23. Hathor (Egyptian Mythology)

In our twenty-third episode, we finally cover our first Egyptian goddess - the powerful and two-sided Hathor. We discuss her dualistic nature, the importance of livestock to ancient religions, and our surprise that neither of us had heard much about her before.


Wikipedia - Hathor

Transcript below:

(Musical intro)

Lizzie: Hello and welcome to Mytholadies, the podcast where we talk about women from mythology and folklore all over the world. We're your hosts--

Zoe: I'm Zoe.

Lizzie: And I'm Lizzie. So Zoe, how are you?

Zoe: I'm good! Um, so, quitting went well, um, everything's in order, just working out my last two weeks.

Lizzie: I'm glad.

Zoe: Um--yeah! It was a big relief, I was very nervous. Also it's very snowy right now so I've been doing lots of shoveling, so I'm very sweaty, but other than that.

Lizzie: Oh here it's like sixty degrees, so.

Zoe: That's--that's wild (laughs).

Lizzie: It actually is wild.

Zoe: How about you? How's it going?

Lizzie: Um, I'm fine. I have a break from school, so I've been reading academic articles.

Zoe: Oh, well that's--(laughs)that sounds like you're still doing school!

Lizzie: (laughing)Yeah! (both laugh)Pretty much. Anyway, so, you did the research this week. Who are we talking about?

Zoe: Alrighty. So today I realized we're twenty-something episodes in and we still haven't done any Egyptian mythology! And I was like what the heck, so, today we're gonna be doing Hathor from Egyptian mythology.

Lizzie: Ooh! Okay, fun! I don't know much about her, so (laughs).

Zoe: Yeah. So get ready.

Lizzie: I'm excited.

Zoe: Yeah. So the basics. She was a major goddess in ancient Egyptian religion. She had a bunch of different roles, which I will cover, and she was often depicted as a cow, representing her motherly role, or most often a woman with a crown of cow horns and a sun disk between the cow horns.


Zoe: So, before we dive in, just a little bit of history. So the worship and depiction of cows has been around in Egypt for a very long time, since before dynastic Egypt. These pre-dynastic images show women with upraised, curved arms that look similar to the horns of cows. And dispictions in ancient artifacts, such as the Gerzeh Palette, show a cow with horns surrounded by stars, suggesting there's a connection between a cow goddess and a celestial domain. Hathor is not referred to specifically in art or artifacts until the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, which is around 2600-2400 BCE. However, there are some artifacts that might date to earlier periods, such as 3100 BCE. And so one of those is the Narmer Palette, which in Egyptology is a pretty well-known piece, I believe.

Lizzie: What is that?

Zoe: It's basically, like, a piece of stone with carvings on it. And it depicts, um, an emperor conquering his enemies. And it's--I think it's-it's well-known because it's very old and it's very interesting.

Lizzie: Okay.

Zoe: And it basically depicts a goddess with curving horns similar to a cow’s, and it's thought that could be a depiction of Hathor, but could also be a depiction of a goddess with a similar appearance named Bat. So this is because the horns of the depicted goddess curve inward, while Hathor is generally depicted with her horns curving outward.

Lizzie: Oh! Okay.

Zoe: Yeah! And so after that, though, Hathor rose very quickly to prominence during the fourth dynasty and absorbed the worship of other similar goddesses, including Bat. So like I said, Hathor has many different domains. And it's believed to be a result of when royal goddesses--um, like, goddesses worshipped by royalty, absorbed the traits and worship of local goddesses, who were then believed to be manifestations of Hathor. So Egyptian texts refer to manifestations of Hathor as “the seven Hathors,” but sometimes reference more, up to 362 different Hathors. So that gives you a little hint as to how great her scope is.

Lizzie: Yeah.

Zoe: Egyptologist Robin Gillam refers to her as “a type of deity rather than a single entity.”

Lizzie: Oh.

Zoe: Yeah. So she is all over the place. Her different manifestations represent the wide range of traits that Egyptians associated with goddesses, and she exemplified the Egyptian perception of femininity. So...

Lizzie: Oh! Okay.

Zoe: Yeah! So her first domain is the sky. She was known as the "mistress of the sky" and "mistress of the stars," and she was said to live in the sky with the sun god Ra.

Lizzie: Oh...

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: Okay.

Zoe: Yeah. That--the big one.

Lizzie: Yes.

Zoe: In Egyptian mythology, the sky was viewed as a body of water that the sun god sailed through. And then it was connected to the waters from the beginning of time where the sun first emerged, birthed by a cosmic mother-cow goddess, between whose horns the sun then rested.

Lizzie: That's interesting.

