Egyptian Cataclysm Myth: Hathor and Sehkmet Mr. Henderson Mythology The Goddess Hathor • Hathor is usually called the daughter of Ra, though in some versions she is called his mother. • 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 Artemis). • 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 bloodlust. • 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.