mythology, Sekhmet (also spelt
Sachmet, Sakhet, and Sakhmet), was
originally the war goddess of Upper
Egypt, although when the first Pharaoh
of the 12th dynasty moved the capital
of Egypt to Memphis, her cult centre
moved as well. As Lower Egypt had
been conquered by Upper Egypt, Sekhmet
was seen as the more viscious of the
two war goddesses, the other, Bast,
being the war goddess for Lower Egypt.
Consequently it was Sekhmet who was
seen as the avenger of wrongs, and
scarlet lady, a reference to blood.
As the one with blood-lust, she was
also seen as ruling over menstruation.
Her name suits her function, and means (one who is) powerful,
and she was also given titles such as (one) before whom evil
trembles, and lady of slaughter. Sekhmet was believed to protect
the pharaoh in battle, stalking the land, and destroying his
enemies with arrows of fire, her body being said to take on
the bright glare of the midday sun, gaining her the title
lady of flame. Indeed it was said that death and destruction
was balsam for her heart, and hot desert winds were believed
to be this goddess's breath.
In order to placate Sekhmet's wrath, her priesthood felt
compelled to perform a ritual before a new statue of her each
day of the year, leading to it being estimated that over seven
hundred statues of Sekhmet once stood in the funerary temple
of Amenhotep III, on the west bank of the Nile. It was said
that her priests protected her statues from theft or vandalism
by coating them with anthrax, and so Sekhmet was also seen
as a bringer of disease, to be prayed to so as to cure such
ills by placating her. The name "Sekhmet" literally
became synonymous with doctors during the Middle Kingdom.
She was envisioned as a fierce lioness, and in art, was depicted
as such, or as a woman with the head of a lioness, dressed
in red, the colour of blood. Sometimes the dress she wears
exhibits a rosetta pattern over each nipple, an ancient leonine
motif, which can be traced to observation of the shoulder-knot
hairs on lions. Tame lions were kept in temples dedicated
to Sekhmet at Leontopolis.
||To pacify Sekhmet, festivals were
celebrated at the end of battle, so
that there would be no more destruction.
On such occasions, people danced and
played music to soothe the wildness
of the goddess, and drank great quantities
of wine. For a time, a myth developed
around this in which Ra,
the sun god (of Upper Egypt), created
her from his fiery eye, to destroy
mortals which conspired against him
(Lower Egypt). In the myth, however,
Sekhmet's blood-lust lead to her destroying
almost all of humanity, so Ra
tricked her into drinking blood-coloured
beer, making her so drunk that she
gave up slaughter and became the gentle
After Sekhmet's worship moved to Memphis, as Horus
and Ra had been identified as one another,
under the name Ra-Herakhty, when the two religious systems
were merged, and Ra became seen as a
form of Atum, known as Atum-Ra, so
Sekhmet, as a form of Hathor, was
seen as Atum's mother. In particular,
she was seen as the mother of Nefertem,
the youthful form of Atum, and so was
said to have Ptah, Nefertem's
father, as a husband.
Nethertheless, this identification with Hathor,
who was originally a separate deity, did not last, mostly
because their character was so wildly differing. Later, the
cult of Mut, the great mother, became
significant, and gradually absorbed the identities of the
patron goddesses, merging with Sekhmet, and Bast,
who lost their individuality.
The Hymn of Sekhmet says:
Mine is a heart of carnelian,
crimson as murder on a holy day.
Mine is a heart of corneal, the
gnarled roots of a dogwood and the
bursting of flowers.
I am the broken wax seal on my lover's
I am the phoenix, the fiery sun,
consuming and resuming myself.
I will what I will.
Mine is a heart of carnelian, blood
red as the crest of a phoenix.
and Goddesses Menu
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