Tales from Egypt’s “New Kingdom” era attribute Sekhmet as the mother of Maahes. Maahes was regarded as a lion-headed prince with dominion over protection, war, weather, knives, lotuses and the devouring of captives. When the Greeks came to control Egypt, at least one temple to Maahes was found within an auxiliary facility of Sekhmet’s temple within Taremu, known by the Greeks as Leontopolis.

  • Artistic renderings of the goddess show her as either a fierce lioness or just a woman with the head of a lioness and a solar disc above her head, clad in blood-red attire, grasping an ankh in one hand and a rod of papyrus in the other. Some depictions of her as an animal-human hybrid place a “rosetta” across the torso of her dress. Rosettas were long considered associated with lions due to their resemblance to the knotted hairs along a lion’s shoulder. Some statues and carvings of this fierce deity show her clad in little or no attire.
  • Sekhmet’s connection to big cats extended to keeping them within her temples. Records indicate that tamed lions were kept within Leontopolis’ temple of Sekhmet.
  • Sekhmet’s name can also be spelled as “Sakhmet,” “Sakhet” and “Sekhet.” It is derived from “sekhem,” an Ancient Egyptian word that means “power, strength or might.” This means that her name can translate as “The Powerful One.” She also had several nicknames, including “She who Mauls,” as a reference to her lioness head, and “Lady of Slaughter.” She was sometimes called “Nesert,” meaning “the flame” due to her association with the blazing heat of the noonday sun.
  • Sekhmet’s divine portfolio, the things she had dominion over, involved healing, war, the sun and protection of the pharaohs. Beyond her role as an enthusiastic destroyer, she serves the role of preserving balance within the universe, obliterating anything the seeks to ruin the cosmic order. This urge to maintain balance can also be seen in some accounts that claim she was capable of both unleashing plagues upon the people of Egypt but also taught the secrets of medicine necessary to treat such ailments.
  • One myth claims that it was from her breath that the deserts of Egypt emerged.
  • Sekhmet figures quite prominently in one of the myths regarding the near-end of mortals. During the earthly reign of Ra, Ra decides to punish mankind for defying his laws and turns his wife, Hathor, into a lion. At that point, the lion became Sekhmet. The story goes that Sekhmet was in a foaming rage well after a battle had concluded and was poised to end all human life. After seeing that Sekhmet was over-enthusiastic in her obedience to the sun god, Ra decides to offer the war god a massive quantity of “blood.” In truth, this massive collection of 7,000 jugs were filled with beer and pomegranate juice, the latter of which caused the beer to appear blood-red in color. After taking a sip, Sekhmet drinks more and more of the beer, becoming so drunken that she fell asleep for three days and nights. After waking up, she completely forgets about Ra’s commandment to destroy the “traitorous” humans.  Some versions of this myth claim that Ptah was the first person Sekhmet saw upon waking up from her slumber. In these tales, Sekhmet falls in love with the crafting god at first sight and follows him home. Other versions of the myth keep Hathor and Sekmhet as two separate entities. In these accounts, the mother goddess asks Sekhmet to listen to Ra’s order to stop the culling, only to fail and inspire Ra to stop the war god with alcohol and deception.
  • Because the gods and rulers of Egypt were deemed to have an intensely close connection to each other and Sekhmet was seen as a protector of the pharaohs, Aemenmhat I, the first pharaoh of Egypt’s 12th dynasty, relocated the country’s capital city to Itjtawy. Aemenmhat I made this decision solely because Itjtawy was home to the largest number of Sekhmet worshippers.
  • Worship of this goddess was partly performed in order to keep her happy, as has been previously covered. Priestesses would perform a ritual before a different statue of Sekhmet for every day of the year. This approach necessitated the crafting of hundreds of Sekhmet statuettes, most of which were square in design without any intricacy-the hope was that the less worked a statue was, the longer it would last. Over 700 statues in this goddess’ likeness have been found within the funerary temple of Amenhotep III.
  • Beyond the normal rituals performed within her temples, Sekhmet was also given tribute at the conclusion of battles, if only as a means of stopping further bloodshed and devastation. One yearly festival, one of intoxication, involved tens of thousands of Egyptians dancing and performing songs and upon instruments in order to soothe Sekhmet’s temper and mimic the level of intoxication that stopped her from destroying mankind, as well as imbibing the same mixture of beer and pomegranate juice. Some scholars interpret this excessive level of drinking to a tale of the Nile becoming blood-red, due to high levels of silt along the banks upstream, with Sekhmet stepping forth to consume the entire “bloody” river to save mankind from dying of thirst.
  • Sekhmet has one consort, Ptah, and in some versions of the myths, one son, named Nefertem or Nefer-temu. Ptah was the god of craftsmanship and artifice. Nefertem began life as a lotus blossom and turned into a handsome young man associated with the morning sunrise and the scent of blue lotuses. Other tales claim Nefertem was the son of Bastet, another cat-headed goddess within the Ancient Egyptian pantheon.