Reviewed by Geraldine Charles
Lesley has written some great articles about Egyptian Goddesses over the years, so I was delighted to receive a copy of her latest book, which I opened in the happy expectation of learning a great deal. I was not disappointed.
This is amazingly comprehensive, we’re given so much information not only about Hathor but Egyptian beliefs and practices, too. There is no shortage of notes, so lots of ideas for further reading and research if you’re so inclined. I loved the line drawings by Brian Andrews, too.
I have never felt that I knew anything like enough about the Egyptian deities, so this was a treat. Among many other things worthy of mention is a chapter on Hathor as the Cow Goddess, and I particularly appreciated the explanation that Hathor wasn’t necessary a goddess OF something; the Egyptians tended to see deities as possessors of a power, which they could choose to use in different ways. I also loved that Hathor is associated with the wild cow rather than the domesticated version.
Hathor appears to have emerged in the early pre-dynastic period, from anonymous sky and cow goddesses of the late Neolithic, when the wild cattle were venerated as the providers of so much: milk, meat and hides. As the climate changed people seem to have found water for the cattle and so the wild cows became domesticated gradually, it appears. The cow was a source of regeneration and nourishment that almost inevitably became linked to the protective and life-giving Hathor. The Egyptians also viewed the sky as goddess, and depicted it as a sea or river, where the solar barge floats, or the sky could be seen as a cow, as Nut arched over the earth.
I learned, also, about Hathor’s link to the eye of Ra and to the uraeus cobra (which I had never really understood before), and also of her more dangerous aspects – as with the sun, she can be both life-giving and life-threatening.
Hathor’s role as tree goddess was completely new to me, as were many of the objects associated with her, including mirrors (the Greeks associated Hathor with Aphrodite). Also befitting this latter role, Hathor is goddess of sensuality, sexuality and maternity and her presence caused her worshippers to sing and dance with joy. She was also mistress of drunkenness and of fragrance.
Even less did I know that Hathor was seen as goddess of prospecting and mining, also of trade and foreign lands – she seems truly ubiquitous.
Along with Sekhmet, Hathor has a seven-fold aspect, which made her a foreteller of fate. In the book’s appendices there’s even more useful information: a listing of Hathor festivals, a chronology and list of place names, details of sacred geography and a full bibliography.
Altogether a very enjoyable book. Lesley has a nice writing style, it just flows without really being noticeable as a style, which always makes for the best kind of good read. Highly recommended!
Hathor: A Reintroduction to an Ancient Egyptian Goddess, is published by Avalonia Books and can be found on Amazon.
A web designer and all-round computer person, Geraldine is responsible for a number of websites. In her spare time she writes articles and poems, loves researching Goddess in mythology and also produces artwork on her beloved computer. She also runs an online correspondence course called "Getting to know the Goddess".