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"Some people are so afraid to die that they never begin to live." 
- Henry Van Dyke
 
Remembering the Story of Hathor and Sekhmet PDF Print E-mail
Remembering the Story of Hathor and Sekhmet
By Michael Cooper



Ra in all his golden glory, sat content at the center of his universe. His warm light blessed all of Egypt with fertility and abundance. The people grew happy, gracious to their life giving Father for his gift of sustenance.
As years passed and their content became routine, the miracle of their green lush oasis wasn’t seen as precious anymore. It was taken without granting thanks. Some men and women became so brash as to mock Ra, laughing at the thought that his grace was responsible for what simply was now seen as their land, their property.

In great offense and wounded pride Ra struck out with wrath, scalding Egypt with drought. Some of the Egyptians recognized their oversight, they appealed to their Father and sang his songs of praise and set altars with gifts to Him. Still many did not change, still many thought little of the supposed power of Ra, they retreated from the drought and hid from the heat and anger of their forgotten Father.

Ra was helplessly enraged. Calling upon the great goddess Hathor, he begged for her wisdom. Hathor the great Eye of Ra, Queen of the Sky, reigns as the warm loving glow of the Sun under which all things flourish. Hathor, in the ripening of grain in the heat of summer, luxuriously full. All the stars in the sky where reflected in her wide brown eyes, bearing the head of the Divine Cow. Upon seeing her brother in such a fury and angered herself by the many Egyptians who still hid from sight and mocked the gods, Hathor descended to further the vengeance of Ra—not as the radiant life giving light of the sun, but in rage and fire.

In her descent the anger that she felt changed her. It altered her bones and blood, rippling through her form as the burning goddess Sekhmet was born. The fire goddess is sinew and muscle, tawny golden as the Lioness of Ra. Her eyes burn and her breath is searing; from her flaming exhale the first medicine was created in Egypt against plague and rot and decay. To this day priestesses of Sekhmet can be the greatest of healers, knowing how to coax new life when what is dead has burned away.

Sekhmet in her lioness rage was terrifying to behold. Even the proudest of the Egyptians begged mercy and promised eternal favor to Ra. This softened the anger of the great sun god and Ra moved his hand to stop Sekhmet’s vengeance, having pity for his people. But the lioness was quick, and her temper already unleashed. She escaped Ra and pounced, growing enraged even further with the taste of blood. Her punishment continued, turning the Nile red with her rage for three days and nights.

Sekhmet’s rage had passed reason and threatened Ra’s children to the brink of extinction. Her teeth flashed, her breath: fire across the land; withering the lush fertile oasis, making the beautiful Egypt appear almost as barren as the desert that surrounded the once thriving land of the Nile.  

Ra feared for his people and the land of Egypt. Being very wise all on his own at times, he devised a plan and secretly sent the cunning cat, Baast, little sister of Sekhmet, to Egypt conveying his designs to the surviving humans. Once all had been prepared, the Egyptians hid while Baast lay invisible in the reeds, waiting for Sekhmet and watching.

As the Lioness continued her path of destruction along the banks of the Nile, now flooded  and swollen with her victims remains, she came upon a vast cauldron full to the brim, the liquid within shining red in the glare of the now scorching sun. She dipped a claw into the concoction, tasting curiously, eyes narrowing and nostrils flaring to the flavor of blood in the drink. In her fury, her thirst had grown immense, her taste for blood unquenchable. With glee and greed the goddess threw back her head and drained the giant vat in one long draw. The Lioness stopped suddenly in her vengeance. She blinked her golden eyes heavily, lay down her head between giant paws,  and fell fast asleep letting out a mighty rumbling purr which shook the earth.

Seeing all from afar, Baast smiled to herself. The great cauldron had been filled with all of the beer left in Egypt and flavored with the blood of a holy cow to fool the Lion Goddess into drinking herself into a gentle snoring slumber. Ra’s plan has succeeded, Egypt and its people would survive!

As Sekhmet slept, her rage had a chance to dissipate, her hurt was finally soothed. The potion slowly changed the Goddess and reminded her of Hathor, her sister self. Sekhmet once again became the Divine Cow Hathor, and the sun lost its burning glare and softened. The moon came out from hiding and rained down a gentle dew to heal the land and people. Hathor, as herself, awoke and the oasis was green and growing again.

Looking around her, seeing the destruction her other’s anger had wrought, Hathor knew that careful vigilance must be kept over the violence that lived within. She guided the remaining priests and priestesses of Egypt in a holy ritual designed to keep the holy wrath in balance. The offering is to be performed every day the sun rises and is still held in secret by a few to this day and for all time.

To the rest of the people she prescribed a kind of daily spiritual work. In effort to keep the wrath of Sekhmet at bay, Hathor charged each person with the task of remembering the destruction of the Lioness born from ignoring their connection to the divine. She showed the people that their gracious, thoughtful, thankfulness for the world around them was not just appreciated by Ra, but was needed to nourish the balance of grace and power, destruction and nurturing in the whole universe.

At last, she promised each of the people individually that though the droughts may come and the Lioness may rage, true graciousness would bring rain, respite and healing to the wounded desert places in our land and hearts.

BIO: When I was young, I felt drawn to myth. I was certain it was important to learn these stories, that there was power in the remembering of our ancestor’s Gods and Goddesses. As I grow, the myths have grown with me, weaving a web of connection between my inner world and my experiences in life. It is with great honor that I offer this story of Hathor and Sekhmet. Explore how this living tale is reflected in each of us, especially our desire to live in gratitude. Join as we are transported within, where the great dramas and archetypes of myth interact, inform, and enliven our sense of self. I can be reached at Isis at 707-825-8300.



 

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