ground up and mixed with eye make up. Lapis-lazuli adorned many pieces of ancient Egyptian jewelry. This fits in well with Hathor’s role of a goddess of beauty.) She was a goddess of the west, and a goddess of Punt and Sinai and so was a goddess of far off places. This is perhaps why Hathor was also known as the “Lady to the Limit” – the Egyptians believed her to be a goddess who ruled over the known universe.
Wearing a sun disk held between the horns of a cow as a crown, Hathor was allowed to see through the sacred eye of her father/consort Ra. In this way, she had knowledge of everything on the earth, in the sea and in the heavens and the thoughts as well as the deeds of humankind. Hathor also carried a shield that could reflect back all things in their true light.
From this shield she fashioned the first magic mirror. One side was endowed with the power of Ra’s eye so that the seeker could see everything, no matter how distant in miles or how far into the future. The other side showed the gazer in his or her true light and only a brave or pure person could look without flinching.
Hathor mirrors were originally made of polished silver or bronze with an image of Hathor on the handle, but you can work with a single–sided conventional mirror with a handle.
The goddess Hathor appears sporadically throughout the works of Crowley where she is usually seen as either a solar deity or as the Egyptian equivalent of Venus or Aphrodite.
In Crowley’s poetic work, Tannhauser, she is one of the characters that is of the “World of the Gods.” Therein she has merely one line: “Light, Truth, arise, arise!” In this work she is seen as being synonymous with Aphrodite and Mary.
Images of cattle appear frequently in the artwork of Predynastic Egypt (before c. 3100 BC), as do images of women with upraised, curved arms reminiscent of the shape of bovine horns. Both types of imagery may represent goddesses connected with cattle.  Cows are venerated in many cultures, including ancient Egypt, as symbols of motherhood and nourishment, because they care for their calves and provide humans with milk. The Gerzeh Palette, a stone palette from the Naqada II period of prehistory (c. 3500–3200 BC), shows the silhouette of a cow's head with inward-curving horns surrounded by stars. The palette suggests that this cow was also linked with the sky, as were several goddesses from later times who were represented in this form: Hathor, Mehet-Weret, and Nut. 
Despite these early precedents, Hathor is not unambiguously mentioned or depicted until the Fourth Dynasty (c. 2613–2494 BC) of the Old Kingdom,  although several artifacts that refer to her may date to the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3100–2686 BC).  When Hathor does clearly appear, her horns curve outward, rather than inward like those in Predynastic art. 
A bovine deity with inward-curving horns appears on the Narmer Palette from near the start of Egyptian history, both atop the palette and on the belt or apron of the king, Narmer. The Egyptologist Henry George Fischer suggested this deity may be Bat, a goddess who was later depicted with a woman's face and inward-curling horns, seemingly reflecting the curve of the cow horns.  The Egyptologist Lana Troy, however, identifies a passage in the Pyramid Texts from the late Old Kingdom that connects Hathor with the "apron" of the king, reminiscent of the goddess on Narmer's garments, and suggests the goddess on the Narmer Palette is Hathor rather than Bat.  
In the Fourth Dynasty, Hathor rose rapidly to prominence.  She supplanted an early crocodile god who was worshipped at Dendera in Upper Egypt to become Dendera's patron deity, and she increasingly absorbed the cult of Bat in the neighboring region of Hu, so that in the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055–1650 BC) the two deities fused into one.  The theology surrounding the pharaoh in the Old Kingdom, unlike that of earlier times, focused heavily on the sun god Ra as king of the gods and father and patron of the earthly king. Hathor ascended with Ra and became his mythological wife, and thus divine mother of the pharaoh. 
Hathor took many forms and appeared in a wide variety of roles.  The Egyptologist Robyn Gillam suggests that these diverse forms emerged when the royal goddess promoted by the Old Kingdom court subsumed many local goddesses worshipped by the general populace, who were then treated as manifestations of her.  Egyptian texts often speak of the manifestations of the goddess as "Seven Hathors"  or, less commonly, of many more Hathors—as many as 362.  For these reasons, Gillam calls her "a type of deity rather than a single entity".  Hathor's diversity reflects the range of traits that the Egyptians associated with goddesses. More than any other deity, she exemplifies the Egyptian perception of femininity. 
Sky goddess Edit
Hathor was given the epithets "mistress of the sky" and "mistress of the stars", and was said to dwell in the sky with Ra and other sun deities. Egyptians thought of the sky as a body of water through which the sun god sailed, and they connected it with the waters from which, according to their creation myths, the sun emerged at the beginning of time. This cosmic mother goddess was often represented as a cow. Hathor and Mehet-Weret were both thought of as the cow who birthed the sun god and placed him between her horns. Like Nut, Hathor was said to give birth to the sun god each dawn. 
Hathor's Egyptian name was ḥwt-ḥrw  or ḥwt-ḥr.  It is typically translated "house of Horus" but can also be rendered as "my house is the sky".  The falcon god Horus represented, among other things, the sun and sky. The "house" referred to may be the sky in which Horus lives, or the goddess's womb from which he, as a sun god, is born each day. 
Solar goddess Edit
Hathor was a solar deity, a feminine counterpart to sun gods such as Horus and Ra, and was a member of the divine entourage that accompanied Ra as he sailed through the sky in his barque.  She was commonly called the "Golden One", referring to the radiance of the sun, and texts from her temple at Dendera say "her rays illuminate the whole earth."  She was sometimes fused with another goddess, Nebethetepet, whose name can mean "Lady of the Offering", "Lady of Contentment",  or "Lady of the Vulva".  At Ra's cult center of Heliopolis, Hathor-Nebethetepet was worshipped as his consort,  and the Egyptologist Rudolf Anthes argued that Hathor's name referred to a mythical "house of Horus" at Heliopolis that was connected with the ideology of kingship. 
She was one of many goddesses to take the role of the Eye of Ra, a feminine personification of the disk of the sun and an extension of Ra's own power. Ra was sometimes portrayed inside the disk, which Troy interprets as meaning that the Eye goddess was thought of as a womb from which the sun god was born. Hathor's seemingly contradictory roles as mother, wife, and daughter of Ra reflected the daily cycle of the sun. At sunset the god entered the body of the sky goddess, impregnating her and fathering the deities born from her womb at sunrise: himself and the Eye goddess, who would later give birth to him. Ra gave rise to his daughter, the Eye goddess, who in turn gave rise to him, her son, in a cycle of constant regeneration. 
The Eye of Ra protected the sun god from his enemies and was often represented as a uraeus, or rearing cobra, or as a lioness.  A form of the Eye of Ra known as "Hathor of the Four Faces", represented by a set of four cobras, was said to face in each of the cardinal directions to watch for threats to the sun god.  A group of myths, known from the New Kingdom (c. 1550–1070 BC) onward, describe what happens when the Eye goddess rampages uncontrolled. In the funerary text known as the Book of the Heavenly Cow, Ra sends Hathor as the Eye of Ra to punish humans for plotting rebellion against his rule. She becomes the lioness goddess Sekhmet and massacres the rebellious humans, but Ra decides to prevent her from killing all humanity. He orders that beer be dyed red and poured out over the land. The Eye goddess drinks the beer, mistaking it for blood, and in her inebriated state reverts to being the benign and beautiful Hathor.  Related to this story is the myth of the Distant Goddess, from the Late and Ptolemaic periods. The Eye goddess, sometimes in the form of Hathor, rebels against Ra's control and rampages freely in a foreign land: Libya west of Egypt or Nubia to the south. Weakened by the loss of his Eye, Ra sends another god, such as Thoth, to bring her back to him.  Once pacified, the goddess returns to become the consort of the sun god or of the god who brings her back.  The two aspects of the Eye goddess—violent and dangerous versus beautiful and joyful—reflected the Egyptian belief that women, as the Egyptologist Carolyn Graves-Brown puts it, "encompassed both extreme passions of fury and love". 
Music, dance, and joy Edit
Egyptian religion celebrated the sensory pleasures of life, believed to be among the gods' gifts to humanity. Egyptians ate, drank, danced, and played music at their religious festivals. They perfumed the air with flowers and incense. Many of Hathor's epithets link her to celebration she is called the mistress of music, dance, garlands, myrrh, and drunkenness. In hymns and temple reliefs, musicians play tambourines, harps, lyres, and sistra in Hathor's honor.  The sistrum, a rattle-like instrument, was particularly important in Hathor's worship. Sistra had erotic connotations and, by extension, alluded to the creation of new life. 
