|Other Egyptian Gods
In Egyptian mythology, Sekhmet ("the powerful one") was a war and disease goddess. The center of her cult was in Memphis. Her husband was Ptah (later, as Ptah-Seker) and their son, Nefertem.
Ra, the sun god, sent Sekhmet (herein a possible malevolent aspect of Hathor—Het-Hert) to destroy mortals who conspired against him; she grew very enthusiastic about this task and killed almost all of humanity. Re tricked her into drinking beer which he had colored like blood. She became so drunk that she was no longer able to continue the slaughter.
In spite of being a cause of disease, she was also prayed to for help in healing diseases. She was also associated with lionesses.
This goddess’ name literally translated means “Mighty One,” or “Powerful One.” Her name is derived from the Egyptian word “sekhem,” which means “power” or “might.” Some of Sekhmet’s titles were “Powerful of Heart,” “The Scarlet Lady,” “Avenger of Wrongs,” “Lady of Flame,” “The One Before Whom Evil Trembles,” “Eye of Ra,” and “Lady of Slaughter.” Hot desert winds were believed to be this goddess’s breath, and her body was said to take on the bright glare of the midday sun. A very important goddess, it has been estimated that over seven hundred statues of Sekhmet once stood in the funerary temple of Amenhotep III, on the west bank of the Nile. Each statue was dedicated to a particular day of the year.
The lion head hieroglyphic symbol was used in words such as “power” and “strength.” Sekhmet was believed to protect the pharaoh in battle and destroy his enemies with arrows of fire. The King at war was described as being terrible and unvanquishable like Sekhmet in her fury. Often pictured as a savage lioness stalking the land, to this goddess death and destruction was “balm for my heart.”
The patron of surgeons and bonesetters, Sekhmet was thought to send the Seven Demons of Plague, and to protect people from them. The priests of Sekhmet were specialists in the field of medicine, arts linked to ritual and magic. They were also trained surgeons of remarkable caliber. During the Festival of Sekhmet, men and women “freed themselves of all unpleasant feelings, resentment, and repressed, angry passion” by drinking great quantities of wine. The white wine of Lower Egypt was the Wine of Bast; the more potent blood-red wine of Upper Egypt was called the Wine of Sekhmet. Similar festivals of Sekhmet were celebrated at the end of battle, in order to pacify the Goddess of War, so that there would be no more destruction. On such occasions, people danced and played music to soothe the wildness of the Goddess.
Sekhmet was the goddess of divine retribution, justice, vengeance, and war. 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 letters. / 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.”
Sekhmet was pictured as a lioness, a serpent, or as a woman with the head of a lioness, dressed in red. Sometimes the dress she wears exhibits a rosetta pattern over each nipple, an ancient leonine motif that can be traced to observation of the shoulder-knot hairs on lions. Tame lions were kept in temples dedicated to Sekhmet. Sekhmet was thought to be the daughter of Geb and Nut, the sister-wife of Ptah, the sister of Bast, and the mother of Nefertem. She was sometimes thought to be the daughter of Atum and Mut or Ra, and the mother of Maahes and Khons.
An ancient Greek historian called Aelian said: “In Egypt, they worship lions, and there is a city called after them ... the lions have temples and numerous spaces in which to roam; the flesh of oxen is supplied to them daily ... and the lions eat to the accompaniment of song in the Egyptian language.”
- Wikipedia. (2005). Sekhmet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sekhmet). Retrieved on 03/01/2005.