"We beat the drum to her spirit,we dance to her Grace, we raise her image up to the heavenly skies; She is the lady of Sistrum, Mistress of jangling necklaces"
(In the Dendera temple of the Goddess Hathor - quoted by Mariette-Bey)
We are named after Hathor, the Egyptian Goddess of the Sky, Music, Dancing, Love, Beauty and many other things! If you would like to know more about her…read on! Although please don't expect this to be an academic and exhaustive study.
In Egyptian Mythology, Hathor (or Athyr) is frequently confused with Isis and some have argued that they both represent parts of the same deity. The ancient Greeks also identified her with their Goddess of Love and Beauty, Aphrodite. Hathor was also known as the Mistress of Life, the Great Wild Cow, the Golden One, the Mistress of Turquoise (hence the colour of our web site!), Lady of Dendera (where her cult centre was located), Lady to the Limit (of the Universe), the Powerful One, the Mistress of the Desert and Lady of Malachite (it has been said that eye make up from Sinai was made from green malachite).
Hathor was an ancient Goddess (hence so many names). Her origins are confusing and depending on which text you read she is the mother and daughter of the Sun God Ra and the wife and mother of Horus. Her name is said to mean "house of Horus", referring to her role as a sky goddess and it was said that within her the sun-god Ra resided before being born each day at Dawn. In this way she was said to rule and influence the sun (or Ra) and mythology suggests that Ra was compelled to follow her throughout the cycle of the day. This is expressed in a hymn to Hathor from the 18th Dynasty:
'The beauty of your face Glitters when you rise Oh come in peace.
One is drunk At your beautiful face, O Gold Hathor.'
Hathor was also often depicted as the Mother of the Pharaoh, nurturing her young charge with her milk. She was frequently depicted as the great celestial cow who created the world and all that it contains, including the sun. Her iconography reflects this and she was represented as a cow, a woman with a cow's features or as a Goddess in human form wearing a crown consisting of a sun disk between the horns of a cow.
Hathor was also symbolised by the papyrus reed and the snake and was associated with the rattling and shaking of the sistrum (a musical instrument which could drive away evil spirits) and the menat (a large jangly necklace).
One of the tales associated with Hathor describes how she came into being as a goddess of destruction (Hathor-Sekhmet), and a force to be reckoned with! According to legend, Ra sent the Eye of Ra in the form of Hathor (as Sekhmet) to destroy humanity. However, Ra eventually felt pity for mankind and needed to stop the slaughter. He tricked Sekhmet by flooding the fields with beer, dyed red to look like blood. She stopped to drink the beer, and, having become intoxicated, did not finish her deadly mission and transformed into the good-natured Hathor. Because of this legend, priestesses often drank red-coloured beer in Hathor's honour at celebratory festivals.
Most importantly, Hathor was the protectress of women, a Goddess of fertility and a Goddess of joy and love. Hathor was proclaimed:
…mistress of merriment and sovereign of the dance. Mistress of music and sovereign of song, of leaping and jumping and the weaving of garlands. Her temple was the 'home of intoxication and a place of enjoyment'
Hathor's embodiment of protector of women, Goddess of dance, music and joy and nurturer of life makes her seem to be a perfect symbol and name for our dancing group. That and the fact that she was a diva with a rattle, had a penchant for big jewellery, appreciated her beer and was a Goddess you just wouldn't mess with!
Hart, G. Egyptian myths. London: British Museum Press,1990.
Hathor (accessed March 2002)
Hathor: part I: symbol of attraction and power, Inscription: Journal of Ancient Egypt, January 1998, (accessed March 2002)
Lexova, I. Ancient Egyptian dances. New York: Dover Publications, 1935.
Mariette-bey, A. Denderah. Paris: 1870-1875, quoted in Lexova, 1935.
New Larousse encyclopedia of mythology. New ed. London: Hamlyn, 1968.
Seawright, C. Hathor, Goddess of love, music, beauty…(a website accessed March 2002, but no longer there)
For more information about her, follow this link:
Shira's page, click on "Culture, Music, Myths and More."