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The Mother Goddess Hathor, Lady of the Stars and the Milky Way

Hathor, Lady of the Stars and Milky Way

A look at Hathor, the Mother Goddess, which first appeared in September 2019.

There has been much speculation about the true origins of ancient Egypt and Sumeria. Were the stories merely myths or based on beings with god-like abilities who came from the stars? One such being is the “Lady of Stars and “Mistress of Heaven and Life,” worshipped in Nubia, Semitic West Asia, Ethiopia, and Libya. If we seek answers, clearly, she requires a much closer look.

Hathor, the Mother Goddess

Her name is Hathor, and her followers worshipped this Mother Goddess from the beginning of Egyptian religion until the end in c.500 AD. Her mythology shows this was one badass deity, as revered as any male god.

A triad statue depicting the Hare Nome goddess, the goddess Hathor, and the pharaoh Menkaure. Unlike the other statues, this one is inscribed on its base in dedication to the pharaoh. Originally from the Valley Temple of Mycerinus at Giza, made of Greywacke. Created during the 4th dynasty, circa 2548-2530 B.C. Now at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, via Wikimedia by Marcus Cyron

Today, more people have heard of Isis, the mother of Horus, but Hathor came first, “the primeval goddess from whom all others were derived.”

The Goddess of the Milky Way

In tracing connections to her origins, consider that Hathor is depicted as a heavenly cow because she represents the Milky Way and the milk flowing from above. She is associated with Venus, the morning star and goddess of the Romans. To the Greeks, she was associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

Hathor was one of the only gods represented in portrait rather than a profile. She would often have a red body and beautifully painted eyes but could also be pure white. Her human face would often have cow horns and ears, with a red disk of the sun between the horns. The red sun disk would later appear in representations of Isis.

Hathor could take many forms, appearing as a lion, a goose, a cat, a vulture, a cobra, or a sycamore tree. Her relationships with other gods and goddesses are equally changeable. She was consort to Horus. Hathor’s name translates to “Domain of Horus,” with the ability to rejuvenate and bring the sun god back to life. She is described as the Sun God Ra’s wife, daughter, and mother all at once.

Related: The Egyptian Flesh of the Gods, Gold, and an Ancient Temple

Facsimile of a vignette from the Book of the Dead of Ani. Hathor, as the Mistress of the West (a goddess of the afterlife), emerges from a hill representing the Theban necropolis. She is depicted as a cow, wearing her typical the horns and sun-disk, along with a menat-necklace. Her eye is shaped like the sacred Eye of Horus. At bottom right is a stylized tomb via Wikimedia Commons

Patron Goddess of Love

Hathor enjoyed great popularity with common people and royalty alike as the patron goddess of joy, celebration, and love. She played a mysterious instrument called a sistrum to drive away evil from the land. What was this strange device? It appears like a gateway with the cobra in the opening or like a tuning fork, or the Egyptian Ankh in other instances. (see below)

Sistrum with the Name of King Amasis via Wikimedia Commons

The irony of this association with joy is that Hathor began by wreaking havoc on humans. In a story very similar to the Great Flood of the Bible, the god Ra becomes displeased with humans for forgetting him and unleashes Hathor to destroy them as her evil twin of sorts, the goddess Sekhmet. Sekhmet’s destruction is so overwhelming that other gods ask Ra to stop her destructive wake.

Hathor Becomes Transformed into Sekhmet

According to Ancient History Encyclopedia, this is when the Mother Goddess changes entirely, thanks to what must be the most important beer in world history.

“Ra regrets his decision and devises a plan to stop Sekhmet’s blood lust. He orders Tenenet, the Egyptian goddess of beer, to brew a particularly strong batch and then has the beer dyed red and delivered to Dendera. Sekhmet, by this time, is crazed with the thirst for more blood and, when she comes upon the blood-red beer, she quickly seizes it and begins drinking.

She becomes drunk, falls asleep, and wakes up as Hathor the benevolent. Humanity was spared destruction and their former tormentor became their greatest benefactress. Following her transformation, Hathor bestowed only beautiful and uplifting gifts on the children of the earth and assumed such high status that all the later goddesses of Egypt can be considered forms of Hathor.

She was the primordial Mother Goddess, ruler of the sky, the sun, the moon, agriculture, fertility, the east, the west, moisture and childbirth. Further, she was associated with joy, music, love, motherhood, dance, drunkeness and, above all, gratitude.”

Assisting Humans Until Their Final Journey

Instead of eliminating humanity, Hathor instead bestowed joy, music, art, and celebration on the survivors, our ancient ancestors. Not only were the living thankful, but also those crossing on to the afterlife.

“It was believed that ‘Hathor’s motherly character greeted the souls of the dead and assisted them on their final journey to a place called Duat. She even offered them refreshments from the shade of a sycamore tree.”

Video by World History Encyclopedia:

Celebrations of the New Year

Hathor was integral to celebrations of the New Year, as priests carried her statue, placed crowns on her head, and carried out secretive rituals, chanted and played music. Today scenes of the New Years’ celebrations are seen on the walls of the 2,000-year-old Temple of Hathor in Dendara near the famed Dendera light bulb. Early Christians damaged her face on sculptures in an attempt to erase her history, but they failed.

Hathor column by Verity Cridland via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

As you can see, the story of Hathor is foundational to the beliefs of ancient Egypt. The goddess representing the Milky Way itself nearly wiped out the human race but then transformed into a beloved patron of joy, prosperity, and celebration.

See the Temple of Hathor by Classical and Ancient Civilization below:

Featured image: Hathor circa 1350 BC, Egyptian Museum of Torino, Italy by Roberto Venturini via Flickr (CC BY 2.0) with Milky Way via Wikimedia Commons

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