"Sekhmet the Eye of Ra"/ November 2014

"Sekhmet the Eye of Ra"/ November 2014
"Sekhmet the Eye of Ra"/ November 2014 / Extra fine watercolor, 22 karat gold, lapis lazuli, Austrian crystal

Friday, April 24, 2015

Mansion of the Falcon: The Goddess Hwt-Her as the Womb of Heru

Detail showing the falcon of Heru mounting the sacred rattle of the Goddess Hwt-Her/ "Hwt-Her Mistress of the Sky"/ An original Kemetic Icon in progress by master iconographer Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa/ 22 karat gold, natural mineral watercolor

"She is the Golden One, the Mistress of the goddesses,
She who comes in peace to her seat.
What a feast it is to behold her!
How sweet it is to look at her!
How happy is he who bows down (before her)
Because he loves her!
Gods and men acclaim her,
Goddesses and women play the sistrum for her....
Tatenen adorns her body.
She is the Mistress, the Lady of Inebriety,
She of the music, she of the dance"(1).


Every year the ancient Egyptians celebrated a lavish festival in honor of the Goddess Hwt-Her and Her divine consort Heru.  This was not a secret ritual performed in the incense-infused privacy of one of the great state temples, but a very public display of sacred rites through which the regeneration of Egypt was accomplished(2).  Governed by the lunar cycle, the Feast of the Joyous Union was initiated on New Moon day in the Third Month of Summer, and ended on Full Moon day (3).  

This fifteen day festival was a pilgrimage of love and desire for the Goddess, whose barque-enshrined cult image was removed from its home at Iunet/ Tantere (modern Dendera), and taken by barge the ninety-five miles upriver to the great temple seat of the God Heru at Djeba/ Behdet (modern Edfu).  The ultimate purpose of this journey was the sacred marriage and sexual congress of the Goddess and God, on the fourth night of which was conceived the child god Hor-sma-tawy (Greek Harsomtus)(4).  

However, this was also a time for the Goddess to attend meetings with other deities with whom She was intimately associated:  the Goddess Mut in Her sanctuary of Asheru at Ipet-sut (modern Karnak), and the Goddess Anuket of Pi-Mer (modern Komir)(5).  These stops were doubtless part of the lavish public revelation of the Goddess to the people of Egypt in order to magically reinvigorate the land and people with fecundity, to unite Hwt-Her with the other powerful deities who brought life and continuity forth into creation.

The god that came out to greet the procession of the Goddess Hwt-Her at Djeba was Heru (or Horus) of Behdet, not the later son of the Goddess Auset (or Isis), but the very ancient son of the Sun-God Ra, who took falcon form and was venerated as the heroic champion of Ra who destroyed the Sun-God's enemies.  Not until later would Heru the Behedite be identified with the younger son of the Goddess Auset(6).  A prolific deity in the conjugal department, Heru apparently had seven consorts in addition to Hwt-Her (7), but She was of primary importance, coming all the way from Iunet to be conjoined with the sacred falcon in these great rituals that included the Opening of the Mouth ceremony on the cult images, and the honoring of the Behedite's divine ancestors(8).

It is through these ritual observances that Hwt-Her becomes not only the consort of the falcon Heru, but also the mother of the child Hor-sma-tawy or Heru-sema-tawy, that is, "Heru who is Uniter of the Two Lands", who is both a man and a falcon simultaneously(9).  This god, as man, is the unifier and ruler of Egypt(10), and is thus a deity embodying the divine king as sovereign of the earth(11), but as a manifestation of the sacred falcon, the most ancient form of the Sky-God, He is also the personification of Ra's solar lineage, the divine seat of cosmic creation.  This is seen quite clearly in representations of Heru-sema-tawy as a child god emerging from the lotus flower from which the Sun-God was born(12).