These aspects of Hathor were linked with the myth of the Eye of Ra. The Eye was pacified by beer in the story of the Destruction of Mankind. In some versions of the Distant Goddess myth, the wandering Eye's wildness abated when she was appeased with products of civilization like music, dance, and wine. The water of the annual flooding of the Nile, colored red by sediment, was likened to wine, and to the red-dyed beer in the Destruction of Mankind. Festivals during the inundation therefore incorporated drink, music, and dance as a way to appease the returning goddess.  A text from the Temple of Edfu says of Hathor, "the gods play the sistrum for her, the goddesses dance for her to dispel her bad temper."  A hymn to the goddess Raet-Tawy as a form of Hathor at the temple of Medamud describes the Festival of Drunkenness as part of her mythic return to Egypt.  Women carry bouquets of flowers, drunken revelers play drums, and people and animals from foreign lands dance for her as she enters the temple's festival booth. The noise of the celebration drives away hostile powers and ensures the goddess will remain in her joyful form as she awaits the male god of the temple, her mythological consort Montu, whose son she will bear. 
Sexuality, beauty, and love Edit
Hathor's joyful, ecstatic side indicates her feminine, procreative power. In some creation myths she helped produce the world itself.  Atum, a creator god who contained all things within himself, was said to have produced his children Shu and Tefnut, and thus begun the process of creation, by masturbating. The hand he used for this act, the Hand of Atum, represented the female aspect of himself and could be personified by Hathor, Nebethetepet, or another goddess, Iusaaset.  In a late creation myth from the Ptolemaic Period (332–30 BC), the god Khonsu is put in a central role, and Hathor is the goddess with whom Khonsu mates to enable creation. 
Hathor could be the consort of many male gods, of whom Ra was only the most prominent. Mut was the usual consort of Amun, the preeminent deity during the New Kingdom who was often linked with Ra. But Mut was rarely portrayed alongside Amun in contexts related to sex or fertility, and in those circumstances, Hathor or Isis stood at his side instead.  In the late periods of Egyptian history, the form of Hathor from Dendera and the form of Horus from Edfu were considered husband and wife  and in different versions of the myth of the Distant Goddess, Hathor-Raettawy was the consort of Montu  and Hathor-Tefnut the consort of Shu. 
Hathor's sexual side was seen in some short stories. In a cryptic fragment of a Middle Kingdom story, known as "The Tale of the Herdsman", a herdsman encounters a hairy, animal-like goddess in a marsh and reacts with terror. On another day he encounters her as a nude, alluring woman. Most Egyptologists who study this story think this woman is Hathor or a goddess like her, one who can be wild and dangerous or benign and erotic. Thomas Schneider interprets the text as implying that between his two encounters with the goddess the herdsman has done something to pacify her.  In "The Contendings of Horus and Set", a New Kingdom short story about the dispute between those two gods, Ra is upset after being insulted by another god, Babi, and lies on his back alone. After some time, Hathor exposes her genitals to Ra, making him laugh and get up again to perform his duties as ruler of the gods. Life and order were thought to be dependent on Ra's activity, and the story implies that Hathor averted the disastrous consequences of his idleness. Her act may have lifted Ra's spirits partly because it sexually aroused him, although why he laughed is not fully understood. 
Hathor was praised for her beautiful hair. Egyptian literature contains allusions to a myth not clearly described in any surviving texts, in which Hathor lost a lock of hair that represented her sexual allure. One text compares this loss with Horus's loss of his divine Eye and Set's loss of his testicles during the struggle between the two gods, implying that the loss of Hathor's lock was as catastrophic for her as the maiming of Horus and Set was for them. 
Hathor was called "mistress of love", as an extension of her sexual aspect. In the series of love poems from Papyrus Chester Beatty I, from the Twentieth Dynasty (c. 1189–1077 BC), men and women ask Hathor to bring their lovers to them: "I prayed to her [Hathor] and she heard my prayer. She destined my mistress [loved one] for me. And she came of her own free will to see me." 
Motherhood and queenship Edit
Hathor was considered the mother of various child deities. As suggested by her name, she was often thought of as both Horus's mother and consort.  As both the king's wife and his heir's mother, Hathor was the mythic counterpart of human queens. 
Isis and Osiris were considered Horus's parents in the Osiris myth as far back as the late Old Kingdom, but the relationship between Horus and Hathor may be older still. If so, Horus only came to be linked with Isis and Osiris as the Osiris myth emerged during the Old Kingdom.  Even after Isis was firmly established as Horus's mother, Hathor continued to appear in this role, especially when nursing the pharaoh. Images of the Hathor-cow with a child in a papyrus thicket represented his mythological upbringing in a secluded marsh. Goddesses' milk was a sign of divinity and royal status. Thus, images in which Hathor nurses the pharaoh represent his right to rule.  Hathor's relationship with Horus gave a healing aspect to her character, as she was said to have restored Horus's missing eye or eyes after Set attacked him.  In the version of this episode in "The Contendings of Horus and Set", Hathor finds Horus with his eyes torn out and heals the wounds with gazelle's milk. 
Beginning in the Late Period (664–323 BC), temples focused on the worship of a divine family: an adult male deity, his wife, and their immature son. Satellite buildings, known as mammisis, were built in celebration of the birth of the local child deity. The child god represented the cyclical renewal of the cosmos and an archetypal heir to the kingship.  Hathor was the mother in many of these local triads of gods. At Dendera, the mature Horus of Edfu was the father and Hathor the mother, while their child was Ihy, a god whose name meant "sistrum-player" and who personified the jubilation associated with the instrument.  At Kom Ombo, Hathor's local form, Tasenetnofret, was mother to Horus's son Panebtawy.  Other children of Hathor included a minor deity from the town of Hu, named Neferhotep,  and several child forms of Horus. 
The milky sap of the sycamore tree, which the Egyptians regarded as a symbol of life, became one of her symbols.  The milk was equated with water of the Nile inundation and thus fertility.  In the late Ptolemaic and Roman Periods, many temples contained a creation myth that adapted long-standing ideas about creation.  The version from Hathor's temple at Dendera emphasizes that she, as a female solar deity, was the first being to emerge from the primordial waters that preceded creation, and her life-giving light and milk nourished all living things. 
Like Meskhenet, another goddess who presided over birth, Hathor was connected with shai, the Egyptian concept of fate, particularly when she took the form of the Seven Hathors. In two New Kingdom works of fiction, the "Tale of Two Brothers" and the "Tale of the Doomed Prince", the Hathors appear at the births of major characters and foretell the manner of their deaths. 
Hathor's maternal aspects can be compared with those of Isis and Mut, yet there are many contrasts between them. Isis's devotion to her husband and care for their child represented a more socially acceptable form of love than Hathor's uninhibited sexuality,  and Mut's character was more authoritative than sexual.  The text of the first century AD Insinger Papyrus likens a faithful wife, the mistress of a household, to Mut, while comparing Hathor to a strange woman who tempts a married man. 
Foreign lands and goods Edit
Egypt maintained trade relations with the coastal cities of Syria and Canaan, particularly Byblos, placing Egyptian religion in contact with the religions of that region.  At some point, perhaps as early as the Old Kingdom, the Egyptians began to refer to the patron goddess of Byblos, Baalat Gebal, as a local form of Hathor.  So strong was Hathor's link to Byblos that texts from Dendera say she resided there.  The Egyptians sometimes equated Anat, an aggressive Canaanite goddess who came to be worshipped in Egypt during the New Kingdom, with Hathor.  Some Canaanite artworks depict a nude goddess with a curling wig taken from Hathor's iconography.  Which goddess these images represent is not known, but the Egyptians adopted her iconography and came to regard her as an independent deity, Qetesh,  whom they associated with Hathor. 
Hathor's solar character may have played a role in linking her with trade: she was believed to protect ships on the Nile and in the seas beyond Egypt, as she protected the barque of Ra in the sky.  The mythological wandering of the Eye goddess in Nubia or Libya gave her a connection with those lands as well. 
