Ancient Egyptian Gods and Goddesses Sekhmet

Ancient Egyptian Gods and Goddesses

Sekhmet: daughter of Re, goddess of plague and destruction (lioness)  

Sekhmet means “powerful,” an apt name for a goddess of plague, destruction, and fierce protection. Egyptian tradition holds her to be a daughter of the sun god Re, who he sent out to rein in his human subjects who had begun to disregard his rule because he had grown old. A leonine goddess, Sekhmet went out as a lion to punish humanity but in her bloodthirsty rage she nearly destroyed all of humanity. Re was only able to stop her anger by dying a vast quantity of beer red with ochre, convincing Sekhmet it was blood. She drank all of the beer and became drunk. Thus tamed, she transformed into her gentle, nurturing form of Hathor.
With this reputation of ferocity, Sekhmet was often adopted by kings as patron goddess of their military campaigns. Although Sekhmet could bring about plagues that decimated populations, the Egyptians also believed that she could protect them against pestilence and in some contexts she was regarded as a healing deity. These positive, more nurturing aspects of Sekhmet are likely the result of her close association with the goddess Hathor, who was regarded by the Egyptians as Sekhmet’s more calm and content aspect.

Usually Sekhmet was represented as a woman, seated or standing, with the head of a lioness and a solar disk on her head, symbolizing her close connection with the sun god Re. Sometimes she holds a papyrus scepter, alluding to her connection with Lower Egypt, the area regarded as her native region. In full animal form she is shown as a lioness, but this representation is uncommon.