A Tex-Kemetic Myth: Sekhmet’s Wrath

Preface: As some who already know me are aware, part of the way I come to reckon/shape the regionalization of my practice is to fashion myths shaped by where I live. This is an example of that, and my first adaptation of a Kemetic myth, the story of Sekhmet’s vengeful assault on humanity. Since it’s relevant to my hearth practice, it seems worthy of posting here, so to any readers, enjoy.

***

There was a time before time was set to order, when the plains stretched vast from one horizon to the next, and the bison moved upon them like great dark clouds upon the yellow sea, and the blood-tailed hawk drew the sun in the wake of his wings through the sky, and the coyote and the vulture laid their claim to the creatures who withered beneath the heat of the sun, for the world was new, the great dragons born of Disorder freshly buried beneath the earth, and Order itself was as an island birthed in steam and terror from the abyssal sea of uncreation.

Because time was uncounted, the world wheeled swift beneath the sun, and Hawk flew over it, darkness never holding long, and a dry death settled onto the land, and the earth cracked, the grass wilted, and Hawk was saddened. His tears fell upon the earth, and some of them sank into the roots of the prairie grass and sprung flowers, but most burned away before life could grow. Seeing this, he spread his wings wider, for the sun was his charge, and he pushed a portion of its rays from the earth. Still it was over-warmed, and the creatures below, many of whom he had given shape to, continued to wither.

As he watched them falter, he wept more, and his tears fell as the first true rains upon the world. The rains cooled the ground, and painted the prairie in shades of green and violent colors, and some of his tears collected in places, pooled into small hollows in the ground. When the sun passed over the earth, the water slowly burned away, and went up into the sky and formed clouds, and those clouds would in turn drop fresh rain upon the earth. But the salt that collected within those flattened hollows took on life, as did all things that Hawk touched, and these new creatures walked upon two legs, and Hawk looked upon them with great wonder, curiosity, and apprehension.

After a time, these men began to fashion tools, to work together in bands and tribes, and they would point up to Hawk as he drew the sun behind him, and they would marvel at his glory. He thought well of this, and when he saw that they were hungry, he drew forth the bison, and he gave the great mother of their kind a portion of his might, and she gave her children to the men that they might eat and live in plenty, and she was the first among mothers, and she was Hawk’s gift to men of love and of power and of life.

Some time later, the men became numerous from eating of Bison’s children, and they had taken to offering her worship, and Hawk gave to them her name, which was Hathor. And the men worshiped her all the more, but their ways were crude, and their understanding was limited, and so the Hawk went into the wetlands to the south, and he gave some of his essence to Ibis, who was ever watchful, and curious in all things. He sent Ibis to the men, and Ibis gave them words, and he took for his dominion the knowledge and the accounting of the world, and all wisdom flowed through him, and he gave to men his own name, which was Djehuty.

Time went on still, and it grew slower, for Djehuty had by now taught to men the methods of its reckoning, the first days that would be holy, the knowledge of the sun and the moon and the stars, and they counted the days in honor of their gods. But as more men came about, so too did more men die, and the Hawk lamented at this and went and invested himself into the first Coyote, who scavenged and ranged, who presided over the dead and the outlands, and he gave unto Coyote two portions of himself, and Coyote went among men and showed to them the ways of tending to their dead, and opened the way for their loved ones’ ka to enter into the hidden land, and he gave them his names, which were Yinepu and Wepwawet, the Initiator and the Opener.

As the world came into order at Hawk’s direction, he went down among men and he gave them his own name, which was Ra, and he taught them Ma’at, and how to live within its bounds. And in this he was aided by Hathor and Djehuty, by Yinepu and Wepwawet, and by others in kind whom he fashioned, and men worshiped them, and Ra was the first King, and was anointed by men and given primacy, and he took their form and was their guardian and teacher.

As time went on, the men grew impatient, and they grew selfish. They began to feel as though they did not need Ra’s guidance, or Djehuty’s teachings, or Yinepu’s rituals. They turned away from Hathor’s love for their fellow man and for her father, and they defied the order which was created for them. They turned their spirits from their task, and the sun grew hot once more, and they cursed Ra’s name, and blamed him for the fraying of the edges of their world as the Enemy set to pull it into the abyssal maw of disorder.

Ra grew angry with his children, and he went to the other gods whom he had created, and he said unto them, “I am the bearer of the Sun, I have given shape to these men with my tears, I have created Hathor, whom I love, to put compassion in their hearts, and they have defied me. I have created Djehuty, whom I love, to put order to their thoughts, and they have defied me. I have created Yinepu, whom I love, to put comfort in the void of their losses, and they have defied me. I have created Wepwawet, whom I love, to put direction in their souls, and they have defied me. I have created Ma’at, whom I love, to give Order to their Chaos, and they have defied me. My heart breaks at the rebellion of these children whom I birthed in sadness, and their defiance threatens to visit oblivion upon all that is created and holy.”

And so he went to Hathor, who was the first, and he invested himself into her fully, she gave him comfort after her manner, and they lay together, and in his inflamed passion he said to her, “Go to my children, and give them reason where I have thus far failed.”

And she went to the men, and she attempted to give them reason, but they rebuffed her. As her frustrations grew, she fell upon the ground in pain, for the seed of Ra’s anger had quickened within her, and she birthed his full fury into the form of a Lion, and the Lion made her name known to man and to gods at once, and her name was Sekhmet, the Powerful, whose wrath was that of Ra, who could neither be placated nor assuaged, and she set herself upon her father’s wayward children.

Her teeth rent flesh and her claws tore spirits, and none were safe from her anger as she ravaged the land. Her anger gouged through mountains, raked riverbeds into the plains, upended the earth. Her fury was such that the owls of the skies fled into the earth, that the squirrels of the trees fled into the earth, that all the small creatures of the prairie and desert made themselves vanish before her fire, and life was hidden from her in terror and awe wherever she went.

Ra looked upon the destruction wrought by Sekhmet, and he despaired, for even in his anger he had never hoped to lay waste to the children of his tears. And so he went to Djehuty, and he told him that he must devise a way to stop Sekhmet’s cataclysm. Djehuty watched Sekhmet rage across the land for a time, and he saw her thirst for blood could not be quenched, and so he went about the edges of the prairie, gathering the red fruit of the cacti that grew there. He crushed the fruit into a red paste, and he gave it to the men who remained, and he told them to place the paste into their stores of beer. When Sekhmet came upon their village, she saw the blood-red drink placed into a great pit, and she drank of it until sleep came over her.

When she awoke, Sekhmet’s rage had passed, though her power was as vast as ever. Ra went to her and took her among the other gods, and they invested themselves in her, and she was with them, and there was no question of her might among the men who remained in the wake of her furious onslaught. Her strength laid bare against the Enemy which clutched at the edges of the world drove back the primordial discord, and the world was at peace once more, and in time, man flourished, though none forgot the rage of Sekhmet.

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