|"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.
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.