Sekhmet and Hathor
Sekhmet, with the head of a lion and the body of a woman, delivered the punishments of the gods. She is associated with healers who were designated “pure-priest of Sekhmet”, especially in incantations against the plague. Amulets of Sekhmet were thought to protect the wearer from a premature death. She is also known as the goddess of the southern sycamore at Memphis.
Hathor was goddess of the sky, the sun, the queen, music, and the arts, and was known as the Divine (or Celestial) Cow.
One story of the two goddesses is told in “The Book of the Divine Cow”, a book of the underworld. This is the source for the story of Sekhmet slaughtering humanity and stopping only after Ra tricks her into drinking 7,000 jars of red-dyed beer. In this story the goddess Hathor turns into the terrifying goddess Sekhmet at the request of her father Ra, and punishes those humans who plotted against him. For three nights the goddess Hathor-Sekhmet wades about in the blood of men, the slaughter beginning at Hensu (Herakleopolis Magna). But the sun god takes pity on the humans who are left, and saves them by causing Hathor-Sekhmet to become drunk on blood-red beer. Hathor-Sekhmet forgets what she is doing, and reverts to being only Hathor.
“The two goddesses, raging Sekhmet and content Hathor, act as two sides of the same nature, extreme expressions of a single passion, the rage that can be coaxed back to placidity, or the love that turns to hate. Fury is expressed in Pharaonic art as a lion, embodying the power to destroy enemies, and a range of protective goddesses was represented in this form. Modern onlookers are often baffled by the use of the same imagery for different deities, image and name combine in every instance to form a differently nuanced expression of one central theme, the protective power of a dangerous force.” Stephen Quirke – Ancient Egyptian Religion
The top photo on this page is Sekhmet, the bottom one is Hathor.
- Ancient Egyptian Religion by Stephen Quirke.
- Ancient Egyptian Religious Poetry by Margaret A. Murray and D. Litt.
- Everyday Life in Ancient Egypt in the Times of Ramesses the Great by Dr. Pierre Montet.
The photos are by GillB and are of items in the Egyptian Collection at the British Museum, London.