The archetype of the Earth Mother is common to many mythologies; at different times Isis, Sekhmet, and Nut-among others-have had this role in Egyptian mythology. Hathor Goddess, however, appears to have been the oldest example in Egypt and the prototype on which later ones were based. While substantial evidence of Hathor Goddess in this role exists from the earliest periods, R. T. Rundle Clark believed that during the Old Kingdom it was suppressed or ignored, only to resurface at the time of the Coffin Texts. By this time Isis and Nut had become important in their own right, and the texts contained an interesting version of creation in which all three goddesses in turn played the role of the Great Mother. The story contained a graphically gory account of the birth of Ihy, who was first called the son of Hathor Goddess , then of Isis, but in either case Hathor Goddess dominated the myth.
|Hathor Egyptian Goddess|
The Destruction of Mankind
The fullest account of the relationship between Ra and Hathor Goddess as father and daughter came in another story from Ra’s declining years. As we have seen, in his old age Ra was grieved by a decline of respect for him in the world he had created, and especially among the human race, the product of his own tears. His human creations began to laugh derisively at him: “Look at Ra! He is old and his bones are like silver, his flesh is like gold, and his hair is like true lapis lazuli.” Ra objected to being called old; even the comparisons with precious metals and stones called attention to the fact that his flesh was not what it had been in his youth. He was angered by humankind’s ridicule and sought to teach them a lesson.
He called out to those followers who were close at hand and had them assemble his nearest relatives: “Summon here my daughter Hathor Goddess , the apple of my eye, and summon also the gods Shu and Tefnut, Geb and Nut, and the great god Nun, whose dwelling is in the waters of the sky.” The messengers were instructed to summon the gods quietly so that mankind would not guess what was happening and seek refuge from the revenge being plotted.
At the mansion of Ra in the Hidden Place the gods and goddesses assembled to find out what their father demanded of them. They bowed down before him, touching the ground with their foreheads, and asked their leader what he wanted them to do. Ra addressed Nun as the eldest of all gods: “Behold the people whom I have created, how they speak against me. Tell me what you think I should do to them, for truly I will not slay them until I have heard your words.” Even though the last sentence suggests that the supreme god had decided on the punishment before hearing the other gods’ advice, Ra nonetheless consulted his lesser colleagues. Nun, not surprisingly, told the chief god what he wanted to hear. He suggested that Ra’s eye in the form of Hathor Goddess (the apple of her father’s eye) be sent out to kill those who attacked the great god. He reminded Ra that he was still the greatest of the gods and his throne was secure: humans should, therefore, have much to fear from his anger.
The other gods quickly agreed to this simple strategy and Hathor Goddess was sent out in the form of Sekhmet, a fierce lioness to seek revenge. She rushed to attack her prey and found that, like the lion, she took delight in slaughter. She discovered pleasure in shedding blood throughout the land and quickly taught Ra’s tormentors that they should not laugh at the chief god. As she hastened to and fro, killing everyone she met, her father observed her work and at first was pleased. Soon he sensed that his vengeance was complete and called to her to stop before she eliminated the entire human race: “Come in peace, Hathor Goddess . Have you not done that which I gave you to do?” But there was no stopping her once she had tasted blood. She cried out, “By your life, 0 Ra, I work my will on the human race and my heart rejoices.”
For many nights the waters of the Nile ran red with the blood of mortals, and Hathor Goddess waded through blood until her feet became crimson. Ra took pity on humankind in spite of his former resentment, but no god or mortal could stop the ruthless carnage of the goddess who clearly enjoyed her role as lioness. Because of her divine power, no one could force her to cease her killing, not even Ra himself; she had to be stopped by persuasion or trickery.
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