Divine Immanence

I wrote an entry for my blog which I thought would be appreciated here. To read the original please follow this link:


I recently read an (old) article about the differences between the sesheshet and sekhem sistrum and came across a brilliant piece of information that I wanted to share here.

The looped and naos sistrum can be labelled sesheshet and sekhem respectively, and in reverse, without consistency in the Egyptological sources. This prompted Reynders (1998) to question what each term really meant. As a result, they came to the understanding that either type of sistrum could be called a sesheshet when referring to the sistrum as an instrument. This name is inspired from the hissing sound that the rattle makes, reminscent of the papyrus swaying in the marshes, and the myth of Isis protecting Horus the Child there.

When calling either type of sistrum a sekhem, the function of the sistrum as an instrument is replaced instead by its function, or existence as, an incarnation of the Goddess Hathor Herself. Sekhem means ‘power’ or ‘incarnation’; therefore the very essence of Hathor is immanent within Her cult object when it is named a sekhem. This can be the case not only for sistra, but also for menit necklaces, clappers and even certain humans (Kinney 2009, 2011).

This information is relevant to share on this blog because it is useful for modern day worshippers of Hathor (and indeed any Egyptian divinity) to understand how She can be immanent within the objects and statues we devote to Her, immanent in artwork depicting Her image, and immanent certainly within us as well. This becomes clear when one watches a Priest/ess of Hathor dancing…

Some may think that this can only be achieved by the Opening the Mouth ceremony. The article does not specify what precedes the Goddess’s immance in the location in question, so it is up to us - though discovery or study - whether it is up to Her, our intentions, or an invitation ceremony.


Kinney, L. (2009) ‘Indwelling of Objects and Embodiment in the Cult of Hathor. Part 1: Indwelling,’ in WAMCAES News, Issue 7: 3-9.

Kinney, L. (2011) ‘Indwelling of Objects and Embodiment Roles. Part 2: Embodiment roles in the cult of Hathor and the complementary cult of her son, the musician god Ihy,’ in WAMCAES News, Issue 8: 13-18.

Reynders, M. (1998) ‘sSS.t and sxm: names and types of the Egyptian sistrum,’ in Clarysse, Willy, Antoon Schoors, and Harco Willems (eds), Egyptian religion: the last thousand years. Studies dedicated to the memory of Jan Quaegebeur: part II, 1013-1026. Leuven: Peeters.

Roberts, A. (1984) Cult Objects of Hathor: an Iconographic Study (Vol. 1). University of Oxford: Oxford.

Roberts, A. (1984) Cult Objects of Hathor: an Iconographic Study (Vol. 2). University of Oxford: Oxford.

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A great post thank you. I will often use my sistrum in work with Hathor (and my primary goddess Selket), and I agree that as a symbol of hers its presence alone provides the necessary connection in a number of levels such as (1) her symbol so her body is presence within it, (2) the sound while not a voice which plays a significant part in the act of heka, is still a sound, from her (symbol) and so could be taken as her voice.

Also I love the sound and feel of the sistrum. Subtle as a brick, well mine is, and that is Hathor! :wink:

I look at the reliefs and imagine this beautiful music for the Goddess… Now either the Egyptian sistra were much better designed, or that is a rose-tinted fantasy!

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Thats a relief, thought i was the only one who tried to imagine how those wonderful temple musicians sounded! :slight_smile: All those sistra, harps, drums… must have been amazing. Hopefully will have my harp back up running tonight and be ready for Thursday.