Zoe: Um, that mother cow goddess could be Hathor. There's also some other cosmic goddesses who are depicted as cows, such as Nut, the goddess of the sky, but Hathor was also said to give birth to the sun each day. And her name can be translated to "house of Horus," but it can also be translated to "house of the sky," which refers to her living in the sky.

Lizzie: Okay.

Zoe: And so Horus, the falcon god, is another god of the sun and the sky, and is also born from Hathor every day. And she's also believed to be the personification of the Milky Way and associated with the star Sirius.

Lizzie: Ohh, okay.

Zoe: Yeah. Which I think is interesting, cause a lot of love goddesses are associated with Venus, but this is a different one.

Lizzie: Is she also a love goddess?

Zoe: Yes. Oh, yeah. Sorry, spoiler. (Lizzie laughs)We'll get into that (both laugh).

Lizzie: Okay.

Zoe: Yeah. So--and then she's also a solar goddess, though. She serves as the feminine counterpart to male sun gods like Ra and Horus, as I previously said, and accompanied Ra in his trip across the sky as the sun. She was one of many goddesses to hold the role of the Eye of Ra, which is a female personification of the sun disk of Ra.

Lizzie: Yes.

Zoe: So, like, the sun disk between her horns. Mm hmm. And Ra is sometimes depicted inside the disc, which is interpreted by some as representing the womb in which Hathor gives birth to the sun. So, with Ra, Hathor serves the triple role of mother, wife, and daughter through the daily cycle of the sun. So at sunset, the sun enters the body of the Eye, impregnating her, and then she gives birth to the Eye goddess and Ra, who will later give birth to Ra once again.

Lizzie: That's amazing.

Zoe: Yeah, so it's super cyclical and she basically plays all the roles. However--oh wait, sorry. Forget that. Let me say one more thing. The Eye of Ra protected Ra from his enemies as he travelled across the sky, and was often depicted as a lioness or a set of four cobras, known as “Hathor of the four faces.” And these cobras faced in each direction, looking for threats.

Lizzie: Mm hmm. I know a little bit about the Eye of Ra, um, I did a little bit of research for the sun goddess episode, um--

Zoe: Yeah!

Lizzie: They're just, like, the feminine, like, protectors of-of Ra, right?

Zoe: Yeah. Yeah, exactly! And also when I was listening to this love goddesses episode, it mentions that Qetesh is also served as the Eye of Ra.

Lizzie: Oh!

Zoe:In some beliefs. So. And she and Hathor are connected, so. But! The Eye goddess is not always kept under control, as depicted by the stories in a funerary text called the Book of the Heavenly Cow.

Lizzie: Ah, okay.

Zoe: So--yeah, so in this story, Ra sends Hathor to punish humans for plotting to overthrow his rule. And so she transforms into her violent, warlike counterpart, Sekhmet, and begins to massacre the humans, but she grows out of control and starts killing everyone. And so Ra has to hatch a plan to keep her from killing all of humanity. And basically--

Lizzie: Oh, that's kind of fun.

Zoe: Yeah! And basically what he does is he orders a bunch of beer to be dyed red and poured all over the land.

Lizzie: Like blood?

Zoe: Yes! Exactly. So Sekhmet mistakes it for blood, and gorges herself on it until she becomes too drunk, when she then passes out and reverts back to being the peaceful Hathor.

Lizzie: That's a genius plan.

Zoe: Yeah. And another thing I find so interesting about the story is this reminds of the story of the Ten Suns, uh, from the Chang'e episode.

Lizzie:(overlapping)I was thinking that too, yeah! That would make her Hou Yi--no, that would make her the Emperor.

Zoe: Yeah! And I just think it's so interesting because, like, when we talked about that episode I talked about how it reminded me of the story of Helios's son, Phaëton, and how he tried to drive the sun chariot and it went really badly and, like, burned up the earth.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: And now we're finding all these other stories of, like, a sun-related deity burning up the earth. And, like, people talk about there being flood stories in all these other cultures, but, like, there's also this story. Like, what happened? Anyways.

Lizzie: Yeah totally.

Zoe: These are my thoughts. Like, did something happen--

Lizzie: Like with the sun?

Zoe: (overlapping)--like, was there some historical event that-that inspired--was there, like, a horrible drought or something?

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: Something to look into. Note for myself. Anyway (laughs). There's a similar story from the Late and Ptolemaic periods known as the Distant Goddess. And so in this story, Hathor rebels against Ra and rampages a foreign land. And so in danger without her, Ra tries to win her back by sending Thoth, the god of knowledge, to bring her back. And so when she calms herself, Hathor returned and became the peaceful consort of the sun god once again. And so these two sides to the Eye of Ra, either gentle and protective or vengeful and dangerous, represent the Egyptian perception of how women, as Egyptologist Carolyn Graves-Brown says, can "[encompass] both extreme passions of fury and love."

