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Thursday, July 9, 2015

lady of terror, lady of life

Continuing on with the topic of the life force which is called Ka in ancient Egypt, Qi in Taoist thinking, Prana in Yogic systems that references the Kundalini power resident in all, and the Nephesh in the Torah, there would be different levels of this power resident in the physical body that would determine your energy. I'm always reminded of a puppy when thinking of something that is full of this power. The ancient Egyptians would represent it iconographically as a bull, a bull being an excellent example of this coursing energy.


They would also represent it as food stuff as the ingestion would reinvigorate your levels of this energy. As we age this power within us wanes, we start to lose the ability to fight off sickness and disease, and our material bodies perish. The ancient Egyptians of course noticed this and with their ideas of duality constituting creation and the division into male and female constituent parts called the activeness of this energy Sekhem. It is the vitality of the energy, Ka, that flows through you. In Greek mythology the closest connection seems to be the beautiful goddess Psyche.

Cupid and Psyche (1798) by François Pascal Simon Gérard

The rattling musical instrument that is sacred to the ancient Egyptian goddess Hathor, called a sistrum, is representative of the Sekhem energy.

Ihy with Sistrum at the temple of Hathor in Denderah

In the Amazonian basin an indigenous shaman would use a bundle of leaves called a chacapa to control the flow of this vibrational energy during an Ayahuasca ceremony.

A bundle of leaves known as a Chacapa

The double crown of ancient Egypt could be known as the Sekhemty which denotes the power resident in the Pharaoh, who would be the master of Upper and Lower Egypt, which can also symbolize the spiritual and material worlds (the as above, so below concept).

Horus at Edfu wearing Sekhemty

One of the titles of Osiris, who is representing the soul coming to incarnate in matter and being left for dead, is "Great Sekhem" and this concept is reinforcing that the ultimate expression of power and greatness is resident in the soul and it is through the power provided by Sekhem that this is realized.

The god Osiris is frequently given the epithet "Great Sekhem" or "Foremost of Powers," and the sekhem is therefore commonly found as an emblem and a fetish in connection with the underworld deity.
Reading Egyptian Art, Richard H. Wilkinson, page 183.

As well, the Sekhem sceptre was held by persons making offerings at tombs and waved over the offerings to activate the Ka power which would re-animate the deceased in the next life.

Seti I at Abydos with Sekhem sceptre

In the art of the ancient Egyptians the face of divinity was for the most part never displayed straight on, always in profile, except in the case of Hathor and of the goddess Sekhemet. This is because the face of the god contained frightful amounts of this great power. The energy of the sistrum was derived from the face of Hathor.

For, as the Egyptians never tired of reiterating, direct contact with the face of powerful beings is dangerous, and again and again we read in prayers to a deity, 'May your merciful face be towards me'. In the face resides the kind of power called sekhem, which is also one of the names of the sistrum and is obviously linked with the name of Sekhmet 'the Powerful One'.
Hathor Rising, The Power of the Goddess in Ancient Egypt, Alison Roberts, page 57.

Sekhemet, the powerful one, is an aspect of the great goddess Hathor. (The greek goddess Psyche, instead of being an aspect of Aphrodite - the Greek counterpart of Hathor - she is instead mythologized as a rival to the beauty of Aphrodite.)

Sekhemet

Agitated water in a boiling state always brings to my mind the raging goddess Sekhemet. Her name is derived from the Sekhem which is essentially what you need to know about her power.


Sekhemet in hieroglyphics

Being full of this power she is represented as a lioness; a raging source of animalistic energy that can create and also destroy. She rages; she brings pestilence and disease; and she can restore health to the sick. The great Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, Amenhotep III, in his later years in seriously declining health, commissioned hundreds of statues of Sekhemet on the temple grounds, known as Isheru, of the goddess Mut at Karnak in order to gain favour with the goddess so that she would restore health and vitality back upon him. She is a reminder that the difference between medicine and poison is all in the dosage and a clue that the healing action of medicine is essentially targeted energy that directly affects the compromised life form. Sekhemet is the patron goddess of physicians and the priesthood dedicated to her were all accomplished doctors in their own right. Thus the epithet of Sekhemet the "lady of terror" could become the "lady of life". When seated in a statue portrayal, Sekhemet is shown holding the ankh; the symbolism being she grants life by activating the Ka power inherent in all forms thus animating creation. This would apply cosmologically on a grand scale or the power resident within you and I.

Sekhemet sitting at the Louvre

Sekhemet as the "lady of terror" can be compared favourably to the Hindu goddess Kali. Kali comes from the Sanskrit conception of time which is kala and the connection is that time leads to death which in the material plane is inescapable. If you are ignorant of your divine origins than the idea of death and dissolution is indeed terrifying. A cursory look at Hindu mythology demonstrates parallels with with the idea of the Sekhem powering the Ka that I have been expounding upon in this entry. Shiva who does the dance to propel creation along and at the same time is causing its destruction is said to be powered by his wife Parvati of whom Kali is an aspect of. This image shows the superior power of Kali over that of Shiva which parallels the idea that Ka power is nothing without the Sekhem.

