One of Sekhmet’s most popular myths, the Destruction of Mankind, can be a really difficult narrative to process. In this story, Ra is challenged by mankind, and is advised by the rest of the Gods to send “His Eye” (that is, Hethert) against them. In doing this, Hethert becomes Sekhmet, and begins killing people. Her spree doesn’t stop with the men plotting against Ra; She murders without thought or reservation. She is overcome and totally lost in Her bloodshed.
How can a goddess become lost in destroying Her followers? What can we learn from Her story? The myth depicts Her as a being out-of-control, lost in Her actions. As a deity Her role is given as a righter of wrongs and champion of justice, but the story that associates Her with this role really portrays Her as violent and dangerous. She begins by killing for justice, but quickly loses Herself to killing recklessly.
I get a sense that this is what She had to be: to show that God is not perfect, that mankind cannot be perfect, and that forgiveness and absolution can be given for anyone. When I ask Her about it, the response is complicated. She does not seem ashamed, though I think it would be arrogant to assign things like shame or guilt to a deity. Instead, She seems quietly accepting of Her role. In fact, I get the same sense regarding this myth as I do from Set and the death of Wesir. With quiet resolve, the Gods undertake a difficult and painful act, knowing what They will become.
What does this mean for us, as Their followers? It’s hard to say. I don’t like to make the Gods too human, but maybe those Who have been a part of Their uniquely agonizing stories are more accessible to us in some way. When we lose control, They offer solace and tell us, “We have been there too, and are no less divine than other Gods; why should you be less human than other men and women?”
7 thoughts on “Sekhmet’s Myths – A Difficult Story.”
The last part- I get that a lot. With Set. “Hey, you see that rage in your belly? I’ve had that, too. I can help you with that, you know.”
Interesting how that happens.
I wrote an essay about the myth of the “Destruction of Mankind” which you might find interesting. It was published in a journal which is now defunct, but the PDF is available here: http://henadology.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/celestial-cow.pdf.
That is absolutely incredible – thanks for sharing the link. It will take me some time to digest everything but I look forward to it. May I share the link on my blog directly?
Incidentally, I’m a long-time admirer of your blog. I can’t promise anything here will be on the same level, but thank you for following and I hope you enjoy!
Thank you, you’re very kind. Feel free to link the file directly.
I am currently reading “Daily life of the Egyptian Gods” so the myths that have come to us from ancient times are in my mind a lot right now.
The stories are there for a reason, and you are right – how to make sense of them? It is hard for me from a human perspective to figure out anything involving violence and murder, so what is the message here?
With both the Sekhmet and Set myths that you have mentioned here I have a sense that it is more to do with elimination of what is no longer needed than wanton or mindless destruction. On a deeper level I feel that this is strongly connected to the alchemy of activating parts of our soul anatomy and the necessary processes involved in that metamorphosis.
That’s another great perspective – there are so many ways to read and pull meaning from these myths.
everything needs to be in balance, you cant just have creation without destruction, life without death. Maybe she was just needed to balance it out, or maybe the gods are liable to make mistakes and rash decisions.
I remember reading that the Egyptians thought the gods to be fallible, the same as humans. They believed they could be tricked and bribed, they had affairs and killed each other. Sounds very human to me lol.