Lizzie: Oh, that's kind of nice.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: And it's interesting that Ra, like, needs her.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: Like, needs her protection and everything.

Zoe: Yeah, like, he's the one--he needs her to protect him from all the monsters in the sky when he's traveling on his journey throughout the day. Like, he needs her.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: So, she's also connected with music, dance, and joy. So Ancient Egyptians believed that the sensory pleasures of life were the gods’ gifts to humans, and they celebrated them. Which I think is great, especially as, like, someone who was raised Catholic. Um (both laugh). Many of the festivals that celebrated Hathor involved great sensory pleasures, and she was known as the mistress of music, dance, garlands, myrrh, and drunkenness.

Lizzie: Oh!

Zoe: Many instruments were played in her honor, including the sistrum, which is an instrument similar to a rattle that had erotic connotations and was associated with the creation of new life.

Lizzie: Was she the goddess of drunkenness because of the event with the blood beer?

Zoe: Yeah! So we see these connections in the Eye of Ra myths, and so, like, there's the story of her being pacified by the beer that goes with her role of mistress of drunkenness, so there's definitely that connotation. She just dr--all she really needs is, like, a drink, and then she passes out and becomes gentle again (Lizzie laughs). And in some versions of the Distant Goddess, people use music, dance, and drink to appease her bad temper to bring her back to Ra. And also a fun fact. The flooding of the Nile River was often colored red with sediment, and therefore likened to the dyed beer that Hathor once drank.

Lizzie: Oh, cool!

Zoe: Which I think is very interesting. So there was actually a festival of drunkenness that celebrated her return to Egypt after the story of the Distant Goddess, and so during that festival, women carried flowers people danced and played instruments as they welcome her back to her temple. Um, the noise of the celebration is said to drive away hostile spirits, and make sure that Hathor will remain in her joyful form. Cause if there's dangerous spirits then she's gonna have to, like, you know, go on the warpath again, I guess.

Lizzie: Mm.

Zoe: And the goal is to reach an altered state of consciousness that allows you to interact with the divine.

Lizzie: Ooh! Cool!

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: Like, um, possession, or anything like that?

Zoe: Yeah, maybe? I think that it does remind of, like, stories of Vodou possession rituals where they are trying to reach, like, a different plane of existence. And there are other religions that I've heard that use, like, psychedelics and stuff in order to help them transcend the current plane and stuff. And so that sort of reminds me of that.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: So, as I've mentioned before, Hathor was very much associated with sexuality, beauty, and love, and these were the things that I knew her to be associated with before I started my research. So this is, like, what I thought she mainly embodied.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: So, Hathor embodies feminine, procreative energies, and in some stories, helped produce the world by serving as the feminine force in creating the first life.

Lizzie: Oh!

Zoe: Yeah! So she was sort of, like, the original mother, like, life-giving woman spirit sort of thing. Also, like, there's one story where this one guy created the world by masturbating, and she was, like, represented by his hand, so there's that too (laughs).

Lizzie: Well, she's so powerful (laughs).

Zoe: Yeah! (laughs) Um, she served as the consort of many gods. So primarily Ra, but also Amun, the patron god of Thebes, and in some manifestations she was the wife of Horus, as I said before. Her sexuality is seen in some short myths. So there's the Tale of the Herdsman from the Middle Kingdom, where a herdsman finds a hairy, animalistic goddess in a marsh and reacts in fear. But then on a later day, he finds a naked, seductive woman. And it’s believed that this goddess is Hathor, as she is both wild and dangerous, and also gentle and sensual.

Lizzie: Because she's also a cow.

Zoe: Yes. Yeah, so she has, like, those two different forms and aspects.

Lizzie: Okay.

Zoe: So there's another story where Ra is upset after being insulted by Babi, the god of baboons.

Lizzie: Oh, what a fun god!

Zoe: Yeah! So, um, it's a bit more complex than that; he's also seen as an Underworld god because it was believed that baboons were, like, the undead, um, but yeah.

Lizzie: That's so interesting.

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: Why?

Zoe: I don't know(laughing).I did not look that far in my research.

Lizzie: I didn't know that much about baboons, but maybe they actually are quite, I don't know (laughs)deadly, I don't know.

Zoe: I mean, they are pretty--they're pretty freaky animals (Lizzie laughs).Like, they-they could be dangerous. But anyway, Ra's upset about being insulted and he lies on his back in despair. But Hathor cheers him up by exposing her genitals to him, and then he laughs and returns to his duties as the sun god.

Lizzie: Wow.

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: Why-why does he laugh?

Zoe: That's unclear (Lizzie laughs). But it cheers--it cheers him up. He's cheered up (Lizzie laughs). And now he can go back to being the sun again. And again it, like you said before, Ra needs her, so it also--that story also shows that.

Lizzie: Well, female sexuality must have been very important.

