SEKHMET, THE LION GODDESS, BAST’S EVIL SISTER

goddess Sekhmet, 1400BC, 18th Dynasty

The goddess Sekhmet
1400 BC, 18th Dynasty
The British Museum

Sekhmet the lion goddess, who had her own cult, was Bast’s evil sister or alter ego.  She is often portrayed as a woman with the head of a lion above which a solar disk with a uraeus sits.  Sometimes she holds a scepter and sometimes a knife.  Likewise, Bast often has the head of a cat and the body of a woman.

Bronze figures of Bastet Late period

Bronze figures of Bast
Late period
The British Museum

However, Bast is the sweet, nurturing smaller feline, while Sekhmet is the fierce bloodthirsty lion imbued with all the warlike destructive powers of the sun god Ra.  The goddess Sekhmet’s name means:  Powerful One, Evil Trembles before Me, Dread, and Queen of Death and Destruction.  Ra, the sun god, in a myth about an annually celebrated festival in honor of Sekhmet, created the lion goddess for the purpose of destroying those who rebelled against him.  Sekhmet set about her task with such fervor that she destroyed almost all of mankind.  To stop her bloodthirsty killing, Ra had to devise a plan to trick her.  So, he turned the Nile the color of blood in order to entice her to drink it.  Ra did not actually turn the Nile into blood, but instead made it into a mixture of pomegranate juice and beer which made her drunk and unable to continue her slaughter of humanity.   Needless to say, Sekhmet’s formidable nature was well known amongst the ancient Egyptians and regularly celebrated in an effort to placate her terrorizing ways. 

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