Category Archives: Dieties

Santeria

Although Santeria is a religious path that is not rooted in Indo-European polytheism like many other contemporary Pagan religions, it’s still a faith that is practised by many thousands of people in the United States and other countries today.

Santeria combines influences of Caribbean tradition, West Africa’s Yoruba spirituality, and elements of Catholicism.

To become a Santero, or high priest, one must pass a series of tests and requirements prior to initiation.

In a landmark 1993 case, the Church of Lakumi Babalu Aye successfully sued the city of Hialeah, Florida, for the right to practice animal sacrifice within a religious context; the Supreme Court determined that it was a protected activity.

The Origins of Santeria

Santeria is, in fact, not one set of beliefs, but a “syncretic” religion, which means it blends aspects of a variety of different faiths and cultures, despite the fact that some of these beliefs might be contradictory to one another. Santeria combines influences of Caribbean tradition, West Africa’s Yoruba spirituality, and elements of Catholicism. Santeria evolved when African slaves were stolen from their homelands during the Colonial period and forced to work in Caribbean sugar plantations.

Santeria is a fairly complex system, because it blends the Yoruba orishas, or divine beings, with the Catholic saints. In some areas, African slaves learned that honoring their ancestral orishas was far safer if their Catholic owners believed they were worshiping saints instead – hence the tradition of overlap between the two.

The orishas serve as messengers between the human world and the divine. They are called upon by priests by a variety of methods, including trances and possession, divination, ritual, and even sacrifice. To some extent, Santeria includes magical practice, although this magical system is based upon interaction with and understanding of the orishas.

Santeria Today

Today, there are many Americans who practice Santeria. A Santero, or high priest, traditionally presides over rituals and ceremonies. To become a Santero, one must pass a series of tests and requirements prior to initiation. Training includes divinatory work, herbalism, and counseling. It is up to the orishas to determine whether a candidate for priesthood has passed the tests or failed.

Most Santeros have studied for a long time to become part of the priesthood, and it is rarely open to those who are not part of the society or culture. For many years, Santeria was kept secret, and limited to those of African ancestry. According to the Church of Santeria,

“Over time, African people and European people began to have children of mixed ancestries and as such, the doors to Lucumí slowly (and reluctantly for many people) opened to non-African participants. But even then, the practice of Lucumí was something you did because your family did it. It was tribal – and in many families it continues to be tribal. At its core, Santería Lucumí is NOT an individual practice, is not a personal path, and is something you inherit and pass on to others as elements of a culture that survived the tragedy of slavery in Cuba. You learned Santería because it was what your people did. You practice Santería with others in the community, because it serves the greater whole.”

There are a number of different orishas, and most of them correspond to a Catholic saint. Some of the most popular orishas include:

  • Elleggua, who is similar to the Roman Catholic Saint Anthony. Elleggua is the lord of the crossroads, serving as a liaison between man and the divine, and has very great power indeed.
  • Yemaya, the spirit of motherhood, is often associated with the Virgin Mary. She is also affiliated with moon magic and witchcraft.
  • Babalu Aye is known as the Father of the World, and is associated with sickness, epidemics and plagues. He corresponds to the Catholic Saint Lazarus. Connected to healing magic, Babalu Aye is sometimes called upon as a ​patron of those suffering from smallpox, HIV/AIDS, leprosy, and other infectious diseases.
  • Chango is an orisha who represents powerful masculine energy and sexuality. He is a being associated with magic, and may be invoked to remove curses or hexes. He ties strongly to Saint Barbara in Catholicism.
  • Oya is a warrior, and the guardian of the dead. She is associated with Saint Theresa.

It is estimated that about a million or so Americans currently practice Santeria, but it’s hard to determine whether this count is accurate or not. Because of the social stigma commonly associated with Santeria by followers of mainstream religions, it is possible that many adherents of Santeria keep their beliefs and practices secret from their neighbours.

Santeria and the Legal System

A number of adherents of Santeria have made the news lately, because the religion does incorporate animal sacrifice — typically chickens, but sometimes other animals such as goats. In a landmark 1993 case, the Church of Lakumi Babalu Aye successfully sued the city of Hialeah, Florida. The end result was that the practice of animal sacrifice within a religious context was ruled, by the Supreme Court, to be a protected activity.

In 2009, a federal court ruled that a Texas Santero, Jose Merced, could not be prevented by the city of Euless from sacrificing goats in his home. Merced filed a lawsuit with city officials said he could no longer perform animal sacrifices as part of his religious practice. The city claimed “animal sacrifices jeopardize public health and violate its slaughterhouse and animal cruelty ordinances.” Merced claimed he had been sacrificing animals for over a decade without any problems, and was willing to “quadruple bag the remains” and find a safe method of disposal.

In August 2009, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said the Euless ordinance “placed a substantial burden on Merced’s free exercise of religion without advancing a compelling governmental interest.” Merced was pleased with the ruling, and said, “Now Santeros can practice their religion at home without being afraid of being fined, arrested or taken to court.”

