Sekhmet-Min.

Typically, when it comes to Sekhmet, there isn’t too much discussion going on. It’s not that people don’t want to discuss her, but I think that since there doesn’t seem to be much mythology outside of the Destruction of Mankind myth, people don’t seem interested in engaging. This upsets me a bit because I have a lot of thoughts regarding Sekhmet (of course) and I want to talk about it. I have a project planned for this year about her various aspects that I’ve come into contact with, but before I get started on that, I think I need to talk about the syncretism of Sekhmet-Min.

Now, anyone who hasn’t been following me on Tumblr or seen my comments about it on my personal Facebook may not be aware of this. And that actually makes sense because it doesn’t seem as though this particular syncretism bares more than a footnote or three in the books. Another reason it’s not so common knowledge is because there appears to be a large debate within the Egyptological community with regard to whether a Sekhmet and Min syncretism even existed.

Let me give you some background before I start talking about how I see and feel regarding this.

This all started, actually, when I found this post and was like, “what the hell is this?” The Tumblr user, intaier, posted another version of this image and tagged me in it so I could see the image more clearly as the original post had cropped out something important: the phallus. I took to Google, of course, to try and figure out what was happening because I couldn’t understand the lack of second arm and I had never seen Sekhmet with a phallus before. It was through Devo and another Tumblr user that I was made aware that imagery depicted thus is usually related to Min in some way. And of course, I found multiple images on Flickr which named this image as “Sekhmet-Min.”

I was completely floored. I had never heard of this syncretism before and I wanted to know more. Google searches for “Sekhmet-Min” came up with nothing besides those Flickr accounts, though. In my off time, I began looking for “ithyphallic Sekhmet.” I found two blog posts on LJ (here and here), which seemed to indicate the images were Mut. However, I found a few books through Google that mention ithyphallic Sekhmet. I decided to leave it alone for a while so I could mull this all over.

I also looked briefly into Min and found this quote: “While earlier generations of scholars inferred from Min’s erect penis that his principal function was fertility, it has recently been argued that Min’s upraised arm and erect penis are, in fact, both manifestations of his protective function, a form of display known as ‘phallic intimidation’ (Ogdon 1985).” All very interesting but I didn’t have anything definitive. While I mulled on it, I began to recognize that it would make a certain kind of sense for Sekhmet to have been syncretized with Min. But I left it at that because I didn’t really understand why it seemed “right” to me to have this syncretism.

A few days later, intaier posted this image where she clearly designates it as Mut. I came back and was like, “No, no. This was the Sekhmet-Min we talked about a few days ago.” And since then, things have rather degenerated. I wouldn’t call it a debate or anything because it’s not actually a debate.

However, people have weighed in with their opinions that the Egyptologists know what they’re talking about so if they call the image Mut, then so be it. I came back with evidence of Egyptologists who had named the syncretism as Sekhmet-Min. Based on my brief Twitter back and forth with Tamara (of KO fame), it would seem that there is no popular consensus within the Egyptological community on the status of these ithyphallic leonine deities. I left it alone until I was tagged again in another picture of the ithyphallic leonine deity, which seemed to indicate (again) that this was a “unique” representation of Mut (based on a quote from Te Velde in Mut and Other Ancient Egyptian Goddesses that intaier provided).

By this time, I was kind of tired of the conversation. I will admit that I am still very tired of the conversation, but I feel the need to put everything in a single place.

And Egyptologists like Budge used to think this way… and look where they’ve ended up.

It feels to me that we’re getting stuck on the prospect that this ithyphallic image is Mut because a bunch of people who may be wrong (because let’s face it, there’s always the possibility of discovering something new that will force Egyptologists to reevaluate their knowledge) said so. And while I definitely tell people that those sources are pretty fucking good to have, I also don’t want us to get stuck in a particular mindset when there is still, clearly, a lot of things that we simply don’t know.

