From ancient times to the present day, Africa’s collective imagination has to one degree or another been influenced by the leopard as a symbol of its cultural and spiritual potency. The black panther is the melanistic color variant of leopards in Africa, so perhaps the phenomenal success of the movie of the same name can be used as a current barometer of that potency. North, south, east, west, and diaspora – the leopard is a powerful symbol of African warriors, sages, magicians, priests, gods, goddesses, queens, and kings. In West Africa, sculptures from Ife and Benin portray the leopard as a symbol of wisdom. This statue from ancient North Africa depicting King Tutankhamun riding through the underworld on the back Read More
“Great, another broken white boy for us to fix!” One of several funny lines from Black Panther delivered by Shuri in reference to CIA Agent Everett Ross. “What the hail!” My line when I left the theater on President’s Day with mixed feelings about the movie, but mostly about the droplets of ice which had just begun falling from LA’s South Bay skies onto my African head-wrap. Was this a sign? Movie promos had gone hard with Gil Scott Heron’s classic The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, I mused while trying to extract pieces of the odd weather from my son’s fro for inspection. But why not build a strategic alliance between African cousins rather than having T’Challa, in true bourgeois liberal fashion, make a Wakanda charity-case out of Killmonger’s Oakland after the fact? Mom, it’s not your story… Huh?! Read More
In African oral tradition we have a communication concept surrounding the power of the word to generate and/or aesthetize life. In BaNtu culture, this is referred to as Nommo. This same concept in Khemet was referred to as Hekau – “words of power” which were key to the alkhemical authority of god-as-magician. Often viewed as the female version of Djehuti (Khemet’s god of magical arts and foremost scribe of the gods) goddess Seshat accompanied Khemet’s widowed Queen Auset in guarding murdered King Ausar‘s reconstituted and mummified corpse to ensure that he would go on to become God of the afterlife. Read More
Ausar, god of the afterlife whom many believe holds the seven heavenly stars in his glorified form in the Hunter constellation, was said to have had a great passion for song and dance during his popular reign in Kemet. So much so that he recruited several African Muses to accompany him on a tour to teach the legendary Nile Valley arts of cultivation throughout Asia and Europe, and always had a troupe of musicians back at his court. These Muses became Goddesses in Kemet, but the later Greek conquest of Ausar’s kingdom led to their colonial conversion and subjugation under Apollo Musagete – “Apollo, Leader of the Muses” – of the Olympian world. Read More
I didn’t grow up a comic-book super-fan (more like occasional reader), nor grew to become enticed by Hollywood’s silver-screen adventures of super-heroes from the big-3 comic-book universes: Marvel, DC, and X-Men. Marvel’s recently-released trailer for the Black Panther movie (set for release on February 16th, 2018) may just have changed all that. Read More
~ Posted in honor of African-American Music Appreciation Month, June 2017 ~
“The artist is meant to put the objects of this world together in such a way that through them you will experience that light, that radiance which is the light of our consciousness and which all things both hide and, when properly looked upon, reveal. The hero journey is one of the universal patterns through which that radiance shows brightly.” [Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss] Read More
The biggest night in show business is the annual Academy Awards show which pulls in a television viewing audience of 40 million (give or take). It’s where the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (founded in the 1920s) recognizes the merits of its most talented artists/craftspeople and honors them with a golden idol, a statue whose nick-name Oscar means ‘divine spear.’ The specter of Hollywood as an ideological battlefield where dreams and stories as cultural artifacts fight, bleed and die for acceptance in the dream factory run by mainstream [white] gods is not farfetched from the industry’s competitive, often cut-throat reality. Harsher still are the ironic implications of the Oscar award itself whose form Read More
Hwt-hr is the Kemetic version of Hathor, meaning ‘Mansion of Heru.’ Indeed, as Heru’s divine consort, Hathor is regarded as the sky in which he – as the sun god and “Djedi Sky Walker”/ Dancer – dwells. Hathor is worshipped as goddess of music, dance, beauty, fertility, childbirth, women, children and foreign lands who personifies feminine love, joy, motherhood, and nature in general. Women particularly aspired to embody this deeply loved goddess’s conjoined roles as wife, mother, and lover which gained Hathor the titles of ‘Lady of the House of Jubilation’, as well as ‘The One Who Fills the Sanctuary with Joy’.
The depictions detailed in some of the most ancient and venerated temples that were built on and with her African earth testify to goddess Hathor’s similar regard as the Mansion of Heru in the heavens. One of the earliest temples of worship to Hathor was built in Dendera (Upper Kemet) during the first Intermediate period. Inside this particular site, where Hathor was worshipped as ‘Mistress of Dendera’ there are stone reliefs on the walls, which some have argued illustrate that electricity was harnessed in Kemetic times. Originally accessible only to high priest initiates, the accompanying texts warn about the potential abuse of the energy and wisdom depicted on these reliefs. Resembling a light bulb, the Dendera light reliefs alternatively depict the Hermopolis myth of creation in which the lotus flower from the primordial sea of Nun gives birth to the sun god, Atum-Ra – represented by the emerging snake. The surrounding bulb/bubble represents the field of the universe within which this creative process occurs.