ERINYES

THE GODDESS ERINYES
Parents Gaea and the blood of Uranus
Names Alecto, Megaera, Tisiphone
Goddesses of Vengeance, retribution
Home Hades
Symbol Vipers
Sacred Animals Viper, screech-owl
Sacred Plants Yew tree
Other Names Eumenides
English Name Furies
Roman Name Furiae, Dirae

THE ERINYES (Furies) were three goddesses of vengeance and retribution who punished men for crimes against the natural order. They were particularly concerned with homicide, unfilial conduct, offenses against the gods, and perjury. A victim seeking justice could call down the curse of the Erinys upon the criminal. The most powerful of these was the curse of the parent upon the child–for the Erinyes were born of just such a crime, being sprung from the blood of Ouranos (Uranus), when he was castrated by his son Kronos (Cronus).

The wrath of the Erinyes manifested itself in a number of ways. The most severe of these was the tormenting madness inflicted upon a patricide or matricide. Murderers might suffer illness or disease; and a nation harbouring such a criminal, could suffer dearth, and with it hunger and disease. The wrath of the Erinyes could only be placated with the rite ritual purification and the completion of some task assigned for atonement.

The goddesses were also servants of Haides and Persephone in the underworld where they oversaw the torture of criminals consigned to the Dungeons of the Damned.

The Erinyes were similar to if not the same as the Poinai (Poenae) (Retaliations), Arai (Arae) (Curses), Praxidikai (Praxidicae) (Exacters of Justice) and Maniai (Maniae) (Madnesses).

They were depicted as ugly, winged women with hair, arms and waists entwined with poisonous serpents. The sisters wielded whips and were clothed either in the long black robes of mourners, or the short-length skirts and boots of huntress- maidens.

 

Baron Samedhi

PLEASE USE WITH CAUTION, I URGE ALL MEMBERS TO REMEMBER LOA ARE OFTEN TRICKY

Interesting. Alluring. Powerful. These are some of the words that come to mind when I think of Baron Samedhi. One of the Loa, Baron is a force to be reckoned with. Know that when you begin this path it is not for the weak.

First of all, when he is summoned his presence is very strong. To most it is intimidating. He enjoys cigars and rum.Ive had friends ive ran into right after summoning him or giving offerings and my friends are scared or uneasy about the energy around me. He does have a sense of humor. He’ll walk around my home and pound on the walls, touch my back or throw stuff on the floor. He means it in a joking way and I just smile and laugh it off. If I respectfully ask him to tone it down then he will. His days are Tuesdays and Saturdays which means those are the only days you are to give him offerings otherwise it is disrespect.

He loves tribal drumming music and when contacting him ill play some in the background. The music has grown on me. One minute ill be jamming out to some Bone Thugs and Metallica then ill turn on some tribal drumming. This path intertwines with your day to day life as it should.

One of the attributes he is known for is healing. I was unable to get around to give him offerings one time. I asked him to make it possible. Not too long after that my retina began tearing off of my eye. I couldnt see out of my left eye so I went to my optometrist and he told me I needed surgery right away or I was going to go blind. They stuck three needles in my eye and poked at it with a metal instrument then told me to take a few days off of work and dont go anywhere. I was supposed to go to a family wedding the next day but I couldnt. I was stuck at home on a Saturday. My eye was swollen and almost popping out, in intense pain, plus I looked terrible. I was then able to not focus on family issues but had some free time so I gave him offerings and asked Baron to heal my eye. A week or two later my eye healed with no problems and my vision returned. The doctor was amazed at my healing. I looked normal again and I had no pain. Keep in mind I also had no insurance and was still able to get the procedure done.

He is also a protector. Ive had people try to shoot me in my past or try to set me up for incarceration but I got away. Just a couple months ago this fool tried to run up on me and blast me while I was driving. He walked in front of my car and was about to walk up to my window. I had a run in with him a couple nights before. He pulled a gun on me and my then girlfriend and tried to take our dope. She wrestled him off while he was trying to shoot her then he took off. He came over to where I live and I could tell he was packing and he was about to pull it out but I swirved around him and there happened to be a cop behind me. The cop shined his lights right in front of him and I drove off. Since I asked Baron for protection none of my enemies have come around. I am so grateful.

He is a loyal friend. Praise be to The Lord of the Cemetery. Mighty Judge and Healer. Baron Samedhi

Met Kalfou

Met Kalfou is the dark horse Petro lwa, king of the crossroads, equated with the Devil, a dark spirit whose veve of two writhing snakes belies how all evil spirits and curses stem from his dark magic and enchanted leaves. He is either the brother or dark side of Papa Legba, the guardian of ceremony and entrances and exits in Haitian Vodou. Kalfou, or Carrefour, is Legba’s flip side, the shadow side of the kindly grandfather of the Vodou pantheon.

I call him the Man in Black, as he favors tailored black and red pinstripe suits, vests, blood hued ties, a monocole, cane, shining patent leather shoes, and cufflinks in the shape of snakes. He is rarely without a Cuban cigar, rum, or his favorite blunts, and you can oftentimes find him working dark magicks and hexes with the leaves and herbs of his favorite trees or plants or crooning away at a piano as he sings sultry jazz

Ti Jean

Ti Jean is a fire Loa, who lives in the bushes. He is a powerful magician who primarily deals with black magic and he’s part of secret Voodoo societies (sanpwèl). Like most Loas who fall under the Petro rite, his possessions are unbelievably violent and it takes quite some times for people to regain their consciousness after he leaves the body. He dances on fire, and his offering, a sheep, is usually burn to the ashes.
He is viewed as a one legged dwarf who is surprisingly very agile in climbing his favorite tree; the coconut tree. He always wear a straw hat, and carry a baton for support.
People show great respect for Ti Jean, as he is known to set houses on fire when he is mad. He always wears a straw hat, and carries a baton for support. Many considered him to be the son of Erzulie Dantor, and believe that they are also involved an in incestuous relationship. But that is untrue, Erzulie Dantor is known to have only one child named Anaise who is affectionately called Ti Koukoun. He is also involved with Marinette.
His ceremony takes place on Saint Jean Day, June 24th, whose image is also use to depict him. His color is Yellow.

