We praise the Golden One,
the Lady of Heaven, Lady of Fragrance,
Eye of the Sun, the Great Goddess,
Mistress of All the Gods,
Lady of Turquoise, Mistress of Joy, Mistress of Music...
that she may give us fine children,
happiness, and a good husband.
--Epithets of Hathor, compiled from various sources
These are epithets of Hathor, one of Egypt's most ancient and important goddesses. So what in the world does she have to do with anything? Well, I've had some questions about where the "nebut" part of my blog address comes from. Really, it's mainly a matter of practicality. If you've ever tried to come up with a unique email or internet URL, you know what I'm talking about. It's not as if I could just use "Amber" or any other combination of my name--they're all taken! What I usually do in such situations is rely on Middle Egyptian, the language of ancient Egypt. Usually there aren't too many people out there who incorporate ancient Egyptian words into their cyber addresses. And so I chose the word "nebut," or "golden one" or "that which is golden" or "one who is golden." (It is pronounced "neboot.") Considering my blond hair, I thought it appropriate, and I've always liked Hathor, who was popularly known as "the Golden One" to the Egyptians. That said, I thought I'd tell you a bit about her.
Often Hathor was shown in human form as a woman, sometimes wearing a red sheath dress and a crown surmounted by a sun disk between cow horns. In human form, she's hard to distinguish from another great goddess of ancient Egypt, Isis. (The identities of these goddesses often merge or mix anyway, which makes things even more confusing.) But she can also be represented in bovine form as the "great wild cow" or as a composite human-cow face. In her aspect of "the Golden One," she was a radiant and resplendent goddess (here you can see how she and I share some of the same qualities) said to accompany the sun god Re on his daily journey across the sky in the solar barque. As the daughter and "Eye" of the sun god, she was also a vengeful goddess. In one of Egypt's myths, Hathor's rage and vengeance nearly destroyed mankind. (Again, as Eric may attest, Hathor and I might have a bit in common...)
She was also a sky goddess and was closely associated with women, female sexuality, and motherhood. Closely related to this role was her aspect of goddess of joy, music, and happiness. After all, if you have love, joy, music, and happiness usually follow, right? So, if you think about it, the association isn't all that strange. The Egyptians also saw her as a goddess of foreign lands, a protective deity who would look out for you if you were traveling abroad. As "mistress of the west" (i.e. where the sun sets, the land of the dead), she was thought to welcome the deceased into the afterlife, offering them refreshing water to quench their thirst and purify them for life after death.
All of these roles and titles paint a picture of an ancient goddess that it is impossible to reduce to a few divine forms or aspects, so it's difficult to neatly define her place in ancient Egyptian religion.
...And that concludes today's Egyptology lesson!