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?”