Nancy Sherer


recent version of ancient sun goddess
The Elemental Power of the Sun

Sekhmet was Egypt’s most recent version of the ancient sun goddess. The Egyptians, like the Etruscans, didn’t have anthropomorphic gods, so Sekhmet would have been a symbol of elemental power. She was a source of both healing and plague.

In mythology, lions are universal sun symbols. The always-female sphinx and the Nemean Lion represent the devastating summer heat that ravishes the land. A solar hero such as Oedipus, Orion, Hercules, or Samson struggle with the beast in a calendar pageant as the sun moves through the Zodiac. The myth of the struggle between the solar hero, Ra, and “the Eye in the Sky”, Sekhmet, has disintegrated from its obvious origin. The demigod is now regarded to be the sun god Ra, while the ferocious lion goddess has been demoted to “the Eye of Ra.”

Traditional Myths

Sekhmet is from the same myth tradition as the Greek Athene-Medusa. Athene’s solar aspect is connected closely to horses, but the sphinx is her more significant aspect. Medusa holds the lion icon possibly to represent Athene as Medusa travels through the underworld. They share snake robes and the solar horse, Pegasus.

When Athene is in the sky, she wears Medusa’s aspect on her Aegis. Although the modern story is muddled, it still gives a clue to how mythology worked to describe the wheel of time. Athene rises from the water in the east, or bursts forth from the forehead of the sky, depending on the geography of the myth. Her cheeks puff out and turn rosy as she descends into the ocean and changes into her netherworld aspect of the snake-goddess, Medusa.

Athene-Medusa is both the Eye in the Sky and the Tooth of Wisdom. Like Time, she has the wisdom and knowledge that is divine. When the solar hero, Perseus, destroys Medusa, the new solar hero, Bellopheron, springs from her neck, along with his twin, Pegasus. Athene possesses Medusa’s blood, which can be used to heal or kill.

More icons

The Athene-Medusa, the Libyan goddess Neith, the snake goddess Lamia, Greek goddess Circe, and Sekhmet are just some of the icons derived from of Inanna, Queen of Heaven and her counterpart, Tiamet, the Great Dragon. The sun travels around the Wheel of Time not only through day and night, but also on an annual progression of seasons. The Etruscan calendar icon, Chimera, illustrates this most clearly. The goat body has the head of a lion and a snake. Snakes represent night, the netherworld, the season of the Nile floods, and wisdom. The lion represents the sun, the visible world, fierce summer heat, and knowledge. Sekhmet is the elemental power of the sun.

Sekhmet, Lion Goddess
(from the Temple of Mut, Karnak)
Egypt c. 930 B.C.E.
Black granite, Louvre Museum, Paris

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