Hathor

🏷  Egyptian divine name pun · name   —   by Gerry · Apr 2021 · 1436 words

The Egyptian goddess Hathor is one of the most contradictory deities: She is the goddess of beauty, love & festivities, and described as a “heavenly cow”. But in her most famous story, she massacres rebellous humans and drinks what she thinks is their blood. As usual, the explanation is punnery: Hathor puns with ḫwt-wr “heavenly cow”, but also with ḫȝyt-ḫrw “slaughtering rebels”. Hathor was created from puns, and very different things often sound similar.

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Hathor’s puns in a nutshell

The name Hathor is written ḥwt-ḥr , either with the glyphs 𓉗𓁷 house-face, or with the combined glyphs 𓉡 house-Horus. Both spellings are interpreted to mean “house of Horus” (Horus puns with “face”). But that explanation is garbage: Hathor is not associated or depicted with Horus anywhere. And why would a goddess be called a “house”, if she has nothing to do with houses?

Rather, all aspects and attributes of Hathor are puns with her name. Like all gods, she was created from puns. In Hathor’s case, all her attributes follow the pattern H-T-H-R. Because the 2nd component H-R puns with “Horus”, Hathor borrows many attributes from Horus.

Hathor as pun with “heavenly cow”

Hathor is identified with the so-called Heavenly Cow. The Book of the Heavenly Cow is a story found on several tomb walls. In this story, humans plot against Ra, and he has them slaughtered by the cow. To end the slaughtering, Ra has beer dyed red like blood, which is then drunk by the cow, getting her drunk.

Very little in this story seems to match Hathor’s other attributes as goddess of love & festivities. Why is Hathor a heavenly cow which butchers human rebels?

It’s not a pun, but 4 puns:

This is why a “heavenly cow” slaughters rebels, even though cows are not typically the ones doing the slaughtering. And it’s also why Hathor slaughters rebels, even though she is the goddess of love, festivities and childcare. Punnery always trumps logic.

Egyptian ỉḥt = cow; ḥrw = heaven

𓇋𓎛𓏏𓃒 ỉḥt : cow — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓁷𓂋𓏭𓇯𓈒 ḥrw : sky, heaven — Egyptian (Vygus)

Egyptian ỉḥt = cow; ḥrw = heaven

𓄿𓉔𓏏𓃒 ȝht : cow — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓁷𓂋𓏭𓇯𓈒 ḥrw : sky, heaven — Egyptian (Vygus)

Egyptian ḫwt = heaven; wr = cow

𓐍𓂤𓏏𓇯 ḫwt : sky, heaven — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓅨𓈞𓃾 wr : cow, bull — Egyptian (Vygus)

Egyptian ḫȝyt = slaughter, massacre; ḫrw = rebel, enemy

𓆼𓄿𓇋𓏏𓀒𓏥 ḫȝyt : slaughter, massacre — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓆼𓇋𓇋𓀐 ḫȝyt : heap of corpses — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓐍𓂋𓅱𓀐 ḫrw : rebel, enemy, vile — Egyptian (Vygus)

Hathor as pun with “mirror”

Hathor is often depicted from a front perspective, as if looking into a mirror, and actual mirrors were fashioned with her face on it. This is because her name puns with ḫtỉ-ḥr “looking at a mirror” / “returned face”.

Egyptian ḫtỉ, ḫtḫt = see, behold, return; ḥr = mirror, face

𓆱𓐍𓏏𓁻 ḫtỉ : see, behold — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓆱𓐍𓏏𓆱𓐍𓏏𓂽 ḫtḫt : turn back, return, nullify, reverse (a contract), come and go (of pain), annul — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓁷𓏤𓍼 ḥr : mirror — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓁷𓏤 ḥr : face, sight, front, facade, mask, surface (of building), attention, head, mind — Egyptian (Vygus)

Hathor as pun with “festivities”

Hathor is the goddes of festivities, because her name puns with “festivities”: hȝy means “cheering”, and the T-nominalization hȝy.t is translated as “festivities”. hrw means “pleasing”, so hȝy.t-hrw are “joyful festivities”.

Egyptian hȝy.t = festivity; hrw = pleasing

𓉔𓄿𓇋𓇋𓏏𓂻𓄤𓆑𓂋𓏏𓊖 hȝyt nfr : festivity, merrymaking — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓉔𓄿𓇋𓇋𓀁 hȝy : rejoice, cheer; joy; gladness — Egyptian (TLA)

𓉔𓂋𓏛 hrw : to be pleased; to be pleasing; to be at peace; to be content — Egyptian (TLA)

𓉔𓂋𓏛 hrw : be pleased, satisfied, content, be quiet, at peace — Egyptian (AED)

Hathor as pun with “sexual pleasures”

Hathor is also the goddess of sexuality & love. That’s probably a pun with ḥˤwt-hrw “pleasing enjoyment” / ḥˤt-hrw “pleasures of the flesh” / ḥȝwt-hrw “naked pleasures”. I suppose the Ancient Egyptians were not as stiff as they’re depicted on the reliefs.

