1902 Encyclopedia > Athor, Athyr, Hathor

Athor, Athyr, Hathor
Egyptian divinity

ATHOR, ATHYR, HATHOR, the name of the Egyptian divinity corresponding to Aphrodite or Venus. Her name meant " the abode of Hor" or Horus, and she was the mother of that deity in some of his types, and as such a form of Ms, of whom she was a higher or celestial mani-festation. Her name occurs as early as the 4th dynasty, when she is styled the mistress of the tree, or sycamore, neha, or the tree of the south. Besides the local titles of the different cities over which she presided, she was entitled regent of the gods, living mistress of the upper and lower world, mistress of the heaven and regent of the West, and pupil or eye of Ra, or the Sun, with whom she was con-nected. In her celestial character she is represented as an Egyptian female holding a sceptre, her head surmounted by the sun's disk, horns, and uraeus, and her flesh coloured blue, the colour of the heaven, or yellow, that of gold and beauty (according to Egyptian notions), a term also applied to Aphrodite in Greek mythology. In her terrestrial char-acter she was the goddess who presided over sports and dancing, music and pleasure, like the Greek Aphrodite, the goddess of love ; but her particularly special type was the white or spotted cow, the supposed mother of the sun. The solar deities Shu and Tefnut were her children In certain legends she is mentioned as the seven cows of Athor, which appear in the Ritual or Book of the Dead. These cows, like the Moiros, or fates of Greek mythology, appeared at the births of legendary persons, and predicted the course and events of their lives. It is in this capacity that Athor is connected, with Ptah, or the Egyptian Hephaestus, and is allied to Sekhet or Bast, called the wife or mistress of Ptah, the seven cows being the mystical companions of the Apis, the second life or incarnation of the god of Memphis. She was also represented under the attributes and with the titles of the goddess Nut, or the Egyptian Rhea. The cow of Athor wore on its head the solar disk, and hawk feather plumes, like Amen Ra; and in this character as the great cow she has on some monuments her human head replaced by that of a cow wearing a disk, or the disk and plumes. This emblem also appears in her type at a later period, when her head is represented with long tresses curled into a spiral at the end, and she has the ears of a cow instead of human ears. Her head is then surmounted by a doorway or its cornice, emblem of the abode of the sun, which she represented. This is sometimes surmounted by the disk and horns. The handle of the sistrum, a musical instrument with bars, was generally made in shape of this head and cornice, as were also the capitals of the columns of Abusimbel, Den- derah, and other temples, and the aegis and prows of certain arks. As the goddess of beauty and youth, many of the queens of Egypt'assumed her type and attributes, and young females after death, at the Ptolemaic and subsequent periods, had their names preceded by that of the goddess, as both sexes had "Osiris" from the period of the 19th dynasty, that of Athor being a later substitute, and for females only. The third month of the Egyptian year was named Athor after her, and the fish aten or latus, a kind of carp, was sacred to her. The names and titles of Athor were very numerous, and she is named in the inscriptions the lady or mistress of Silsilis, Abusimbul, Pselcis, Ombos, Hermonthis, Apollonopolis Magna, and Heliopolis; but the chief site of her worship was Denderah, or Tentyris, where she is mentioned under many names, and all the different festi- vals held in her honour are recorded in the calendar of the temple. Athor is one of the oldest of the Egyptian deities, and her worship continued till the fall of Pantheism and substitution of Christianity. Her worship passed from Egypt to the neighbouring isles, cow-headed figures of the goddess having been discovered in Cyprus. Her figures and representation are common. Jablonski, Panih.; Wil- kinson, Manners and Customs, iv. 387; Birch, Gall. Antiq., p. 25; Duemichen, Bauurhunde der Dendera, Leip. 1865. (s.' B.)

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