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What was Sekhmet

17 March 2024
Ancient history, Catastrophism, Mythology

Nicholas Costa has a piece on the goddess Sekhmet, sent to me after asking a question about Akhnaton and his religious revolution after witnessing something in the sky in the vicinity of the place he went on to build his new city of Akhetaten [el Amarna]. Hence, I have no online link but you might find a similar story at Ancient Origins as he is now writing for them [among various others]. There were in fact several leonine goddesses in ancient Egypt. Their true identity has proved elusive, he says. Feline deities in Egypt were widespread over a large geographical area of the Nile valley. They were not localised gods. There was a pride of feline deities – from fearsome lions to small  pussy cats. The lion  deity, Bastet, is known from dynasty 2, and by dynasty 4 we have the goddess Sheshmet [Shesemtet]. Sekhmet appears  during dynasty 5 – alongside the two earlier deities. Then we have the sphinx.

Sekhmet has been variously described as an ancient Egyptian goddess of war, chaos, death and violence, as well as retribution, destruction, conquest, and the hot desert sun. She is also to blame for the Destruction of Mankind [as in humans in general]. She was also associated with outbreaks of plague, or viral pandemics. Hence, as the gods were opposites she was also the goddess of healing. She was also ‘the  one who loves Ma’at’ [harmony in nature] in opposite of her role in creating chaos.

Her name translates as ‘She who is powerful’ or ‘the Mighty One.’ This is reminiscent of  Isaiah’s reference to ‘a Mighty One’ sent by Yahweh, but many years later. Was that as a result of Egyptian influence over the course of time? At the time of Isaiah one faction favoured remaining  allied to Egypt while another counselled submitting to the Assyrians – to avoid conquest [which subsequently occurred]. Sekhmet has the meaning  of power and might and hence the lion head hierioglyphic symbol was used  to form  words such as power and strength. She was also the Scarlet Lady [the colour of red], the Lady of Flame, and Eye of Ra – as well as the Lady of Slaughter. Her body, when she appeared to human eyes, was said to take on the bright glare of the midday Sun. She, like her earlier counterpart, Bastet, was depicted as the daughter of the sun god Ra. One might note her form as a very bright apparition could be describing a bolide exploding in the atmosphere – a burst of bright light.

According to Costa the lion imagery was metaphorical  rather than literal. Thus, although she was commonly depicted with a lion’s head she also wore on her head ‘a sun disc’ crown and a uraeus rearing cobra. The uraeus became the defining symbol of pharaonic power. What did it signify? There are many venomous snakes in Egypt but the cobra is special, in that it spits out a powerful spray of venom. It is aimed at its victim’s eyes. We may note that bolide explosions can cause blindness, something that is a feature of myth around the world. The Irish god Balor had the ability to blind his enemies – simply by opening his eye and unleashing a burst of bright light. Even looking at the Sun during an eclipse can damage your eyes. Are we once  again being orchestrated towards an airburst event. Costa then refers to the Dream Stele, found at the front of the sphinx of Thutmose IV. It involved a celestial dream of the king being given divine kingship which gave legality to the coup against his brother. It gave him entitlement to the throne. It may also explain why his successor Amenophis III felt the need to erect hundreds of statues of Sekhmet during his reign – in which to appease the goddess. Akhnaton, his son, introduced a new religious cult of the Aten – which involved in some way the sun disc. Costa claims this was because of heavy meteor showers – and there was also an outbreak of plague, or some kind of epidemic. The city of Amarna, he says, was erected in the wake of an airburst – witnessed by Akhnaton as a young man. He built his new city at the place he witnessed the phenomenon [presumably somewhere to the east]. Is this what the Aten cult was about?

Sekhmet, we may note, also figures prominently in the reigns of Merenptah and Seti II, towards the end of the Bronze Age [and its widespread raft of destroyed cities and towns]. Sekhmet was also a feature of the period preceding Ramses III – in her  role as flaming fire. This was shortly afterwards. The end of the Bronze Age coincided with one of his successors, Ramses VII or VIII. The ancient Near East became a depopulated region as many towns and cities were destroyed once again. It coincides with what is known as the Greek Dark Age, and a breakdown in pharaonic power in Egypt, on a par with the First and Second Intermediates which involved a reversion to  many kings in Nomes [districts of Egypt] and a similar situation in Assyro-Babylonia. Is the history of the Bronze Age too uncomfortable to contemplate – even as the world is currently heading towards a similar conflagration. This time with human made nuclear weapons. Or will sense reign instead.

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