GMC: Hathor

The sky and the stars make music to You.
The sun and the moon praise You.
The Gods exalt You.ThaliaTook-hathor
The Goddesses sing to You.

The Temple of Dendera, Ptolemaic Period

 

The Egyptian Gods are collectively referred to as the Neteru, Netjeru or Netjer. Kemet is the real name for Egypt, which means “the Black Land”, referring to the fertile black soil of the Nile. So Kemetic Paganism is the term for Egyptian Reconstructionist types of Pagans.

Hathor, or Het-Hert (HwtHrw, Hethert) in the native Egyptian, means “House of Heru (Horus)”, or “The House Above”. Hathor is often called the Heavenly Cow. The term “house” of Horus refers to the sky which envelops the falcon-God. She is the great love of Horus. Their sacred marriage was celebrated every year when the statue of Hathor in Denderah was taken by boat up the river to the Temple of Horus the Elder at Edfu. Some tales say that it is from Their union that Horus the Younger is born, not by Isis. Even when Horus the Younger is the child of Isis, Hathor is often depicted as His nurse. Hathor and Horus also have another son, Ihy, a God of joy and music. He is depicted as a young naked boy (young children of both sexes were allowed to run naked in ancient Egypt), often sucking on one of His fingers. He wears the crown of Upper Egypt and the braided sidelock of youth, and He usually carries a sistrum, a musical instrument often used in religious rites. In the Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead, Ihy is called the Lord of Bread. Hathor can also be considered the mother, consort, or daughter of Ra.

Hathor is the Egyptian Goddess of love, joy, beauty, beer, and all the joys and wonders of life. She is the protector of women at all stages of their lives, and a kindly friend to the deceased, who She guides to rebirth. Hathor is one of the most ancient Deities, worshiped all the way back to the 1st Dynasty of the Old Kingdom. Although the patroness of women, Hathor had a large following of men as well. Who would not want the Goddess of Joy and Happiness in their lives?

She is depicted several different ways. The most common is a broad-faced woman with the downloadears of a cow. This sounds strange in writing, but in reality is quite beautiful and elegant. She’s also one of the few Egyptian Deities to be shown full-face instead of in profile. She is also depicted in complete cow-form, but with a crown of the sun-disk, two plumes of feathers, and the cow’s horns. When pictured as a cow, if She is without the crown you can tell Her from other cows by Her eyes – always made up with beautiful make-up. When in bovine form, Hathor is typically shown emerging from a papyrus thicket, calling to mind Her job of wet-nurse for Horus the Younger when He was hidden in the marshes from Set. The eye of the bovine Hathor is often rendered in the form of the wedjat.

She is sometimes referred to in plural form, as the Seven Hathors. This form is usually only depicted on funerary monuments and in other references to the afterlife. But also when She is present as a midwife at the birth of children (especially royal ones), after which each of the Hathors makes a prophecy about the future and/or personality of the child. She is also pictured as a sycamore tree with the face and breasts of a woman, another symbol She shares with Isis. Very rarely Hathor is pictured with four faces, in which case She is called Temit, or Temet, which means “The Universal One”, and in this form She is the feminine counterpart of Ammon. Hathor’s face was used to adorn many household objects, particularly mirrors and sistrims.  So when looking at your reflection in the mirror, you would also see Hathor’s image gazing back at you.

The sycamore fig was the most common tree in Egypt. Egypt was often called the Land of the Sycamore, and early word for sycamore came to be used for all trees in general. It can grow to be eighty-five feet high, and frequently grew along rivers. Although it is technically semi-deciduous, it is almost always has it leaves. The sycamore was one of the most useful trees to the ancient Egyptians. Its wood is sturdy, light, and waterproof. It was used for everything from tools to furniture to architectural supports. When the bark is pounded, its sap creates a natural latex resin, which the Egyptians called the Tears of the Sycamore.