Mabon Ritual

Mabon Ritual To Honor the Dark Mother

Demeter and Persephone are strongly connected to the time of the Autumn Equinox. When Hades abducted Persephone, it set in motion a chain of events that eventually led to the earth falling into darkness each winter. This is the time of the Dark Mother, the Crone aspect of the triple goddess. The goddess is bearing this time not a basket of flowers, but a sickle and scythe. She is prepared to reap what has been sown.

The earth dies a little each day, and we must embrace this slow descent into dark before we can truly appreciate the light that will return in a few months.

The Archetype of the Dark Mother

This ritual welcomes the archetype of the Dark Mother, and celebrates that aspect of the Goddess which we may not always find comforting or appealing, but which we must always be willing to acknowledge. Many magical traditions honor a goddess associated with darkness and shadows, and they are sometimes called upon in ritual to help a practitioner heal from trauma or fear.

Alicia Katarina of The Hood Witch writes of her experiences with Chumunda, a tantric goddess. She says,

“[Her] mantra operates as a cleansing and balancing tool clearing your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies of fear or sadness or of outside influences treading on your vibe… Her mantra is a potent protection formula as well a blessing for success, creativity, self-confidence and an uprising of joy.”

Whether you celebrate her as Demeter, Hecate, Kali, or any of the other similar goddesses, it’s important to show her that you respect her. Although this ritual is written with Demeter and Persephone as the focus, if there’s another Dark Mother type of goddess that resonates you, feel free to change the wording as needed.

How to Hold Your Ritual

Decorate your altar with symbols of Demeter and her daughter; add flowers in red and yellow for Demeter, purple or black for Persephone, stalks of wheat, Indian corn, sickles, baskets. Have a candle on hand to represent each of them; you can use harvest colors for Demeter, and black for Persephone. You’ll also need a chalice of wine, or grape juice if you prefer, and a pomegranate.

If you normally cast a circle, or call the quarters, do so now. Turn to the altar, and light the Persephone candle. Say:

The land is beginning to die, and the soil grows cold.
The fertile womb of the earth has gone barren.
As Persephone descended into the Underworld,
So the earth continues its descent into night.
As Demeter mourns the loss of her daughter,
So we mourn the days drawing shorter.
The winter will soon be here.

Light the Demeter candle, and say:

In her anger and sorrow, Demeter roamed the earth,
And the crops died, and life withered and the soil went dormant.
In grief, she traveled looking for her lost child,
Leaving darkness behind in her wake.
We feel the mother’s pain, and our hearts break for her,
As she searches for the child she gave birth to.
We welcome the darkness, in her honor.

Break open the pomegranate (it’s a good idea to have a bowl to catch the drippings), and take out six seeds. Place them on the altar. Say:

Six months of light, and six months of dark.
The earth goes to sleep, and later wakes again.
O dark mother, we honor you this night,
And dance in your shadows.
We embrace that which is the darkness,
And celebrate the life of the Crone. 
Blessings to the dark goddess on this night, and every other.

As the wine is replaced upon the altar, hold your arms out in the Goddess position, and take a moment to reflect on the darker aspects of the human experience. Think of all the goddesses who evoke the night, and call out:

Demeter, Inanna, Kali, Tiamet, Hecate, Nemesis, Morrighan.
Bringers of destruction and darkness,
I embrace you tonight.
Without rage, we cannot feel love,
Without pain, we cannot feel happiness,
Without the night, there is no day,
Without death, there is no life.
Great goddesses of the night, I thank you.

Take a few moments to meditate on the darker aspects of your own soul. Is there a pain you’ve been longing to get rid of? Is there anger and frustration that you’ve been unable to move past? Is there someone who’s hurt you, but you haven’t told them how you feel? Now is the time to take this energy and turn it to your own purposes. Take any pain inside you, and reverse it so that it becomes a positive experience. If you’re not suffering from anything hurtful, count your blessings, and reflect on a time in your life when you weren’t so fortunate.

When you are ready, end the ritual.

**You may wish to tie this rite into a celebration of the Harvest Moon.

Working With Your Gods and Goddesses

There are literally thousands of different deities out there in the Universe, and which ones you choose to honor will often depend significantly upon what pantheon your spiritual path follows. However, many modern Pagans and Wiccans describe themselves as eclectic, which means they may honor a god of one tradition beside a goddess of another. In some cases, we may choose to ask a deity for assistance in a magical working or in problem solving. Regardless, at some point, you’re going to have to sit and sort them all out. If you don’t have a specific, written tradition, then how do you know which gods to call upon?

A good way to look at it is to figure out which deity of your pantheon would be interested in your purpose. In other words, what gods might take the time to look into your situation? This is where the concept of appropriate worship comes in handy — if you can’t take the time to get to know the deities of your path, then you probably shouldn’t be asking them for favors. So first, figure out your goal. Are you doing a working regarding home and domesticity? Then don’t call upon some masculine power deity. What if you’re celebrating the end of the harvest season, and the dying of the earth? Then you shouldn’t be offering milk and flowers to a spring goddess.

