Warrior Archetypes IX: Sekhmet - Dangerous Instinct
Here we honor the Egyptian lioness goddess Sekhmet, whose name means “Powerful”. Fierce and gracious, regal and deadly, she was usually shown as a lioness-headed woman sitting on a throne. The Egyptians tried to marry her to Ptah the architect god, but she did not take well to the marriage, and was generally worshipped separately. Her son was the warrior god Nefertum, who carried a curved saber and was said to have discovered how to carry coals in hollow reeds, thus bringing portable fire to the human race.
The great sun god Ra ruled the land of Egypt for many years, but when he grew old and withered, there was talk among wise people of putting him down and choosing another god to replace him. Enraged, he brought forth a lioness goddess and sent her to savage his people. However, his plan worked too well; she tore through so many of them that he feared that the human race would be exterminated, and begged her to stop. She laughed at her erstwhile creator and refused, saying that she was not yet sated with blood. “By my life,” she told him, “when I slay men my heart rejoices,” and she continued the carnage.
Ra then came up with an idea to stop her by guile, since no force could stand against her. He had the frightened peasants brew up a vast quantity of beer, and dyed it red with pomegranate juice. This he placed in seven thousand jugs which he placed at strategic points across the battlefield. Thinking that they were actually jars of blood, Sekhmet drank them all, and became so intoxicated that she passed out, and the people were saved. From that time on, Ra decreed that on the date of her massacre, the twelfth day of the first month of winter, every priestess of the Sun should brew jugs of red pomegranate beer in order to placate her. This day was said to be unlucky and hostile, and one should avoid seeing a mouse at this time.
The Sekhmet warrior is a creature of instinct, and yes, she has a temper. She has the potential to be a great warrior, fighting tirelessly for a cause, but first she has to learn that righteous rage is not the emotion to carry you into battle. Not only is it exhausting and hard to keep up - although she will run with it further than most people - it also impairs your judgment, making you vulnerable to being tricked by the more cool-headed strategists, as Sekhmet indeed was.
The problem is that she secretly - or not so secretly - enjoys the slaughter. Unlike Ares who does it for glory, or Cuchulain who does it out of rage, Sekhmet taps into the implacable nature of the hunter, and her enemies are her prey. For her, the blood spurting as you tear into flesh is a joyous thing. It feels right to scream and leap and destroy. It’s the instinct of the predator, and that can be a rough monster to keep in your basement. There are few instances in which that energy is appropriate, or allowed, in our modern society. The pure joy and rightness of slaughter that is the predator’s birthright will not be understood by those whose totems run to the vegetarian. It’s a lucky Sekhmet warrior who finds a useful outlet for her dangerous instincts.
The Queen of Beasts is powerful and dangerous, and finds it difficult to bow to the will of others, and she may try to run over their needs in order to satisfy her own. The Sekhmet warrior must pay tribute to this fiery goddess within, but never let her rule completely, or they may alienate everyone with their pushiness and demands. Like her patron deity, she needs to learn to let go and become passive occasionally, to be petted and stroked and loved, and forget that she is a predator. There is no way to make her anything other than a predator, but when she is sated, she will not feel the need to strike out. It’s how you tame a lion....give them a lot of what they need, until they lay down and purr.