Hathor, Isis, and Nut are allcalled Nebet Nuhet, the Lady of the Sycamore. As the sycamore Egyptian-Goddess-Hathor2tree with the face and breasts of the Goddess, it is shown in funerary texts as providing cool water from Her breasts to rejuvenate the soul of the dead and sheltering the soul in her branches. In many versions of the Isis and Osiris tale, when the coffin of Osiris drifted down the Nile and landed, a sycamore tree grew up around it overnight. In ancient times all of the dead were associated with Osiris, but during Ptolemaic and Roman periods it came to be more gender-segregated. That is, the dead man would be associated with Osiris, and a dead woman would be identified with “the Hathor” in coffin inscriptions instead.

The sycamore could produce seven crops of figs per year. The fig has its own symbolism, but the sycamore fig is different from the common fig. The sycamore fig was the more sacred of the two, and connected to Isis and Hathor. The fig was also a symbol of compassion and mercy, because it was used in medicinal treatments for various ailments. The fig is filled with a white, milky substance, linking it back to motherhood, nourishment, and the Divine Cow.

  1. Isidora Forrest, the author of Offering to Isis: Knowing the Goddess Through Her Sacred Symbols, tells us about another meaning of the fig: its relation to female sexuality.

 

The fig, which plumps and reddens as it ripens to honey sweetness, has been seen by many cultures to represent the female vulva. An Etruscan and Roman protective talisman still used today – and which is at least as old as the worship of Isis in Italy – pairs the fig and vulva explicitly. It is the mano fico or figa, the “fig hand” or simply “fig”. The talisman represents a hand gesture in which the thumb is placed between the index and middle fingers and the hand curled into a loose fist. With a little imagination, it looks like the clitoris peeking out from between the labia, for figa is an ancient slang term for female genitals. Some figa talismans were made of blood coral, probably [so that] the wearer invoked the life-sustaining blood of the vulva of the Goddess as protection[1].

The cow is a symbol of nourishment and motherhood, gentleness, generosity and abundance, fertility and wealth. As the Great Cow, Hathor nourishes the world, the Pharaoh and the dead in particular. A cow and a bull can provide everything a family needs in life: milk, meat, and a beast of burden to plow the fields. Hathor mothers the Sun and rises him in Her horns into the sky. In some of the creation myths, that is how the Sun was first separated from the primordial waters – lifted between the horns of a cow. When pictured as a dark blue cow with stars scattered across Her body, Hathor is related to Nuit, the celestial sky Goddess Who gives birth to the Sun every morning and swallows it again each night.

The Pharaoh was sometimes shown drinking the milk of a cow with stars on Her body. By doing so, he absorbed Her Divine powers. Milk was also a symbol of purity to the ancient Egyptian, because of its pure white color. Making a libation of milk was in and of itself a ritual of purification. White was the color of holiness and joy. Someone who was cheerful would be described as being white, the same way that we could call such a person bright or sunny. Sacred cows were kept for Hathor in several places. The most important could probably be said to be at Momemphis in the southwest Delta, who was known as “She Who Remembers Horus”.

 

Hathor and Precious Stones

As the Lady of Lapis-Lazuli, Mistress of Malachite, and Lady of Turquoise, Hathor has connections to metal and precious stones, their beauty and their magical properties. She is also connected to the metals copper and gold, and was often called simply The Golden Goddess (much like Aphrodite in Greece). She was worshiped by miners of these precious ores, to whom She gave their success and wealth. Malachite was also ground into a powder and worn as eye shadow. By so doing, the women who wore it not only worshiped Hathor by adorning themselves in beauty, but anointed themselves with Her essence. Egyptian Gods are not just the God of something, They ARE that thing. Hathor is not just the Goddess of Malachite, She *IS* malachite. Malachite is Hathor embodied.

