Hathor, the Celestial Cow
Hathor is one of the most popular goddesses of ancient Egypt. She fulfills a protective role not only for all Egyptians, but also for the deceased. She has cult chapels in temples of other gods all over the country. Dendera houses the main temple of Hathor, where she has been worshiped since the Old Kingdom. However, the current building dates from the Ptolemaic Period. Hathor can be imaged as a cow or a woman with a cow’s head. More often she has the face of a woman with cow ears and cow horns with the sun disk clamped between them. Hathor is the goddess of the celestial sky. In that sense she is in close relationship with the sky goddess Nut. The astronomical ceiling in the temple’s pronaos depicts Nut about to gobble up the evening sun. In the morning she gives birth to the sun and the first rays of sunlight fall on the temple of Hathor. The carved disk, now in the Louvre Museum, depicting the zodiac, is a well-known Egyptian bas relief. A cast of its original has been inserted into the ceiling of one of the six cult chapels dedicated to Osiris. These are located on the roof of the temple in Dendera. Hathor is also known as the goddess of song, dance, love, sexuality, eroticism, music, motherhood, and fertility. At her temple we therefore find a mammisi, a birth chapel. Women were supposed to come to this shrine to give birth.