Barnaby Thieme's Reviews > Hathor Rising: The Power of the Goddess in Ancient Egypt

Hathor Rising by Alison  Roberts
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Aug 28, 2009

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bookshelves: egypt, religion-mythology
Read in September, 2009

I like this book and find it an enjoyable read, but the author has a very tough thesis to work with. Roberts wants to show a continuity and evolution of ideas centering around the goddess cult of Hathor, who represents a lively and vital expression of the life-force in both peaceful and wrathful guises. While her account is plausible on its face it's extremely difficult in working with Egyptian material to establish any one deity or theme as basic to a collection of stories.

The problem lies in the nature of Egyptian religious culture, which employs a diverse array of transitive symbols to articulate its theology and cosmology. Because of the numerous references and uses attached to any symbol or idea and the great willingness of Egyptians to redeploy old symbols in a new context with new meanings, one could make a persuasive argument that any deity one chooses is the fundamental agent or principle in many of the stories in which it appears.

Roberts does succeed in illuminating the history of the Hathor cult and does a fine job of presenting Egyptian religious culture through this particular lens. She does not, and in my mind cannot, succeed in displaying that Hathor had the status she imputes to the people who originally told these stories, however. In other words, this is a revisionist religious history which illuminates the priorities of its author more than it discloses the nature of the source material.
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