Although one cannot draw definitive parallels as we lack definitive records, one can recognize a merging of physical and spiritual goals, akin to the manner in which painting henna upon the body transcends mere body art for a devout Hindu woman. The ritual ideally brings actual physical connection with the divine presence of the good goddess Laksmi, embodied in henna. Laksmi, quite similarly to Hathor, rules joyousness, abundance and the beauty and vitality of women, the gracious acceptance of the pleasures of life. Thus Hathor was very likely not merely an abstract religious concept but a vital living component of everyday life. Eventually, Isis would borrow much of Hathor’s iconography and her functions, eventually even wearing her headdress. However, the two deities are not the same nor are they interchangeable. Isis is a being of tremendous complexity: there is tragedy inherent in her myth. Ultimately, Isis is the bereaved widow, the self-less, devoted single mother. For all Isis‘ fame as the Mistress of Magic, she cannot avoid pain, grief and desolation. Her legend embodies both the noblest and the most hopeless aspects of human nature. Hathor, on the other hand, is the embodiment of success. She lacks the ambivalence Isis sometimes possesses. Instead Hathor has an absolute, laser-like focus. She may be joyous and benevolent or she may be single-mindedly vengeful towards spiritual transgressors, the enemies of her father. Unhappiness, ugliness, failure: all these are foreign to her, not a part of her being. Even in her most vengeful, dangerous aspect, Hathor takes the form of an elegant if fearsome lioness or the searing but beautiful solar eye[2].

 

The stone most closely associated with Hathor was probably green turquoise. She was so often shown wearing the menit, an elaborate necklace of green turquoise beads, that sometimes even when She was depicted in complete-cow form, She still wore the menat-hathor.jpgnecklace.  Modern metaphysicists say that turquoise is a purification stone. I’ve looked up the three stones most commonly associated with Hathor, to see what the modern understanding of them are. This information comes from several sources, but most notably www.charmsoflight.com . Turquoise is believed to dispel negativity, stabilize mood swings, and help with depression. It’s keywords are purification, serenity, protection, wisdom, balance, strength, friendship, love, positive thinking, and sensitivity.

Malachite is a stone of spiritual healing, protector of children and travelers, and is used to aid success in business. It enables you to adsorb and process information, helps ease the effects of dyslexia, encourages positive changes and releases negativity and old traumas. It is the stone of unconditional love, empathy for yourself and others. It’s keywords are calming, menet.jpgloyalty, leadership, protection, wisdom, comfort, balance, peace, self-understanding, positive transformation, healing.

Lapis-Luzuli is a stone associated with both Isis and Hathor, although more closely with Isis. With its dark blue color flecked with pyrite, it symbolized to the ancient Egyptians the endless heavens studded with undying stars. It symbolized to the Egyptians the afterlife, regeneration and rebirth. As a stone of Heaven it is appropriate for any Sky Goddess. Egyptian judges wore amulets of lapis luzuli around their necks, inscribed with “Mayat”, the word for truth, justice, and harmony, overseen by the Goddess Ma’at. The lapis also symbolizes the life-giving waters of the Nile.

Just as the ancient Egyptian believed that lapis was a stone of joy, modern metaphysics says that it can help to ease depression. Lapis is supposed to give mental clarity, balance yin and yang, relieve anxiety and heal emotional wounds. The Egyptians associated it with fertility and growth, and we associate it was creative expression. The Egyptians saw lapis as a stone of spirituality and a seer’s stone, and modern crystal books will say lapis is a stone of truth, friendship, and a psychic facilitator. It can be worn to deflect psychic attacks, overcome depression, and bring harmony, self-knowledge, and the courage to speak one’s truth. It’s keywords are inner truth, inner power, love, purification, intuition, positive magic, self-confidence, manifestation, and friendship.

 

Lady of Love

 

Hathor is the supreme Lady of Love and Beauty, She Who Makes the World Joyous At Her Coming. Seeing all this, it was quite natural for the Greeks to associate the Egyptian Hathor with their own Golden Goddess, Aphrodite. Hathor isn’t just called The Golden Goddess, but even The Gold That Is Hathor. Seeing all this, it was natural for the Greeks in Egypt to equate Hathor with their own Golden Goddess, Aphrodite.