Zoe: Yeah, absolutely.

Lizzie: Or sexuality in general.

Zoe: Mm hmm. So, Hathor was also known for having beautiful hair, and it seems to be essential to her sexual power. So there are references to a myth that has not survived where Hathor loses a lock of hair. And this loss seems to be incredibly significant cause it's been compared to the loss of Horus’s eye, or Set’s castration during a fight between the gods.

Lizzie: Huh.

Zoe: So...like, we don't have the story, but it's, like--

Lizzie: But we know that it used to exist.

Zoe: Yeah. And there's--it was, like, a very significant thing for her to lose. And it also reminds me, then, of the Norse myth of Sif, and her golden hair.

Lizzie:What is that?

Zoe: So, basically she has really long, beautiful golden hair, and then--

Lizzie: (gasps)Oh! Right right right right.

Zoe: (overlapping) --Loki cuts it all off.

Lizzie: That's, um, Thor's wife?

Zoe: Thor's wife, yeah. And she's really upset, and it's, like, a big deal, and then the-the, like, dwarf smiths, like, make her hair out of real gold.

Lizzie: Ah, okay.

Zoe: To replace it. Yeah.

Lizzie: Yeah, okay.

Zoe: Mm hmm. So, Hathor was also associated with motherhood and queenship. Hathor was believed to be the mother of many child gods, and is considered to be both the mother and wife of Horus. And early myths tie a similar role to Isis, as the sister and mother of Horus, however, Hathor’s relationship to Horus could have even older origins.

Lizzie: Huh. Okay.

Zoe: Yeah. Uh, Hathor's also depicted in a maternal role to pharaohs, as her milk is a symbol of divinity and royalty.

Lizzie: Ah, okay.

Zoe: So--

Lizzie: We talked about this a little bit.

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: With Amaterasu, and Xiwangmu as well, I think.

Zoe: Yeah! So--yeah, she's another goddess that's used to validate the divine right of kings and stuff.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: And so she's shown in art as--in her cow form, and she's nursing the pharaohs to represent their right to rule, basically. Like, saying that they're raised by Hathor or, like, the gods. And therefore they have the right to be king.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: And her milk is also shown to have healing powers, because after Set destroys Horus's eyes, she heals them with gazelle's milk. Or, well, I guess her and milk in general.

Lizzie: Makes sense, because of her cow association.

Zoe: Yeah. As a solar deity and a mother goddess, it was believed that her milk and light allowed for the creation of all living things, whom she helped and nourished. So, you know, light to see, and grow, and milk to nourish everything.

Lizzie: Yeah, that makes sense cause I think livestock is generally associated with fertility as well.

Zoe: Absolutely, yeah. And so as the goddess of childbirth, Hathor was also associated with fate, and is depicted in stories as a figure who appears at birth and foretells major character’s fates.

Lizzie: Fascinating!

Zoe: Yeah. And she was also associated with the sycamore tree, which was considered life-giving and whose milky sap was associated with the waters of the Nile. And she was sometimes depicted as part-human, part-sycamore tree, which is really interesting.

Lizzie: That's awesome.

Zoe: During the Late Period, which was around 664-323 BCE, many temples were centered around the worship of a family of gods, and that included an adult man, a woman, and their young son. And so in these triads, Hathor often served as the mother figure, and had many minor god children as...said before. So, Hathor's sexual and motherly aspects can be compared to both Isis and Mut, an ancient Egyptian mother goddess, but there were distinctions between the characterizations of the three. Isis is viewed as more devoted to her husband, and represents a more socially acceptable idea of love. Mut is more authoritative than sexual, and represents a more female head-of-household role. And Hathor has a more uninhibited sexuality, and is less of a loyal wife character.

Lizzie: Uh, cause she is sort of the wife of Horus, right? But less of a...yeah.

Zoe: Yeah, so she's sort of the wife of Horus, but she's also, like, a consort of a bunch of other gods, so it's like, her relationship to her husband is less a big deal. Like if you think about Isis, her relationship to her husband Osiris is a huge part of her story--

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: And I'm sure we'll do an episode on her in the future and talk more about that. But, like, she's, sort of, associated with a lot of different gods, as opposed to just, like, one god that she's, like, married to.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: So, she was also associated with foreign lands and trade. So Egyptians were introduced to other regions’ gods and religions through trade, and began to associate goddesses of other regions with Hathor. So these include the goddess such as Baal Geblat, patron goddess of the city of Byblos in Phoenicia, Anat, the Canaanite goddess of war--

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: --and also Qetesh, who we discussed in episode 20. As the Eye of Ra, she was seen as the protector of ships along the Nile and into the sea, as she protected Ra's ship in the sky.

Lizzie: Oh, that's fair.