To be perfectly frank, I honestly feel like my thoughts on the subject are being completely ignored in the face of statements made by Egyptologists. I think we’re falling into some mistaken belief that what the Egyptologists say on any given matter is holy writ and that’s something that we definitely need to steer clear from, especially as it pertains to our personal relationships with the gods. “But, Sat,” someone will say, “that’s blasphemy to the historically informed!”

But is it?

How many times have either I or TTR gone off about how Budge should not be used or cited as a resource? His translations have been proved to be inaccurate; he wrote entirely through the lens of a conservative Protestantism in order to garner more funds; he ignored his German contemporaries’ advances in the field; etc. As a resource, he is persona non grata.

Egyptology has come a long way, but there are still issues within the Egyptological community. While reading the problematically titled book, Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts, Jeremy Naydler highlights many of these issues. For the most part, the author goes on and on for many, many pages about how the Egyptological community seems hell-bent on maintaining the belief that the ancient Egyptians were a “practical” people, denying any possibility of mysticism within their religious realm, in a seeming need to distance themselves as much as humanly possible from the poor pseudoscience that infiltrated Egyptological circles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

All well and good – let’s absolutely distance ourselves from malarkey. But from a Kemetic standpoint, this leaves the resources we value so highly devoid of feeling and devoid of what I would like to see: a representation of my religion as it was when it was lived and breathed in its heyday.

But let’s look at this argument as logically as possible.

Let’s start off with the two images’ locations (I’m sorry, but I cannot find the image from the Hibis Temple so I cannot, in all honesty say, how closely related the images are).

Ramsses III censing before a form of Sekhmet-Min

“Image by Hannah Pethen, via Flickr”

The first image we have is the unnamed deity in the Temple of Khonsu at Karnak. Based on my research, this image appears to have been commissioned for Ramesses IV during the New Kingdom. (Based off of this website; translation will be needed.) This would lead me to suspect that the imagery used is Mut, who rose to prominence as the consort of Amun-Re at the spiritual capital of the country, Thebes, during this time period. The fact that the image is found in a temple dedicated to Khonsu, the son of Mut and her consort, Amun-Re, would also lead anyone worth their weight to believe that this is Mut.

However, it is during this period that we see Mut absorbing and usurping aspects of well-known and well-established leonine deities, specifically in this case, Sekhmet. The syncretism makes a lot of sense from various different points of view, but to look at it based on these quotes I think will better assist us here.

The first quote discusses how it was the first name in the syncretism that provided the deity with a physical form to inhabit but it was the secondary name that indicates who the deity actually is supposed to be. The second quote discusses how the gods had limitations and, in order to breach those limitations, syncretism was necessary. Looking at these statements together with regarding to the syncretism of Sekhmet-Mut, we see that the bodily form is that of Sekhmet, I.E. a lioness, where it is the motherly aspect of Mut that provides the power.

The reason I mention this is because prior to Mut’s syncretism of Sekhmet, her bodily form was that of a human woman wearing the double crown and/or the vulture headdress. We see many images of Mut in this way, but it is only when she comes into contact with Sekhmet (and Bast, evidently, according to my research) that we see her as a lioness. This particularly syncretism seems to have been of particular importance during the time that the Khonsu temple image was commissioned…

And that leads me to suspect that it may not specifically be Sekhmet who is syncretized with Min here, but it is a sort of conglomerate Sekhmet-Mut mixed with Min. Taking the leonine features of the face mixed with the bodily form of Min, we have two deities known for protective functions (“…it has recently been argued that Min’s upraised arm and erect penis are, in fact, both manifestations of his protective function…” as quoted fully above) merged into a unified composite. If we add Mut into the mix here, it’s only to denote that she has protective features and as the mother of Khonsu… who has every right to be in a temple dedicated to her son.