Consider your purpose carefully, before you make offerings or prayers to a particular god or goddess.

Although this is certainly not a comprehensive list of all the gods and their domains, it may help you a bit to get an idea of who is out there, and what sorts of things they may be able to help you with:

Artisanship

For assistance relating to skills, crafts, or handiwork, call upon the Celtic smith god, Lugh. Many other pantheons have forge and craftsmanship gods as well.

Chaos

When it comes to matters of discord and upsetting the balance of things, some people choose to to check in with Loki, the Norse prankster god. However, it’s generally recommended that you don’t do this unless you’re a devotee of Loki in the first place – you may end up getting more than you bargained for.

Destruction

If you’re doing a working related to destruction, the Celtic war goddess the Morrighan may assist you, but don’t trifle with her lightly. A safer bet might be working with Demeter, the Dark Mother of the harvest season.

Fall Harvest

When you celebrate the fall harvest, you may want to take time to honor Herne, the god of the wild hunt, or Osiris, who is often connected with grain and the harvest. Demeter and her daughter, Persephone, are typically connected with the waning part of the year. Pomona is associated with fruit orchards and the bounty of trees in fall. There are also a number of other harvest gods and gods of the vine who may be interested in what you’re doing.

Feminine Energy

For workings related to the moon, lunar energy, or the sacred feminine, consider invoking Artemis or Venus.

Fertility

When it comes to fertility, there are plenty of deities out there to ask for assistance. Consider Cernunnos, the wild stag of the forest, or Freya, a goddess of sexual power and energy. If you follow a Roman-based path, try honoring Bona Dea. There are a number of other fertility gods out there as well, each with their own specific domain.

Home and Marriage

Brighid is a protector of hearth and home, and Juno and Vesta are both patronesses of marriage.

Love and Lust

Aphrodite has long been associated with love and beauty, and so has her counterpart, Venus. Likewise, Eros and Cupid are considered representative of masculine lust. Priapus is a god of raw sexuality, including sexual violence.

Magic

Isis, the mother goddess of Egypt, is often called upon for magical workings, as is Hecate, a goddess of sorcery.

Masculine Energy

Cernunnos is a strong symbol of masculine energy and power, as is Herne, the god of the hunt. Odin and Thor, both Norse gods, are known as powerful, masculine gods.

Motherhood

Isis is a mother goddess on a grand scale, and Juno watches over women in labor.

Prophecy and Divination

Brighid is known as a goddess of prophecy, and so is Cerridwen, with her cauldron of knowledge. Janus, the two-faced god, sees both the past and future.

The Underworld

Because of his harvest associations, Osiris is often connected with the underworld. There are a number of other deities of death and dying.

War and Conflict

The Morrighan is not only a goddess of war, but also of sovereignty and loyalty. Athena protects warriors and imparts them with wisdom. Freya and Thor guide fighters in battle.

Wisdom

Thoth was the Egyptian god of wisdom, and Athena and Odin may also be called upon, depending on your purpose.

Seasonal

There are a number of deities associated with the various times of the Wheel of the Year, including the Winter Solstice, Late winter, the Spring Equinox, and the Summer solstice.

Thoughts on the Morrigan

Ancient mythology tells us that the Morrigan can appear as a crow, raven, wolf, eel, beautiful young woman, or gray-haired hag. In the Tain Bo Regamna she is described as a red-haired woman dressed in a red cloak. There are not, to my knowledge, any surviving images of her from the Irish pagan period. A quick internet search will reveal a plethora of new images of the Morrigan, some born from mythological descriptions, many born from the inspiration of the artist. The diversity of modern depictions is dizzying, contradictory, and sometimes frustrating. In seeking to find what the Morrigan looks like you will see everything from scantily clad, thin, buxom women wielding swords to well-muscled warriors armed and armored; from bloody hags whose piercing eyes jump out from the paper or screen to serene, proud figures bearing raven wings. Each as different from the other as the hands that created them, and yet each holds a small spark of her spirit. For me Macha is a strong, red-haired woman who always appears with two horses. Badb can appear as either a withered old woman shrouded in black or as a young, pretty woman with dark hair. Morrigu is strong and fierce, her hair dark, her body lean. Nemain I see as fair and always covered in blood. This is how they come to me, but each who seeks her will find a different appearance. Another step in finding her is finding your own vision of her, your own inner view of what she, or they, look like. How do you see the Morrigan?🖤💀🖤

Hathor

Hathor is an Ancient Egyptian goddess who personified the principles of love, beauty, music, dance, motherhood and joy. She was one of the most important and popular deities throughout the history of Ancient Egypt. Hathor was 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.

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, the turquoise musical necklace often worn by women. 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 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 In a complicated relationship Hathor is at times the mother, daughter and wife of Ra and, like Isis, is at times described as the mother of Horus, and associated with Bast.

The cult of Osiris promised eternal life to those deemed morally worthy. Originally the justified dead, male or female, became an Osiris but by early Roman times females became identified with Hathor and men with Osiris.

