|Other Egyptian Gods|
Complex Egyptian Goddess related to fertility, music, pleasure, love, and divine kingship.
|Table of contents|
In Egyptian mythology, Hathor (Het-Heru - "the house of Horus") was an extremely popular fertility goddess, associated with the cow. Her name refers to her position as the celestial cow which encircles the sky and hawk god, Horus. She was also a goddess of royalty and since the pharaohs were seen as related to Horus, she was seen as the divine mother of the reigning pharaoh. Her cult was centered in Dendera and was led by priests who were also dancers, singers or other artists, for she was a goddess of art as well. Her priests were also oracles and midwives. She was the mother of Ihy and of Horus. Some academics have suggested a sacred marriage between Hathor and Horus as part of the annual festival at Luxor and Edfu.
In earlier Egyptian mythology, Hathor was portrayed as a cow with a stylized sun between her horns, a woman wearing a headdress with a solar disk and horns or a woman with the ears of a cow. She sometimes also wore a uraeus. One of the myths of Hathor sees her as the wandering eye of Amun or Ra, which he replaced. When Hathor returned he made her into his uraeus. This story is similarly found in the legends surrounding Sekhmet, which is sometimes said to be a form Hathor, and of Wadjet. Correspondingly, Hathor was associated with falcons, cobras, lionesses, as well as with hippopotami.
She was associated with the menat, the sistrum (a type of rattle), and mirrors, as well as with other goddesses like Bata and Bastet. Many of her qualities became conflated with those of the goddess, Isis.
Hathor was deeply loved by the general population and truly revered by women, who aspired to embody her multifaceted role as wife, mother, and lover. Hathor’s cult was unusual, as both men and women were her priests (most Egyptian deities had clerics of the same gender as they.) A hymn to Hathor says:
- “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.”
Hathor was a loving mother and a goddess of joy, love, beer, song, dance, and foreign lands. Often called “Golden Hathor,” she was also the protector of lovers and the patroness of festivals. She greeted the souls of the dead in the underworld and offered them refreshments of food and drink. The worship of Hathor was so popular that more festivals were dedicated to her honor that any other Egyptian deity, and more children were named after this goddess than any other. Because her worship stretches back to pre-dynastic times, we find Hathor identified with many local goddesses, and it can be said that all the goddesses were forms of Hathor.
Hathor had so many manifestations that eventually seven of the most important ones were selected and widely worshiped as the “Seven Hathors,” also associated with the seven planets that the ancient Egyptians knew. These Seven Hathors were invoked to act as sort of fairy godmothers to children. Hathor was pictured as a cow (sometimes covered in stars), a lioness, a hawk, a cobra, a Nile goose, a hippopotamus, a sycamore tree, and as a woman with the ears of a cow and a headdress of horns holding the sun-disk. Sometimes Hathor was depicted as a cow standing in a boat, surrounded by tall papyrus reeds; the pharaoh was often pictured as a calf standing next to her. As the “Mistress of the Necropolis” Hathor was also shown as the head of a cow protruding from a mountainside, watching over the city. Interestingly, the Egyptian hieroglyphic of the head of the cow was the symbol for wisdom.
The image of Hathor the Divine Cow suckling the pharaoh was quite common in ancient Egyptian art—however, it was not confined to Egypt. Similar motifs have been found on a wide variety of objects throughout the ancient Near East—in Crete, Syria, Mesopotamia, Greece, and on Phoenician objects as well. This image was thought to express the joyous tenderness, warmth, and contentment that sustains the flow of life. The Egyptian hieroglyphs for “to be joyful” was represented by a cow turning round to a young calf nestling at her side.
As a provider of milk, the cow is a universal symbol of motherhood, nourishment, and abundance. The cow’s large eyes with long lashes and her generally quiet demeanor 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. The cow’s careful tending of her calf was also a model for motherhood. Royal ladies often took the title of “Priestess of Hathor” in her honor. Yet although she was intrinsically connected to the female of the species, Hathor cannot be considered only a women’s deity. She also had a large and devoted following among men.
Hathor’s image was often used to form the capitals of columns in Egyptian architecture. Unlike other Egyptian gods and goddesses, Hathor was sometimes shown full-face in images (highly unusual by Egyptian artistic conventions). The only other deity to ever be pictured this way was Bes. Hathor was also represented by the menat, the turquoise “musical necklace” often worn by women, the mirror, a field of reeds, and the Egyptian rattle called the sistrum.
