She was one of the most important and popular deities throughout the history of Ancient Egypt. She is Hathor, (Pronounced HAH-tor) worshiped by royalty and common people 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, which is what we’re going to focus on today. But first, a bit more about one of my favorite deities.
Hathor had a complex relationship with Ra, an Egyptian Sun God. At times, she is the eye of Ra and considered his daughter, but she is also considered Ra’s mother. She absorbed this role from another cow goddess Mehet-Weret (“Great flood”) who was the mother of Ra in a creation myth and carried him between her horns. As a mother, she gave birth to Ra each morning on the eastern horizon and as wife she conceives through union with him each day. The Ancient Egyptians viewed reality as multi-layered in which deities who merge for various reasons, while retaining divergent attributes and myths, were not seen as contradictory but complementary.
Hathor was also known as the Lady of the Sycamore. In Egyptian religion, sycamore trees stood at the entrance to the Otherworld. The most common form in which she appeared was as Goddess of the Sun, witnessed by her headdress of a golden Sun Disc enclosed by two cow’s horns, and by her epithets “Golden One” and “Cow of Gold.” Biblical wording later managed to confuse the Hebrew word “egla” meaning “a three-year old heifer” with “egal” which implies a bull calf, thus avoiding the Hathor association. It is also quite likely that the Biblical golden calf wasn’t made of gold, but copper, the metal that is sacred to every goddess of love, not least Hathor and her daughters of the classical future, Venus and Aphrodite.
So, remember that Hathor is the patron saint of miners. To ancient Egyptians, precious metals held not only monetary value but spiritual significance, which, of course, can be deduced from the temple of Hathor at the famous copper mines of Serabit el Kadim. Here is where things get a little interesting: Serabit el Kadim is in all likelihood the place that the Bible calls Mount Sinai and Mount Horeb. The association of Moses with Serabit is intentionally or otherwise suggested in the Bible that the kin of Moses were Kenites, or smiths. Serabit as an essential source of copper, had all the metal working facilities associated with smith-craft. But more than this, it is the Egyptian goddess Hathor, whose temple was situated there, who inadvertently validates the Biblical record.
At first sight this seems to provide confusing and contradictory evidence. The biblically argued point of the Mosaic vision on Mount Serabit appears to be the consolidation of a divinity who is a single, commanding, male God with some rather strict rules to get across. Why, then, did Yahweh choose to speak to Moses at the site of the temple dedicated to a goddess known, among her other titles, as Mistress of the Vulva, whose rites were renowned for their laughter, music, dance, openly expressed sexuality, and leadership by women?
The temple of Hathor was well established, and as far as we know was the only temple in the whole of the Sinai peninsula during this period. Hathor, who had been the most popular of the panoply of Egyptian goddesses from at least the Fourth Dynasty (2050 B.C.), was above all, the great mother goddess in both the most earthy physical sense and in deeper ways that were concerned with the processes that occur at the moment of birth. See, Hathor’s role was not so concerned with the physical conception and birth process as with the care of the state of the soul of the newborn during both the process of birth into the physical world and the “coming forth by day” into the afterworld beyond the grave.
Although unusual for an Egyptian divinity, Hathor had seven aspects, personified and known by the unsurprising title of the Seven Hathors. We may think of these seven goddesses as rather like the seven Feary Godmothers of European folk tales. They visited the soul at its moment of passage into a new life, each bringing a gift that had implications for the destiny of that soul.
Most importantly, each represents one of the seven planes of existence, that inner template of creation, and at the moment of birth each of these planes is, as it were, brought down from fluidity of the subtle worlds within the subtle bodies of the newborn soul; a moment of transformation when the macrocosm becomes the microcosm. Her name, which means “House of Horus” also contains the idea that during the process of birth not only were the seven levels of cosmic order brought down into the bodies of the soul, but also that the complete human and divine ancestry of the soul was present to witness and contribute to the entrance of the soul into the physical world.
It is said that the soul has full memory of its previous heavenly existence and of the reason for its incarnation until the moment it draws its first breath in the imprisoning flesh of the physical world and cries for the loss of the heavenly worlds is has come from.
Where the terrain permitted, the rituals of Hathor took place within a cave, where depictions of the golden cow were shown as if emerging from the interior of the earth. One such cave formed part of the temple at Serabit. It is said that when an initiate of her cult brought through much power, the horns of their headdress extended into beams of light. A strange repository of occult symbols, Rosslyn Chapel, contains a carving that depicts Moses with horns. The Egyptians sometimes called Hathor “Nubt” meaning “the golden one,” in this we may see that we are being surreptitiously offered the suggestion that the “shining face” of Moses when he descended from Mount Sinai may have been a result of an encounter not with Yahweh, but the goddess Hathor in her mountain shrine…
Polarity Magic by Wendy Berg & Mike Harris: pgs. 65, 66, and 68.
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of World Mythology by Arthur Cottrell & Rachel Storm pg. 284