Egyptian Gods: Hathor
Hathor was one of the most popular goddesses in all of Egypt and enjoyed a significant cult following throughout history. Through this, she also evolved into several goddesses with distinguishing functions and associations. She is often depicted as either a woman with the head of cow, or a woman with two curled cow’s horns that hold between them a solar disc and the uraeus. She is sometimes depicted as a hippopotamus, a falcon, a cobra or a lioness but not as frequently as a cow. Her symbols include the sistrum, the horns and sun disk headdress, a papyrus reed, a menat (a ritual necklace symbolizing rebirth with percussive properties) and mirrors. Her name can also be spelled as Het-Hert, Hetheru or Hathoor. Her names means “the house of Horus” referring to the sky, Horus’ dwelling and the royal family of pharaoh.
She is the daughter of the Sun god Ra and the sky goddess Nut, and is believed to be one of the Eyes of Ra, who brought destruction to humankind in the form of the goddess Sekhmet. In many stories, Hathor is the wife of Horus the elder and mother of Horus the younger and Ihy (god of music and dancing).
Because of her popularity, she is associated with several other goddesses especially in function and features. It is sometimes believed that all the other goddesses were forms of her. She can be a sun-goddess, a sky goddess, a moon goddess, goddess of the west and the east, goddess of fertility, goddess of moisture, goddess of fertility, goddess of agriculture and even a goddess of the underworld. Because of this, she acquired quite a number of different title. However, strictly speaking, Hathor is the goddess of beauty, music, dance, joy, motherhood and love. She was considered as a protective goddess of the women especially the pregnant ones thus linking her to the mother of the pharaoh.
Over the course of history, she acquired a number of different titles. She is known as the “Lady of Stars” and “Sovereign of Stars” because she was a sky goddess linked to the star Sirius. In fact, her birthday is celebrated when Sirius first appears in the sky signifying the start of the inundation of the Nile. She is also known as the “Golden One” being a daughter of Ra.
She is the “Mistress of Heaven” because of her association to Nut, Mut and the Queen of Egypt. She is the “Celestial Nurse” because she guised as a cow or a sycamore fig to nurse the pharaoh back to health.
She is the “Mother of Mothers” because of her role as goddess of childbirth, mothers and children. Being the goddess of childbirth, many believed that seven Hathors come by the bedside of the baby to announce his or her fate. They know the future and the time of death of every Egyptian.
She is the “Mistress of Life” because she is the embodiment of music, alcohol, joy, love, romance, perfume, and dance. In fact, she is a patron cosmetic art because she was a goddess of beauty. She is linked to the fragrance of myrrh incense, a very precious material considered to embody all the fine qualities of the female sex.
She is also the “Mistress of Turquoise“, “Lady of Lapis Lazuli”, and the “Lady of Malachite” because she was the patron of miners and the goddess of the Sinai Peninsula where gold, copper, turquoise and malachite are abundant.
She was given the titles “Hand of God” and “Lady of the Vulva” (the former is referring to the act of masturbation) because she is the goddess of the expression of sexuality in the form of dance. In one story, her father Ra refused to talk to anyone and Hathor returned him to good spirits by dancing to him and exposing her private parts that caused him to laugh again.
She is also known as the “Lady of the West” and the “Lady of the Southern Sycamore” (the latter depicting her as woman handing out water to a dead sycamore tree) because she assisted and protected the dead towards their final destination into the kingdom of Osiris.
She is worshipped all throughout Egypt but her cult center is in the Upper part of the nation – the city known as Dendra, where she is the “Mistress of Dendra”. There several temples and statues were built to her honor and most of her followers and priests were musicians, dancers and artists. Most prayers are dedicated to her protective role on women and children. In Thebes, she was revered as goddess of the dead.
She is also known as “Goddess of Limit” because she believed to rule everything in the known universe including distant places as Sinai and Punt.
The Greeks loved her as well, equating her to their goddess Aphrodite. She was also believed to be the goddess of the third calendar month known to the Greeks as the Hethara.