What can these things tell us about the Goddess Hwt-Her?  The Feast of the Joyous Union gives us a goddess who becomes the integral path through which the ancient Sky-God Heru the Behedite is revitalized and reborn, and, by extension, Egypt and the human race entire.  With His goddess, Heru the Sacred Falcon is reawakened, re "opened" through the rites of the Opening of the Mouth, which is performed on the Day of the New Moon at the time when the sun reaches its zenith(13).  Following this, the first fruits of the land are offered, after which the land itself, its fields and all their contents, are presented.  A second Opening of the Mouth on the cult images of the God and Goddess follows this after a procession to the "Mound of Geb" (God of the Earth)(14).  These are the rites that prepare the ground for the culmination of the Joyous Union or Sacred Marriage on the fourth night, when the Goddess Hwt-Her is united with the falcon Heru, conceiving with His seed the infant Sun-God, king of the earth and sky.

Hwt-Her, then, is not only a spouse and equal to the Sky-God Heru; She is His mother, that is to say, the womb or dwelling place where the seed of the Sky-God/ Sun-God germinates, and is reborn as the King and Uniter of the Two Lands of Kemet (Egypt).  This is the infant Sun-God, who calls the other gods, humankind and living creatures into being.  Their source, it may rightly be said, is Hwt-Her, whose body is a sanctuary where the image of the Creator Sun-God is fashioned and reanimated.


In my icon "Hwt-Her Mistress of the Sky" we see on the viewer's left an image of the Sacred Falcon mounting the sesheshet or sistrum, the divine rattle used in rituals to the Goddess Hwt-Her, but also as a personification of the Goddess Herself.  This part of the iconic composition is actually a rebus expressing firstly the meaning of the name of the Goddess as intended in this icon, together with a certain amount of the divine history or mythos of the Goddess and Her avian spouse.

The sistrum or rattle is the cultic object most closely associated with the Goddess Hwt-Her and Her worship(15).  Its tinkling sound has been likened to the rustling of papyrus fronds, which also have an intimate association with the cult of the Goddess(16).  Such fronds we see directly on the opposite side of the composition, bending, curling and fanning upward before the Holy Mount of the West.  There are variations of the sacred rattle used in service to the Goddess, and in this icon we see the type whose handle is crowned with a fully frontal representation of the heart-shaped face of the Goddess with Her elongated cow's ears.  Though quite small, we can just make out the cavetto cornice sitting atop Hwt-Her's head, this a representation of the kar-shrine or naos in which the cult image of the Goddess dwells.  Certain representations of the sistrum show that the head of the rattle- in which were held the metal crossbars and disks- was often fashioned in the shape of the traditional box-shrine or rectangular pylon of the temple, and thus the actual house of the Goddess.

Upper Part of Sistrum, 664-525 B.C.E. or later. Faience, glazed, 8 x 1 15/16 x 1 1/2 in. (20.3 x 5 x 3.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund 

A Saite naos-shaped "sesheshet" sistrum. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, ca. 580 - 525 BCE.

Within the loop of the instrument as depicted in my icon, the viewer will notice that the crossbars holding the sound disks are depicted as rearing cobras.  This is part of the rebus spelling out one of the epithets of the Goddess, "Eye of Ra", referring to the awesome and terrible power manifested by Hwt-Her as the Daughter of Ra(17).  In this form, the Eye of Ra may be seen as a cobra with angrily flared hood, and embodies the destructive essence of the Sun-God.

As part of a rebus, the sesheshet sistrum with its naos crown spells out the house, mansion, sanctuary or residence of the Goddess, whose bovine and human face fronts the rattle.  This sistrum, then, stands for the dwelling place of the Goddess, together with the Goddess Herself.  But the sistrum also represents the dynamic energy of the Goddess, both creative and sexual, and as the divine container through which the Sky-God comes into being.  This association is set forth in the image of the Sacred Falcon, whose talons wrap firmly around the large loop forming the musical portion of the rattle.  This is His "perch", but also His mansion, His dwelling...His sanctuary.

Here we have a rebus presenting us with the name of Hwt-Her in highly codified form.  The name of the Goddess translates literally as "House of Heru" or "Temple of Heru" or "Mansion of Heru"(18), that is to say, the Dwelling of Heru, His Sanctuary.  And where is this sanctuary of the Sacred Falcon Heru?  Quite obviously, it is the sky itself, and that sky is the body, the very womb of the Goddess Hwt-Her, whose most ancient associations are heavenly and stellar(19).  The central portion of the icon is taken up by the nubile and elegant form of Hwt-Her as Sky-Goddess, lifting up the vault of heaven with its five-pointed gold stars.  But here is the name of the Goddess as the container of the seed of Heru the Sacred Falcon.  