Hathor was closely connected with the Sinai Peninsula,  which was not considered part of Egypt proper but was the site of Egyptian mines for copper, turquoise, and malachite during the Middle and New Kingdoms.  One of Hathor's epithets, "Lady of Mefkat", may have referred specifically to turquoise or to all blue-green minerals. She was also called "Lady of Faience", a blue-green ceramic that Egyptians likened to turquoise.   Hathor was also worshipped at various quarries and mining sites in Egypt's Eastern Desert, such as the amethyst mines of Wadi el-Hudi, where she was sometimes called "Lady of Amethyst". 
South of Egypt, Hathor's influence was thought to have extended over the land of Punt, which lay along the Red Sea coast and was a major source for the incense with which Hathor was linked, as well as with Nubia, northwest of Punt.  The autobiography of Harkhuf, an official in the Sixth Dynasty (c. 2345–2181 BC), describes his expedition to a land in or near Nubia, from which he brought back great quantities of ebony, panther skins, and incense for the king. The text describes these exotic goods as Hathor's gift to the pharaoh.  Egyptian expeditions to mine gold in Nubia introduced her cult to the region during the Middle and New Kingdoms,  and New Kingdom pharaohs built several temples to her in the portions of Nubia that they ruled. 
Hathor was one of several goddesses believed to assist deceased souls in the afterlife.  One of these was Imentet, the goddess of the west, who personified the necropolises, or clusters of tombs, on the west bank of the Nile, and the realm of the afterlife itself. She was often regarded as a specialized manifestation of Hathor. 
Just as she crossed the boundary between Egypt and foreign lands, Hathor passed through the boundary between the living and the Duat, the realm of the dead.  She helped the spirits of deceased humans enter the Duat and was closely linked with tomb sites, where that transition began.  The Theban necropolis, for example, was often portrayed as a stylized mountain with the cow of Hathor emerging from it.  Her role as a sky goddess was also linked to the afterlife. Because the sky goddess—either Nut or Hathor—assisted Ra in his daily rebirth, she had an important part in ancient Egyptian afterlife beliefs, according to which deceased humans were reborn like the sun god.  Coffins, tombs, and the underworld itself were interpreted as the womb of this goddess, from which the deceased soul would be reborn.  
Nut, Hathor, and Imentet could each, in different texts, lead the deceased into a place where they would receive food and drink for eternal sustenance. Thus, Hathor, as Imentet, often appears on tombs, welcoming the deceased person as her child into a blissful afterlife.  In New Kingdom funerary texts and artwork, the afterlife was often illustrated as a pleasant, fertile garden, over which Hathor sometimes presided.  The welcoming afterlife goddess was often portrayed as a goddess in the form of a tree, giving water to the deceased. Nut most commonly filled this role, but the tree goddess was sometimes called Hathor instead. 
The afterlife also had a sexual aspect. In the Osiris myth, the murdered god Osiris was resurrected when he copulated with Isis and conceived Horus. In solar ideology, Ra's union with the sky goddess allowed his own rebirth. Sex therefore enabled the rebirth of the deceased, and goddesses like Isis and Hathor served to rouse the deceased to new life. But they merely stimulated the male deities' regenerative powers, rather than playing the central role. 
Ancient Egyptians prefixed the names of the deceased with Osiris's name to connect them with his resurrection. For example, a woman named Henutmehyt would be dubbed "Osiris-Henutmehyt". Over time they increasingly associated the deceased with both male and female divine powers.  As early as the late Old Kingdom, women were sometimes said to join the worshippers of Hathor in the afterlife, just as men joined the following of Osiris. In the Third Intermediate Period (c. 1070–664 BC), Egyptians began to add Hathor's name to that of deceased women in place of that of Osiris. In some cases, women were called "Osiris-Hathor", indicating that they benefited from the revivifying power of both deities. In these late periods, Hathor was sometimes said to rule the afterlife as Osiris did. 
Hathor was often depicted as a cow bearing the sun disk between her horns, especially when shown nursing the king. She could also appear as a woman with the head of a cow. Her most common form, however, was a woman wearing a headdress of the horns and sun disk, often with a red or turquoise sheath dress, or a dress combining both colors. Sometimes the horns stood atop a low modius or the vulture headdress that Egyptian queens often wore in the New Kingdom. Because Isis adopted the same headdress during the New Kingdom, the two goddesses can be distinguished only if labeled in writing. When in the role of Imentet, Hathor wore the emblem of the west upon her head instead of the horned headdress.  The Seven Hathors were sometimes portrayed as a set of seven cows, accompanied by a minor sky and afterlife deity called the Bull of the West. 
Some animals other than cattle could represent Hathor. The uraeus was a common motif in Egyptian art and could represent a variety of goddesses who were identified with the Eye of Ra.  When Hathor was depicted as a uraeus, it represented the ferocious and protective aspects of her character. She also appeared as a lioness, and this form had a similar meaning.  In contrast, the domestic cat, which was sometimes connected with Hathor, often represented the Eye goddess's pacified form.  When portrayed as a sycamore tree, Hathor was usually shown with the upper body of her human form emerging from the trunk. 
Like other goddesses, Hathor might carry a stalk of papyrus as a staff, though she could instead hold a was staff, a symbol of power that was usually restricted to male deities.  The only goddesses who used the was were those, like Hathor, who were linked with the Eye of Ra.  She also commonly carried a sistrum or a menat necklace. The sistrum came in two varieties: a simple loop shape or the more complex naos sistrum, which was shaped to resemble a naos shrine and flanked by volutes resembling the antennae of the Bat emblem.  Mirrors were another of her symbols, because in Egypt they were often made of gold or bronze and therefore symbolized the sun disk, and because they were connected with beauty and femininity. Some mirror handles were made in the shape of Hathor's face.  The menat necklace, made up of many strands of beads, was shaken in ceremonies in Hathor's honor, similarly to the sistrum.  Images of it were sometimes seen as personifications of Hathor herself. 
Hathor was sometimes represented as a human face with bovine ears, seen from the front rather than in the profile-based perspective that was typical of Egyptian art. When she appears in this form, the tresses on either side of her face often curl into loops. This mask-like face was placed on the capitals of columns beginning in the late Old Kingdom. Columns of this style were used in many temples to Hathor and other goddesses.  These columns have two or four faces, which may represent the duality between different aspects of the goddess or the watchfulness of Hathor of the Four Faces. The designs of Hathoric columns have a complex relationship with those of sistra. Both styles of sistrum can bear the Hathor mask on the handle, and Hathoric columns often incorporate the naos sistrum shape above the goddess's head. 
Statue of Hathor, fourteenth century BC
Amulet of Hathor as a uraeus wearing a naos headdress, early to mid-first millennium BC
Naos sistrum with Hathor's face, 305–282 BC
Mirror with a face of Hathor on the handle, fifteenth century BC
Head of Hathor with cats on her headdress, from a clapper, late second to early first millennium BC
The Malqata Menat necklace, fourteenth century BC
Hathoric capital from the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, fifteenth century BC
Relationship with royalty Edit
During the Early Dynastic Period, Neith was the preeminent goddess at the royal court,  while in the Fourth Dynasty, Hathor became the goddess most closely linked with the king.  The later dynasty's founder, Sneferu, may have built a temple to her, and a daughter of Djedefra was the first recorded priestess of Hathor.  Old Kingdom rulers donated resources only to temples dedicated to particular kings or to deities closely connected with kingship. Hathor was one of the few deities to receive such donations.  Late Old Kingdom rulers especially promoted the cult of Hathor in the provinces, as a way of binding those regions to the royal court. She may have absorbed the traits of contemporary provincial goddesses. 
Many female royals, though not reigning queens, held positions in the cult during the Old Kingdom.  Mentuhotep II, who became the first pharaoh of the Middle Kingdom despite having no relation to the Old Kingdom rulers, sought to legitimize his rule by portraying himself as Hathor's son. The first images of the Hathor-cow suckling the king date to his reign, and several priestesses of Hathor were depicted as though they were his wives, although he may not have actually married them.   In the course of the Middle Kingdom, queens were increasingly seen as directly embodying the goddess, just as the king embodied Ra.  The emphasis on the queen as Hathor continued through the New Kingdom. Queens were portrayed with the headdress of Hathor beginning in the late Eighteenth Dynasty. An image of the sed festival of Amenhotep III, meant to celebrate and renew his rule, shows the king together with Hathor and his queen Tiye, which could mean that the king symbolically married the goddess in the course of the festival. 