But again, in looking at the image, I don’t see anything that would herald that this is Mut in any way. Just because the two had a syncretism doesn’t necessarily negate the fact that Sekhmet may have become of import within the temple precincts in her own right. Based on my understanding of syncretism as indicated by the two quotes linked to above, I have to wonder if we’re missing integral information (clearly, we are) regarding this syncretism and how Sekhmet came to play a role within the cult worship of Mut.

Now let’s look at the Hibis Temple. This temple was built in the Late Period by the Persian pharaohs. By this time, the flower of the religious institutions that we see so well in the earlier periods had reached heyday status. Based on my brief look into this temple, it was built for the purpose of honoring the Theban Triad. This would explain why the ithyphallic leonine deity is clearly designated as Mut-A’at or Mut the Great.

However, this doesn’t actually negate the possibility that this image is, as with my thoughts on the Karnak temple above, Sekhmet. As Pinch states in Egyptian Mythology: “From the New Kingdom onward, Sekhmet was mainly thought of as the aggressive aspect of greater goddesses: first of Hathor, then of Mut, and finally of Isis.” (Bolding mine.) My point being that Sekhmet had stopped, in a manner of speaking, being a goddess in her own right and was seen as merely a part of –insert goddess here–. (What a terrible idea!)

While I don’t know what functions she may have served in her own right by that point, this only seems to indicate that the leonine deities seen at both the Khonsu Temple and the Hibis Temple are, in fact, linked (heavily) to Sekhmet. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any images available online of the ithyphallic deity known as Mut-A’at, but if it bears any resemblance to the image at Karnak, then I have to assert that – as based on my arguments above regarding syncretism and how I see it – that, named otherwise or not at all, this is Sekhmet-Min.

Seeing that my opinion on the subject has been ignored and any points I may have made also have been ignored, I’m going to finish this off with a few further thoughts.

My issue with the ongoing “debate” is that it takes away from the point behind the images. Syncretism is all about inferring powers from one deity to another, a deity who does not have the abilities they require in order to complete a function. Sekhmet is a powerful and protective deity, but Min’s associations seem primarily with regard to fertility… or at least, some of his functions are about that. If we are basing this syncretism on the idea of fertility and creation, then I think it means that Sekhmet, and therefore Mut, had self-creation aspects that we need to look into.

It was this aspect that Ramesses IV was incensing and libating on the Karnak wall. It wasn’t Sekhmet by herself. It wasn’t Mut by herself. It was an ithyphallic representation of Sekhmet (and therefore, Mut, as based on the wonkiness of syncretism especially from that time period) that he was standing before. It was something about this syncretism that he felt the need to honor. Why? What is it about this particular syncretism that required that it be placed on the temple wall? Was it because he wanted to be able to self-create and was hoping that they would give him this ability? Was it just to make people, down the road, question what the fuck is happening in this scene? Was it some ancient scribe’s joke to the modern world, “haha, fuckers; good luck figuring out what this is about” and we’re all taken in by it?

These are the questions that we need to ask ourselves as devotees of Sekhmet. Why in the fuck did this representation end up on the wall? But more importantly, how does it impact us? We should stop worrying in some respects about what the scholars say and worry more about what our religion tells us. I fully plan on exploring how this impacts me and my relationship with Sekhmet (if at all) in the future and I invited everyone who has a relationship with her to do the same.

Sekhmet: So Much More Than Meets the Eye.

Sekhmet! More than meets the eye!
She wages her battles to destroy the evil forces of isfet!
Sekhmet! Lioness in disguise!
Sekhmet! More than meets the eye!
Sekhmet!

– A modern day hymn as ripped off from based off of the Transformers theme song

When I look back on my early days with Sekhmet, those days when I was very frightened and I had people telling me to stay away from her, I look back now rather fondly. Even though I understand the reason behind why people told me to stay away from her and even though those first few steps towards Sekhmet were some of the biggest and most frightening steps I had ever taken up to that point, I have to admit that I made the right choice.

