Egyptian cow goddess. Daughter of Nut and Re. In early Egyptian mythology she was the mother of the sky god Horus, but was later replaced in this capacity by Isis. Hathor then became a protectress of Horus. She was depicted either as a cow or in human form wearing a crown consisting of a sun disk held between the horns of a cow.
Her name appears to mean “house of Horus”, referring to her role as a sky goddess, the “house” denoting the heavens depicted as a great cow. Hathor was often regarded as the mother of the Egyptian pharaoh, who styled himself the “son of Hathor”. Since the pharaoh was also considered to be Horus as the son of Isis, it might be surmised that this had its origin when Horus was considered to be the son of Hathor. Hathor took on an uncharacteristically destructive aspect in the legend of the Eye of Re. According to this legend, Re sent the Eye of Re in the form of Hathor to destroy humanity, believing that they were plotting aganist him. However, Re changed his mind and flooded the fields with beer, dyed red to look like blood. Hathor stopped to drink the beer, and, having become intoxicated, never carried out her deadly mission.
Hathor was often symbolized by the papyrus reed, the snake, and the Egyptian rattle known as the sistrum. Her image could also be used to form the capitals of columns in Egyptian architecture. Her principal sanctuary was at Dandarah, where her cult had its early focus, and where it may have had its origin. At Dandarah, she was particularly worshipped in her role as a goddess of fertility, of women, and of childbirth. At Thebes she was regarded as a goddess of the dead under the title of the “Lady of the West”, associated with the sun god Re on his descent below the western horizon. The Greeks identified Hathor with Aphrodite.