Thursday, 16 June 2011

Calendar Entry #17: Feast of Hathor as Sirius

We continue our journey through the Cauldrons Calendar feast/festival/holidays.

Zodiac from the Temple of Dendera
currently in the Lourve Museum, Paris

 Before we start specifically on this feast there is a little theory that needs to be dealt with.  Egyptian mythology evolved and changed quite a lot over time.  As seen in previous entries with Horus, in his many forms, the Gods and Goddesses changed.  It wasn't just the Greek influence that changed names (Isis instead of Aset etc) but the myths around the Gods and their origins, relationships with each other, their attributes as well as their names changed as one God or Goddess rose to prominence in a certain area, or as a certain area grew more important on a national scale.  This can be seen with the rise of Amun's 'power' when Thebes was elevated to the 'capital' of Egypt during the Eighteenth Dynasty which I wrote about previously.

In this spirit, when the cult of Ra rose to prominence Ra became associated with Horus as Ra-Horakhty. Hathor had been paired with Ra in some regions and when Isis began to be paired with Ra, Hathor and Isis began to be merged in some regions also, as Isis-Hathor.   It is this pairing of Isis-Hathor, that is seen in this feast.

The third day of Mesore (today) is set aside to celebrate Hathor in her aspect as Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.  Ancient Egyptians called this star Sothis and Sopdet, and attributed it to many things including the Eye of Ra.  As I already stated in a previous entry, Hathor has been known as the Eye of Ra at times.  The star Sirius (Sothis/Sopdet) is seen as a representation of Hathor in that role.

Narrative inscriptions from the Hathor temple at Dendera reaffirm Isis-Hathor as Sirius. 
"Radiantly, above Her father’s forehead, the Golden One rises, and Her mysterious form occupies the bow of His boat. Her rays unite with the luminous God on that beautiful day of the birth of the sun disk on the morning of the new year’s feast." 
This refers to the heliacal rising of Sirius which re-establishes world order by creating a new year,
". . . the beautiful one who appears in heaven, the truth who regulates the world at the head of the sun barge, the Queen and Mistress of awe, the ruler (of Gods and) Goddesses, Isis the great, the Mother of the Gods."
Close up of the Zodiac above showing Sirius
as the star between the horns of the cow Hathor.
There are many images of Hathor that have survived the ages.  The mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut, near Der al Bahri, has Hathor as a standing cow with a sun disk between her horns.  Similar images of her have been found in the temple of Dendera and in Saqqara on the walls of the stepped Pyramid of Djoser.  The zodiac from the temple at Dendera depicts Hathor as Sirius using this form.  See image to the right.

Many Egyptian temples were built so the rays of the rising Sirius would fall upon their altars, such was the importance of Sirius to the Egyptian civilisation. It is believed that the temple of Hathor at Dendera was oriented in a way to allow the viewing of Sirius, although there is some speculation that this was just a happy coincidence.

The Great Pyramid also shows a Sirius alignment.  Star shafts leading from the Queen and King chambers of Khufu's pyramid point to specific stars, the King Chamber's to the Orion constellation (as this was identified with Osiris) and the Queen Chamber's southern shaft was oriented to Sirius, being identified with Isis (Isis-Hathor). 

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