Hatshepsut, a woman who ruled as a pharaoh in the early New Kingdom, emphasized her relationship to Hathor in a different way.  She used names and titles that linked her to a variety of goddesses, including Hathor, so as to legitimize her rule in what was normally a male position.  She built several temples to Hathor and placed her own mortuary temple, which incorporated a chapel dedicated to the goddess, at Deir el-Bahari, which had been a cult site of Hathor since the Middle Kingdom. 
The preeminence of Amun during the New Kingdom gave greater visibility to his consort Mut, and in the course of the period, Isis began appearing in roles that traditionally belonged to Hathor alone, such as that of the goddess in the solar barque. Despite the growing prominence of these deities, Hathor remained important, particularly in relation to fertility, sexuality, and queenship, throughout the New Kingdom. 
After the New Kingdom, Isis increasingly overshadowed Hathor and other goddesses as she took on their characteristics.  In the Ptolemaic period (305–30 BC), when Greeks governed Egypt and their religion developed a complex relationship with that of Egypt, the Ptolemaic dynasty adopted and modified the Egyptian ideology of kingship. Beginning with Arsinoe II, wife of Ptolemy II, the Ptolemies closely linked their queens with Isis and with several Greek goddesses, particularly their own goddess of love and sexuality, Aphrodite.  Nevertheless, when the Greeks referred to Egyptian gods by the names of their own gods (a practice called interpretatio graeca), they sometimes called Hathor Aphrodite.  Traits of Isis, Hathor, and Aphrodite were all combined to justify the treatment of Ptolemaic queens as goddesses. Thus, the poet Callimachus alluded to the myth of Hathor's lost lock of hair in the Aetia when praising Berenice II for sacrificing her own hair to Aphrodite,  and iconographic traits that Isis and Hathor shared, such as the bovine horns and vulture headdress, appeared on images portraying Ptolemaic queens as Aphrodite. 
Temples in Egypt Edit
More temples were dedicated to Hathor than to any other Egyptian goddess.  During the Old Kingdom her most important center of worship was in the region of Memphis, where "Hathor of the Sycamore" was worshipped at many sites throughout the Memphite Necropolis. During the New Kingdom era, the temple of Hathor of the Southern Sycamore was her main temple in Memphis.  At that site she was described as the daughter of the city's main deity, Ptah.  The cult of Ra and Atum at Heliopolis, northeast of Memphis, included a temple to Hathor-Nebethetepet that was probably built in the Middle Kingdom. A willow and a sycamore tree stood near the sanctuary and may have been worshipped as manifestations of the goddess.  A few cities farther north in the Nile Delta, such as Yamu and Terenuthis, also had temples to her. 
As the rulers of the Old Kingdom made an effort to develop towns in Upper and Middle Egypt, several cult centers of Hathor were founded across the region, at sites such as Cusae, Akhmim, and Naga ed-Der.  In the First Intermediate Period (c. 2181–2055 BC) her cult statue from Dendera was periodically carried to the Theban necropolis. During the beginning of the Middle Kingdom, Mentuhotep II established a permanent cult center for her in the necropolis at Deir el-Bahari.  The nearby village of Deir el-Medina, home to the tomb workers of the necropolis during the New Kingdom, also contained temples of Hathor. One continued to function and was periodically rebuilt as late as the Ptolemaic Period, centuries after the village was abandoned. 
Dendera, Hathor's oldest temple in Upper Egypt, dates to at least to the Fourth Dynasty.  After the end of the Old Kingdom it surpassed her Memphite temples in importance.  Many kings made additions to the temple complex through Egyptian history. The last version of the temple was built in the Ptolemaic and Roman Periods and is today one of the best-preserved Egyptian temples from that time. 
In the Old Kingdom, most priests of Hathor, including the highest ranks, were women. Many of these women were members of the royal family.  In the course of the Middle Kingdom, women were increasingly excluded from the highest priestly positions, at the same time that queens were becoming more closely tied to Hathor's cult. Thus, non-royal women disappeared from the high ranks of Hathor's priesthood,  although women continued to serve as musicians and singers in temple cults across Egypt. 
The most frequent temple rite for any deity was the daily offering ritual, in which the cult image, or statue, of a deity would be clothed and given food.  The daily ritual was largely the same in every Egyptian temple,  although the goods given as offerings could vary according to which deity received them.  Wine and beer were common offerings in all temples, but especially in rituals in Hathor's honor,  and she and the goddesses related to her often received sistra and menat necklaces.  In Late and Ptolemaic times, they were also offered a pair of mirrors, representing the sun and the moon. 
Many of Hathor's annual festivals were celebrated with drinking and dancing that served a ritual purpose. Revelers at these festivals may have aimed to reach a state of religious ecstasy, which was otherwise rare or nonexistent in ancient Egyptian religion. Graves-Brown suggests that celebrants in Hathor's festivals aimed to reach an altered state of consciousness to allow them interact with the divine realm.  An example is the Festival of Drunkenness, commemorating the return of the Eye of Ra, which was celebrated on the twentieth day of the month of Thout at temples to Hathor and to other Eye goddesses. It was celebrated as early as the Middle Kingdom, but it is best known from Ptolemaic and Roman times.  The dancing, eating and drinking that took place during the Festival of Drunkenness represented the opposite of the sorrow, hunger, and thirst that the Egyptians associated with death. Whereas the rampages of the Eye of Ra brought death to humans, the Festival of Drunkenness celebrated life, abundance, and joy. 
In a local Theban festival known as the Beautiful Festival of the Valley, which began to be celebrated in the Middle Kingdom, the cult image of Amun from the Temple of Karnak visited the temples in the Theban Necropolis while members of the community went to the tombs of their deceased relatives to drink, eat, and celebrate.  Hathor was not involved in this festival until the early New Kingdom,  after which Amun's overnight stay in the temples at Deir el-Bahari came to be seen as his sexual union with her. 
Several temples in Ptolemaic times, including that of Dendera, observed the Egyptian new year with a series of ceremonies in which images of the temple deity were supposed to be revitalized by contact with the sun god. On the days leading up to the new year, Dendera's statue of Hathor was taken to the wabet, a specialized room in the temple, and placed under a ceiling decorated with images of the sky and sun. On the first day of the new year, the first day of the month of Thoth, the Hathor image was carried up to the roof to be bathed in genuine sunlight. 
The best-documented festival focused on Hathor is another Ptolemaic celebration, the Festival of the Beautiful Reunion. It took place over fourteen days in the month of Epiphi.   Hathor's cult image from Dendera was carried by boat to several temple sites to visit the gods of those temples. The endpoint of the journey was the Temple of Horus at Edfu, where the Hathor statue from Dendera met that of Horus of Edfu and the two were placed together.  On one day of the festival, these images were carried out to a shrine where primordial deities such as the sun god and the Ennead were said to be buried. The texts say the divine couple performed offering rites for these entombed gods.  Many Egyptologists regard this festival as a ritual marriage between Horus and Hathor, although Martin Stadler challenges this view, arguing that it instead represented the rejuvenation of the buried creator gods.  C. J. Bleeker thought the Beautiful Reunion was another celebration of the return of the Distant Goddess, citing allusions in the temple's festival texts to the myth of the solar eye.  Barbara Richter argues that the festival represented all three things at once. She points out that the birth of Horus and Hathor's son Ihy was celebrated at Dendera nine months after the Festival of the Beautiful Reunion, implying that Hathor's visit to Horus represented Ihy's conception. 
The third month of the Egyptian calendar, Hathor or Athyr, was named for the goddess. Festivities in her honor took place throughout the month, although they are not recorded in the texts from Dendera. 