Dendera, Hathor‘s main cult site, was where she was considered to be the mother as well as consort of Horus of Edfu. Subsequent temple (and chapel) sites dedicated to Hathor include the Hathor Chapel at the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, and the Temple of Hathor and Ma’at at Deir el-Medina – both in Luxor’s West Bank; the Temple of Hathor at Philae Island, Aswan; and the Temple of Hathor at Timna Valley, Israel. Popular with commoners and royalty alike throughout the ancient world, evidence of devotion to this goddess – before her attributes were absorbed by goddess Auset – also abounds in the Giza Valley Temple of Khafre, as well as in the Luxor Temple of Amun~Mut~Montu/Khonsu (“Triad of Waset“).
Built as mansions of the gods, the sacred architecture and décor of Kemetic temples adhere to sound philosophical principles that facilitate humanity’s connections on earth to the higher consciousness of the heavens. Hathor’s goddess aspects inform the design details in the afore-mentioned temples, each a 5-D mansion that speaks in symbol, proportion, volume, harmony, and time – asking us to solve the human-divine puzzle in our inner/understanding and outward exaltations. Indeed, the Luxor Temple – in which several proverbs surrounding the cardinal concept of “KNOW THY SELF” are inscribed – was built in the idealized proportions of a human frame to help facilitate the discovery that within us are written all the laws of the universe.
Referred to as the “Temple in Man,” the Luxor Temple – constructed circa 1400BCE – is sectioned out (see aerial perspective above) in R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz’s research to correlate architecturally with our human anatomy (see book cover right). Among the many fascinating details that are brought to light is the scene illustrated within the ‘throat’ area of Luxor Temple’s architectural interiors depicting a special communication taking place between Amun and his consort, goddess Mut. The surrounding transcriptions indicate that in this conversation Amun is informing his beloved that she will give birth to the divine king. This declaration by Amun [1350 BCE] was appropriated in much later biblical accounts of the “Annunciation” in which an angel (“Gabriel”) announces that a virgin (“Mary”) will conceive and become the mother of a divine savior (“Jesus”) who is the son of God. Christianity’s version thus recast and rescripted this and other key details of the Nativity play from the original mythology inscribed in the Luxor Temple. Though Khonsu is the son of the Triad of Waset, it’s Heru in the related African Trinity who plays the role of “savior” in original mythologies.
The Hypostyle Hall (pictured above) – the ‘lung’/moon section in the Luxor Temple per Schwaller’s architectural reading – is designed to represent the papyrus swamp in the same mythology where goddess Hathor safeguards and nourishes the child Heru until he comes of age to avenge his father Ausar’s murder against evil Set and restore the throne of Kemet to him (Heru) as Ausar’s rightful heir. Schwaller’s research of the sacred architecture and lessons also reveal that the architectural design elements of later Christian Coptic churches were appropriated from the section of this same magnificent Luxor Temple that correlates to the ‘heart’/sun.
Hathor’s Temple at Dendera, referred to as the “Womb of Time” is where her birthday is celebrated on the day Sopdet (‘Sirius’ in Greek) first rises in the sky, heralding the annual inundation of the Nile = the New Year. As the “Sovereign/Lady of the Stars,” Hathor was the ultimate sky goddess whose priestesses and priests sang, danced, and entertained in their rituals of worship to her. The architectural details and décor of this ancient Dendera temple immortalize Hathor as the Sky Mansion of Heru… Goddess of Fertility… and Goddess of Music… among other attributes. The temple columns which stand on the earth (constituted by the floor) and hold aloft the skies (regarded in the ceiling) represent the shaft of the sistrum – Hathor’s celebratory musical instrument.
The face of Hathor as Fertility Goddess displayed at the top of each column is designed to represent the female creative organ of the uterus in its triangular shape, with the elongated ears evident as the fallopian tubes. Because of the ways in which dance and sexuality incarnated in Hathor, she became known by other epithets such as Lady of the Vulva and Hand of God. As such, Hathor‘s attributes as the divine feminine correlate with the dynamics of oral tradition in the organic drama through which life comes into being from an Africa-centered perspective. Heru – her masculine consort in this existential drama – does his share in holding up the skies of Heaven, as illustrated in the ceiling decor of Hathor‘s Temple, aka the earthly Mansion of Heru at Dendera:One of several hymns to Hathor performed at this Dendera Temple says: “Thou art the Mistress of Jubilation, the Queen of the Dance, the Mistress of Music, the Queen of the Harp Playing, the Lady of the Choral Dance, the Queen of Wreath Weaving, the Mistress of Inebriety Without End.”