The Joyful Union or Sacred Marriage of Hwt-Her and Heru is also spelled out in this rebus depicting the falcon-mounted sistrum, where the Sacred Falcon wears around His neck the menat necklace with its heavy counterweight, itself inscribed with the name and epithets of the Goddess.  In the first portion of the rebus we have the cultic rattle of the Goddess, Her ceremonial "house", behaving as a perch for the falcon Heru.  This is a codified language for the act of sexual congress, which sparks the sacred music, the dynamic fire and energy from which creation springs.  But the upper portion of the rebus may be read apart from the symbolism of the sistrum.  The falcon of the God wears around His neck a wholly feminine symbol, the heavy necklace composed of a multitude of beads which embodies the power of the Goddess, and can even take the place of the Goddess.  For the menat, used by priestesses in the celebration of Hwt-Her's cult, represents the Goddess in Her epithet "great menat"(20).

An elaborate menat necklace depicted in a relief at the Temple of Hathor at Dendera

Menat necklace from Malqata, New Kingdom, the Metropolitan Museum of Art

So the menat-necklace worn by the Sacred Falcon of Heru stands for the Goddess Hwt-Her Herself, both in terms of the sexual power of the Goddess and in Her physical body, Her sexual organs(21).  The husband of Hwt-Her is shown literally wearing Her around His neck, but in a much deeper sense He is uniting with Her, His power, His seed, flowing into Her body, and Her essence being transmitted to Him.  As if any more proof of their powerful union is needed, the rebus is shown surrounded by shooting flames and spirals of white-hot energy.  This is the seed of Heru the Sacred Falcon, His divine essence, going forth into the Goddess, into Her "house", Her "sanctuary"...Her womb.

If I were asked to give my own translation of the rebus as depicted in my icon, this is what I would have to say:  "See, it is the Sacred Falcon Heru Who mounts the place of the shaking, the rattle of the Goddess Who is the Mansion, the House of the Great Divine Falcon.  Her Mansion holds Him, and He possesses Her power, Her life, the Essence of the Lady of Contentment.  The Lady is the Mansion of the Falcon.  Hwt-Her is the Womb of Heru".  


Meekes, Dimitri and Favard-Meeks, Christine.  Daily Life of the Egyptian Gods.  London, 1993, pp. 179.
Finnestad, Ragnhild B. “Temples of the Ptolemaic and Roman Periods:  Ancient Traditions in New Contexts” in Temples of Ancient Egypt, Edited by Byron E. Shafer.  New York.  Pp. 225-226.
3  Watterson, Barbara.  The House of Horus at Edfu:  Ritual in an Ancient Egyptian Temple.  Gloucestershire, 1998, pp. 105.
4  Ibid, pp. 106-107.
5  Ibid, pp. 105.
6  Ibid, pp. 33.
7  Meekes, Ibid, pp. 67
8  Watterson, Ibid, pp. 105-107.
9  Meekes, Ibid, pp. 183
10  Wilkinson, Richard H.  The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt.  London,   2003, pp. 202.
11   Meekes, Ibid.
12  Meekes, Ibid.
13  Watterson, Ibid, pp. 106.
14  Watterson, Ibid.
15  DuQuesne, Terence.  "Sistrum" in The Quest For Immortality:  Treasures of Ancient Egypt, Edited by Erik Hornung and Betsy M. Bryan.  New York, NY, 2002, pp. 117.
16  Tyldesley, Joyce.  Myths & Legends of Ancient Egypt.  London, 2010, pp. 177.
17  Tyldesley, Ibid, pp. 178.
18  Ibid, pp. 179.
19  Wilkinson, Ibid, pp. 140.
20  Lurker, Manfred.  An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Egypt.  London, 1980, pp. 79.
21  Antelme, Ruth Schumann & Rossini, Stephane.  Sacred Sexuality in Ancient Egypt:  The Erotic Secrets of the Forbidden Papyrus.  Rochester, Vermont, 2001, pp. 46-48.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Mistress of Turquoise: A Homage To the Goddess Hwt-Her

"Hwt-Her Mistress of the Sky"/ An original Kemetic Icon in progress by master iconographer Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa/ 22 karat gold, natural mineral watercolor

O Goddess, Hwt-Her,
What light heaven has
Belongs to You.
O Divine Hand,
Mansion of the Falcon!

