hathor dancers dancing priestesses ancient egypt

Hathor priesthood – priests and priestesses?

The strange ancient Egyptian bovine goddess Hathor was also strange in that her priesthood and temples had both male and females serving her. Other deities in Egypt usually had men or women but Hathor had both.

Why was the Cow God Hathor’s temples and worship suitable for both priest and priestess? Why did they have a High Priest or a High Priestess at the temple of Hathor in Dendera?

hathor cow goddess ancient egyptian priests priestess worship

A Hathor priestess could also be a prophetess and be known as a Prophet of Hathor.

Hathor’s servants were also priests and priestesses of the arts, crafts, entertainment … religious worship and acts of praise especially by the Hathoric dancers?

Were the items that became associated with Hathor’s temples, worship and priesthood just an evolution of the service or do they have a deeper meaning? The red cloth, the special Hathor menit necklace and the sistrum which was very exclusive to the goddess Hathor.

hathor priestess priestesses worship dance temple of dendera

What was Hathor representing?

Could they represent physical features and phenomenon that were visually associated with Hathor as seen in ancient Egypt’s skies?

Male and female priests and entertainers

Hathor’s cult was unusual, as both men and women were her priests (most Egyptian deities had clerics of the same gender as they).
Hathor | Thelemapedia

those priests were also dancers, singers, and other entertainers.
Hathor | Aldokkan

Priestesses of Hathor

The tomb belongs to Hetpet, who served as a priestess to Hathor, the goddess of fertility, music, and dance. While female priests weren’t common in ancient Egypt, Hathor’s priesthood included a number of priestesses.
See Inside the Tomb of a High-Powered Egyptian Woman | National Geographic

The Greek historian and traveller, Heredotus states: “No woman holds priestly office either in the service of the goddess or god, only men are priests in both cases.”

This is not strictly accurate, in fact women, do seem to have been able to hold priestly offices, from the Old Kingdom onwards. While it was not common for women to hold high ranking religious offices, it did occur frequently during various periods in Egyptian history.

During the Old Kingdom a large number of high-class women were priestesses of Hathor, with the priestly rank of hemet netjer. Hemet netjer was the feminine form of a common male priest title called hem netjer, which donated a type of priest within the temple hierarchy. This title seems to be in use until the Middle Kingdom. There were also women who ‘performed wab service for Hathor’ during the Olding Kingdom and received the same payment as male wab priests. The title used was wabet, which is from wab meaning ‘to be pure’
Women In Religion in Ancient Egypt | Per Ankh

Serving and worshipping Hathor through acts of …

hathor dancers dancing priestesses ancient egyptMany of them were dancers, actors, singers, artisans, musicians, and acrobats who turned their talents into creating rituals that were nothing short of works of art. Music and dance were part of the worship of Hathor like no other deity in Egypt. Belly dancing was considered especially sacred to Hathor.

… Hathor’s priestesses wore patterned red dresses, long red scarves, and beaded menat necklaces. The priestesses of Hathor were also oracles and midwives
Hathor | Cow of Gold

Also, a special kind or variant of the funeral dance dating to the Middle and New Kingdom was performed in honor of Hathor. It was characterized by leaping or skipping and was meant to celebrate the coming of that goddess. Hathor could represent the comely aspect of the dangerous Sekhmet, but she was also the goddess who met the dead at the entrance of the underworld. She was responsible for helping the deceased enter the underworld and was the main agent of their rebirth, so an appeal to her was recited or sung, accompanied by the clapping of hands and sticks and the use of other percussion instruments.
To Dance in Ancient Egypt | Tour Egypt

Prophet of Hathor

It is clear that social or economic status affected a womans opportunities to belong in these priesthoods, yet there was no sex discrimination with regard to holding the title of Prophet of Hathor. In fact, originally the priesthood of Hathor was predominantly female.

A woman in Hathor cults could even be priestess in more than one temple, and positions in the temple hierarchy were not inherited.
Women in Ancient Egyptian Religion In Old-New Kingdoms, Part I | Tour Egypt

She who unites with the Red Cloth

The weaving and presentation of cloth was part of the ritual in the cults of the goddess Hathor. An inscription at the temple of Dendera refers to women of priestly rank translated as ‘She who unites with the Red Cloth’.
Women In Religion in Ancient Egypt | Per Ankh

Hathor tattoos for priestesses

hathor tattoos priestess Amunet tattooed ancient egyptianThe most famous of these was discovered in Deir el-Bahari by French Egyptologist Eugène Grébaut in 1891. Dating from Dynasty XI (c.2134-1991 BC), a female mummy identified as Amunet, a Priestess of the goddess Hathor at Thebes, was found to have a number of tattooed markings on her body, which show striking correspondence with the patterns depicted on Middle Kingdom faience figurines …

A further 2 female mummies, described as ‘Hathoric dancers in the court of King Mentuhotep,’ were excavated from pits located very near to the tomb of Amunet in 1923. These women both bore similar body-markings to those of Amunet
Tattooing in Ancient Egypt Part 2: The Mummy of Amunet | University College London