Hathor was worshipped as various cow goddesses in different parts of Egypt, but was early identified as Hathor of Denderah. She was represented as either a cow with a solar disc or a woman with cow horns between which was a solar disc. Sometimes she even appeared as a hippopotamus, although her epithet was always “the golden.” As a goddess of fertility, Hathor was at childbirths, and regarded as the tutelary deity of beauty, love, and marriage. Occasionally she was identified with Isis, the wife of Osiris.
According to one legend Re used Hathor to destroy mankind. When old and uncertain of his powers, Re thought men were plotting against him, so he dispatched the Eye of Re, in the form of Hathor, to eliminate the impious. But, unable to witness the total massacre of humankind, or changing his mind, Re flooded the earth with beer containing a coloring of red ochre to resemble blood. Entranced by the sight as well as her own reflection, Hathor forgot her awful task and became intoxicated. So humanity was speared.
By tradition Egyptian deities could assume seven to nine forms; Hathor adopted seven. In her aspect of mother goddess, she lived in the Tree of Heaven and nourished the souls of men. The Seven Hathors performed this office for the deceased and for the newborn. At the birth of every child the Hathors announced its fate, generally calling this Shai, but identifying it with Renenetwhen particularly favorable.
The Hathors were usually represented as a group of young women playing upon tambourines wearing the disc and horns of Hathor. In Ptolemaic times they were identified with the Pleiades. A.G.H.
Cotterell, Arthur, A Dictionary of World Mythology, New York, G. P. Putman’s Sons, 1980, p. 35
Ions, Veronuca, Egyptian Mythology, Feltham, Middlesex, Hamlyn Publishing Group, Ltd., 1968. p. 114