In the east, where You dazzle,
Giving birth to the beetle
Of scintillating armor;
In the west, where the tips
Of your golden horns
Welcome the spirits of
The Blessed Dead.

Homage to You, Hwt-Her!
Mistress of Turquoise,
From whose glittering limbs
Ra in the vault draws pleasure,
Between whose loins
The face of the sun emerges.

Dawn, beckoning, shining with joy,
Your face captivates the eyes of the Gods,
Whose heads are turned in your
Eastern direction.
Lapis lazuli, your hair,
A token of the Sun-God's glory.
The curves of your muscles and sinews
Shifting beneath a gown woven of
Transparent illumination.
Your mandrake lips, your honey breath,
Leaving all gods breathless,
And bestowing the breath of life
To humankind.

O Goddess, Hwt-Her,
Enwrapped by the falcon wings
Of your beloved,
Whose name your womb enshrines;
Heru, His ardor finds fulfillment
Within your house of rosy flesh.

Homage to You, Hwt-Her!
Mistress of Heaven who renews
The foreign lands,
Whose deft fingers draw out
From the earth all that is precious.
Decorated with the turquoise light
Of the sun, its rays find You,
Its magnificence crowns You
Like a royal diadem,
Shooting forth the awesome terror
Of the Cobra Goddess.

O Hwt-Her, your music resounds
Throughout the expanse of the vault,
Awakening the sleepers,
Giving eternal life to the well-provisioned
Spirits, who find their home in your
Indestructible beauty.

May your light touch my face.
May it awaken the Gods.
May your grace adorn the earth,
Renewed by the power of your love.
May I find a home in your womb,
So that I, like the Ancestors,
May be birthed as the eternally shining
Sun, like Ra, to live forever in the
Ark of Millions.

O Hwt-Her, O Goddess,
Mistress of Turquoise!
Your feet stride softly,
Providing a mirror of golden light
To those twilight dwellers,
To those who abide in the outer darkness.
Ra Himself comes into being
Through your womanhood,
As do all living beings,
Who draw strength from your body
Like the earth from the sky.

                                                  - Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

"Hwt-Her Mistress of the Sky".  Now adorned with 22 karat gold, coloration of the Goddess has begun with precious natural mineral pigments used as watercolor.  A burst of turquoise tiles frames the sun burst behind the head of the Goddess, whose nubile body is covered in a form-fitting dress ornamented with a turquoise pattern representing a net of shiny beads.  The Ankh sign of life, wig, and all jewelry elements include coloration of real lapis lazuli and jadeite.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Photo Essay: Hwt-Her the Golden One

"Hwt-Her Mistress of the Sky" after gilding with 22 karat gold

"There comes wine together with the Golden One,
And fills thy house with joy,
Live in intoxication day and night without end,
Be happy and carefree,
Whilst male and female singers rejoice and dance,
To prepare for thee a beautiful day."

                               - An ancient Egyptian festival song
                                  citing Hwt-Her as the "Golden One"(1)

Hwt-Her, Hathor, is a most ancient goddess whose original aspects include the epithet Nub, "the Golden One" or  Nubet (Nubt), "The Golden Lady"(2), which may have a number of associations and meanings.  It has been suggested that this name, aligning the Goddess with the most precious of metals, signifies immortality and eternity(3).  We know that Hwt-Her was in very ancient times venerated as the Mistress of the West, and in particular as the embodiment of the "Western Mountain"(4), the pyramidal peak looming over the western bank of Waset or Thebes, where the blessed dead were laid to rest.  In this capacity, Hwt-Her was a primary funerary goddess(5), a protectress of the Theban necropolis(6), and in this way we may see how the early Egyptians could have seen the Goddess as truly golden, the manifestation of a metal whose very gleam represented the indestructible power of the gods, the power of immortality.

