Come, Golden One, nourished with song!
Dance is food to Your ka,
You Who shine joyfully at the moment of strength,
You, pleased with dancing in the night.
Come, walk in the place of drunkenness, the halls of pleasure.
Your rites are established, Your ceremonies fixed,
In them, no desire is lacking.
–From “The Celebration Song for Hethert, Goddess of Joy”
Dua Hetheru! Lady of Gold: The Kemetic Goddess of beauty, sexuality, love, pleasure, song, dance, and ecstasy. Hetheru’s Kemetic name means “House of Heru” - which refers to not only Her consort (Heru), but also to the “High or Heavenly House” in which the Gods inhabit (which can be interpreted to mean the sky itself, or some other metaphysical plane of existence, or simply the concept of “the house of royalty” – the status of being divine in the first place). Her Greco-Romanized name is the more commonly known “Hathor.”
Hetheru is most often depicted as a woman with a solar-disc headdress (as seen above), and two bovine-styled horns, which are representative of Her most prominent animal association, which is the cow (She is sometimes depicted as a cow for this reason). She is often shown with Her two symbolic items: the rattle or sistrum and the menit, a special necklace made of turquoise beads (thus, turquoise is sacred to Her). She is a Goddess of passion and music, thus the importance of the rattle/sistrum. Her festivals are those of joy, and when we celebrate happiness and success, as well as give in to our desires, we are calling out to Hetheru:
…where there is lightness of spirit, a benevolent intoxication, then the ancient Egyptian would sense the closeness of Hathor. The celebrations of Hathor were thus at the same time invocations of her presence.”(Naydler, Loc. 3235. Kindle edition.)
Hetheru is a Goddess of the home in many ways: She is a very motherly and womanly Goddess. She very much has a place amongst us in the material, seen world. She is visible in the makeup and fashion of women – not just in the objects themselves, but in the very act of beautifying the self. She is the desire to dress up, to indulge the self, to buy those perfect-if-slightly-outrageous crimson party heels despite their price (just don’t look at the tag!). But She is not only outer beauty, but inner beauty as well – kindness, love, respect, and decency. She is warmth in every sense of the word – She is the inviting patch of afternoon sunlight drifting in from the windowsill that cats are so fond of napping in. She is an embrace, a divine hug; but She is also a kiss on the lips, a hand trailing tenderly – or sometimes heatedly – down the small of your back. She will consume you with Her ardor, and Her unquenchable glow.
Hetheru is sometimes syncretized with the more aggressive Goddess Sekhmet; when They are compared individually, Hetheru is often referred to as “the soft side of Sekhmet.” While this is true in some respects, it’s important not to forget that Hetheru Herself is as much an Eye of Ra as Sekhmet is: both are preeminent solar Goddess of fierce, fiery power. As is written on Her Henadology page: “Hathor’s most important roles in myth are as the nubile daughter and victorious enforcer of Re.” Victorious enforcer of Re. That does not sound like a Goddess to be messed with. Henadology further reports:
In the Book of the Celestial Cow, when Re, who has grown elderly reigning as immanent sovereign upon the earth, learns that humans are conspiring in rebellion, he sends Hathor, as his enforcing ‘Eye’, to strike the humans and kill them “in the desert lands,” a task which she reports back to Re as having been “sweet for my heart.” (Piankoff, 28)
Soft? No, She is not all soft. We must keep in mind: a mother no longer acts benevolent when Her children are threatened; a sweet lover does not act so sweet if Her beloved is in danger. In addition, there is a risky side to indulgence – to the merrymaking and drinking and partying life. We must not over-eat, over-drink, sacrifice our longterm health in favor of immediate pleasures. We must not focus only on beauty in favor of intelligence, or our other important characteristics. We must love the spiritual as much as the material. Where there are times for dance and song, there are also times for quiet contemplation and serious work. Hetheru is our reminder of these things. She, like many of the Kemetic Gods and Goddess, has a dualistic nature, one that echoes the very core of the Kemetic worldview: the importance of balance.
And on that note as well, I do not think that Hetheru is inaccessible to those out there who identify as asexual, tone-deaf, serious-natured, not motherly or fatherly – or the rest of Her “opposites.” There are aspects of every Netjeru worth loving, and worth attempting to understand, in my experience. Do not put Her aside because you do not feel particularly feminine, or musical, or loving, etc. Consider Her as a beacon of light (for every gender identity, every personality type, every human role) – a signal fire that marks only one aspect of the complex nature of Divinity. Understand that if you have ever loved someone – anyone (a pet, a plant, yourself even!) – there is a place for you among Hetheru’s court. Understand that if you enjoy living, if you can recognize even the smallest beauty in this world, and if your passions – whatever they may be – drive you and make you strong, and allow you to enforce your own personal victories…then there is a place for you among Hetheru’s court.
- Naydler, Jeremy. Temple of the Cosmos. Inner Traditions, 1996. (Kindle edition)
- Siuda, Tamara. The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook. Stargazer Design. 2009.
- Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. 2003.
- Henadology: Hathor (and related sources listed therein)