In certain cultures, ancient gods and goddesses from mythological circles are transformed or combined to create a deity for the newer ranks. This is seen in the case of Pakhet, a war deity who was considered a mixture of Bast and Sekhmet , ancient deities belonging to the two Egypts (Upper and Lower). In this article, you will learn of her origin and other details.
Bast and Sekhmet (ancient lioness war deities) had two cults , one in Upper Egypt and the other in Lower Egypt. When they met at the border located between the north and south, similarities from the two goddesses were blended to create a new deity for the merged cultures. The result was Pakhet who was known as an ancient regional lioness deity.
The goddess was worshipped by those who hunted in the wadi, which was located near the water at the boundary of the desert. The flash floods that affected the narrow valley came from storms that struck the region. Because of this, the goddess was also referred to as ‘She Who Opens the Ways of the Stormy Rains.’
When Pakhet started to appear in Egyptian myths, it was the days of the Middle Kingdom, where Bast was becoming more recognized as a gentler goddess , similar to the domesticated cat. The more fierce attributes were associated with Sekhmet. Pakhet was seen as a medium between the two goddesses. She kept the abilities that a war goddess should have, but her strength was viewed as more of an inner quality that did not outwardly show.
Pakhet was not looked upon as a domestic protector or a powerful warrior, but was instead, revered as a huntress, who roamed the desert on her own looking for prey. She was considered a goddess of the night and was also associated with desert storms (just like Sekhmet). Taking after Bast, she was deemed a protector of motherhood.
Depictions of Pakhet showed her with the head of a feline. Sometimes, she was simply a cat often shown killing snakes with her sharp claws. Her appearance was a mixture between the desert wildcat look of Bast and the caracal features of Sekhmet. Other physical characteristics of the goddess include her wearing a solar disk as part of her crown.
One of the most famous temples associated with Pakhet was found underground, where caverns that Hathshepsut constructed close to Al Minya surrounded her shrine. This temple was a part of 39 ancient tombs linked to nomarchs of the Middle Kingdom , rulers who were in charge of ancient Egyptian provinces. Situated in the center of Egypt, the temple was found on the east bank of the Nile.
Throughout the catacombs, a high number of mummified cats have been buried. Researchers were ecstatic that the areas could be excavated. The cult center of the goddess was a place that people traveled from afar just to have bodies buried in a ceremonial ritual.