Historic renderings of goddess Hathor often depict her in the image of a cow, the sun disc and uraeus (rearing cobra emblem of divine authority) within its subtending horns acting symbolically to clarify her significance and status. However despite her legendary popularity and importance, Hathor is a prime example of how the Kemetic tradition merges deities over time in order to advance or evolve their complementary mythologies. She herself supplanted Bat, a cow-goddess representing the source of nourishment; and became interchangeable with cat-goddess Bast (goddess of music, dance, joy, protection, family and love).
As a spiritual metaphor, the cow represents the Milky Way, the heavenly configuration of the Nile River that was so essential to the existence and sustainment of the sacred wisdom and philosophical belief systems that evolved within the Ma’atrix of Africa’s Nile Valley. Hathor‘s “Celestial Nurse” role as mother/giver and nurturer of life to Heru and her association with the Milky Way over time became attributed to Auset. Renderings of Hathor wearing a cow-horned crown while holding the suckling infant Heru on her lap thus became interpreted as Auset – wife of Ausar and mother of Heru – which were later supplanted by Christian iconography and its appropriated mythologies.
Auset is said to be the more merciful goddess, whereas Hathor pursues her goals with a single-minded fervor which – when driven by anger – turns her into the leonine warrior goddess, Sekhmet. As such Hathor becomes the Eye of Re – defender of the sun god to whom, in this form, she is regarded as daughter/mother/ consort – preventing chaos from agents of disorder that threaten his rule… her aspect as Ma’at. It is an iteration of the epic saga of Heru in the restoration of righteous authority and order against the evil and chaos of usurper Set. The ancient Book of the Heavenly Cow tells a story about Sekhmet‘s role at the end of the 28-year war that was fought to unify Upper and Lower Kemet and begin the Middle Kingdom era. In this story it is said that so strong was Sekhmet’s blood-lust during her rage-fueled rampage of slaughter against enemies of Re in the Lower Kingdom that the only way she could be made to stop and return to her gentle form as Hathor was by becoming intoxicated from drinking vast amounts of crimson-colored beer that Re poured on the ground to resemble blood.
Central to Kemetic concepts of the female divinity, the Eye of Re was associated with other goddesses, notably Mut – consort to Amun – who’d take on the typical leonine form in this warrior aspect. Since each of the falcon-headed god Heru‘s eyes were respectively equated with the sun and the moon, his solar (right) eye was the one referred to as the Eye of Re, whereas the lunar (left) one was referred to as the Eye of Heru. Hathor – “Lady of the southern Sycamore” – is said to have used milk from her sacred tree to restore sight to Heru‘s lunar eye after his legendary bruising battle against Set. “His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk and fitly set.” [KJV – SoS 5:12] Similar to Mut in regard to her status as a tree deity (thus Djed pillar) Hathor was sometimes depicted handing out water to the deceased from her Sycamore. As ‘Lady of the West’ (the direction of the setting sun) Hathor was said to protect and assist the dead in their final journey, and often appears on sarcophagi.
Associated with dream-interpretation, fate and prophetic knowledge of every person’s life from birth through their death, protection from evil, and help in matters of love, this divine-feminine Mansion of Heru/ Hero may thus also thus be regarded as Hathor of the Ma’atrix = ‘Goddess of the S/Hero’s Journey’ which enjoins each and every one of us in our lifetimes. The ‘Seven Hathors’ (illustrated) – worshipped in seven cities, including Waset where the triad of Amun~Mut~Khonsu was preeminent – are said to be present in human form at the birth of a child, but are accompanied by the sky-bull in their cow form in a funerary context where they are believed to nourish and protect the deceased from harm.
“Nitakungojea Milele” ♥ …RIP Al Jarreau (3/12/40 ~ 2/12/17)
“Sky God… God of Hunting… Warrior God… Lord of the Horizon… Divine Falcon… He who came forth from Hapi [Africa’s Nile God]… Dweller in Sopdet [Star of Auset]… God of Kingship… Heir of his Father…” are some of the epithets ascribed to Heru, one of Africa’s most storied gods of salvation. Heru‘s hunting prowess is represented in the falcon or hawk whose right and left eyes respectively denote the sun and moon; and who is said to hold the stars in his speckled feathers as his wings create the wind. The circumstances of Heru’s placement in the Holy Trinity which includes Ausar (his father) and Auset (his mother), and his triumphant role in the battle against evil [Set]
“Pyramids are universal symbols of the human Self.” This statement caught my attention in the book entitled King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine by Robert Moore (Jungian psychologist) and mythologist Douglas Gillette [NY: Harper Collins, 1990]. As I searched for how that was meant (“pyramid” as abstract geometric template, or as African architectural wonder and cultural treasure?) I got caught up instead in the discussion of masculine archetypes, one for each face of the pyramid. King, Warrior, Magician, Lover – the “mature” (men) archetypes – make up their own pyramid, but each has its “immature” (boy) correlates which make up a smaller pyramid within. Unfortunately for society, according to the scholars, “the devastating fact is that most men are fixated at an immature level of development.” Read More