Her very Name means “She Who Is Powerful”. Sekhmet personifies the aggressive aspects of the Egyptian Goddesses, or female forms of Netjer. Sekhmet acted as the consort to the Creator God, Ptah, and the mother of the God of perfume and beautiful things, Nefertum. However, it is believed that Sekhmet’s worship pre-dates that of Ptah by at least several hundred years.
Sekhmet is usually portrayed as a woman with the head of a lioness, but as the Daughter of the Sun, Ra, Sekhmet is closely linked to the Uraeus (Buto or Wadjyt) in Her role as the fire-breathing, ‘Eye of Ra’. The pyramid texts themselves mention that the King or Pharaoh was conceived by Sekhmet, Herself.
Sekhmet is one of the oldest known forms of Netjer in Egyptian history. She is the ‘patron’ of the Physicians, Physician-Priests and Healers. Because She is one of the most powerful of all the Names of Netjer, (Her name literally translated means “Mighty One”, or “Powerful One”). Her Name is derived from the Egyptian word ‘Sekhem’, which means “power” or “might”. The word sekhem’ is literally inseperable from Sekhmet and Her worship. Because of these facts, She is often times misunderstood and portrayed only in a negative way. This is probably because of legends of how Sekhmet, as the destructive Eye of Ra was sent forth to punish humanity for its mockery of Her Father, Ra. The myth of Sekhmet’s Creation explains how Sekhmet came into being from Het-Hert (Hathor).
However, in spite of the fact that She is sometimes ‘destructive’, Her qualities as Healer, Mother and Protector are often overlooked. In the realm of ancient Egyptian medicine, almost all healers and surgeons of Ancient Kemet would most certainly have fallen under Sekhmet’s jurisdiction.
Sekhmet was worshiped throughout Egypt, particularly wherever a wadi opened out onto the desert. This is the type of terrain where lions are often found. Many of them having come from the desert in order to drink and to prey upon cattle, both wild and domestic, that come into the area to graze and to drink. It is said that Her worship was possibly introduced into Egypt from the Sudan, because lions are more plentiful there. Sekhmet’s main cult center was located in Memphis (Men-nefer)and was part of the Memphite Triad. This Triad was made up of Ptah, Sekhmet and Nefertum in a form of ‘holy family’. Sekhme, being the wife of Ptah, one of the ‘Creator’ Names of Netjer of the Ancient Egyptians and their son is called Nefertum, who is also closely associated with healers and healing. Because of the shift in power from Memphis to Thebes during the New Kingdom (1550- 1069 BC) the Theban Triad, made up of Amun, Mut (Amaunet), and Khonsu, Sekhmet’s attributes were absorbed into that of Mut, while those of Ptah were co-opted by Amun, who later became Amun-Ra at the cult center in Thebes (Luxor).
This meant that Sekhmet was increasingly represented as an aggressive manifestation of Mut and the Two Goddesses, along with HetHert and Bast were often synchretized. Mut-Sekhmet was the protectoress, Wife of the King of the Gods, Who also was incarnate through the person of the Pharaoh. Within the Mut Precinct were found large numbers of statues of the lioness-goddess which wereerected by Amenhotep III (1390 – 1352 BC) both in the Temple of Mut at Karnak and also at his mortuary temple which was located in Western Thebes.
Sekhmet & Her Function
Sekhmet’s action is always the right, or ‘appropriate action’. When She destroys it is an appropriate destruction or vengence. It is never chaotic or random. It is always what is needed at the time. Even though Sekhmet is not intimately linked with the aspect of destruction, as the god, Set is, Sekhmet removes threats and punishes those who do wrong against the balance or against Ma’at. She was the Goddess whom the ancients principally entreated in rites of healing, and also the one to send plague to enemies. Rameses II declared that he was “born of Sekhmet”, and indeed the Great Lioness lent Her aid to those who enjoyed Her favor.
No monument better reveals just how potentially savage the unbridled force of Sekhmet could be in the eyes of the ancient Egyptian than the Karnak Temple Complex, specifically the Mut Precinct, in Thebes. There is still some disagreement among scholars as to the actual location of the temple however, all scholars agree that the temple was located somewhere in Thebes. There is also some disagreement as to the precise number of statues that were included in the cache of life-sized statues in the Temple, but by some estimates, the group contained some 730 individual statues of Sekhmet. Some were shown seated on a throne, while others were depicted standing. It is thought that rituals were performed at least twice a day to appease Sekhmet and keep Egypt free of her wrath. The reason there were so many statutes of this goddess was due to Her power, which if left unchecked, could be unleashed to the detriment of Egypt and pharaoh himself. It was during the reign of Amenhotep III, which was the zenith of the Egyptian Empire, when the majority of these statues were added. It is believed the Pharaoh’s reasoning for this was he was not well and wished to entreat this particular Goddess for healing and long life. No matter what museum in the world you go to, if you see a statue of Sekhmet, it is more likely than not that it came from this particular cache.
© Ma’at Publishing, 2011
One response to “Sekhmet”
Sekhmet is very active at the moment. As She casts Her eye upon the world, nothing escapes Her sharp gaze.
The Great Living Goddess acknowledges your post and bestows Her Grace upon Thee…
Remember, we must develop the presence of mind never to act out of FEAR. When asked, Sekhmet will envelop you within Her Great Protective Power.
Sa Sekhem Sahu,