Hathor was one of many ancient Egyptian fertility goddesses. Playing important roles in childbirth and nursing, she was primarily a goddess of love and music. Hathor appeared in the form of a cow, as a woman with a cow’s head, or as merely the horns surrounding a solar disk.
The name Hathor means “House of Horus.” Hathor was the mother or wife of Horus, the sky god, and was herself a sky deity, particularly of the night sky. She also embodied the eye of the sun god, Re. In this form, she was not a joyful goddess of love, but a rampaging, violent force. She was sometimes referred to as the “mistress of drunkenness,” which indicates both joyful inebriation and a more ecstatic and violent state.
The menat (a certain form of beaded necklace) and the sistrum (a kind of metal rattle) were dedicated to Hathor, and with these instruments her rage was soothed. Her worshippers would celebrate Hathor as “mistress of the dance, queen of happiness.”
Hathor also provided life to those in the netherworld. She was patron goddess of the necropolis at Thebes and either the mother of Re or his daughter. As the divine mother of the king, she suckled Re. In some versions of her story, she did this in the form of a woman; in others, she was a cow.
Hathor’s temples and shrines existed throughout Egypt and its areas of inﬂuence. Some of the more important locations beyond Thebes were Dendera, Kusae, and Meir. Hathor had close ties with the Syrian city of Byblos, and at mines in the Sinai, she was revered as the “mistress of turquoise.”
In the myths of Egypt there were also characters called hathors, often seven in number, which were the personiﬁcations of fate. They appeared during childbirth and pronounced the destiny of the newborn.
The Greeks called her Athyr and identiﬁed her with their goddess Aphrodite.