Worship outside Egypt Edit
Egyptian kings as early as the Old Kingdom donated goods to the temple of Baalat Gebal in Byblos, using the syncretism of Baalat with Hathor to cement their close trading relationship with Byblos.  A temple to Hathor as Lady of Byblos was built during the reign of Thutmose III, although it may simply have been a shrine within the temple of Baalat.  After the breakdown of the New Kingdom, Hathor's prominence in Byblos diminished along with Egypt's trade links to the city. A few artifacts from the early first millennium BC suggest that the Egyptians began equating Baalat with Isis at that time.  A myth about Isis's presence in Byblos, related by the Greek author Plutarch in his work On Isis and Osiris in the 2nd century AD, suggests that by his time Isis had entirely supplanted Hathor in the city. 
A pendant found in a Mycenaean tomb at Pylos, from the 16th century BC, bears Hathor's face. Its presence in the tomb suggests the Mycenaeans may have known that the Egyptians connected Hathor with the afterlife. 
Egyptians in the Sinai built a few temples in the region. The largest was a complex dedicated primarily to Hathor as patroness of mining at Serabit el-Khadim, on the west side of the peninsula.  It was occupied from the middle of the Middle Kingdom to near the end of the New.  The Timna Valley, on the fringes of the Egyptian empire on the east side of the peninsula, was the site of seasonal mining expeditions during the New Kingdom. It included a shrine to Hathor that was probably deserted during the off-season. The local Midianites, whom the Egyptians used as part of the mining workforce, may have given offerings to Hathor as their overseers did. After the Egyptians abandoned the site in the Twentieth Dynasty, however, the Midianites converted the shrine to a tent shrine devoted to their own deities. 
In contrast, the Nubians in the south fully incorporated Hathor into their religion. During the New Kingdom, when most of Nubia was under Egyptian control, pharaohs dedicated several temples in Nubia to Hathor, such as those at Faras and Mirgissa.  Amenhotep III and Ramesses II both built temples in Nubia that celebrated their respective queens as manifestations of female deities, including Hathor: Amenhotep's wife Tiye at Sedeinga  and Ramesses's wife Nefertari at the Small Temple of Abu Simbel.  The independent Kingdom of Kush, which emerged in Nubia after the collapse of the New Kingdom, based its beliefs about Kushite kings on the royal ideology of Egypt. Therefore, Hathor, Isis, Mut, and Nut were all seen as the mythological mother of each Kushite king and equated with his female relatives, such as the kandake, the Kushite queen or queen mother, who had prominent roles in Kushite religion.  At Jebel Barkal, a site sacred to Amun, the Kushite king Taharqa built a pair of temples, one dedicated to Hathor and one to Mut as consorts of Amun, replacing New Kingdom Egyptian temples that may have been dedicated to these same goddesses.  But Isis was the most prominent of the Egyptian goddesses worshipped in Nubia, and her status there increased over time. Thus, in the Meroitic period of Nubian history (c. 300 BC – AD 400), Hathor appeared in temples mainly as a companion to Isis. 
Popular worship Edit
In addition to formal and public rituals at temples, Egyptians privately worshipped deities for personal reasons, including at their homes. Birth was hazardous for both mother and child in ancient Egypt, yet children were much desired. Thus fertility and safe childbirth are among the most prominent concerns in popular religion, and fertility deities such as Hathor and Taweret were commonly worshipped in household shrines. Egyptian women squatted on bricks while giving birth, and the only known surviving birth brick from ancient Egypt is decorated with an image of a woman holding her child flanked by images of Hathor.  In Roman times, terracotta figurines, sometimes found in a domestic context, depicted a woman with an elaborate headdress exposing her genitals, as Hathor did to cheer up Ra.  The meaning of these figurines is not known,  but they are often thought to represent Hathor or Isis combined with Aphrodite making a gesture that represented fertility or protection against evil. 
Hathor was one of a handful of deities, including Amun, Ptah, and Thoth, who were commonly prayed to for help with personal problems.  Many Egyptians left offerings at temples or small shrines dedicated to the gods they prayed to. Most offerings to Hathor were used for their symbolism, not for their intrinsic value. Cloths painted with images of Hathor were common, as were plaques and figurines depicting her animal forms. Different types of offerings may have symbolized different goals on the part of the donor, but their meaning is usually unknown. Images of Hathor alluded to her mythical roles, like depictions of the maternal cow in the marsh.  Offerings of sistra may have been meant to appease the goddess's dangerous aspects and bring out her positive ones,  while phalli represented a prayer for fertility, as shown by an inscription found on one example. 
Some Egyptians also left written prayers to Hathor, inscribed on stelae or written as graffiti.  Prayers to some deities, such as Amun, show that they were thought to punish wrongdoers and heal people who repented for their misbehavior. In contrast, prayers to Hathor mention only the benefits she could grant, such as abundant food during life and a well-provisioned burial after death. 
Funerary practices Edit
As an afterlife deity, Hathor appeared frequently in funerary texts and art. In the early New Kingdom, for instance, Osiris, Anubis, and Hathor were the three deities most commonly found in royal tomb decoration.  In that period she often appeared as the goddess welcoming the dead into the afterlife.  Other images referred to her more obliquely. Reliefs in Old Kingdom tombs show men and women performing a ritual called "shaking the papyrus". The significance of this rite is not known, but inscriptions sometimes say it was performed "for Hathor", and shaking papyrus stalks produces a rustling sound that may have been likened to the rattling of a sistrum.  Other Hathoric imagery in tombs included the cow emerging from the mountain of the necropolis  and the seated figure of the goddess presiding over a garden in the afterlife.  Images of Nut were often painted or incised inside coffins, indicating the coffin was her womb, from which the occupant would be reborn in the afterlife. In the Third Intermediate Period, Hathor began to be placed on the floor of the coffin, with Nut on the interior of the lid. 
Tomb art from the Eighteenth Dynasty often shows people drinking, dancing, and playing music, as well as holding menat necklaces and sistra—all imagery that alluded to Hathor. These images may represent private feasts that were celebrated in front of tombs to commemorate the people buried there, or they may show gatherings at temple festivals such as the Beautiful Festival of the Valley.  Festivals were thought to allow contact between the human and divine realms, and by extension, between the living and the dead. Thus, texts from tombs often expressed a wish that the deceased would be able to participate in festivals, primarily those dedicated to Osiris.  Tombs' festival imagery, however, may refer to festivals involving Hathor, such as the Festival of Drunkenness, or to the private feasts, which were also closely connected with her. Drinking and dancing at these feasts may have been meant to intoxicate the celebrants, as at the Festival of Drunkenness, allowing them to commune with the spirits of the deceased. 
Hathor was said to supply offerings to deceased people as early as the Old Kingdom, and spells to enable both men and women to join her retinue in the afterlife appeared as early as the Coffin Texts in the Middle Kingdom.  Some burial goods that portray deceased women as goddesses may depict these women as followers of Hathor, although whether the imagery refers to Hathor or Isis is not known. The link between Hathor and deceased women was maintained into the Roman Period, the last stage of ancient Egyptian religion before its extinction. 
The Middle Kingdom was founded when Upper Egypt's Pharaoh, Mentuhotep II, took control over Lower Egypt, which had become independent during the First Intermediate Period by force. This unification had been achieved by a brutal war that was to last some 28 years, but when it ceased, calm returned, and the reign of the next Pharaoh, Mentuhotep III, was peaceful, and Egypt once again became prosperous. A tale, from the perspective of Lower Egypt, developed around this.
In the tale, Ra (representing the Pharaoh of Upper Egypt) was no longer respected by the people (of Lower Egypt) and they ceased to obey his authority, which made him so angry that he sent out Sekhmet (war goddess of Upper Egypt) to destroy them, but Sekhmet was so bloodthirsty that she could not be stopped. Ra pours blood-coloured beer on the ground, tricking Sekhmet, who thinks it to be blood, into drinking it, which makes her stop the slaughter, and become loving, and kind.
The form that Sekhmet had become by the end of the tale was identical in character to Hathor, and so a cult arose, at the start of the Middle Kingdom, which dualistically identified Sekhmet with Hathor, making them one goddess, Sekhmet-Hathor, with two sides. Consequently, Hathor, as Sekhmet-Hathor, was sometimes depicted as a lioness. Sometimes this joint name was corrupted to Sekhathor (also spelt Sechat-Hor, Sekhat-Heru), meaning (one who) remembers Horus (the uncorrupted form would mean (the) powerful house of Horus. However, the two goddesses were so different, indeed almost diametrically opposed, that the identification did not last.
