Joshua J. Mark
published on 02 September 2009
Hathor was an ancient Egyptian goddess associated, later, with Isis and, earlier, with Sekhmet.
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. He regrets his decision after a time and, in an attempt to stop Sekhmet's blood lust, has beer dyed red and dropped at Dendera for her to drink. She becomes drunk, falls asleep, and wakes up as Hathor the benevolent. 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. 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 worshipped 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, in early times, worshipped in the form of a cow or as a cow with stars above her. Later she was pictured as a woman with the head of a cow and, later still, as a woman complete with a human face but sometimes with the ears or horns of a cow. She is popularly known as the 'cow goddess' today. Throughout history she has been known as the daughter of Nut and Ra, Wife of Ra, mother of Ihy. Some ancient stories depict her as the mother of Horus the Elder and others as the wife of Horus of Edfu, resulting in the birth of Horus the Younger (usually regarded as the son of Osiris and Isis and, so, marking Hathor as an older goddess than the Osiris/Isis myth). Her cult was popular with both the poor working class of Egypt and the ruling elite.
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