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Musical Deities - BES., ISIS AND OSIRIS., THE HYMN TO THE ATEN, SOURCES

temple hathor egypt egyptian

HATHOR AND IHY.

The Egyptians associated the deities Hathor, her son Ihy, Bes, Isis, and Osiris with music. Egyptians honored the goddess Hathor and her son Ihy at her temple in Dendera as the deity of the sistrum and the menat , rattles played primarily by women during worship of the gods. Hathor’s temple in Dendera has a roof supported by columns shaped like sistra. One of the sanctuaries in the temple is known as the “shrine of the sistrum.” In the crypts below the temple there are relief sculptures of sistra that were specially decorated and part of the temple’s treasure. Hathor’s son, Ihy, also was depicted in the Dendera temple playing the sistrum.


BES.


The god Bes has associations with music in the temple and in the home. In the temple of Philae in southern Egypt, relief sculptures of Bes depict him playing the harp, playing the frame drum, and dancing in honor of Hathor. In the home Bes was associated with childbirth. The combination of the two areas—music and childbirth—explains why the goddesses who act as midwives in the story found in Papyrus Westcar disguised themselves as musicians. Furthermore some musicians in New Kingdom paintings bear a tattoo of the god Bes.


ISIS AND OSIRIS.


Isis and Osiris had no real connection with music according to Egyptian traditions. Yet Greek and Roman traditions about Egypt closely associated them with Egyptian music. By the time that Greek philosophers and historians like Plato (427–347 B.C.E. ) took an interest in Egyptian music, Isis and Hathor had merged in the minds of many people. Thus as the religion of Isis and Osiris spread across the Mediterranean Sea, Isis took with her some of Hathor’s associations with music, along with the reputation given to her by Plato—that she had established all the forms of Egyptian music. In Apuleius’ Latin novel Metamorphoses , written in the second century C.E. , Isis transforms the hero Lucius from an ass or donkey back into a man with the use of a sistrum. The Greek writer Plutarch (45–125 C.E. ) recorded that Osiris ruled the world by the power of his reason and his music. In reality, the Egyptians themselves called Osiris the Lord of Silence and forbade music during his worship except during one joyous ceremony called the Raising of the Djed Pillar. Plutarch also preserved the tradition that the trumpet could not be played at Osiris’ temple at Busiris because its sound reminded the god of his evil brother, Seth, sometimes represented as an unidentified animal who could make a similar sound.


THE HYMN TO THE ATEN


INTRODUCTION : The Hymn to the Aten is attributed to King Akhenaten. In this hymn Aten receives credit for all creation, and this extract specifically includes music as part of Aten’s ritual.


SOURCE : “Akhenaten,” in Music and Musicians in Ancient Egypt . Trans. Lisa Manniche (London: British Museum Press, 1991): 93.


SOURCES


Robert D. Anderson, “Music and Dance in Pharaonic Egypt,” in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East. Ed. Jack M. Sasson (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1995): 2555–2568.


Lisa Manniche, Music and Musicians in Ancient Egypt (London: British Museum Press, 1991).

Musical Instruments - TYPES OF INSTRUMENTS., PERCUSSION., WIND INSTRUMENTS., STRINGED INSTRUMENTS:HARPS., STRINGED INSTRUMENTS:LYRES AND LUTES. [next] [back] Music During the Reigns of Akhenaten and Nefertiti - MUSIC AT THE PALACE WOMEN’S QUARTERS., SISTRUM PLAYING IN THE AMARNA PERIOD., AMARNA PROFESSIONAL MUSICIANS.

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