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Notes on Sekhmet

31 March 2013

Gary Gilligan sent in some further information about the goddess Sekhmet – who embodied the 'flaming' sky and 'flame of heaven' (see also his web site and the various images of Sekhmet at www.gks.uk.com).

Sekhmet was also a warrior goddess associated with disease and plague as well as violence and open warfare. She was 'mistress of dread' and 'one before whom evil trembles' the 'lady of flame' and 'lady of slaughter.' Her breath is said to have created desert conditions and her weapons were 'arrows of fire' (shooting stars and meteors). As such, a 'terrible torch from heaven' would therefore have been interpreted as the weapon of Sekhmet,  the situation as recorded by Ramesses III at the temple palace of Medinet Habu.

Breasted records in volume 3 p58, 'I have caused them to see thy majesty like a flame of fire, like the very being of Sekhmet, in her tempest (anger). I have caused them to see thy majesty as a fierce eyed lion so that thou makest them corpses in their valleys. I have caused them to see thy majesty as great in strength, irresistable in heaven or in earth' (and in this context it is applied to Seti I). The same sort of thing crops up in the account of the Battle of Kadesh where Ramesses II is said to say 'His Majesty was like Seth, great of strength, like Sekhmet in the moment of her rage …' so is that also a way of describing Ramesses III as behaving in the manner of Sekhmet that is not particularly unusual (and Breasted has various other incidents in volume 4 as well). The pharaoh might lead forth his army, mighty at its head, like a flame of fire … etc.

Statues of Sekhmet have recently been unearthed at the temple of Luxor and attributed to Amenophis III – see http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/66628.aspx

Clube and Napier, in one of their books, drew a parallel between the invasion of Egypt by the Hyksos and a heavy meteor bombardment event (presumably at the end of the Middle Kingdom). Gary Gilligan places Avaris in the sky and suggests the Sea Peoples too were a marauding band of debris in the sky. The concept of the pharaoh defending the cosmos – or 'divine order', and keeping 'chaos' at arm's length (civil collapse, rebellion, low Nile floods, hunger, earthquake etc) is interesting in this respect. Was Ramesses III simply thwarting a band of refugees intent on settling in Egypt (to weather the storm), in the delta region and Syria-Palestine, or did he perceive himself as holding back the forces of chaos (in the sky), and casting them aside (Egypt was not directly affected by the torch of heaven). This is a moot point as the Philistines established themselves in Canaan, the Anatolians in Syria and northern Palestine, and the Aegeans and Libyans (or related tribes) in the delta.

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