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

he depiction of Hathor’s sacred menat necklace details the heavy semi-circular pectoral that hung from four sistra pendants. Chains attached to these pendants linked the necklace with its counterweight that hung down the back of the wearer. The necklace on the wall probably reproduces the actual necklace worn during the temple’s holy rites and one of the most important objects stored underground.

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.

Relationships, Associations, Images, and Symbols

Hathor had a complex relationship with Ra. 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 ‘Mht wrt’ (“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.

Hathor, along with the goddess Nut, was associated with the Milky Way Galaxy during the third millennium B.C. when, during the fall and spring equinoxes, it aligned over and touched the earth where the sun rose and fell. The four legs of the celestial cow represented Nut or Hathor could, in one account, be seen as the pillars on which the sky was supported with the stars on their bellies constituting the milky way on which the solar barque of Ra, representing the sun, sailed.

The Milky Way was seen as a waterway in the heavens, sailed upon by both the sun deity and the moon, leading the ancient Egyptians to describe it as The Nile in the Sky. Due to this, and the name mehturt, she was identified as responsible for the yearly inundation of the Nile. Another consequence of this name is that she was seen as a herald of imminent birth, as when the amniotic sac breaks and floods its waters, it is a medical indicator that the child is due to be born extremely soon. Another interpretation of the Milky Way was that it was the primal snake, Wadjet, the protector of Egypt who was closely associated with Hathor and other early deities among the various aspects of the great mother goddess, including Mut and Naunet. Hathor also was favored as a protector in desert regions.

Hathor’s identity as a cow, perhaps depicted as such on the Narmer Palette, meant that she became identified with another ancient cow-goddess of fertility, Bat. It still remains an unanswered question amongst Egyptologists as to why Bat survived as an independent goddess for so long. Bat was, in some respects, connected to the Ba, an aspect of the soul, and so Hathor gained an association with the afterlife. It was said that, with her motherly character, Hathor greeted the souls of the dead in Duat, and proffered them with refreshments of food and drink. She also was described sometimes as mistress of the necropolis.

The assimilation of Bat, who was associated with the sistrum, a musical instrument, brought with it an association with music. In this later form, Hathor’s cult became centered in Dendera in Upper Egypt and it was led by priestesses and priests who also were dancers, singers and other entertainers.

Essentially, Hathor had become a goddess of joy, and so she was deeply loved by the general population, and truly revered by women, who aspired to embody her multifaceted role as wife, mother, and lover. In this capacity, she gained the titles of Lady of the House of Jubilation, and The One Who Fills the Sanctuary with Joy. The worship of Hathor was so popular that a lot of festivals were dedicated to her honor than any other Egyptian deity, and more children were named after this goddess than any other deity. Even Hathor’s priesthood was unusual, in that both women and men became her priests.

Bloodthirsty Warrior

The Middle Kingdom was founded when Upper Egypt’s pharaoh, Mentuhotep II, took control over Lower Egypt, which had become independent during the First Intermediate Period, by force. This unification had been achieved by a brutal war that was to last some twenty-eight years with many casualties, but when it ceased, calm returned, and the reign of the next pharaoh, Mentuhotep III, was peaceful, and Egypt once again became prosperous. A tale, (see “The Book of the Heavenly Cow”), from the perspective of Lower Egypt, developed around this experience of protracted war. In the tale following the war, Ra (representing the pharaoh of Upper Egypt) was no longer respected by the people (of Lower Egypt) and they ceased to obey his authority.

The myth states that Ra communicated through Hathor’s third Eye (Maat) and told her that some people in the land were planning to assassinate him. Hathor was so angry that the people she had created would be audacious enough to plan that, that she became Sekhmet (war goddess of Upper Egypt) to destroy them. Hathor (as Sekhmet) became bloodthirsty and the slaughter was great because she could not be stopped. As the slaughter continued, Ra saw the chaos down below and decided to stop the blood-thirsty Sekhmet. So he poured huge quantities of blood-coloured beer on the ground to trick Sekhmet. She drank so much of it – thinking it to be blood – that she became drunk and returned to her former gentle self as Hathor.


Hesat

In Egyptian mythology, Hesat (also spelt Hesahet, and Hesaret) was the manifestation of Hathor, the divine sky-cow, in earthly form. Like Hathor, she was seen as the wife of Ra.

Since she was the more earthly cow-goddess, Milk was said to be the beer of Hesat, a rather meaningless phrase as Hesat means milk anyway. As a dairy cow, Hesat was seen as the wet-nurse of the other gods, the one who creates all nourishment. Thus she was pictured as a divine white cow, carrying a tray of food on her horns, with milk flowing from her udders.

In this earthly form, she was, dualistically, said to be the mother of Anubis, the god of the dead, since, it is she, as nourisher, that brings life, and Anubis, as death, that takes it. Since Ra’s earthly manifestation was the Mnevis bull, the three of Anubis as son, the Mnevis as father, and Hesat as mother, were identified as a family triad, and worshipped as such.


Goddess of MotherhoodAs a provider of milk, and due to cows careful tending of their calves, the cow was a universal symbol of motherhood, and so Hathor became goddess of motherhood, gaining titles such as ‘The Great Cow Who Protects Her Child’ and ‘Mistress of the Sanctuary of Women.’

Because of the aspect of motherhood, her priests were oracles, predicting the fate of the newborn, and midwives delivering them.

As a mother, since she enclosed the sky, she was seen as the mother of Horus.