Hathor (hwt-hr) is Egyptian for "Horus Enclosure" and Greek for "Mansion of Horus".
Hathor is considered the mother, daughter and wife of Ra. Her sisters are the Goddesses Bastet, Sekhmet (twin) and Maat. Her brother is the God Thoth.
Hathor, like Isis, is considered a Mother Goddess and is the Egyptian Goddess of love, joy, fertility, foreign lands, women, motherhood, helping women in childbirth, music, dance and the miners.
Hathor is commonly depicted as a Cow Goddess with head horns in which is set a sun disk with uraeus (serpent). Other times she is shown as a beautiful woman bearing the same sun disk and horns. Twin feathers are sometimes shown in her later periods as well as a menat turquoise necklace.
Hathor may be the Cow Goddess who is depicted from an early date on the Narmer Palette and on a stone urn dating from the First Dynasty that suggests a role as Sky Goddess and relationship to Horus, who as a Sun God is "housed" in her.
Hathor is considered one of the most important and popular deities of Ancient Egypt. The Cult of Hathor predates the historical period and is difficult to trace.
Hathor was worshipped by royalty and common people alike in whose tombs she is depicted as "Mistress of the West" welcoming the dead into the next life. She was worshipped throughout all of Egypt.
The temples and chapels dedicated to Hathor are as follows:
The Temple of Hathor and Ma'at at Deir el-Medina, West Bank, Luxor
The Temple of Hathor at Philae Island, Aswan (Columns depicting Hathor)
The Hathor Chapel at the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. West Bank, Luxor
The Temple of Hathor at Timna Valley, Israel
The ones devoted to the Egyptian Goddess were mostly artisans, dancers and musicians as they engaged in what were her sacred arts. She was worshipped by men and women alike. Tales were often spoken of the Goddess about how Hathor would bring happiness to Ra with her dancing. She was invoked to inspire the artist(s).
Hathor occasionally took the form of the "Seven Hathors" who were associated with fate and fortune telling. It was thought that the "Seven Hathors" knew the length of every child's life from the day the child was born and questioned the dead souls as they travelled to the land of the dead. Her priests could read the fortune of a newborn child, and acted as oracles to explain the dreams of the people. The people would travel for miles to beseech the goddess for protection, assistance and inspiration. The "Seven Hathors" were worshiped in seven cities: Waset (Thebes), Iunu (On, Heliopolis), Aphroditopolis, Sinai, Momemphis, Herakleopolis, and Keset. They may have been linked to the constellations Pleiades.
Symbols/Animals: cow, lioness, falcon, cobra, hippopotamus, sistrum, musical instruments, drums, pregnant women, mirrors, cosmetics, menat necklace
Hathor with Menat Necklace
Ritual BY MELITA ARTEMIS MOON
Blue and red candles
Horus horns (as per my picture below)
Symbol of the Heart
Symbol of Music
Symbol of Fertility/Childbirth
Preferably hold this ritual on a Full Moon
"I call in the Great Mother Goddess Hathor,
Goddess of Love, Fertility, Childbirth and Music,
These are your rituals."
"Hathor, please bless us all in our creativity,
Not just in love and music
But in all our endeavours for the greater good."
"Hathor, please bless and protect all the children on this Earth
And all the Mothers who conceive and bear them.
Please bless the ones who wish to conceive
And guide them through a comfortable birth.
May they have no fear and may they experience your healing love, Great Mother."
"May we dance to the beat of your love!"
Play any form of instrument, dance and sing.
"I/we send this positive energy out to heal this earth."
The Author dressed as Hathor at the Witches Ball, Sydney, Australia, 2015
Hathor symbolizes rebirth.
In Egyptian mythology, Hathor (Egyptian for House of Horus) was originally a personification of the Milky Way, which was seen as the milk that flowed from the udders of a heavenly cow.
Hathor was an ancient goddess, worshipped as a cow-deity from at least 2700 BC, during the 2nd dynasty, and possibly even by the Scorpion King.
The name Hathor refers to the encirclement by her, in the form of the Milky Way, of the night sky and consequently of the god of the sky, Horus.
She was originally seen as the daughter of Ra, the creator whose own cosmic birth was formalised as the Ogdoad cosmogeny.An alternate name for her, which persisted for 3,000 years, was Mehturt (also spelt Mehurt, Mehet-Weret, and Mehet-uret), meaning great flood, a direct reference to her being the milky way.
The Milky Way was seen as a waterway in the heavens, sailed upon by both the sun god and the king, leading the Egyptians to describe it as The Nile in the Sky.
Due to this, and the name mehturt, she was identified as responsible for the yearly inundation of the Nile.
Another consequence of this name is that she was seen as a herald of imminent birth, as when the amniotic sac breaks and floods its waters, it is a medical indicator that the child is due to be born extremely soon.
Hathor was also favored as a protector in desert regions.
Some Egyptologists associate Hathor with artificial light as evidenced by what has been purported to be a representation of an electric lamp in a temple dedicated to her worship. Though other scholars believe the representation to be that of a lotus flower, spawning a snake within.
As a provider of milk, and due to cows careful tending of their calves, the cow was a universal symbol of motherhood, and so Hathor became goddess of motherhood, gaining titles such as 'The Great Cow Who Protects Her Child' and 'Mistress of the Sanctuary of Women.'
Because of the aspect of motherhood, her priests were oracles, predicting the fate of the newborn, and midwives delivering them.
As a mother, since she enclosed the sky, she was seen as the mother of Horus.
Symbolically she became the divine mother of the pharaoh, who was identified as Horus.
Since Horus's wife was Isis , Hathor was sometimes said to be her mother, although it was more accurate to say she was her mother in law.
As Horus was also said to be the son of Ra, Hathor was identified as Ra's wife (Ra created her in a non-sexual manner), gaining the title Mistress of Heaven. Having been identified as Ra's wife, it was said she arose from Ra's tears, and thus was identified as the Eye of Ra.
In art, Hathor was often depicted as a golden cow (sometimes covered in stars), with the titles Cow of Gold, and The one who shines like gold, or as a woman with the ears of a cow and a headdress of horns holding the sun-disc, which represented Ra.
Also, Hathor was sometimes identified as a hippopotamus, which the Egyptians also considered quite motherly creatures, and sometimes as an aquatic form of the cow.
In her position as divine mother to the pharaoh, Hathor was sometimes depicted as a cow standing in a boat (representing the boat of Ra with which he, as the sun, crosses through the sky), surrounded by tall papyrus reeds (as were common in the Nile delta), with the pharaoh often pictured as a calf standing next to her.
As divine mother, she was also represented with, or as, an uraeus, a stylised cobra, which symbolised royal power.
Sometimes, the local depictions of Hathor, with their slight variations on emphasising certain features, were treated separately, and seven of them, any seven, which was perceived as a mystical number (it divides the lunar month into 4 equal parts, and was the number of known planets at the time), named by their different titles, were considered special if gathered together.
These Seven Hathors, in Hathor's context as a mother, were said to dress in disguise as young women, and attend the birth of a child, and then one by one announce aspects of his fate. In later centuries, this 7-fold aspect of Hathor was identified as the Pleiades.
The cow's large eyes with long lashes and generally quiet demeanor were often considered to suggest a gentle aspect of feminine beauty. There are still cultures in the world where to say that a girl is as pretty as a heifer is a great compliment, rather than taking you cow as an insult. And so Hathor rapidly became a goddess of beauty, and fertility, thus also a patron goddess for lovers.
A tale grew up around this in which Ra is described as having been upset over Horus' victory over Set (representing the conquest in 3000BC of Lower Egypt by Upper Egypt), and went off to be alone, and so Hathor went to him and started to dance and stripped naked, showing him her genitals, which cheered him up, so he returned.
(This has made certain readers believe that the sun god was extremley perverted, which may be true). The tale is thought also to describe a solar eclipse, as it depicts Ra, the sun, going away to sulk, and then returning when cheered up.
In her position as a female fertility goddess, who readily strips naked, she was often depicted in red, the color of passion, though her sacred color is turquoise, and so gained the titles Lady of the scarlet-colored garment, and Lady of [sexual] offerings (Nebet Hetepet in Egyptian).
