The Other Story of Sekhmet
All things come from Egypt.
There are many stories from Ancient Egypt. Perhaps you have heard some? There are many others. Allow me to share a story from a long time ago.
From the beginning, there was the hiddenness and formlessness of the darkening chaos. The waters rose and then they fell. Left behind in the Valley of the Nile, was fertile earth.
It was 12,000 years ago when the great Ice Age came to an end. Water was freed to rain upon the good earth and bring life to the land. Migrating peoples would travel north and south with the seasons. While the men were out chasing large animals, the women would gather. They picked the best of the fruits and grains. What they discarded at their camps remained fertile and grew again. And in this way, early women performed a kind of natural selection..
Better plants meant better harvests. Migration became less necessary. Settlements grew. Wanderers became farmers. It was the Time of the Goddess. The Great Mother gave, took away, and gave again. We have many stories from Mesopotamia. Perhaps you have heard tell of Inanna? The same was going on in the Land of Egypt. The Goddess reigned. This was long before the dawn of writing, the ancient hieroglyphics, or the Pharaohs.
The Goddess represents the life-giving aspect of the sun that brings light and warmth and fertility. She was sometimes seen as a slender woman wearing a headdress of a sundisk supported by two horns. One of her aspects was that of Hathor, the gentle horned Cow of Heaven, provider of the milk of life and the provider of eternal sustenance. Thus, the horns on the headdress.
Hathor's more esoteric attributes were about emotions and the gift of shape-shifting. When angered, Hathor would morph into Sekhmet, the Lioness Goddess. Sekhmet represents the scorching, burning, destructive heat of the sun. Sekhmet is a fierce goddess and a destroyer of her enemies. She wears the same headdress as Hathor.
Hathor was protectress of all women, and sovereign of merriment and song. With the rattling of her favored musical instrument, the sistrum, she drove away the evil spirits, while the people reveled in her Temple of Enjoyment, with dancing and leaping.
At her most renowned temple, at Dendera along the Nile in Upper Egypt, the new year, her birthday, was rung in with carnival-like rejoicing under columns sculptured in the form of giant sistrums. In these celebrations, all partook copiously of the red-barley beer to remember the time of Sekhmet's Great Wrath and her saving of the world.
Hathor's cult was unusual in that both women and men were her priests. Later, after Upper and Lower Egypt were brought together, she became known in additional aspects. Among these were the falcon, the hippopotamus, and the cobra.
More about Sekhmet's Great Wrath: in spite of all the joy, abundance, and mirth going on, there were still demons about. They are always about, back then just as now, scaly, hissing things that wish harm to all. These demons would lurk in the mountains to the West above the Nile Valley.
Long ago, the Sahara was a prairie before the Earth dried, rendering it a desert. It was to here that the rebellious Second Son's were banished for misbehavior and for conspiring with these lesser demons. Once each year during the winter months, they would make trouble. Hathor would morph into Sekhmet, go out and kick ass, and set things right. Then followed that great celebration at Dendra. The red-barley beer flowed, and all was again right in the world. And so went life for centuries.
And then came Narmer. Banished to the Western Prairie, he was far cleverer than the average dissident. And he went looking for a demon as clever as he. And so he found the surliest of demons who would be - a God. They all gathered in the mountains above the Nile. The demon promised to make Narmer head of a line of Kings to be remembered for all time. If only Narmer and the dissident males would raise this demon up, worship him as the Sun God, and push out the Great Mother.
All winter long they plotted. How shall we make things turn out different this time? "When Sekhmet comes looking for us in the spring, we will be ready with barrels and barrels of red-barley beer."
And when Sekhmet came and saw all the red beer flowing, she exclaimed, "Did I miss the party? Have I missed all the fun?" And Sekhmet dove into the flowing beer. She drank and drank. For she did love her beer, and she did love to party. And she got very drunk and finally passed out.
Sekhmet slept for a very long time. And when she awoke, she had such a hangover. And when she got back to Dendera, she found Narmer calling himself king, a Pharaoh. On her throne sat the demon calling himself Ra, the new Sun God. Lower Egypt had been joined to Upper Egypt, and all her people were now his subjects.
What to do? A battle among the gods would destroy all humanity. So the Goddess withdrew. But she resolved to remain in the aspect of Sekhmet until all was again right in the world. No more Mrs Nice Cow!
Meanwhile, the ancient stories were retold to say that it was always Ra who was the Sun God. The Pharaoh is his son and Narmer is the first Pharaoh. The Pharaohs would sit upon the throne of Ra for thousands of years. They even said that Sekhmet was the wife of Ra, that she would do his bidding, and that, if not controlled, Sekhmet would destroy the world.
Sekhmet chose to remain aloof but is still present. She continued to be the protectress of all women, and the sovereign of merriment. The sistrum is still her favored musical instrument, and its rattling still drives away evil spirits.
There are some who would have you believe that other main-stream story of Sekhmet in which she was such a problem. Years later, there emerged another form of the Great Goddess, Isis, and she wears a headdress of a sundisk supported by horns. Sometimes her headdress is the throne of Egypt. She is the patron of nature and magic. She is the friend of slaves, and artisans, and the downtrodden. She has a very nurturing relationship with her son, an idea that was later picked up by yet another religion.
There are others who would have us believe that the world began just 6000 years ago, back when males were already in control.
Believe whatever stories you like, but, just remember, it is as the Greeks say, "All things come from Egypt."