Symbolically she became the divine mother of the pharaoh, who was identified as Horus.

Since Horus’s wife was Isis, Hathor was sometimes said to be her mother, although it was more accurate to say she was her mother in law.

As Horus was also said to be the son of Ra, Hathor was identified as Ra’s wife (Ra created her in a non-sexual manner), gaining the title Mistress of Heaven. Having been identified as Ra’s wife, it was said she arose from Ra’s tears, and thus was identified as the Eye of Ra.

In art, Hathor was often depicted as a golden cow (sometimes covered in stars), with the titles Cow of Gold, and The one who shines like gold, or as a woman with the ears of a cow and a headdress of horns holding the sun-disc, which represented Ra.

Also, Hathor was sometimes identified as a hippopotamus, which the Egyptians also considered quite motherly creatures, and sometimes as an aquatic form of the cow.

In her position as divine mother to the pharaoh, Hathor was sometimes depicted as a cow standing in a boat (representing the boat of Ra with which he, as the sun, crosses through the sky), surrounded by tall papyrus reeds (as were common in the Nile delta), with the pharaoh often pictured as a calf standing next to her.

As divine mother, she was also represented with, or as, an uraeus, a stylized cobra, which symbolized royal power.

Sometimes, the local depictions of Hathor, with their slight variations on emphasizing certain features, were treated separately, and seven of them, any seven, which was perceived as a mystical number (it divides the lunar month into 4 equal parts, and was the number of known planets at the time), named by their different titles, were considered special if gathered together.

These Seven Hathors, in Hathor’s context as a mother, were said to dress in disguise as young women, and attend the birth of a child, and then one by one announce aspects of his fate. In later centuries, this 7-fold aspect of Hathor was identified as the Pleiades.


Fertility GoddessThe cow’s large eyes with long lashes and generally quiet demeanor were often considered to suggest a gentle aspect of feminine beauty. There are still cultures in the world where to say that a girl is as pretty as a heifer is a great compliment, rather than taking you cow as an insult. And so Hathor rapidly became a goddess of beauty, and fertility, thus also a patron goddess for lovers.

A tale grew up around this in which Ra is described as having been upset over Horus’ victory over Set (representing the conquest in 3000 BC of Lower Egypt by Upper Egypt), and went off to be alone, and so Hathor went to him and started to dance and stripped naked, showing him her genitals, which cheered him up, so he returned.

(This has made certain readers believe that the sun god was extremely perverted, which may be true). The tale is thought also to describe a solar eclipse, as it depicts Ra, the sun, going away to sulk, and then returning when cheered up.

In her position as a female fertility goddess, who readily strips naked, she was often depicted in red, the color of passion, though her sacred color is turquoise, and so gained the titles Lady of the scarlet-colored garment, and Lady of sexual offerings (Nebet Hetepet in Egyptian).

Sometimes her fertility aspect was depicted symbolically as a field of reeds. Her position as one of beauty lead to her being depicted in portrait, which was highly unusual by Egyptian artistic conventions, indeed, only she and Bes were ever depicted in this manner.

Her beauty also lead to her being symbolically depicted by mirrors. Hathor’s image was also often used to form the capitals of columns in Egyptian architecture.


MusicianEventually, Hathor’s identity as a cow-goddess of fertility, meant that her Hathor became identified with another ancient cow-goddess of fertility, Bata. It still remains an unanswered question amongst Egyptologists as to why Bata survived as an independent goddess for so long. Bata was, in some respects, connected to the Ba, an aspect of the soul, and so Hathor gained an association with the afterlife. It was said that, with her motherly character, she greeted the souls of the dead in the underworld, and proffered them with refreshments of food, and of drink. She was also sometimes described as mistress of the acropolis.

The assimilation of Bata, who was associated with the sistrum, a musical instrument, brought with it an association with music. In this form, Hathor’s cult became centred in Dendera and was led by priests who were also dancers, singers, and other entertainers. Hathor’s temple at Dendera contains an image, that has come to be known as the Dendera Light, which some have controversially claimed may be a depiction of an electric lamp. Hathor also became associated with the menat, the turquoise musical necklace often worn by women.

The protector and sponsor of dancers, Hathor was associated with percussive music, in particular the sistrum. Her traditional votive offering was two mirrors, the better with which to see both her beauty and your own.

Hathor’s image, specifically her head, was traditionally used to decorate sistrums and mirrors. Thus when gazing at one’s own reflection in the mirror, you would see Hathor looking back, from underneath one’s own face, serving as foundation and support, perhaps as role model and goal. This imagery was standard and ubiquitous, it also commonly decorates architectural columns, however one is forced to ask, how would one know it was Hathor? Usually by the cow ears but even more consistently by the hair-do.

athor’s hair is dressed in so characteristic a fashion that the style now bears her name: archaeologists have dubbed it the “Hathor hair-do.” This style is utterly distinctive and perhaps surprisingly modern to our eyes. It is not the heavily bejeweled, elaborately braided hair so commonly depicted in other ancient Egyptian imagery. Rather it is simplicity in the extreme: a simple flip, often parted down the middle.

The ‘do wouldn’t have looked at all out of place on a French or English mod girl pop singer of the early to mid ’60’s- a Marianne Faithfull perhaps or Francoise Hardy. It is a simple hairstyle, a hairstyle one can conceivably maintain by oneself, without extensive wigs, servants or leisure time. It is very much an equalizing hairstyle. Ironically, then, it is a hairstyle most commonly seen in the depiction of deities, especially beautiful love goddesses, perhaps demonstrating the intensity of their self-confidence.