Zoe: Yeah. So she was, like, a big--like a protector for humans as well as the divine sun god. And she was also associated with blue-green minerals, such as copper, malachite, and turquoise, which were mined on the Sinai Peninsula during this time. And she was worshipped as various quarries and mining sites, and could have been worshipped also in places near Egypt, such as Punt and Nubia. So, Hathor was also associated with the afterlife. She was believed to have the ability to help souls pass into the afterlife, as she could pass through the boundaries of the living and the Duat, or the Land of the Dead.

Lizzie: Hm! Okay.

Zoe: Yeah! And so she was linked to burial sites, where the transition to the land of the dead was believed to have occur, and she was depicted in cow form on many art pieces and necropolises.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: And this was connected to her role as a sky goddess, because, as the Eye of Ra, she had the role of helping Ra be reborn every day. And in the Underworld, she helped the dead be reborn into the afterlife.

Lizzie: And, like, what was the afterlife to Ancient Egyptians? Like, what happened?

Zoe: (sighs) I don't...I mean, honestly, don't know that much about the actual afterlife. I do know all about the, like, you know--I mean, not all about, but a lot about, like, you know, the weighing of the hearts ceremony and the journey that the soul has to take to get through the Underworld, and, like, the Book of the Dead and everything, but, like...I don't know that much about, like, once you actually get there. I feel like maybe they didn't write about it as much? I don't know.

Lizzie: Fair enough.

Zoe: But it's supposed to be very happy, and, like, celebration all the time and, like, you know, paradise. You know...

Lizzie: Okay.

Zoe: Good things.

Lizzie: And you died pretty young, so.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: As we mentioned.

Zoe: Yeah. And, like, um--oh, there was of course the belief that you had to have stuff with you to take into the afterlife.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: Or at least that was a big thing for, like, pharoahs, I don't know about like, for the average man or woman in Egypt, but, like--

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: That was a big thing.

Lizzie: Okay.

Zoe:Yeah! So coffins and tombs were also believed to represent the womb of Hathor, from which the dead would be reborn. And this also had a sexual aspect because Ra's sexual union with a goddess, often Hathor, was what allowed his rebirth, and this was similar to the rebirth of Osiris after his murder. And so--sex allowed the deceased to achieve new life, with female goddesses playing key roles, but was also mainly focusing on the male god's regeneration. So the focus is on the male god.

Lizzie: Wait, so, what does a tomb have to do with sexuality? Just, like the representation, or?

Zoe: Yeah, well, I mean, just like Hathor's association with, um, the afterlife in general. Like, cause--so, she had--

Lizzie: So it was like symbolic.

Zoe: Yes.

Lizzie: Not like people would...

Zoe: Well, like, she--she was associated with sexuality, and it's believed that her, um, sexual union with Ra allows his rebirth, so it's like believed that, like, sex allowed the deceased to achieve new life, basically.

Lizzie: Okay.

Zoe: But anyway, like--I mean, her associations with rebirth have to do with sex, I think that's the thing that's the point of the notes that I took.

Lizzie: Okay. Great (laughs).

Zoe: So, the Duat was once considered mainly domain of Osiris, who is of course a male god. After a person's death, it was commonplace to add the name of Osiris to their name along with the association of life after death, such as "Osiris-Ramses," for example. The Duat eventually became associated with both feminine and masculine powers, though. So by the end of the Old Kingdom, around 2181 BCE, women were considered to become followers of Hathor in the afterlife, while men became followers of Osiris. And so women were given the names of Hathor after death instead of Osiris, or given both names to show that they were benefiting from both gods’ powers. Around later periods such as the Third Intermediate Period, which was around 1070-664 BCE, it was believed that they ruled the Duat together.

Lizzie: Okay.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: Like, uh, king and queen of the Underworld.

Zoe: Yeah, kind of. Although I don't think there's as many, like, romantic associations between the two of them, but they both had that power. So they were sort of, like--

Lizzie: Yeah.

Zoe: --the ones that you wanted to have the favor of in the Underworld. So, like I said, Hathor has a lot of associations with royalty. Many rulers used their relationships with Hathor as a way to legitimize their rule. And this included some specific examples of Mentuhotep II, who became pharaoh of the Middle Kingdom without having any familial relationship to the pharaohs of the Old Kingdom, and therefore needed to legitimize his rule in another way. So therefore, he claimed descendancy from Hathor. And also Hatshepsut, the woman who ruled as a pharaoh, took on the names of many goddesses, including Hathor, to emphasize her right to rule, and placed her own mortuary temple at a site that had been dedicated to Hathor.

Lizzie: And they were allowed to just claim that they're a goddess, or?

Zoe: Oh yeah! Oh yeah. They claimed that they were either goddesses or descended from gods, like, all the time.

Lizzie: Okay!

