Egyptian Cataclysm Myth: Hathor and Sehkmet

Egyptian Cataclysm Myth:
Hathor and Sehkmet
Mr. Henderson
The Goddess Hathor
• Hathor is usually called the daughter of Ra,
though in some versions she is called his
• Hathor is the goddess of joy and fertility
(associated with the Greek Aphrodite) and is
depicted as a cow.
• Being daughter of Ra she is often depicted
with a solar disk wrapped with the coiled
snake (called the uraeus).
Hathor in Art
The Goddess Sehkmet
• Sehkmet was another daughter of Ra, and
was the goddess of hunting and war
(associated by the Greeks with their goddess
• She is depicted as a lion headed goddess or as
a lion with a solar disk and uraeus.
• Being opposed in aspect with Hathor, the two
were linked, sometimes being thought of as
opposite sides of the same coin.
Sekhmet in Art
The Cataclysm Myth
• This myth is recording on a wall painting called
The Book of the Divine Cow.
• The myth begins with the time where Ra ruled
mankind directly.
• The Egyptians kept a list of all their kings;
according to this list the reign of the first
human pharaoh began around 3000 B.C.
• Prior to this mankind was ruled by a series of
gods beginning with Ra.
Plot Against Ra
• Ra discovers a plot by the humans he rule to
overthrow his kingship.
• Ra convenes a assembly of the gods, first
asking the opinion of Nun, the personification
of the primordial waters.
• Nun advises him to send out his eye (the Eye
of Ra) to watch over mankind.
• The conspirators flee into the desert to escape
Ra’s gaze.
The Eye of Ra
Hathor’s Transformation
• Ra then sends from his eye his daughter
Hathor to find the conspirators.
• But when Hathor finds them she becomes
angry and transforms into Sekhmet and kills
them, spilling their blood and drinking it.
• The slaughter of the conspirators pleases Ra
and he rests his eye, satisfied.
Sekhmet’s Bloodlust
• However the next day Sekhmet tells Ra that
she is not finished with punishing mankind.
• She continues to slay the people of Egypt,
unable to satiate her bloodlust.
• Ra’s attitude changes from one of vengeance
to pity and he begins to fear that no people
will be left to maintain the god’s shrines.
Ra Tricks Sekhmet
• Ra forms a plan to soothe Sekhmet’s
• While Sekhmet sleeps from the day’s
slaughter, he mixes red ochre (a mineral
pigment) with barley beer.
• When Sekhmet wakes, she thinks the red beer
is blood and drinks it.
• Intoxicated, she passes out and is unable to
continue the slaughter.
The End of the “Book”
• The Book of the Divine Cow ends with a hymn
discussing the rebirth of the sun and ascension of
Ra, the sun god.
• Ra transfers rule to his son Thoth, the god of
wisdom and magic (who the Greeks associated
with their god Hermes).
• Thoth, who is depicted as having the head of an
ibis) was the consort of Ma’at, and he became the
second divine Pharaoh over mankind.
Thoth in Art
Themes of the Myth
• At its center the myth deals with the rule of Ra
over mankind and how he came to abdicate from
that rule.
• Ra transfers power to his son, Thoth, thus
establishing a precedent for dynastic rule for the
mortal kings later.
• The attempt to destroy, then later to preserve
mankind has parallels to the flood myths of
Hebraic and Sumerian societies.
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