Sekhmet – “the Powerful” – was the violent counterpart of the Delta goddess Bastet. As the daughter of Re, she personified the sun’s destructive force, making her a worthy consort for Ptah, the Memphite creator-god. In one myth, Re feared that humanity was plotting against him and unleashed his avenging Eye in the form of Sekhmet, who would have massacred all life had not Re relented and slaked her thirst with red beer, which the drunken goddess mistook for blood.

With the rise of Thebes and Amun’s association with Ptah, a corresponding relationship was made between their consorts, Mut and Sekhmet. The New Kingdom pharaohs adopted Sekhmet as a symbol of their indomitable prowess in battle: the statues of the goddess at Karnak bear inscriptions such as “smiter of the Nubians”. As “Lady of the Messengers of Death”, Sekhmet could send – or prevent – plagues, so her priestesses also served as healers and veterinarians.

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