Relation to Other Gods
Hathor was both the daughter and wife of Ra. (Hathor and Ra once argued, and she left Egypt. Ra quickly decided he missed her, but she changed into a cat that destroyed any man or god that approached. Thoth, disguised, eventually succeeded in convincing her to return.) At different times and in different cities she was considered to be the wife and sister, or mother of Horus. She was also seen as the daughter of Nuit and the mother of Anhur and Isis. Also, the wife of Sobek, and the mother of Ihy.
Some of the many titles of Hathor were:
- “Mistress of Heaven” or "Lady of the Sky"
- "Mistress of Byblos"
- "Lady of Faience"
- "Lady of the Sycamore"
- “The One Who Shines Like Gold”
- “Eye of Ra”
- “The One Who Fills the Sanctuary with Joy”
- “The Great Cow Who Protects Her Child”
- “Lady of the Scarlet-Colored Garment” (she was often pictured in a red dress)
- “Mistress of the Sanctuary of Women”
- “Cow of Gold”
- “Lady of the House of Jubilation”
- “Mistress of the Necropolis” or "Lady of the West"
In the earliest dynasties, the name of Hathor was a component of all royal Egyptian names.
History of Worship
Hathor was a very old goddess of Egypt, worshiped as a cow-deity in Dendera from the Old Kingdom (about 2700 BCE) period onwards.
During the Ptolemaic period the Greeks embraced Hathor and equated her with their own goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite. Also during the Roman period a new temple center in Dendera was built dedicated to Hathor, Horus and Ihy.
Hathor was worshiped in Israel in the 11th century BC 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 worshiped Hathor, whom they identified with the goddess Astarte. Some theories state that the “golden calf” mentioned in the bible was a meant to be a statue of the goddess Hathor (Exodus 32:4-32:6.)
Hathor and Thelema
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.
It is also this adoration which is generally used by Thelemites when performing the Solar Adorations mentioned in Liber Resh. Hathor is mentioned within these adorations as the Egyptian Godform that personifies the Sun at midday.
- Hail unto Thee who art Ahathoor in Thy triumphing, even unto Thee who art Ahathoor in Thy beauty, who travellest over the heavens in thy bark at the Mid-course of the Sun.
In this solar role Crowley also uses her in his manuscript notes for Liber Cadaveris, or "The Ritual of Passing Through the Tuat." This was a ritual constructed for the Zelator or "Man of Earth" Grade of the Order of Thelemites. In this ritual Hathor is called the "Lady of Amentet." She is also addressed as the "mighty dweller in the funeral mountain, eye of Ra, dweller before Him, beautiful of fire in the boat of millions of years." In this rite the goddess' blessings are petitioned and she is attributed seemingly to the South and the West.
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. Venus is seen as being the "Evil and Averse Hathoor" of the "World of Demons" who proclaims to Tannhauser:
- Hathoor am I, and to my beauty drawn
- All glories of the Universe bow down,
- The blossom and the mountain and the dawn.
- Fruit's blush, and woman, our creation's crown.
- I am the priest, the sacrifice, the shrine,
- I am the love and life of the divine!
- Life, death, love, hatred, light, darkness, are surely mine—
- Are mine.
Qabalistically, Crowley associated Hathor with the path of Daleth. He also found that the Hebrew spelling of her name, AThOR (אתער) was related Qabalistically to the same words for the Tarot (TARO), wheel (ROTA), Law (TORA), and Gate (ThROA). Each of these equals 671. This number besides being a product of 61 x 11 also is the sum of the values of each of the letters written in full of the Hebrew word Adonai, or Lord.
Outside of the works of Crowley Hathor has a number of Thelemic adherents. Soror Het Heru of the House of Horus website, for instance, has written on the connection between Hathor and other Thelemic goddess figures, namely, Nuit and Babalon. In her work she states that Hathor represents a more manifest influence of the same energies found in the other two goddesses.
Additionally, the science fiction writer and founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, is claimed by his son to have a Holy Guardian Angel by the name of Hathor. Hubbard's involvment with Thelema and Jack Parsons is well-documented.
- Hathor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hathor) article on Wikipedia
- House of Horus (http://www.geocities.com/houseofhorus156/)
- Crowley, Aleister. (1983). The Holy Books of Thelema. York Beach, Me. : S. Weiser.
- Godwin, Daivd. (1994) Godwin's Cabalistic Encyclopedia.St. paul, MN : Llewellyn.
- Nicholson, Paul & Shaw, Ian. (1995) The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt. New York : Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
- Tresidder, Jack (ed.)(2005) The Complete Dictionary of Symbols. San Francisco : Chronicle Books
- Wikipedia. (2005). Hathor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hathor). Retrieved on 02/28/2005.