Sometimes her fertility aspect was depicted symbolically as a field of reeds. Her position as one of beauty lead to her being depicted in portrait, which was highly unusual by Egyptian artistic conventions, indeed, only she and Bes were ever depicted in this manner.
Her beauty also lead to her being symbolically depicted by mirrors. Hathor's image was also often used to form the capitals of columns in Egyptian architecture.
Eventually, Hathor's identity as a cow-goddess of fertility, meant that her Hathor became identified with another ancient cow-goddess of fertility, Bata. It still remains an unanswered question amongst Egyptologists as to why Bata survived as an independent goddess for so long. Bata was, in some respects, connected to the Ba, an aspect of the soul, and so Hathor gained an association with the afterlife. It was said that, with her motherly character, she greeted the souls of the dead in the underworld, and proffered them with refreshments of food, and of drink. She was also sometimes described as mistress of the acropolis.
The assimilation of Bata, who was associated with the sistrum, a musical instrument, brought with it an association with music. In this form, Hathor's cult became centred in Dendera and was led by priests who were also dancers, singers, and other entertainers. Hathor's temple at Dendera contains an image, that has come to be known as the Dendera Light, which some have controversially claimed may be a depiction of an electric lamp. Hathor also became associated with the menat, the turquoise musical necklace often worn by women.
The protector and sponsor of dancers, Hathor was associated with percussive music, in particular the sistrum. Her traditional votive offering was two mirrors, the better with which to see both her beauty and your own.
Hathor's image, specifically her head, was traditionally used to decorate sistrums and mirrors. Thus when gazing at one's own reflection in the mirror, you would see Hathor looking back, from underneath one's own face, serving as foundation and support, perhaps as role model and goal. This imagery was standard and ubiquitous, it also commonly decorates architectural columns, however one is forced to ask, how would one know it was Hathor? Usually by the cow ears but even more consistently by the hair-do.
Hathor's hair is dressed in so characteristic a fashion that the style now bears her name: archaeologists have dubbed it the "Hathor hair-do." This style is utterly distinctive and perhaps surprisingly modern to our eyes. It is not the heavily bejeweled, elaborately braided hair so commonly depicted in other ancient Egyptian imagery. Rather it is simplicity in the extreme: a simple flip, often parted down the middle.
The 'do wouldn't have looked at all out of place on a French or English mod girl pop singer of the early to mid '60's- a Marianne Faithfull perhaps or Francoise Hardy. It is a simple hairstyle, a hairstyle one can conceivably maintain by oneself, without extensive wigs, servants or leisure time. It is very much an equalizing hairstyle. Ironically, then, it is a hairstyle most commonly seen in the depiction of deities, especially beautiful love goddesses, perhaps demonstrating the intensity of their self-confidence.
While other ancient Egyptian hairstyles are instantly recognizable even today as solely Egyptian, the Hathor hair-do seems to have set an international style, in particular traveling all over the Middle East. Other goddesses are depicted wearing this style, in fact it seems to have become the goddess hairstyle, favored by all the most fashionable deities.
Spiral Hair at bottom - Sacred Geometry - Golden Ratio
Thou art the Mistress of Jubilation, the Queen of the Dance, the Mistress of Music, the Queen of the Harp Playing, the Lady of the Choral Dance, the Queen of Wreath Weaving, the Mistress of Inebriety Without End.
Essentially, Hathor had become a goddess of Joy, and so she was deeply loved by the general population, and truly revered by women, who aspired to embody her multifaceted role as wife, mother, and lover.
In this capacity, she gained the titles of Lady of the House of Jubilation, and The One Who Fills the Sanctuary with Joy. The worship of Hathor was so popular that more festivals were dedicated to her honour that any other Egyptian deity, and more children were named after this goddess than any other. Even Hathor's priesthood was unusual, in that both men, and women, became her priests.
The Middle Kingdom was founded when Upper Egypt's Pharaoh, Mentuhotep II, took control over Lower Egypt , which had become independent during the First Intermediate Period by force. This unification had been achieved by a brutal war that was to last some 28 years, but when it ceased, calm returned, and the reign of the next Pharaoh, Mentuhotep III , was peaceful, and Egypt once again became prosperous.
A tale, from the perspective of Lower Egypt, developed around this.In the tale, Ra (representing the Pharaoh of Upper Egypt) was no longer respected by the people (of Lower Egypt) and they ceased to obey his authority, which made him so angry that he sent out Sekhmet (war goddess of Upper Egypt) to destroy them, but Sekhmet was so bloodthirsty that she could not be stopped. Ra pours blood-coloured beer on the ground, tricking Sekhmet, who thinks it to be blood, into drinking it, which makes her stop the slaughter, and become loving, and kind.
The form that Sekhmet had become by the end of the tale was identical in character to Hathor, and so a cult arose, at the start of the Middle Kingdom, which dualistically identified Sekhmet with Hathor, making them one goddess, Sekhmet-Hathor, with two sides.
Consequently, Hathor, as Sekhmet-Hathor, was sometimes depicted as a lioness.
Sometimes this joint name was corrupted to Sekhathor (also spelt Sechat-Hor, Sekhat-Heru), meaning (one who) remembers Horus (the uncorrupted form would mean (the) powerful house of Horus.
However, the two goddesses were so different, indeed almost diametrically opposed, that the identification did not last.
Thoth and Hathor depicted as primal deities
When Horus was identified as Ra, under the name Ra-Herakhty, Hathor's position became unclear, since she had been the wife of Ra, but mother of Horus, whose wife was Isis . Many attempts to solve this gave Ra-Herakhty a new wife, Ausaas, to solve this issue around who Ra-Herakhty's wife was. However, this left open the question of how Hathor could be his mother, since this would imply that Ra-Herakhty was a child of Hathor, rather than a creator.
In areas where the cult of Thoth was strong, Thoth was identified as the creator, leading to it being said that Thoth was the father of Ra-Herakhty, thus Hathor, as the mother of Ra-Herakhty, was in this version referred to as Thoth's wife. Since Ra-Herakhty was, in this version of the Ogdoad cosmogeny, depicted as a young child, often referred to as Neferhor, when considered the wife of Thoth, Hathor was often depicted as a female nursing a child.
Since Thoth's wife had earlier been considered to be Seshat, Hathor began to be attributed with many of Seshat's features. Since Seshat was associated with records, and with acting as witness at the judgement of souls, these aspects became attributed to Hathor, which, together with her position as goddess of all that was good, lead to her being described as the (one who) expels evil, which in Egyptian is Nechmetawaj also spelt Nehmet-awai, and Nehmetawy). Nechmetawaj can also be understood to mean (one who) recovers stolen goods, and so, in this form, she became goddess of stolen goods.
Outside the Thoth cult, it was considered important to retain the position of Ra-Herakhty (i.e. Ra) as self-created (via only the primal forces of the Ogdoad). Consequently, Hathor could not be identified as Ra-Herakhty's mother.
Hathor's role in the process of death, that of welcoming the newly dead with food and drink, lead, in such circumstances, to her being identified as a jolly wife for Nehebkau, the guardian of the entrance to the underworld, and binder of the Ka. Nethertheless, in this form, she retained the name of Nechmetawaj, since her aspect as a returner of stolen goods was important to society, and so considered worth noting.
When the Ennead and the Ogdoad were combined, when Ra and Atum were identified as one another, Hathor, as the daughter of the combined Atum-Ra, was sometimes confused with Tefnut. Consequently, the tale, a metaphor for an historic drought, in which Tefnut had fled Egypt after an argument with her husband (Shu), but is persuaded to return, became occasionally transformed into one in which Hathor had an argument with Ra, and fled, later returning.
The aspect of the story in which Tefnut turned into a cat and attacked those who went near, neatly fitted with the tale in which Hathor was said to have been Sekhmet, contributing to the frequency with which the tale occurred featuring Hathor rather than Tefnut.
Beliefs about Ra himself had been hovering around the identification of him, a sun god, with Horus, who by this time was also a sun god, in the combined form Ra-Herakhty, and so for some time, Isis had intermittently been considered the wife of Ra, since she was the wife of Horus.
