• Katlyn Roberts

The Ancient Egyptian Book of Gender

Updated: Jan 28, 2020

Be them all, henny! They're magic!

Photo by Dennis Sylvester Hurd on Flickr.

There’s a temple in Egypt, near Dendera, devoted to the Goddess Hathor.

Hathor’s my girl, ok? Not only do we have the same cute-as-hell, shoulder-length, “bisexual-chic” haircut right now, but I’m a double Taurus (sun and moon signs) and I’m suuuper into astrology in the sense that I have a horoscope app on my phone that I open when I’m bored or on the toilet. Hathor is basically Taurus.

Hathor represents joy, love, music, dance, sexuality, maternal care, and giving birth. She’s often depicted as a cow or as a woman with a crown of cow horns and two cow ears poking out of her hair (conspiracy theorists refer to these as her “alien ears”).

Fun fact: At another temple in Philae, the pillars are topped with the carved faces of Hathor. If you walk down the row of pillars, you’ll notice that her expression gradually transforms from distressed to blissful, or blissful to distressed, depending on the direction you’re walking. It’s said that this is a depiction of the goddess giving birth, but I like to think of it as PMS.

The temple of Hathor in Dendera is covered with carvings of Hathor as a goddess of the night sky. There’s even a birthing chamber where women who gave birth would look up at the ceiling and see a stunning image of Hathor giving birth …not to a baby, but to herself. Or to her other form, at least. She’s breathing life both from her mouth and from her womb.

Hardcore ancient Egyptian mythology geeks might be thinking right now — “Ahem. That’s not Hathor giving birth to herself. That’s the goddess Nut, goddess of the night sky, giving birth to Hathor.”

And I’m going to respond, quite obnoxiously, that by the time the temple at Dendera was built, they had evolved into one goddess. Gods and goddesses blended together over time for the purpose of conflating two or more concepts. Horus the falcon god had become the masculine god of the day sky and Hathor the cow goddess had become the feminine goddess of the night sky. Their two temples, Hathor’s in Dendera and Horus’s in Edfu, are nearly symmetric twins.

Every god or goddess is an archetype. Eventually, Judaism blended every archetype into one God. This could have been a lovely metaphor for the idea that every one of us has every archetype within ourselves, but things didn’t really turn out that way, unfortunately. It does, however, offer kind of a fun explanation for the many instances in the old testament when God contradicts himself. How very human of him.

(To read the rest of this article, check it out where it was originally published in Initiate Abroad.)

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