Hathor is the Goddess of all perfumes, but is most strongly felt in myrrh. This is another connection to Aphrodite. Myrrh has heavy mythical implications. The myrrh tree was originally a girl, name Myrrha, or Smyrna. She had been turned into the fragrant myrrh tree, but she was pregnant at the time. As the months went on, the trunk of the tree swelled. When it was time for the tree-child to be born, a wild boar ran into the tree and tore open the trunk with its tusks. The child born from the first myrrh-tree was Adonis, Aphrodite’s great love who was destined to die young. Everything in ritual is symbolic and important. Most modern people miss these little details because, unlike the ancients, we are not seeped in these myths and stories and stories from birth.

Aphrodite’s great connections connections to the Ptolemaic dynasty, starting with Soter’s son Philadelphus. Ptolemy II Philadelphus dedicated a Temple to His wife Arsinoe under the title Aphrodite Arsinoe, but there were many new Temples built for Hathor-Aphrodite. Not just tacking the name “Aphrodite” to an existing Temple for Hathor, but actually building a new Temple to the syncretic Goddess Aphrodite-Hathor.

 

Temple of Aphrodite-Hathor in Egypt
“There are many other towns on Prosopitis; the one from which the boats come to gather the bones of the bulls is called Atarbekhis [probably named after Athor-Hathor]; a temple of Aphrodite stands in it of great sanctity.” – Herodotus 2.41

 

Love spell invoking Aphrodite-Hathor
“Aphrodite’s Name, which becomes known to no one quickly, is NEPHERIE’RI [i.e. Nfr-iry.t, “the beautiful eye”, an epithet for Aphrodite/Hathor] – this is the Name. If you wish to win a woman who is beautiful, be pure for 3 days, make an offering of Frankincense, and call this Name over it. You approach the woman and say it seven times in your Soul as you gaze at her, and in this way it will succeed. But do this for 7 days.” – PGM IV.1265-74

 

Priestesses of Aphrodite-Hathor bury the Hesis-cow

“The priests of Aphrodite to Apollonios [the dioiketes] greeting. In accordance with what the king has written to you, to give one hundred talents of myrrh for the burial of [the Hesis], please order this [to be given]. For you know that the Hesis is not brought up to the nome unless we have in readiness everything required for the burial, because [the embalming is done (?)] on the day (of her death). Know that the Hesis is Isis, and may she give you favor in the eyes of the king. Farewell. Year 28, Hathyr 15.” – PSI 4.328

 

Sacred Sites of Hathor

 

One Her most sacred sites was the Temple of Denderah. The Temple was revered as a holy site of pilgrimage. The Temple sponsored grand processions and magnificent festivals.  It was a place of healing where people came to be cured of both physical and psychological maladies. There  also a small Temple to Isis inside the Temple walls, and a beautiful lake on the grounds. The ceiling in some of the rooms is carved with intricate astrological calendars. Although much of the Temple still stands, we’ll never know for sure what was on the other ceilings. When Napoleon’s men took the Temple, they found that an Arabic village had been living inside the Temple precinct for generations. Years of campfire smoke had irreconcilably blackened much of the walls and ceilings. It’s a heart-breaking thought.

Denderah has a few things usually not found in Egyptian Temples: crypts. Even stranger, they are crypts without bodies. There are about a dozen of them, some underground, some actually within the massive walls of the Temple. We don’t know for sure what they are for. Perhaps ritual objects, and/or an image of the Goddess Herself, were stored (hidden) here. They would have been brought out for special occasions, festival processions, etc. But I want to emphasize that this is mere speculation. What they were really used for is a mystery. Or, THE Mysteries.