Sometimes, I sit around and try to see what my life would be like without her… if I had ignored that call all those years ago, and I have to admit that what I think my life would be like is paltry at best and a fog of unending torment at worse. With my entering into this realm with Sekhmet’s open arms ahead of me, I’ve become maybe not the best person I could but I’ve become a pretty damn awesome human being.

As is the case with probably a lot of the netjeru, I’ve noticed this sort of trend that comes and goes in spurts. People seem to get stuck in this particular mindset about Sekhmet and I’ve realized how much it frustrates me, especially now that I’ve begun to actively explore her other aspects and facets. It’s almost as if people can’t even begin to fathom that Sekhmet is an individual with individual wants and desires, hopes and dreams, feelings and regrets. I don’t know if that’s always true of course, but as someone who has begun exploring all the various realms that Sekhmet ends up, I have to say that it appears that way.

Lately, I’ve seen people say things like, “it’s such a hard time working with Sekhmet because she makes me want to kill people” or “I’m such a destroying motherfucker that my spirit guide must be Sekhmet” or “I’m going to burn down everything around me just like Sekhmet did, LOL.”

This mindset really frustrates me as a devotee of Sekhmet and as someone who actively seeks out those other parts of Sekhmet’s soul, those parts that hardly ever get talked about in public. I also think this mindset is incredibly problematic. Let’s talk about that, shall we? (As if you had a choice.)

  1. Tell Me Things Because I Don’t Know How To Research.

I think a lot of people want to be spoon fed and to an extent that’s actually not much of a problem (thus why resource lists are so great). I fully remember how daunting this whole historically informed path was all those years ago and I often felt like I was completely out of my depth when discussing anything with people who had been doing this a while. I often found myself freaking out because they had access to things that I did not or because they seemed to understand the texts that we all had read far better than I. They were able to discern the information out there on the Internet – separate the wheat from the chaff – and that made me feel very insecure and very, very incapable in my devotion to Sekhmet.

I know I spent a lot of my first few years doing this reading and re-reading the same type of things over and over again with regard to Sekhmet. I wanted to understand what it was that I was seeing from those who had been doing this a while and because I wanted them to tell me what I needed to know. I felt disparaged at the thought of all of the resources that I couldn’t fully understand (because let’s face it, a lot of the academic resources out there are not written for the layperson) and all of the resources I wouldn’t be able to get my hands on because they were in other languages. I wanted someone to take me by the hand and explain it to me.

Now that I’ve been at this a while, I’ve found a groove with resources. I’ve been able to better to toss aside the chaff and focus on the wheat. And while I will admit to still feeling upset that there are places I will not be able to go unless someone translates French and/or German texts for me, I would like to think that I’ve finally gotten a good foothold on what I’ve read. And I try very hard, remembering the fear and worry and anger and hopelessness, to explain to people who are new and who may not be aware that Sekhmet is more than a deity of destruction.

However, you can only say the same things so many times before you finally get to the point where frustration takes over. As someone who only minutely associates with the boat paddling phenomena, I probably get far more easily frustrated than those who have been doing the community building longer and more thoroughly than I have.

And that frustration leads me on to point number 2…

  1. Pigeonholing Makes Things Easier for Me

Quite often, I remind people that Sekhmet is more than just a destructive deity. That little check box next to the word destruction? It isn’t the only one that’s been checked, but it seems to be the most often cited. I truly believe that a large part of this, beyond newbie ignorance, is because human beings tend to pigeonhole. It’s almost as if we must always attempt to qualify something within a very strict rubric, which oft-times doesn’t do anyone or anything a damn bit of good.

Let’s be real here: in this day and age, pigeonholing should be jettisoned into space and burned upon reentry into some planets atmosphere. In a day and age where we’re beginning to realize that being uptight about everything and the requirement to shove everything into an “it is this” or “it is that” bullshit dynamic is a complete delusion, I think it’s safe to say that we can do the same with the gods.

