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Hwt-Her, Am I Under Your Western Sky?


The barren desert landscape of the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, about 1 mile from the town of West Wendover, Nevada.

NOTE: This feature was posted on the original Icons of Kemet Blogger blog on Friday, January 9, 2015.



What desolate voices have called me out

Beneath turquoise skies and wasted valleys?

To make love beneath Your embrace,

To empty my loins within Your intoxicating

Influence;

Hwt-Her, am I under Your Western sky?


Stars kiss the lapis vault without obstruction,


How far my eyes may behold Your grace.

O bovine gilt and wet with the Milky Way's

Lust, never spent, ever ambitious in Your

Holy light.


O moon, fresh, painted only in naked white

Veil, I stroke Your tender thighs, I sweeten

My tongue with Your beauty!

Hwt-Her, am I under Your Western sky?


When I kiss, make love, taste the nectar of

My true love's bud, I wonder at the

Passionate sweep of starlight, the horns of

The Celestial Cow prodding the noble Moon.


The desert, so ambitious, possesses my eyes

Relentlessly, and yet is Your favored cavern,

Where deep inside the miracle of life is

Renewed.

Hwt-Her, am I under Your Western sky?


-Original verses by Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa



The City of West Wendover, Nevada, stands about a mile from the famous Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway of Utah. It was very near here that the ill-fated Donner Reed party made its fateful crossing in 1846, first becoming victims of this treacherous desert landscape before the winter terrors they encountered in the Sierra-Nevada Mountains. As far as deserts go, this is as lonely, lifeless and dangerous as any, the Salt Flats reflecting and highlighting the intensity of the sun to such a degree that the scintillations read to the eyes as water, becoming a blinding silvery ocean whose mountains appear to be floating on water. This, then, is my new backyard, a dramatic desert vision with breathlessly beautiful sunsets, and nighttime skies that display the clearest map of the stars I have ever seen in my life. Enter Hwt-Her, a bovine goddess of stars and desert lands.


The ancient Egyptians saw their gods as living manifestations of the landscape surrounding them. The Nile Valley, its silty and fertile fields, its trees and verdant beauties were all experienced as the dwelling places of the Netjeru (or Gods). Kemet was the "Black Land" of the Nile Valley proper, where chaos was kept at bay by the annual inundation of the Nile; however, the deshret or "red land" of the desert, sweeping up from the Black Land in hungry dry cliffs and rugged peaks, was a terrible and powerful place both feared and honored by the Egyptians for its existence as a dwelling place of gods and spirits.


Among those supernatural beings to take their place in the deserts of the Egyptians was Hwt-Her or Hathor, a most ancient sky goddess who, from the beginning of Her worship, seems to have been linked to the constellations of the lapis-blue night sky, together with the barren deserts both domestic and foreign(1).


Censing the Goddess Hwt-Her in Her temple at Dendera. Tatiana Matveeva 2015


The dramatic desert landscape of northwestern Utah near the town of West Wendover.

Hwt-Her is a goddess of startling contrasts. We know that She was recognized as a goddess of potent sexuality and eroticism, which, paired with fertility and pregnancy, made Her one of ancient Egypt's most significant national deities(2). But the fertility and abundance She gives is matched only by the searing heat of Her power as the "Eye of Ra", a most dangerous and destructive manifestation of the Sun-God(3). It is not only the green breadbasket of the Nile Valley that comes beneath the patronage of Hwt-Her, but also the lonely desert mountains and mines of foreign lands(4). For whatever reason, the Ancients assigned to Hwt-Her the turquoise and copper mining operations of the Sinai, and the vital trade regions of Punt and Byblos(5). By extension, the commodities of these regions became emblematic of the bounty of Hwt-Her, which included minerals aside from precious turquoise and copper(6).


As a modern day Kemetic (or follower of the religion of Ancient Egypt), it has come very natural to me to view my world and personal experiences via the mirror of the Gods, and through the lens of the ancient Egyptian mind, which recognized divinity as emanating from the tangible, natural world in all its glories and terrors. When I gaze at my world through my Kemetic eyes, I see a world inhabited by living gods and Ancestral Spirits, and see natural phenomena as indications of an inner Spiritual reality.


West Wendover, Nevada, may at first glance appear to be very far from the Nile Valley and its very ancient religion, however, if one is thinking Kemetically, that is to say, if one is looking at one's world as the ancient Egyptians would have seen it, then one can quickly see in its amber, pyramidal peaks and tawny cliffs...in its stark desert beauty and dramatic geography, the same topography over which the Goddess Hwt-Her was seen to reign.


The Goddess Hwt-Her is seen in many ancient representations in the guise of a sacred cow emerging from a desert mountain, the Western Mountain (of Waset or Thebes), in fact, where the souls of the blessed dead came to be received by Her(7). One of Hwt-Her's more prominent epithets and identifications was as "Mistress of the West"(8), where She is seen as a beautiful lady carrying upon her head the falcon-mounted standard embodying the entire Western landscape. In the town of West Wendover, we have our own dominant mountain landscape, which bears a certain resemblance to the triangular peaks of Western Waset (or Thebes), which the Egyptians saw as the special domain of Hwt-Her as a funerary goddess.


The sharp and tawny peaks surrounding the town of West Wendover, Nevada

In the lonely Pilot Valley, Utah, the presence of the Goddess of the West can be clearly felt

Dusk falls on the pyramidal peaks above the Bonneville Salt Flats, northwestern Utah

Hwt-Her's association with mining and minerals may also be found in the landscapes surrounding West Wendover, near which exists the largest Potash producing mine in the United States, Intrepid Potash. Potash (potassium chloride) is an essential ingredient in the production of liquid fertilizers, and is thus used extensively in agriculture. This is certainly an association that would not be lost on the ancient Egyptians, who saw Hwt-Her's protection of mines and their minerals as a vital divine role, for which the Goddess was duly honored in ancient times(9).


As I look around me at the dramatic pyramid-shaped peaks, red and gold cliffs and flat stretches of pure desert, I cannot help but feel the very ancient presence of the Goddess Hwt-Her looking down upon us from Her sacred western peak. She is a goddess seen in the barren and dangerous desert as much as She is known in the green and fertile. As a sky goddess Hwt-Her may be represented by the Milky Way(10), which is seen very prominently if one stands at the Bonneville Salt Flats just outside West Wendover, where the city lights cannot obscure a startlingly clear view of the night sky. This desert domain may be thought of as part of a "wild West" culture and history, however, I have experienced it as a living embodiment of the ancient Egyptian landscape, where a very old goddess holds sway as the "Mistress of the Western Mountain" and "Mistress of the Sky".


Notes


1) Redford, Donald B. The Oxford Essential Guide to Egyptian Mythology. New York, 2002, pp. 158-159.

2) Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. London, 2003, pp. 141.

3) Wilkinson, Ibid., pp. 140.

4) Ibid, pp. 143.

5) Redford, Ibid., pp. 159. Also Wilkinson, Ibid., pp. 143.

6) Ibid.

7) Wilkinson, Ibid., pp. 143.

8) Redford, Ibid., pp. 158.

9) Wilkinson, Ibid., pp. 143.

10) Wilkinson, Ibid., pp. 140.

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