On the island of Philae, at one of Isis’ most famous Temples, there was also a smaller, but much older, Temple to Hathor. Similarly, Hathor’s holy site of Denderah honored Isis with a small Temple. Hathor and Isis were two of the most popular Egyptian Deities of all time. Although Isis’ worship spread to Rome and as far as Britain, She is one of the only exceptions. Egyptian Gods and Goddesses were very insular, some were worshiped only in Their home town and never caught on in the rest of Egypt. Hathor, however, long before Isis’ worship was exported, Hathor was worshiped throughout Semitic West Asia, far beyond the borders of Egypt and Nubia. She was particularly revered in Babylon. Hathor was worshiped as far as modern Ethiopia, Somalia and Libya. The love of first Hathor, and then Isis, was nearly universal. “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[4].” It’s interesting that the biblical Mount Sinai may have had a Temple to Hathor.

 

Hathor and the Golden Calf Business?

Mount Horeb is the holy mountain of Exodus. It is referred to as “the mountain of God” in Exodus 3:1, and named by Moses “Massah, and Meribah” (Exodus 17:6), where the rock was smited in order to create water for the troups. [This is also near the site of the battle between the Amalek and the Hebrews.] Beginning in Chapter 19 of Exodus, however, there is an apparent move “into the wilderness of Sinai” and “to the desert of Sinai”, whereupon Moses, et al, pitched camp at what is now referred to as Mount Sinai.

Later, after all of the goings on at Mount Sinai, Moses is again told to head for greener pastures (“a land flowing with milk and honey” — Exodus 33:3), but apparently before going, the children of Israel are stripping “themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb.” (Exodus 33:6).  Was there some backtracking here?  Are there two mountains?

In all respects, it appears that Mount Horeb is the one mountain of the one God.  Located in the Sinai wilderness/desert, Horeb is also a mountain of Sinai.  In fact, it was only in the fourth century A.D. that “Mount Sinai” even existed — apparently given the name by Greek Christian monks almost two thousand years after Moses.  In modern times, the mountain called Gebel Musa — “Mount of Moses” — is now the alleged stand-in for the holy mountain, but Mount Horeb is actually the peak now called Mount Serabit, at a location called Serabit el-Khadim. [1]

Why is this geography lesson important?  Because on Mount Serabit (aka Mount Horeb, the biblical Mount Sinai), there exists an extraordinary archaeological discovery:  A temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess, Hathor.  One can in fact surmise that Moses was well aware of an operational Egyptian temple in the Sinai, and the Sinai was thus a safe haven for his flock of departing slaves (since the soldiers pursuing them would not have wanted to shed blood on holy ground, I presume).  Thereafter, the temple was lost to the world until 1904 A.D., when a group of archaeologists headed by Sir W. M. Flinders Petrie found the site[5]. It also makes one wonder if the Golden Calf the Israelites were supposedly worshiping while Moses received the Ten Commandments was actually the Great Egyptian Goddess Hathor.

 

Associations and Titles

Hathor was equated with Aphrodite/Venus, Hera, Persephone, Nyx, Nuit, Sekhmet, Isis, Astarte, Ishtar, Inanna, and Anat or Anath. Some of Her titles are Lady of Cheerfulness, Mistress of Myrrh, Beloved of the Gods and the Goddesses, The Brilliant One in the Sky, The Celestial Nurse, The Divine Cow, The Eye of Ra in the Temple of the Sistrum, The Feline One of Women, The Golden One, The Great Cow Who Protects Her Child, Great in Divinity, Hand of Atum, Her Majesty, Het-Hert the Great, Mistress of Malachite, The One Whose Face Shines without Anger, Mistress of Strength, Mistress of Temples, Mistress of the Tresses (hair – Hathor was known for Her beautiful hair), and many, many many more we don’t have space for. (a much more complete list can be found here: http://www.hethert.org/titles.htm . I suggest you read them if you have a chance, they give a great insight into Her many faces.)

[1]    M. Isidora Forrest. Offering to Isis: Knowing the Goddess Through Her Sacred Symbols. Llewellyn. 2005. Page 166.

[2]    http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/hathorbeauty.htm

[3]    Kerenyi, Carl. The Gods of the Greeks. Thames & Hudson Ltd. New York. 1951.

[4]    http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/hathorbeauty.htm

[5]    http://www.halexandria.org/dward482.htm

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