While other ancient Egyptian hairstyles are instantly recognizable even today as solely Egyptian, the Hathor hair-do seems to have set an international style, in particular traveling all over the Middle East. Other goddesses are depicted wearing this style, in fact it seems to have become the goddess hairstyle, favored by all the most fashionable deities.

A hymn to Hathor says:

Thou art the Mistress of Jubilation, the Queen of the Dance, the Mistress of Music, the Queen of the Harp Playing, the Lady of the Choral Dance, the Queen of Wreath Weaving, the Mistress of Inebriety Without End.

Essentially, Hathor had become a goddess of Joy, and so she was deeply loved by the general population, and truly revered by women, who aspired to embody her multifaceted role as wife, mother, and lover.

In this capacity, she gained the titles of Lady of the House of Jubilation, and The One Who Fills the Sanctuary with Joy. The worship of Hathor was so popular that more festivals were dedicated to her honor that any other Egyptian deity, and more children were named after this goddess than any other. Even Hathor’s priesthood was unusual, in that both men, and women, became her priests.


Bloodthirsty WarriorThe Middle Kingdom was founded when Upper Egypt’s Pharaoh, Mentuhotep II, took control over Lower Egypt, which had become independent during the First Intermediate Period by force. This unification had been achieved by a brutal war that was to last some 28 years, but when it ceased, calm returned, and the reign of the next Pharaoh, Mentuhotep III, was peaceful, and Egypt once again became prosperous.

A tale, from the perspective of Lower Egypt, developed around this.In the tale, Ra (representing the Pharaoh of Upper Egypt) was no longer respected by the people (of Lower Egypt) and they ceased to obey his authority, which made him so angry that he sent out Sekhmet (war goddess of Upper Egypt) to destroy them, but Sekhmet was so bloodthirsty that she could not be stopped. Ra pours blood-coloured beer on the ground, tricking Sekhmet, who thinks it to be blood, into drinking it, which makes her stop the slaughter, and become loving, and kind.

The form that Sekhmet had become by the end of the tale was identical in character to Hathor, and so a cult arose, at the start of the Middle Kingdom, which dualistically identified Sekhmet with Hathor, making them one goddess, Sekhmet-Hathor, with two sides.

Consequently, Hathor, as Sekhmet-Hathor, was sometimes depicted as a lioness.

Sometimes this joint name was corrupted to Sekhathor (also spelt Sechat-Hor, Sekhat-Heru), meaning (one who) remembers Horus (the uncorrupted form would mean (the) powerful house of Horus.

However, the two goddesses were so different, indeed almost diametrically opposed, that the identification did not last.


Wife of Thoth

Thoth and Hathor depicted as primal deities

When Horus was identified as Ra, under the name Ra-Herakhty, Hathor’s position became unclear, since she had been the wife of Ra, but mother of Horus, whose wife was Isis. Many attempts to solve this gave Ra-Herakhty a new wife, Ausaas, to solve this issue around who Ra-Herakhty’s wife was. However, this left open the question of how Hathor could be his mother, since this would imply that Ra-Herakhty was a child of Hathor, rather than a creator.

In areas where the cult of Thoth was strong, Thoth was identified as the creator, leading to it being said that Thoth was the father of Ra-Herakhty, thus Hathor, as the mother of Ra-Herakhty, was in this version referred to as Thoth’s wife. Since Ra-Herakhty was, in this version of the Ogdoad cosmogeny, depicted as a young child, often referred to as Neferhor, when considered the wife of Thoth, Hathor was often depicted as a female nursing a child.

Since Thoth’s wife had earlier been considered to be Seshat, Hathor began to be attributed with many of Seshat’s features. Since Seshat was associated with records, and with acting as witness at the judgement of souls, these aspects became attributed to Hathor, which, together with her position as goddess of all that was good, lead to her being described as the (one who) expels evil, which in Egyptian is Nechmetawaj also spelt Nehmet-awai, and Nehmetawy). Nechmetawaj can also be understood to mean (one who) recovers stolen goods, and so, in this form, she became goddess of stolen goods.

Outside the Thoth cult, it was considered important to retain the position of Ra-Herakhty (i.e. Ra) as self-created (via only the primal forces of the Ogdoad). Consequently, Hathor could not be identified as Ra-Herakhty’s mother.

Hathor’s role in the process of death, that of welcoming the newly dead with food and drink, lead, in such circumstances, to her being identified as a jolly wife for Nehebkau, the guardian of the entrance to the underworld, and binder of the Ka. Nethertheless, in this form, she retained the name of Nechmetawaj, since her aspect as a returner of stolen goods was important to society, and so considered worth noting.


Later YearsWhen the Ennead and the Ogdoad were combined, when Ra and Atum were identified as one another, Hathor, as the daughter of the combined Atum-Ra, was sometimes confused with Tefnut. Consequently, the tale, a metaphor for an historic drought, in which Tefnut had fled Egypt after an argument with her husband (Shu), but is persuaded to return, became occasionally transformed into one in which Hathor had an argument with Ra, and fled, later returning.