Zoe: It was like a big thing. Like a lot of--I can't remember the exact term, but, like, a lot of the time they claimed that they were, like, sort of, like, being possessed, which isn't the best term for it, but, like, embodying, like--the spirit of the god was, like, inside of them, and they were, like working together.

Lizzie: Oh! Okay.

Zoe: Yeah. And male rulers often married priestesses of Hathor, either truly or just symbolically, and queens were seen as embodying Hathor while the kings embodied Ra. At the height of her worship, Hathor had more temples dedicated to her than any other god in Egypt.

Lizzie: Oh, interesting.

Zoe: So she was, like, huge. She was super famous, super worshipped, uh, well-respected, everyone was praying to her. Those that led the worship of her were often women, as priestesses, and then became primarily women with connections to royalty. So, it eventually became more of, like, an elite thing to be a priestess of Hathor. But eventually, women, especially non-royal women, were pushed more and more out of the roles of priesthood, but still remained as musicians and singers in temples throughout Egypt. She was privately worshipped by Egyptians for many reasons. So, like, people could go to temples, but they could also, like--had, like, little shrines to her in their own homes. Which wasn't the case for a lot of gods in Egypt. So this was, like, a big thing that she was seen as, like, such a personal god.

Lizzie: Yeah, it's interesting because she doesn't have any, like, home type of domains, right?

Zoe: Yeah, well, I mean she's associated with motherhood--

Lizzie: Oh yeah.

Zoe: --but, like, she's not associated with, like, the household or, like, the hearth, or whatever. But she was definitely, like, a god that people saw--like, had a personal connection to. So, a lot of the--actually, one of the big things that people prayed to her about was as an overseer of childbirth, which is often dangerous for women.

Lizzie: Yeah, people often died of childbirth in Ancient Egypt.

Zoe: Yeah. And so--yeah. She--so that was one of the big things that they would have a shrine to her for in their houses, was, like, in order to pray for her if they were, like, pregnant.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: And gonna give birth. And she was, like, I said, one of the few gods that people prayed to for personal problems, often in household shrines as well as in greater temples. So, like, you could talk to her in a personal sense about your own issues as opposed to greater festival worship and priest worship and stuff.

Lizzie: Mm hmm. And that wasn't the case for everyone.

Zoe: Yeah, definitely.

Lizzie: All of the gods?

Zoe: Yeah. It was, like, pretty rare. And I think it's really interesting cause, like, she has such a royalty connotation cause all the queens were claiming to be her, and the kings were marrying priestesses and stuff, but, like, she also very much had a place for the common person of Ancient Egypt. She was there for them and they could all pray to her and have their own sites of worship for her within their homes, which I think is really interesting.

Lizzie: I mean, it makes sense that she would have so many temples and so much dedication to her, since she was both divine and also, like, common, daily type of god.

Zoe: Yeah. Yeah, definitely, like, she was associated with royalty, but she-- her domains basically covered all aspects of life. She covered the sun, and protection, and trade, which was probably a big thing for, like, the everyday person, motherhood, like, sexuality is always a huge one, um, and she was, like, just everywhere in every part of people's lives.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: So, during the New Kingdom, around 1550-1077 BCE, Isis began to rise in popularity, and she overshadowed and absorbed the roles of other goddesses, including Hathor.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: And during the Ptolemaic Period, which was around 305-30 BCE, the Greeks ruled Egypt and began to adapt the idea of Egyptian kingship and associate it with their own gods. So their queens were viewed as manifestations of Isis or the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite. However, they sometimes referred to Aphrodite with her Egyptian name as well, and called her Hathor Aphrodite.

Lizzie:Huh. Interesting.

Zoe: Yeah! And so they combined traits from Hathor, Isis, and Aphrodite to legitimize the treatment of Ptolemaic queens as goddesses, and adapted myths into their own stories. So you remember that story about her hair?

Lizzie: Yes.

Zoe: Um, so, in the Greek poet Callimachus’s poem called ay-tee-uh (Aetia) I think? He praises the queen Berenice II for sacrificing her hair to Aphrodite, as Hathor once sacrificed her own hair. So they were, like, adapting her.

Lizzie: Hm. Okay.

Zoe: And, like, absorbing her into their own gods and stuff.

Lizzie: Mm hmm. And did Hathor spread to other places too?

Zoe: Well, so she had spread to other places--like I said, she was possibly being worshipped in other places near Egypt, such as, like, Punt and Nubia. And, like, she was associated with other goddesses like Anat and--

Lizzie: Qetesh?

Zoe: Yeah. She was definitely very much a goddess that was adapted in a lot of different ways, and also adopted a lot of gods in a lot of different ways. I was looking, I couldn't really find a reason why Isis became more popular all of a sudden, but that's what happened (laughs). So, nowadays, Hathor has a heavenly body named after her, which is called 2340 Hathor. It is a “eccentric stony asteroid” that is classified as a “near-Earth object” and “potentially hazardous."

