Saturday, December 13, 2008

Goddess of the Week

This week's Goddess is Sekhmet, the powerful Egyptian Fire and Sun Goddess. She is the bringer of plague and illness, and is associated with war and battle, helping the King to overthrow his enemies. She is generally shown as a woman with the head of a lioness, Who wears the Sun-disk as headdress.

The usual story told of Sekhmet is rather a dark one. The Sun-God Re, the elderly King of the Gods, discovered that humankind was plotting to overthrow Him. In anger at our ingratitude, He sent His daughter Sekhmet, described as His Eye, to punish us. But Sekhmet brought a little too much enthusiasm to Her job, and ended up on a killing spree which threatened to wipe out the entire human race. Seeing this Re regretted His anger, but Sekhmet would not stop. So He and the other Gods caused a vast quantity of beer to be brewed, which was then colored with red ochre (or pomegranate juice, depending on the version), and used to flood a field. Sekhmet, on seeing this, mistook it for blood, and drank it all down in Her frenzy. But it was beer, after all, and soon enough She passed out, dead drunk.

When She woke She was in a much better mood, and was no longer interested in killing. We humans were saved.

Her name means "She Who is Powerful," and She is considered ferocious and fierce, even sometimes being said to breathe fire. She was associated in time with many other Goddesses including Bastet the Cat-Goddess, Wadjet the Cobra-Goddess and protector of the Pharoah, Mut the Vulture and Mother Goddess, as well as the Great Goddess Hathor. In some versions of the above tale it is Hathor Who goes on the killing spree to wipe out humankind; or She starts out as Hathor, Who then becomes Sekhmet in Her wrath (much like Parvati's anger gives rise to Kali in Hindu myth).

But in Her role as bringer of plague and illness (presumably through the association of heat and fever), Sekhmet could also be regarded as a healer. A lot of times books on mythology will call both roles "paradoxical," though it has always made intuitive sense to me. A Goddess Who can bring illness is naturally an expert on it, I'd think, and therefore knows how to cure it as well, if, that is, one is able to get Her on your side. So the ancient Egyptians crafted many rituals with the idea of appeasing Her and petitioning Her for healing, and in time the title "Priest of Sekhmet" came to mean "doctor."

This week, wherever you are on the globe, we are headed towards a Solstice, the time when the sun "stands still" at either its highest or lowest position on the horizon. Since Sekhmet represents the heat and height of the Sun I'm going to assume primarily we are talking about the Summer Solstice which is less than two weeks away for those south of the equator, when the Sun is at its greatest glory. But this is also the time when the possibility of damage from the Sun is greatest, and given Sekhmet's murderous purity of intent, perhaps this is a bit of a warning about the kind of dangers such single-minded focus can bring.

For those of us in the north, this could be a reminder to have faith that the Sun will return, and will in its proper time and season once again appear strong and hot. But remember that both Solstices happen simultaneously on this Earth, both the height and the depth, the zenith and the nadir, and that there is always the seed of one within the other: even within the dark there is always light.

As there is always dark within the light, as the bloodthirsty aspects of Sekhmet's tale show.

As for what She thinks, I'm a little afraid to ask, honestly. But here goes: Lady, what do You have to say to us at this time, we humans You once tried to destroy?

Destruction is necessary. Sometimes too much light will take the place of "dark." It is not correct to assume that death is always dark. For one can die of too much light.

I am anger and wrath, taken far. Too far? I do not think so, still, though I was persuaded to desist. What have humans been on this earth but a plague? And I know how to cure plagues, or staunch the bleeding. Cauterize the wound, with fire.

Well now, I have to admit I don't much like the sound of that, and feel rather like the mouse before the lioness. We had best prove ourselves useful, and quick.

But then something else occurs to me. What else is the idea that there is light within the dark as there is dark within the light? Wholeness. And that is the root of healing, no?

What do you think?

To read more about Sekhmet, go here.


Unknown said...

Well, these past weeks are getting rather dark, uh?

I am thinking about the plague and pestilence and healing thing... Apollo follows the same direction.

You see, maybe this is the time to prepare for the change (past week), kill what is not necessary - and have some beer for consolation lol (this week)... and maybe, next week, we shall be more lightly taken...

So, let's clean inside of our heads... or rage a huge war inside of it.

PS: my google word for checking this comment is: ENDINGS

Oh, well...

Thalia said...

I can never tell if it is the darkness of the world showing up, or just the darkness in my own head coming out as someone who tends to think in terms of gloom and doom.

Oh, no word verification for me this time. I think it has finally accepted that I OWN THIS DAMNED BLOG.

Thalia said...

Hmm. "Endings" is just so appropriate given the nature of this post that I'm inspired to invent a new form of divination, that of divination by word verification:


I mean, if my guess at pidgin Greek is anywhere near correct.

Unknown said...

I feel that, as summer approaches, here in Brazil, light will invade it all, so darkness is putting out its last stanzas...

Cool word you've got there... hehe

I got a stupid one now... chshe... Maybe its cat for: do not use flash on me! lol