Gold was always viewed as a divine substance by the Ancients, being held as the actual flesh or skin of the gods(7); however, it was especially venerated as the skin or body of Ra, and Hwt-Her, as the "Eye" or "Daughter of Ra" was, by extension, a "golden one", whose presence radiated with the pure golden sheen of the Sun-God(8).  As a representative of the vitality and potency of the Sun-God, Hwt-Her may have been styled as the Golden One as an indication of Her far-reaching power, which, like the sun, may dazzle or destroy with equal measure.  As the Eye of Ra, we should recall that Hwt-Her raged against the enemies of the Sun-God, nearly annihilating the human race(9).  Thus it is possible that "the Golden One" carries some of these more potent associations of the Goddess as an insurmountable force of protection.

Cult statues in ancient Egypt were often made of solid gold, but were in the very least covered in gold, which was certainly an embodiment of their power and emanation from the Sun-God(10).  In a funerary context, gold could be used to identify the deceased with the regenerative, undiminished power of the gods, such as in the solid gold burial mask of King Tutankhamun, the back of which contains magical texts associating the various attributes of the mask with a number of deities(11).

But as the festival song quoted above indicates, the Goddess Hwt-Her, "the Golden One", is called upon as a source of joy, intoxication, music and dance without end.  She is recognized as a bringer of these pleasures that make life worth living, and it is this "without end" that may impart to us the innermost meaning of the golden nature of this vibrant goddess.  As a funerary goddess, a mother and protectress of the blessed dead, Hwt-Her emerges from the side of the Western Mountain in the form of a cow, carrying between Her horns the face of the sun.  She is the bearer of the sun, but also the womb of the blessed dead, who are transformed into immortal beings through the benevolence of Hwt-Her.  She is a solar goddess, whose golden form passes on that golden nature, that indestructible power, to all those who pass through Her.  As the Eye of Ra She is the power of the Sun-God, but as "the Golden One" She becomes the Sun-God, a female form of Ra, Whose powers include giving new life to those who have traversed death.

Dr. C.J. Bleeker has asserted something similar in this same context, stating:

Nb (the Golden One) is therefore an apt qualification for a goddess whose imposing personality and inexhaustible strength give the impression that she defies temporariness and transcience.  Perhaps Hathor was given this epithet because gold glitters and because Hathor is described as a radiant figure in the texts.  thus a hymn speaks of "the epiphany of her beauty."  It is said of the deceased "thou shinest like Hathor." 

My icon of "Hwt-Her Mistress of the Sky" carries a strong solar context, and thus identifies the Goddess as both Eye and Daughter of the Sun-God Ra, Whose disk or face She carries between Her horns.  But She also maintains Her most important funerary associations as the sacred cow of the west, whose head is seen springing forth from the holy Peak of the West.  It was my aim in this icon to strongly suggest Hwt-Her's prominent epithet as "the Golden One" with my extensive use of 22 karat gold throughout the work.  As will be seen below, I have gilded all of the significant portions of Hwt-Her's regalia and symbols, including the sunburst directly behind Her face.  All of Her jewelry has received gilding, together with the hieroglyphs and emblems that summon the power of the Goddess and pay homage to Her divine beauty.

At the end of the day, it is the dazzling, glittering beauty of the Goddess that is the subject of this icon consecrated to Her.  She is the very face of the qualities of physical and spiritual beauty, pleasure, joy, and very much immortality, to which all human beings ultimately aspire.


1)  Bleeker, C.J.  Hathor and Thoth:  Two Key Figures of the Ancient Egyptian Religion.  Leiden, 1973, pp. 84.
2) Redford, Donald B.  The Oxford Essential Guide to Egyptian Mythology.  New York, 2002, pp. 158.
3) Bleeker, Ibid, pp. 26.
4) Redford, Ibid.
5) Ibid.
6) Wilkinson, Richard H.  The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt.  London,   2003, pp. 143.
7) Wilkinson, Richard H.  Symbol & Magic in Egyptian Art.  London, 1994, pp. 83.
8) Wilkinson, Richard H.  The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt.  London,   2003, pp. 140. 
9) Wilkinson, Ibid.
10) Wilkinson, Richard H.  Symbol & Magic in Egyptian Art.  London, 1994, pp. 83.
11) Reeves, Nicholas.  The Complete Tutankhamun: The King, the Tomb, the Royal Treasure.  New York, NY, 1990, pp. 114.