Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Preparing for Egypt, Part Ten (Temple of Hathor at Dendera)

We're going to see more than just this temple on this particular day of our journey, but there's enough to say about the Temple of Hathor at Dendera and enough to say about Nag Hammadi and the Osirieon that I've decided to split these into two posts.

Hathor first.

She is the goddess of music, joy, feminine love, and fertility. The ancient Greeks conflated her with Aphrodite and the Romans with Venus. As pictured in the columns of her temple above, she was often shown with a cow's head--cows gave life-giving milk, and she had other associations with the Milky Way and the constellations--but take note of her below and tell me what you see:

What I see is the female reproductive system. Her face is the uterus; upper forehead and ears the fallopian tubes and ovaries; and her neck is the vaginal canal. (This isn't my brilliant idea, by the way; I get this from John Anthony West discussing Egyptian symbology in his Magical Egypt series.)

The Egyptian New Year, which logically coincided with the annual inundation of the Nile River, was also celebrated at the Temple of Hathor at Dendera, so followers of her cult would make offerings to her and then carry her statue up to the roof of the temple. Yup. This is the only temple in Egypt in which you can walk around on the roof. There's even a shrine to Osiris on the roof. But the best, most awesome thing is--well, it's a plaster cast of the original, since the original is in the Louvre--a disc known as the Zodiac of Dendera. This is the first known representation of the stars in the Zodiac in ancient Egypt. Here's what it looks like:

The original's up top and a drawing of the signs below. Interestingly, Virgo appears to be Isis and the crab for Cancer is a scarab beetle.

Now, there's one more thing about the Temple of Hathor that I want to mention and that I have read is closed off to the public.Whether that's true we shall see. But it's a crypt featuring the famous "Dendera Light." Here's a photo of it:

Now, I can't say what that really is--and there are plenty of theories, the usual one being that it's a lotus plant with a serpent inside, or it's a lotus plant surrounded by a bubble of air, representing its fragrance, so it held religious meaning--but ... well, not to get all "ancient aliens" on you or anything, but they sure do look like two large light bulbs. Is that beyond the realm of possibility? Maybe, maybe not. We do know about the Baghdad Battery and that yes, it worked (not amazingly well, but it did produce electricity.) Since the Temple of Hathor at Dendera was also added to during the reign of the Ptolemies (one wall has a relief of Cleopatra and her son by Caesar), there's no reason to think the Persians could have had such technology at that time and the Egyptians not. Of course, these "light bulbs" look nothing like the Baghdad Battery, which basically looked like a jar. Then again, these could be big "jars" and the snake (representing light) be a filament of some sort. I don't know--I'm just throwing it out there. Perhaps, if we're able to see it, our guide will have something to say about it.

And then we'll get back on the bus and keep on rolling north towards Abydos.

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