The aspect of the story in which Tefnut turned into a cat and attacked those who went near, neatly fitted with the tale in which Hathor was said to have been Sekhmet, contributing to the frequency with which the tale occurred featuring Hathor rather than Tefnut.

Beliefs about Ra himself had been hovering around the identification of him, a sun god, with Horus, who by this time was also a sun god, in the combined form Ra-Herakhty, and so for some time, Isis had intermittently been considered the wife of Ra, since she was the wife of Horus.

Consequently, Hathor became identified with Isis, and since this identification was much simpler than that of Horus and Ra, it was more strongly, and more permanantly made.

In this form, which, technically, is really Isis, Hathor’s mother was consequently Nuit, and she was sometimes even described as being the wife of Horus, leading to a level of confusion, in which Horus, as Hathor’s son, was also his own father.

This form of Horus was known as Horus-Bedhety, referring to Bedhet, where the view was most commonly held, or as Ihy, referring to his aspect as a sistrum player, since he was the son of Hathor, who was by now associated with the sistrum. When Horus assimilated with Anhur, to become Arsnuphis, so Hathor was occasionally Anhur’s mother as well.

Nethertheless, when Ra subsequently assimilated Amun, into Amun-Ra, it was sometimes said that Hathor, as a cow, was married to Sobek, or rather to a generic crocodile-god, since Sobek had become thought of as merely a manifestation of Amun.

Shortly afterwards, Hathor became fully merged into Isis, whose cult was much stronger.


Hathor Outside the NileHathor was worshipped in Canaan in the eleventh century BC, which at that time was ruled by Egypt, at her holy city of Hazor, or Tel Hazor which the Old Testament claims was destroyed by Joshua (Joshua 11:13, 21).

The Sinai Tablets show that the Hebrew workers in the mines of Sinai about 1500 BC worshipped Hathor, whom they identified with the goddess Astarte.

Some theories state that the golden calf mentioned in the bible was meant to be a statue of the goddess Hathor (Exodus 32:4-32:6.), although it is more likely to be a representation of the 2 golden calves set up by Rehoboam, an enemy of the levite priesthood, which marked the borders of his kingdom.

The Greeks also loved Hathor and equated her with their own goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite.

Some ancient texts refer to a serpent of light residing in the heavens. This is believed to have been inspired by the Milky Way (a similar allusion to the ouroboros).

In general, the Egyptian gods and Egyptian religion did not travel. The ancient Egyptians were insular, not overly interested in importing or exporting deities. Eventually Isis would become the great exception, with temples in Rome, and throughout Europe, Africa and Asia, as far away as the British Isles. Hathor was her trailblazing predecessor. Beyond the traditional borders of Egypt and Nubia, Hathor was worshipped throughout Semitic West Asia, beloved particularly in the city of Byblos.

She was also adored as far afield as what is modern Ethiopia, Somalia and Libya. The seed of what would be universally beloved within Isis also existed within Hathor. Their appeal transcends national or ethnic boundaries: Hathor perhaps embodies the wishes of those who long for life to be generously benevolent and abundant, while Isis embodies the hopes of those who wish for mercy and kindness.

Hathor was associated with turquoise, malachite and the metals gold and copper. Her demeanor glows with consistent confidence and sunny, good health. Hers is a warm, sensual beauty not aloof or remote. Although she ruled the perfumer’s trade in general, Hathor was especially connected with the fragrance of myrrh, which was exceedingly precious to the ancient Egyptians and which on a spiritual level embodied the finest qualities of the feminine.

In Mesopotamia, the beautiful and stylish, ever youthful if fierce, Ishtar dresses her hair this way. So do the beautiful Western Semitic love and war goddesses, Anat and Astarte, who would eventually achieve great popularity in ancient Egypt, perhaps the only foreign deities to do so. They would become incorporated into Egyptian mythology, serving as the designated consolation prize brides for Seth, in the face-saving compromise that concludes his loss to Horus. Anat and Astarte, the ancient equivalent of hot foreign babes, of course wear only the most stylish of hairdos.

Technically, we have no way of actually knowing where this hair-do originated or with whom. However, Hathor’s influence remains so consistent that no matter where an ancient goddess plaque is dug up, if she’s wearing that flip, she is automatically described as wearing the Hathor hair do. What the goddesses who wear this style have in common with Hathor beyond celestial beauty is a willingness to boldly battle on behalf of justice, their families and followers.

Ishtar, Anat and Hathor: these images of beauty are not passive or vain but action-oriented brave women, perhaps so confident of their inherent beauty that elaborate adornment becomes only necessary for their own pleasure, not as a needed demonstration.

A major temple to Hathor was constructed by Seti II at the copper mines at Timna in Edomite Seir. Serabit el-Khadim is a locality in the south-west Sinai Peninsula where turquoise was mined extensively in antiquity, mainly by the ancient Egyptians. Archaeological excavation, initially by Sir Flinders Petrie, revealed the ancient mining camps and a long-lived Temple of Hathor. The Greeks, who became rulers of Egypt for three hundred years before the Roman domination in 31 BC, also loved Hathor and equated her with their own goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite.

Frigga (Norse)

Frigga was the wife of Odin, and had a powerful gift of prophecy.In some stories she is portrayed as weaving the future of men and gods, although she did not have the power to change their destiny. She is credited in some of the Eddas with the development of runes, and she is known in some Norse tales as the Queen of Heaven.