Consequently, Hathor became identified with Isis , and since this identification was much simpler than that of Horus and Ra, it was more strongly, and more permanantly made.
In this form, which, technically, is really Isis, Hathor's mother was consequently Nuit, and she was sometimes even described as being the wife of Horus, leading to a level of confusion, in which Horus, as Hathor's son, was also his own father.
This form of Horus was known as Horus-Bedhety, referring to Bedhet, where the view was most commonly held, or as Ihy, referring to his aspect as a sistrum player, since he was the son of Hathor, who was by now associated with the sistrum. When Horus assimilated with Anhur, to become Arsnuphis, so Hathor was occasionally Anhur's mother as well.
Nethertheless, when Ra subsequently assimilated Amun, into Amun-Ra, it was sometimes said that Hathor, as a cow, was married to Sobek, or rather to a generic crocodile-god, since Sobek had become thought of as merely a manifestation of Amun.
Shortly afterwards, Hathor became fully merged into Isis , whose cult was much stronger.
Hathor was worshipped in Canaan in the 11th century BC, which at that time was ruled by Egypt, at her holy city of Hazor, which the Old Testament claims was destroyed by Joshua (Joshua 11:13, 21).
The Sinai Tablets show that the Hebrew workers in the mines of Sinai about 1500 BC worshipped Hathor, whom they identified with the goddess Astarte.
Some theories state that the golden calf mentioned in the bible was meant to be a statue of the goddess Hathor (Exodus 32:4-32:6.), although it is more likely to be a representation of the 2 golden calves set up by Rehoboam, an enemy of the levite priesthood, which marked the borders of his kingdom.
The Greeks also loved Hathor and equated her with their own goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite.
Some ancient texts refer to a serpent of light residing in the heavens. This is believed to have been inspired by the Milky Way (a similar allusion to the ouroboros).
In general, the Egyptian gods and Egyptian religion did not travel. The ancient Egyptians were insular, not overly interested in importing or exporting deities. Eventually Isis would become the great exception, with temples in Rome , and throughout Europe, Africa and Asia, as far away as the British Isles . Hathor was her trailblazing predecessor. Beyond the traditional borders of Egypt and Nubia , Hathor was worshipped throughout Semitic West Asia, beloved particularly in the city of Byblos .
She was also adored as far afield as what is modern Ethiopia , Somalia and Libya . The seed of what would be universally beloved within Isis also existed within Hathor. Their appeal transcends national or ethnic boundaries: Hathor perhaps embodies the wishes of those who long for life to be generously benevolent and abundant, while Isis embodies the hopes of those who wish for mercy and kindness.
Hathor was associated with turquoise, malachite and the metals gold and copper. [alchemy of consciousness]
Her demeanor glows with consistent confidence and sunny, good health. Hers is a warm, sensual beauty not aloof or remote. Although she ruled the perfumer's trade in general, Hathor was especially connected with the fragrance of myrrh, which was exceedingly precious to the ancient Egyptians and which on a spiritual level embodied the finest qualities of the feminine.
In Mesopotamia , the beautiful and stylish, ever youthful if fierce, Ishtar dresses her hair this way. So do the beautiful Western Semitic love and war goddesses, Anat and Astarte, who would eventually achieve great popularity in ancient Egypt , perhaps the only foreign deities to do so. They would become incorporated into Egyptian mythology, serving as the designated consolation prize brides for Seth, in the face-saving compromise that concludes his loss to Horus. Anat and Astarte, the ancient equivalent of hot foreign babes, of course wear only the most stylish of hairdos.
Technically, we have no way of actually knowing where this hair-do originated or with whom. However, Hathor's influence remains so consistent that no matter where an ancient goddess plaque is dug up, if she's wearing that flip, she is automatically described as wearing the Hathor hair do. What the goddesses who wear this style have in common with Hathor beyond celestial beauty is a willingness to boldly battle on behalf of justice, their families and followers.
Ishtar, Anat and Hathor: these images of beauty are not passive or vain but action-oriented brave women, perhaps so confident of their inherent beauty that elaborate adornment becomes only necessary for their own pleasure, not as a needed demonstration.
Hathor took on an uncharacteristically destructive aspect in the legend of the Eye of Ra. According to this legend, Ra sent the Eye of Ra in the form of Hathor to destroy humanity, believing that they were plotting aganist him. However, Re changed his mind and flooded the fields with beer, dyed red to look like blood. Hathor stopped to drink the beer, and, having become intoxicated, never carried out her deadly mission. Therefore as a fertility goddess and a goddess of moisture, Hathor was associated with the inundation of the Nile . In this aspect she was associated with the Dog-star Sothis - Sirius - whose rising above the horizon heralded the annual flooding of the Nile .
In the legend of Ra and Hathor she is called the Eye of Ra.
The sun disc reresents the creational light - the word Re - Ra - meaning ray of light.
Her image could also be used to form the capitals of columns in Egyptian architecture. Her principal sanctuary was at Dendera, where her cult had its early focus, and where it may have had its origin. At Dendera, she was particularly worshipped in her role as a goddess of fertility, of women, and of childbirth. At Thebes she was regarded as a goddess of the dead under the title of the 'Lady of the West', associated with the sun god Re on his descent below the western horizon. The Greeks identified Hathor with Aphrodite who was Venus (as in Hathors from Venus).
Hathor and Sekhmet
Hathor and Sekhmet were often associated with each other. Unlike the peaceful and lovely nature of Hathor, Sekhmet was seen by Egyptians as a goddess of destruction (and in some cases, healing).
When Ra wanted to reprimand or punish mankind for their transgressions, Ra sent Hathor. However, due to her lovely nature, Hathor is believed to transform into a fiercer and more ruthless goddess called Sekhmet. For most part of the time, the Egyptians considered Hathor and Sekhmet as one being, that is a group of deities that belong to the Eye of Ra. They both were daughters (consorts or in some cases mother) of Ra.
Hathor was simply the good and nurturing aspect of creator god while Sekhmet was the bad and destructive component of the divine creator.
To read more about the goddess Sekhmet, visit this link.
Hathor: Goddess of Joy and Motherhood Near the Nile - History
Description The sublime beauty of this triple statue masks the sophistication of its composition. The central and largest figure is Hathor, an important goddess throughout Egyptian history associated with fertility, creation, birth, and rebirth. She was the king's divine mother and protector. Here, she wears a headdress of cow's horns and a sun disk, but otherwise her appearance is that of a human female, and she is depicted with the same hairstyle and garment as her earthly counterparts.
Hathor embraces King Menkaura, who is standing to her left. He wears a crown symbolic of Upper Egypt (the Nile Valley) and a wraparound kilt whose sharp pleats conform to the outline of his body. In his right hand he holds a mace, a weapon frequently wielded by kings in relief, but until now not reproduced in stone sculpture. Here, artists solved the problem of carving its thin and fragile shaft in the round by resting it on Hathor's throne. In Menkaura's left hand is a short implement with a concave end it is generally interpreted as a case for documents. Size corresponds to hierarchical position in Egyptian art, and while visually Hathor and Menkaura appear to be the same height, the seated goddess is significantly larger in scale. Like Menkaura's queen in the pair statue (pp. 86-87), Hathor's embrace is one of association, not affection, and all three figures gaze impassively into a distant horizon.
The third and smallest figure is a goddess of lesser importance, associated not with the entire country, but with a single district in Upper Egypt known as the Hare nome. It is symbolized by the rabbit standard she wears on her head. An artist has cleverly merged the ankh sign she carries in her left hand with Hathor's throne. The Hare nome goddess, like Hathor and Menkaura, exhibits a body proportioned according to the Old Kingdom ideal of beauty and is modeled with the restrained elegance that makes this period a highpoint of Egyptian art.
The inscription on the sculpture's base clarifies the meaning of this complicated piece: "The Horus (Kakhet), King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Menkaura, beloved of Hathor, Mistress of the Sycamore. Recitation: I have given you all good things, all offerings, and all provisions in Upper Egypt, forever." It signifies that all the material goods produced in the Hare nome will be presented to the king to sustain him in perpetuity. One theory suggests that eight such triads, each featuring the king and Hathor with one of the other nome deities, were set up in Menkaura's Valley Temple.