Sekhmet is the Egyptian goddess of the sun, war, destruction, plagues and healing. She is one of the oldest deities and one of the most powerful. She is a member of the Memphite (cult center in Memphis) triad together with husband Ptah, the god of creation and wisdom and son Nefertum, the god of sunrise. She is said to be the daughter of the sun god Ra created when his eye looked upon the earth. She is also sometimes seen as a daughter of Nut, the sky and Geb, the earth. Her name may also be spelled as Sakhet, Sekmet, Sachmet, Sakhmet, Sekhet or Sacmis in Greek that translates to “the Powerful One”.
She is often represented as a woman wearing a red dress with the head of a lioness wearing a sun disc circled by a cobra on her head. She often holds the ankh – the symbol of life, when seated. When standing or striding, she is seen holding the papyrus specter symbolizing Lower Egypt. However, some scholars believe that she was a deity introduced to Egypt from Sudan because lions are plenty in that area.
As a sun goddess, she is connected with the scorching, searing and burning heat of the sun. In this aspect, she was known by another name, Nesert that literally means flame. This sealed her fate as a terrifying goddess. Her title as the Red Lady associated her with desert where the heat of the sun reigns.
She is associated with another feline and leonine goddess, Bastet. Sekhmet is known as Goddess of the West wearing red and Bastet is named the Goddess of the East dressed in green.
Sekhmet is closely associated with the pharaoh and his kingship. She is believed to protect the pharaoh during war as the warrior goddess of Upper Egypt. She acquired the title “The Scarlet Lady” because of her lust for blood. In fact, celebrations and sacrifices are often offered to the goddess to appease her after the war and end the destruction.
She is believed be a closely related aspect of Hathor. When Hathor was sent to the earth when Ra plucked her out of his brows, she turned to Sekhmet to avenge her father because the humans have not been true to the principles of Ma’at. However, she became so violent that she slaughtered humankind without limit and drank their blood. She became the fiercest of all goddesses. Ra, afraid of what her daughter had turned out, poured 7000 jugs of beer and pomegranate that dyed the Nile River red to resemble blood that the goddess swiftly drank. She became so drunk that Sekhmet slept for three days. Only by that trickery, when she awoke, she returned to her docile self as Hathor.
Humankind was saved from the wrath of Sekhmet and it is celebrated and commemorated every year. Everyone drank beer stained with pomegranate as they worship Sekhmet: “The Mistress and Lady of the Tomb”, “The Gracious One”, “The Destroyer of Rebellion”, and “The Mighty One of Enchantments.
Being the mother of a healing goddess, Sekhmet has her healing and protective aspects. While she may bring about disease and plague to those who wrong her as the Lady of Pestilence, she is also a master of the art of medicine as she provides the cure to various ailments she may have brought to man. She was the patron goddess of all healers and physicians. In fact, her priests were known to be very skilled doctors. As a result, the gruesome “Lady of Terror” becomes the benevolent “The Lady of Life”. She was mentioned numerous times in the various spells of The Book of the Dead as both a creative and vicious force. However, she is most known as the protector of Ma’at (balance or justice) with the epithet: “The One Who Loves Ma’at and Who Detests Evil”.