Lizzie: Well, that's awesome (both laugh).

Zoe: And it belongs to the Aten group of asteroids and measures 210 meters in diameter.

Lizzie: Where is it?

Zoe:It's, like, orbiting.

Lizzie: Just in--just in space?

Zoe: It's just in space.

Lizzie: Okay (laughs). Okay (both laugh).

Zoe: Yeah, it's just out there.

Lizzie: Not that I would know anything about space, but anyway.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: That's cool, though. I love it when people are named after--or like, when they name, like, star-based things after gods.

Zoe: Yeah, me too.

Lizzie: I think it's so fun.

Zoe: Yeah! So what are your thoughts on Hathor?

Lizzie: I think she's really interesting. I said in the Pele episode that, like, normally people who are--the godesses who are super well-worshipped have, like, either broad domains, or very many domains--

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: --and she has both. Like, she--

Zoe: Yeah!

Lizzie: --has very, very many broad domains.

Zoe: Yeah. That was a very good--very astute observation.

Lizzie: (laughing)Thank you! (both laugh)

Zoe: Yeah! Definitely.

Lizzie: Mm hmm. I think it's interesting that she's associated with the sky, the stars, and the sun.

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: Like, that's just everything that you can see.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: Except for the moon.

Zoe: Yeah--no, the moon was a different thing, I guess.

Lizzie: Mm hmm. Do you know who was the moon?

Zoe: I think there was a male moon goddess. I think his name was, like, Khonsu or something like that?

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: I could be totally wrong.

Lizzie: Okay.

Zoe: I mean, male moon god, I-I mean...

Lizzie: (laughing) Did you say male moon god, I didn't even notice (both laugh).

Zoe: (laughing)Probably. Anyway.

Lizzie: It's okay.

Zoe: Yeah. Which is interesting in and of itself, we've talked about, like, you know, um, we talked in our sun goddesses episode about the relationship between, like, the male moon and the female sun, and...

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: And how we don't see that all the time.

Lizzie: (overlapping)And it's--they're usually opposite genders.

Zoe: Yeah!

Lizzie: They're very seldom the same gender.

Zoe: Mm hmm. Yeah!

Lizzie: So that's always interesting.

Zoe: Definitely, yeah.

Lizzie: And her counterpart is also the sun, so it's Ra. Like is she that associated with the moon as well?

Zoe: ...No. I don't believe so.

Lizzie: Interesting.

Zoe: No, she's just mainly associated with the sun.

Lizzie: Mm hmm. It's also cool that she was the goddess of foreign lands.

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: Like, the--you don't--I don't know, there's, like, so many interesting, like, deities that you mentioned, like the god of baboons, and, like, you know--

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: I feel like I haven't heard that much about gods and goddesses of foreign lands, unless they're, like, literally foreign gods.

Zoe: (overlapping)Yeah. Yeah, well I think that she was more, like, just associated with trade in general, like, you know, as a protective goddess for traders and stuff--

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: --but, like, she definitely--her influence definitely reached the places where the Egyptians were trading, and they, like--it definitely, like, interacted with the local goddess worship that they had going on.

Lizzie: Mm hmm. That's really interesting.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: It's funny that she's so, so influential, but she's not as well-known as a lot of the other ancient gods, like nowadays.

Zoe: Yes! Yes. I-I wrote about that in my notes, cause I was like, I don't know if this is just mypersonal experience, but I had, like, not heard of her very much before.

Lizzie: No, yeah.

Zoe: And, like, she's huge.

Lizzie: I'd only heard of her, like, in passing, or, like--

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: --you know, not too much about her.

Zoe: Yeah, and so I was like--I wanted to research her, cause I thought she sounded cool, and, like, I kind of had her in my head ever since the love goddesses episode--

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: But, like, I did all this research and I was like wait a second, this is, like, way bigger than I--than I ever realized.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: And that was really awesome. Cause I felt like I really learned a ton from this research.

Lizzie: Yeah, Ancient Egypt is so interesting. I feel like it's one of those things that's like, both really well-known, and also not as well-known as some other pantheons.

Zoe: Yeah. Definitely.

Lizzie: Like, I didn't know a lot of this.

Zoe: Mm hmm. Yeah. Like--I mean, I know some stuff about Ancient Egyptian mythology, but I don't know a ton compared to some other mythologies. And I feel like there's so much depth to it that even if you know a decent amount of things, there's so much that you still don't know.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: But it's also interesting. Before this episode, when I thought of a main Egyptian goddess, I would generally think of Isis--

Lizzie: Same.

