Differences between Sekhmet and Hathor
Hathor and Sekhmet are pivotal figures in Egyptian mythology, embodying contrasting aspects of life. Hathor, goddess of love and beauty, contrasts Sekhmet, the lioness deity of war and chaos, together illustrating the duality of existence in ancient Egyptian beliefs.
Hathor was one of the most famous and highly revered goddesses in ancient Egypt. She was the daughter of the sun god Ra and was commonly depicted as a cow, a woman with a cow’s head, or a woman wearing the headdress of a cow’s horns and a sun disk.
She was associated with many aspects of life, including love, beauty, music, motherhood, joy, and fertility. As a sky goddess, she was also sometimes identified as the mother of the celestial bodies, the sun and the moon.
Hathor was also associated with the afterlife. In the Pyramid Texts, she’s described as the mother of the pharaoh, who she nurses and takes to the afterlife after his death. She’s also portrayed as a protector of ordinary people in their journey to the afterlife, providing them with food and other support.
Sekhmet, whose name means “the powerful one,” was a lioness goddess, one of the oldest known Egyptian deities. She was depicted as a lioness or as a woman with the head of a lioness, often wearing a solar disk headdress.
Sekhmet was associated with war, chaos, and destruction, and was known as a fierce protector of the pharaohs. According to mythology, she came into being from the fire of Ra’s eye as a means of wreaking vengeance on humans for their disobedience. In a fit of rage, she nearly annihilated mankind but was tricked into drinking beer dyed red to resemble blood, which made her become inebriated and cease her rampage.
Their link to the Eye of Ra
In ancient Egyptian mythology, both Sekhmet and Hathor have a close relationship to the Eye of Ra, a powerful symbol associated with the sun god Ra, often embodying his feminine counterpart or daughter.
The Eye of Ra is frequently personified as a number of goddesses, including Sekhmet and Hathor, who each represent different aspects of the Eye’s characteristics.
Sekhmet is one of the most well-known forms of the Eye of Ra. She is often depicted as a lioness, the fiercest hunter known to the Egyptians. According to one myth, Ra sends his eye in the form of Sekhmet to punish humanity for its disobedience and disrespect. As the Eye of Ra, Sekhmet’s role was to bring Ra’s fiery vengeance down on humanity. She did this so well that she almost annihilated all of mankind, but was eventually tricked into stopping her rampage.
Hathor, on the other hand, represents the benign and life-giving aspects of the Eye of Ra. As the Eye, Hathor could be a protector and a provider of love, music, and joy. In the aftermath of Sekhmet’s rampage, Hathor was often invoked as the Eye to bring about healing and restoration.
Myth of the Distant Goddess
The duality of Hathor and Sekhmet as manifestations of the Eye of Ra represents the balance of mercy and punishment, creation and destruction, which were important aspects of the ancient Egyptian understanding of divine power.
This idea is most dramatically played out in the story of the Distant Goddess, a myth in which the Eye of Ra (in the form of Sekhmet or Hathor) goes out into the desert in a fit of rage, and must be coaxed back to civilization and transformed from a savage lioness into a peaceful cow.
Hathor in Egyptian Mythology
Goddess of: sky, women, fertility, music, love and joy
Meaning of the name: “Estate of Horus”
Consort: Ra, and sometimes Horus the Elder
Issue: Horus the Child
Symbols: Cow horns, turquoise, lion, sycamore tree, cobra
Worship places: Dendera Temple, Memphis
Epithets: “the Lady of Song”; “Atum’s hand”; “Mother of creation”; “the Driving force of Creation”; “the Golden One”; “the Mistress of Maidens”; “the Lady of the Sycamore”; and “Lady of Turquoise”
Depiction: A woman wearing the headdress of a sun disk and cow horns
Greek equivalent: Aphrodite
Roman equivalent: Venus