The Egyptian Goddess of War and Healing: Sekhmet
Sekhmet is one of my favorite Egyptian goddesses. Like the Egyptian God Anubis, Sekhmet can be very intimidating.
Her name is the female form of Sekhem, which means power or strength. The literal meaning of her name is “Lady of Power,” or “Lady of Strength.” I actually named my dog in her honor because the dog is a powerhouse and, as I found out later, just as vicious as the goddess herself.
The Goddess Sekhmet
Sekhmet was the daughter of the sun god Ra. Violent and vengeful, she was portrayed as a lioness, either in full lioness form or anthropomorphically like the photo below.
She was capable of breathing fire and associated with the uraeus (a flame spitting serpent) of the king. The desert winds were said to be her hot breath with which she created the desert.
She was also the goddess of war and was typically depicted as the king’s mother, and as such, she accompanied him into battle. She was the destructive power of the sun and the personification of the eye of Ra. Interestingly, even the gods Seth and Apophis yielded to her power.
Sekhmet Egyptian Goddess
Sekhmet was also considered to be a goddess of magic and healing. One of her several nicknames included “one of great magic.” Because of her powers in sorcery and her association with healing, she became the patron goddess of physicians and veterinarians. It was said that her priests were even called doctors.
Sekhmet was also credited with the ability to inflict and heal the plague among other illnesses. This gave her the nickname “lady of life.”
Sekhmet and Ptah
Sekhmet was worshipped along with her consort, the god Ptah, who was the deity of creation. He was an earth god (which fits perfectly with a fire goddess), and the patron of artists and craftsmen.
Ptah and Sekhmet had a son named Nefertum, who became the god of healing and associated with the lotus flower. The three of them were known as the Memphite Triad; their main temple being in Memphis.
Symolism of Sekhmet
As most of the Egyptian pantheon, Sekhmet has quite a bit of symbolism embedded in her persona. When we think of lions, we think of savagery, and Sekhmet is one savage kitty. The goddess became enraged when humanity refused to uphold Maat (the Egyptian Goddess of truth and moral integrity) and follow the laws of Ra. She became so full of rage she almost wiped out mankind.
In order to stop her, Ra ordered his high priest to fill 7,000 jars with red dyed beer (red wine in some accounts) and spread them all over Egypt. When Sekhmet returns to finish her annihilation after a good night’s rest, she drinks the beer thinking it is blood. After drinking that much beer, she slept for three days. There are many different variations of this story, but the ultimate meaning remains the same: Sekhmet is powerful and has some anger issues.
As a lioness, she has the incredible ability to hunt and the power to do it. Lions hunt in packs, unlike other cat species. If you’ve ever seen a documentary on lions, you know the females do all the hunting, and they have a “queen lioness” who leads the hunt. But every lioness has her task. Taking down a buffalo is a lot easier when it’s orchestrated.
Since teamwork is essential to the pride’s survival, Sekhmet lends herself to being called on in many pagan rites. She is most commonly called on for the following types of rituals:
- Dispelling negativity
- Overcoming obstacles
Sekhmet is the epitome of what can happen when rage is left unchecked. It becomes explosive and uncontainable revenge.
But Sekhmet also shows the healing side of rage. When channeled properly, rage can be focused into altruism. Sekhmet also saved mankind by swallowing the overflow of the blood-red Nile River, a very altruistic act.
In typical pagan form, duality is inherent within the symbolism of the goddess. Rage is most commonly associated with fire (red with rage). Healing and altruism tend to be emotional in nature associating them with water.
Fire and water are polar opposites, just like rage and altruism. The problem with duality is the balancing act; finding that perfect balance is difficult, but so worthwhile.
Sekhmet Our Puppy
I think what drew me to Sekhmet is one of the names used to refer to her in the Book of the Dead. She was the protector of Maat, and known as “The one who loves Maat and detests evil.”
Since Maat is my patron goddess, I feel a special connection to Sekhmet, which is what drove me to name my dog in her honor. Little did I know I had given her the perfect name. She fiercely protects our family and has no fear.
That dog will take on an adult bear, and I’ve seen her drive one off after it attempted to “break in” through our porch door. Ironically, the only other animal she gets along with (and secretly likes) is our cat, Osiris.
© 2012 Melissa Flagg COA OSC