Zoe: Um, who's of course very powerful and cool, and obviously was very important. Um, and she superceded many of Hathor's roles, which is why she might be more talked about, and, like, I think she's also, like, more recent. She became more popular later on, so I guess maybe people talk about her (laughs)--I mean, it's Ancient Egypt, so, like, it was all a long time ago, but still.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: Um, but Hathor was so significant and powerful that it's really surprising to me that people don't talk about her more. Maybe I'm just not listening to the right people, but--still (laughs).

Lizzie: No, I hadn't heard much about her either. I feel like the main ones you hear about are, like, Isis, Osiris, and Ra.

Zoe:Yeah. And I also think it's interesting that when people talk about her, they tend to focus on her aspect as Sekhmet, and her rage--

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: --which is only a smaller part of a much larger, complex goddess. I think that Hathor is really cool, and I think that her dual nature, as, like, both a nurturing goddess and a protective goddess who become very fierce and dangerous is really interesting to me. But also it's just, like, a small story out of all these other stories about her, and all the other things she was worshipped for, and associated with. So I feel like, you know, it's only a small part of a bigger whole.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: And so I just feel like people should talk about her more.

Lizzie: It's really interesting that she was associated with fate, and, like--

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: --seeing people's fate at birth.

Zoe:Yeah. I mean, that was, like, only mentioned in--briefly in my research, but I did think that was really interesting. Like, she--I was just like, she's everywhere! She's everywhere (laughs).

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: Like, name one, like, common domain--actually, that's not true. Like, there are plenty of domains that she's, like, not associated with. But she's associated with a lot of them.

Lizzie: Yes, so many, like love, fate, like, the afterlife, the sun--

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: Music.

Zoe: Yeah!

Lizzie: That's so many things.

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: And I wonder if, in Ancient Egypt, cows were really, really important.

Zoe: Well, I'm guessing in any, like, agricultural-based society, cows are pretty important. I don't know a ton about the ancient agriculture, but livestock was always a big part of it. So, like...

Lizzie: Yeah.

Zoe: But I did think it was interesting that there was worship of cows going back for a long time. So they must have been pretty important.

Lizzie: Yes. In, like, many cultures, cows are super important.

Zoe: Yeah. Like, I was thinking of Hinduism, where there's, like, the divinity associated with cows, if that's correct.

Lizzie: I think livestock in general.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: And, like, farm animals are super important.

Zoe:Mm hmm, yeah.

Lizzie: Like in Ancient Greece, the gods, like--

Zoe: Oh yeah! She got turned into a cow, right? Io?

Lizzie: Her too.

Zoe: Oh (laughs).

Lizzie: But I was thinking, like, ambrosia comes from the sacred goat, or something like that?

Zoe: Yes, yes, it does! Yeah, you're so right.

Lizzie: (laughing)If that's correct. I'm not sure.

Zoe: No, no, no, you're so right! I literally--yeah, I--her--the goat's name is Amaltheia, and Zeus--

Lizzie: Ahh (laughs).

Zoe: --used her skin to make his big--his famous shield, but anyways (laughs).

Lizzie: And nowadays, they're kind of like lowkey.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie:Or, like, at least here.

Zoe: Yeah, I mean--like I said, I think--I mean, you know, in agricultural-based societies, livestock animals were really important, and associated with fertility and associated with life. And we definitely see that in mythology, from early agricultural civilizations.

Lizzie: Yeah. I also find it pretty cool that the sun is--is meant to be, like, part of an ocean.

Zoe: Mm.

Lizzie: Like, I've never heard that before.

Zoe: Yeah, for sure. I hadn't really heard of it before, but I, like, did know in my head that, like, Ra travels in a boat, so of course it makes sense that the sky is viewed as an ocean, but yeah. I think it's a really interesting view of the sky. I really like it.

Lizzie: Me too! I mean, it does kind of look like the ocean--

Zoe: Yeah!

Lizzie: --cause the ocean reflects the sky.

Zoe: Yeah. And also, like, vast, like, you know, the sort of vastness that's normally compared to the ocean.

Lizzie: (overlapping)Yeah, for sure. Unending, blue mass...

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: It makes sense.

Zoe: Yeah! Definitely.

Lizzie: So, thank you, Zoe, for today's episode, and thank you for listening. Feel free to subscribe and listen to our other episodes, and thank you.

Zoe: Good bye!

Lizzie: Bye.

Outro, underscored by music:

Lizzie: Mytholadies Podcast is produced by Elizabeth LaCroix and Zoe Koeninger. Today's episode was researched and presented by Zoe Koeninger. You can find us on Instagram and Twitter @ mytholadies and visit us on our website at mytholadies.com. Our cover art is by Helena Cailleaux. Our music was written and performed by Icarus Tyree. Thanks for listening! See you next week!