Hathor is the Ancient Egyptian goddess who personifies the principles of love, beauty, music, dance, motherhood and joy. She is one of the most important and popular deities throughout the history of Ancient Egypt. Hathor was worshiped by Royalty and non royals alike in whose tombs she is depicted as “Mistress of the West” welcoming the dead into the next life. In other roles she was a goddess of music, dance, foreign lands and fertility who helped women in childbirth, as well as the patron goddess of miners.

The cult of Hathor pre-dates the historical period and the roots of devotion to her are, therefore, difficult to trace, though it may be a development of predynastic cults who venerated the fertility, and nature in general, represented by cows.

Hathor is commonly depicted as a cow goddess with head horns in which is set a sun disk with Uraeus. Twin feathers are also sometimes shown in later periods as well as a menat necklace. Hathor may be the cow goddess who is depicted from an early date on the Narmer Palette and on a stone urn dating from the 1st dynasty that suggests a role as sky-goddess and a relationship to Horus who, as a sun god, is “housed” in her.

The Ancient Greeks identified Hathor with the goddess Aphrodite and the Romans as Venus.

As Hathor’s cult developed from prehistoric cow cults it is not possible to say conclusively where devotion to her first took place. Dendera in Upper Egypt was a significant early site where she was worshiped as “Mistress of Dendera”. From the Old Kingdom era she had cult sites in Meir and Kusae with the Giza-Saqqara area perhaps being the centre of devotion. At the start of the first Intermediate period Dendera appears to have become the main cult site where she was considered to be the mother as well as the consort of "Horus of Edfu”.Deir el-Bahri, on the west bank of Thebes, was also an important site of Hathor that developed from a pre-existing cow cult.

Temples (and chapels) dedicated to Hathor:

  • The Temple of Hathor and Ma’at at Deir el-Medina, West Bank, Luxor.
  • The Temple of Hathor at Philae Island, Aswan.
  • The Hathor Chapel at the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. West Bank, Luxor.

Notes

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