Kali dominating Shiva

When depicted standing Sekhemet holds a papyrus scepter, a symbol of Lower Egypt, which represents the flourishing and verdant created material world as opposed to the symbolic spiritual realm that Upper Egypt can represent.

Sekhemet standing with Papyrus sceptre

The sun disc on her head is symbolic of her presence in the realm of time known as neheh to the ancient Egyptians. It is representative of the cyclical nature of the time paradigm that us creatures of the created world are subject to and these cycles of birth and death, and of creation and destruction, are universal principles known to the ancient Egyptians as Maat. Tellingly another epithet of Sekhemet is "The One Who Loves Maat and Who Detests Evil". Statues of Sekhemet are found scattered throughout the ruins of ancient Egypt and the base materials used are traditionally igneous rocks such as basalt or granite; the volcanic rocks being a great symbol of the explosive and fiery nature of the essence of Sekhemet. In the 18th dynasty upon the rise of the god Amen Re to prominence at Thebes, the mother goddess wife of his, Mut, took on many of the aspects of Sekhemet. Amen Re is the universal cosmic hidden light that illuminates creation and Mut is the great mother as Sekhemet that is the complimentary aspect of this principle and powers that manifest in our world. Within all of us is this light that comes from the source and on a cosmic scale the light operates as the source of spiritual life and love. Their son Khonsu is the mummified child who is the latent power of a healer that is present within all of humanity.

Khonsu 

Taking this idea further the celestial representation of these powers are Sekhemet and her husband Ptah. Ptah is the greek Hephaestus, who is the great craftsman of the material world.

Seti I worshipping Ptah at Abydos

He does not create unless the raging power of Sekhemet is active within him just like Amen Re does not bestow his light upon the world without the active feminine principle represented by Mut. The child of Ptah and Sekhemet is the beautiful child Nefertem - the Atum child who is the androgyne, the origin of all whose division enabled the ennead of Iunu (Heliopolis) to come into existence and form the material world we know and allowed the soul as Osiris to manifest into creation.

Nefertem

Sekhmet. Most distinguished of the lioness goddesses and consort of Ptah (or Ptah-Sokar) of Memphis, mother of Nefertem. An early reference in the Pyramid Texts credits her with conceiving the king of Egypt (who was often portrayed as a lion), and she is portrayed in the Fourth Dynasty as passing the life force to King Snefru.
The Great Goddesses of Egypt, Barbara S. Lesko, page 273.

The great Imhotep of ancient Egypt, the one who comes in peace, claims his heritage from the great powers of Ptah and Sekhemet as well. Imhotep was a teacher, sage, healer, craftsman/builder, and magician of the 3rd dynasty of such renown that he was elevated to a status of a demigod in successive generations in ancient Egypt.

Imhotep

The Greeks represented their patron of healing, Asclepius, as being synonymous with Imhotep. The iconic staff, emblematic of healing that us moderns have borrowed from the Greeks, is entwined with the serpent, serpent power representing the power to heal (and harm). Imhotep is the true historical pioneer healer who should be given his proper due and ultimately his power to heal comes from the great goddess Sekhemet.

The greek god of healing Asclepius with serpent entwined staff

The oppressive and destructive heat of the Egyptian mid-day sun was also thought to come from the powers of Sekhemet which further solidified her terrifying aspect. In this aspect she was known as "Nesert" which means the flame. The "Lady of Pestilence" was also greatly feared because of the sickness she could unleash without warning upon the population. Another of her epithets was the "Red Lady", this moniker symbolizing her association with Lower Egypt and the desert fringes of civilization.

The long dress worn by the goddess is often coloured red, and one of Sekhmet's epithets was 'mistress of red linen' symbolizing either her Lower Egypt or her warlike nature. Sometimes her garment has a rosette pattern over each nipple and while this has been suggested to reflect patterns in the shoulder hair of lions it is perhaps more likely that the pattern reflects an astronomical symbolism of the 'shoulder star' of the constellation Leo which is marked in Egyptian astronomical paintings. 
The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, Richard H. Wilkinson, page 182.

This connection of the rosette pattern to the constellation of Leo is an enigmatic one. Perhaps it can lend some weight to the age old debate of the origin of the great Sphinx on the Gizah plateau and who it ultimately represents. The feline characteristics and plateau connections to Hathor do tantalizing suggest the Sphinx is Hathor in her guise as the lioness Sekhemet.

