Whether the ancient Egyptians prayed to their goddesses for increased fertility or hoped to seek justice, female deities associated with the culture were responsible for an array of concerns during ancient times. In this article, you are introduced to Bastet and Hathor, two of the most important goddesses in ancient Egypt with very different duties.
If you read the articles discussing cats in ancient Egyptian culture, then you have already been introduced to Bastet (also known as Bast) , the goddess connected to health, healing, dancing, music, and happiness. Referred to as the cat goddess, Bastet was worshipped by a cult that resided mostly in Bubastis , a region located about the Nile delta. Members of the cult can be traced back to around 3200 BC, where they would hold cheerful barge processions and ceremonies much similar to an orgy. It wasn’t until around 950 BC that Bastet rose to the position of national deity when Bubastis earned the honor of capital of Egypt.
An interesting legend regarding Bastet involves her accompanying the boat of the sun god Ra on its daily journey through the sky , a task that lasted for a million years. She is believed to have found Ra’s enemy, the serpent Apep, when the sun set.
In art, Bastet was often seen wearing a wardrobe of red, which is why she was called “the Lady with the Red Clothes.” She is also depicted as a woman with the head of a cat, carrying a sistrum and basket. In other works of art, she appears in the entire body of a cat. Kittens around her feet is another feature artists may when depicting the goddess.
Other associations with Bastet: Protected humans from contagious diseases and evil spirits.
Wearing a horned headdress with a cobra on the front, the Egyptian goddess Hathor is linked to music, dancing, the underworld, women, motherhood, love, and justice. She is seen as the ultimate Egyptian mother goddess. She also represents all the best qualities found in a woman with special attention being paid to the motherhood aspect.
In legends, Hathor is represented by the cow and often takes on the shape of the creature. The Egyptians believe that Hathor served as the nurse to Horus the Younger , probably the reasoning behind her being depicted as a cow or a woman with the head of a cow. She is also known to have suckled the pharaoh Horus, which is why queens started to become linked to Hathor. This allowed the queen to take on the role as chief priestess and she would lead the other priestesses (viewed as the concubines of the god) in any temple rituals of Horus and other gods that involved music and dancing.
All women in all stations in life worshipped Hathor, and other ancient Egyptians believed that she played a role in the guidance and direction of the natural forces associated with the mind and body. Each god or goddess was linked to a specific part of the body; Hathor was in charge of childbirth.