Look, I get the whole thing when it comes to Sekhmet. We know she was sent to destroy humanity. Anything that has ever been created about Sekhmet (unless people are just blind and unable to properly read Wiki, which is where 95% of their ignorant information is going to come from) talks about how she destroys some shit. That’s all there is. Like if I had to make an art picture of every damn webpage that pops up when you type in Sekhmet’s picture, it would look like this:

The orange are all the flames she has and the red is the rivers of blood and of course, on her back, she carries DEATH.

The orange are all the flames she has and the red is the rivers of blood and of course, on her back, she carries DEATH.

(Photo credit, bee tee dubs.)

I rather feel as if the reason behind this is because people are too worried and scared at the prospect of looking outside of preconceived notions.

We have the mindset of the early Egyptologists who were really fond of pigeonholing the netjeru into predefined [usually Christian] terms that have no bearing on ancient Egyptian religion whatsoever. We have the mindset of people who cannot or are unwilling to do the research. We have the mindset of people who are too stuck on archetypes that they don’t bother to look into the minutiae. And of course, we have people who just want to blame the gods for all of their issues so they hyper-focus on a single detail of the painting instead of looking at the whole damn scene.

If we have any or all of the above possibilities, it makes it that much easier to not have to think critically about the gods, about their roles in our lives, and how their relationships with us impact us on a grander scale.

We can state, emphatically, that because Sekhmet is a destructive force that is why we, as devotees of hers, behave as such. We can state, emphatically, that because Sekhmet raged at people, then that explains why we feel the need to rage utterly at others. We are stating with these types of reasons for our actions, our thoughts, our feelings in regard to various things is only because we decided to develop a relationship with her… When in fact, it may simply be that the relationship with her is helping us to delve deeper into our own psyche, our own souls to figure out who we are as people, how we actually feel (as opposed to the feelings we couch in terms that polite society can/will handle), and find better ways to handle those things.

  1. I Don’t Need to Explore Our Relationship Further

Above all, I think this one is my biggest pet peeve about the whole thing. By refusing to look beyond that destructive aspect that we all see next to Sekhmet’s name, there are so many rich and rewarding aspects to her that people are missing out on. Yes, that’s right. My biggest problem with all of this is that by doing this, there are so many different parts of Sekhmet that people are not able or not willing to discover because they are too busy thinking of her as C instead of the whole damn alphabet that she entails.

I will admit to a little bit of selfishness with the above, too. It can be really difficult to find people willing to explore their relationships, like me, with Sekhmet. And because there are seeming so few of us out there, it becomes difficult to be open about the changes, the new things I’ve discovered, and all of the UPG that it corresponds with.

I know that sounds weird, right? Since I don’t see people out there who are explorers, so to speak, with Sekhmet, then I don’t want to talk about it. That’s right. I want to be able to express myself in more than simple key smashing (which, I will admit, is how I’ve felt a lot lately regarding her) and I feel that if I could just talk to someone who has experienced even a little inkling of what I’ve found lately then it would help me to crystallize and define things that I’ve discovered.

And it’s exciting.

And it’s neat.

And it’s interesting.

And it’s scary as shit.

Do the thing, you guys, so I can figure shit out.

Let's get some learning on!

Let’s get some learning on!

As bitter as I have been with regard to my relationship with Sekhmet in recent months, looking back, I can see just how much she has truly enriched me as a person and me as a devotee. I want this for everyone who looks in her direction and I definitely think it’s a good course of action to stop thinking of her as belonging in this one box because the myth we have that seems specifically about her discusses her function as an irt-re. Not only is it detrimental to us as people but it is detrimental to her as our goddess. Sure, the ancient Egyptians were scared of her and the netjeru, too, but there is so much more out there. And we, as devotees whether they be long term devotees or passerby devotees, have an obligation to her, to the new people who discover her, and everyone out there who fail to look deeper, to fill in the blanks.