(Another Egyptian love goddess is Qetesh, who perhaps puns with ḥˤwt-sȝ “satisfying pleasures”.)

Egyptian ḥˤwt, ḥˤt, ḥwt, ḥȝt = pleasure, flesh, wife, desire; hr = pleasing, happy

𓇉𓄿𓇋𓇋𓏏𓋳𓏪 ḥȝwt : nakedness, nudity — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓎛𓂝𓏏𓏤𓄻𓏫 ḥˤt : body, flesh, frame, limbs, members, self — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓄂𓏏𓏭𓄣𓏤 ḥȝty : heart, wish, desire — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓎛𓂝𓄻𓄻𓄻 ḥˤt : body, flesh, frame — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓎛𓂝𓅱𓏏𓀠𓏪 ḥˤwt : pleasure, joy, jubilation — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓎛𓅱𓏏𓐎𓏥 ḥwt : wife, mistress — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓉔𓂋𓏛 hrw : to be pleased; to be pleasing; to be at peace; to be content — Egyptian (TLA)

𓉔𓂋𓏛 hr : to be pleasing, soothing, to be content, be happy — Egyptian (Vygus)

Hathor as pun with “veiled face”

Hathor puns with “veiled face” in 2 ways:

Egyptian ḥȝyt = covering; ḥr = face

𓇉𓄿𓇋𓇋𓏏𓋳 ḥȝyt : bandage, dressing, covering — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓁷𓏤 ḥr : face, sight — Egyptian (AED)

Egyptian ḥȝwt = face; ḥr = mask

𓄂𓏏𓏥 ḥȝwt : face, countenance — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓁷𓏤 ḥr : mask — Egyptian (Hannig)

Hathor as pun with “secret agent”

This is very speculative, but Hathor may be a spook pun with ḥwwtỉ-ḥr “masked messenger”, which could have been another way to say “undercover agent” or “secret agent”.

In the Book of the Heavenly Cow, Ra defeats the rebellous humans by sending out a heavenly cow against them, who proceeds to butcher them. In reality there’s no such thing, so we have to wonder what the ancient spook authors meant by that parable. Most of Hathor’s other puns are also not suited for defeating rebels. However, secret agents amidst the population could easily turn rebels against each other. We see the very same strategy employed in the spooky parable beneath the story of Noah, where spies among the population are described to whip up a civil war in Genesis 7:11, Genesis 7:12, Genesis 8:2.

One additional hint may be that Hathor’s wpt-wrt “horns-Uraeus” headgear also puns with wpwty-hȝrṯṯ “secret agent”. (They also pun with wp.t-ȝrt “heavenly cow”, said in yet another way, though that doesn’t help.)

However, to really confirm or refute the suspected “secret agent” pun, an more in-depth analysis of the Heavenly Cow story would be needed.

Egyptian ḥwwtỉ = messenger; ḥr = face, veil

𓎛𓅱𓏏 ḥwwtỉ : messenger — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓁷𓏤 ḥr : face, sight, front, facade, mask, surface — Egyptian (Vygus)

Egyptian wp = cow, horn; wpwty = messenger, agent

𓄋𓊪𓏴𓃒𓏪 wp : horned cattle, milk cow — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓄋𓊪𓏏 wpt : horns, top, brow, crown, parting, topknot, headdress, top, zenith — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓄋𓊪𓅱𓏏𓏭𓂻𓀀 wpwty : messenger, agent, commissioner, bystander — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓄋𓊪𓏲𓅂𓂻𓏥 wpwtyw : envoys, agents — Egyptian (Vygus)

Egyptian wrt = Uraeus; ȝrt = heaven; hȝrṯṯ = secret

𓅨𓂋𓏏𓆗 wrt : great one; Uraeus snake — Egyptian (TLA)

𓄿𓂋𓏏𓇯 ȝrt : Heaven, sky — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓉔𓄿𓂋𓏤𓅷𓏤𓅷𓏤𓁻 hȝrṯṯ : secret, private — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓉔𓄿𓂋𓏤𓅷𓏤𓅷𓏤𓁻 hrṯṯ : to do stealthily — Egyptian (Vygus)

🏷  Egyptian divine name pun · name