Great Sphinx on the Gizah plateau

Sphinxes were symbols of three great goddesses of the Mediterranean: Hathor, Astarte, and Isis. Hathor votaries declared her to be "the mother of the gods, and the creators of the heavens and the earth, and of everything which is in them." She assumed the powers of "every solar god." When Ra, the sun god, was displeased with humans he asked Hathor to slay them all. She did. In the Hathor style the hair divides into two equal curls falling below the shoulders onto the breast. The Hathor style is traceable to the Middle Kingdom of Egypt (about 2500 BC) and Sphinxes that wear their hair like Hathor are found in Crete, Hittite Anatolia, and Syria.
Book of the Sphinx, Willis Goth Regier, page 168.

Hathor's presence and worship at Gizah is well documented:

The southern side of the valley temple of Khafre (Chephren) at Giza is known to have been dedicated to Hathor, and the title 'priestess of Hathor' becomes common from the 4th dynasty on.
The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, Richard H. Wilkinson, page144.

The valley temple of Khafre at Giza records on its facade the names of only two goddesses: Hathor, representing southern Egypt, and Bastet, representing the north.
The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, Richard H. Wilkinson, page 178.

The ancient Egyptian name for the Sphinx on the Gizah plateau is Per-Hol which means the place of Horus. The ancient Egyptian name for Hathor is Het-Har which means the house of Horus. Taking this even further the Sphinx was known in the New Kingdom and onwards as Horemakhet which has been translated as Horus in the horizon. But would you now be surprised if I told you that akhet is another name for Hathor as the dawn so the designation Horemakhet is describing Horus as the light appearing in the dawn which is Hathor as the akhet, essentially the light emanating from the house provided by the Goddess. As well the Sphinx forms the rising sun in the east between the pyramids of Khafre and Khufu:

Approached from the east-southeast, the Sphinx’s head appears on the horizon between the Khafre and Khufu pyramids, like the sun disk between two mountains in the hieroglyph “akhet” or horizon. 
http://www.aeraweb.org/sphinx-project/national-park/

Akhet in hieroglyphics

Once again it is symbolizing the light rising from the mother goddess Hathor who is being represented as the Sphinx. The lion was regarded as the guardian of the eastern and western horizon and in the above hieroglyph for the akhet lions could be substituted for the mountains. The Gizah plateau in theory then should have two guardian sphinxes at the eastern and western gateways for the sun into and out of the underworld.


Two felines representing mountains

It cannot be overstated how important was the power of this Goddess to the ancient Egyptians. Horus is representing the Ba in ancient Egypt, the born again soul to us, which is the actualization or coming forth of the light that is inherent in all of us engendered symbolically from the remembering of the slain Osiris and subsequent impregnation of his sister wife Isis. 

The Egyptian tree goddess (whether identified as Hathor or another goddess) is often shown dispensing water to the birdlike bas (souls) of deceased persons in later papyrus and tomb paintings. Interestingly, near the Giza plateau there still survived in the 1950s a deep and very ancient well in the midst of a grove of sycamores.
The Great Goddesses of Egypt, Barbara S. Lesko, page 84.

There is a myth about Sekhemet being sent to destroy humankind and being ultimately pacified as alluded to above. Perhaps the Sphinx is a magical amulet at Gizah on a grand scale designed to keep her in a calm state! This aspect of terror continues today as in Arabic the Great Sphinx is known as Abu al-Hul, “the father of terror.” Sekhemet is associated with the "Eye of Re" that in one myth was sent to destroy humankind because they were not following the laws of Re and thus she was to reintroduce justice in the form of Maat. As an aside you can see a parallel here with the flood stories of antiquity which concern the rebelliousness of man and the desire of the god(s) to punish them. The feminine principle is connected to water and thus a great flood comes to destroy them. Anyway Sekhemet was sent to earth in the form of a lioness and the carnage began, soon threatening to destroy all of humankind. There was no stopping Sekhemet in her rage at this point. A solution was found by pouring 7,000 jugs of beer mixed with red pomegranate juice into the Nile which now resembled blood. Sekhemet eagerly drank on this blood and became so drunk the eventual hangover lasted for three days. She awoke in a pacified state and the humankind was spared. A feast day was established in which everyone drank beer stained with pomegranate juice in reverence to "the Mistress and lady of the tomb, gracious one, destroyer of rebellion, mighty one of enchantments".

From a personal standpoint I can see a connection with the terror of Sekhemet juxtaposed with her healing aspect in conjunction with psychedelic plant medicines such as Ayahuasca. The Ayahuasca journey at its core reveals the interplay of the masculine and feminine energies to the drinker which to the non initiated can be overwhelming and absolutely terrifying but within this experience is this incredible ability to heal.

As I have shown it was the Goddess in ancient Egypt who ultimately controlled the power within creation to not only give vitality to the life force that flows through all living things but she also powered the creation of the physical world. As Sekhemet she healed and she destroyed. In addition, the Goddess' ultimate act was to enable the light within us all, known as Horus, to come forth. It is the destiny of all of humankind to realize our divine nature and to this we owe a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid to the unselfishness and love of the great Goddess.