Banu (fyrekat) wrote,

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Skhmt: Bright Flame

My relationship with Skhmt (pronounced "sek-MET") started out very casual. As a young Pagan, training heavily in the areas of martial arts and veterinary medicine, it was only natural for me to look to Skhmt as a mentor- or perhaps a touchstone on my path. She embodied those things I most strongly believed in at the time: strength, discipline, healing as a sacred gift and duty, and complete dedication to one's ideals.

When I became a Wiccan I assimilated Her (in theory) into my image of the Goddess as a Crone aspect, but I thank all the gods of intuition and good fortune that I never actually put that theory into practice. She'd have whomped me good if I'd called Her a Crone to Her face. Instead, our bond was forged by my admiration of Her noble heart, diligence, and sense of purpose, and Her acknowledgment of same in me. But I never officially became a follower of Skhmt- I was just someone whose chosen path happened to follow Hers and She occasionally blessed me with a glance and a nod in my direction. As time went on I ended my study of martial arts and took a break from my study of medicine so that I could explore my love of languages- Skhmt's presence also faded from my life, as Djhwty took up a more prominent role.

When I entered the Kemetic Community proper, however, I met up with many of Skhmt's children who had extensive experience with this beautiful ntjrt and Her styles of teaching and worship. And the tales they had to tell frightened me. I became so afraid of Skhmt that I would not, could not look Her in the face or stand to be anywhere near Her.

I had no way, at the time, of knowing these stories and references to Skhmt's mighty anger for what they were- somewhat light-hearted remarks which come from a fondness of the ntjrt and an understanding of the reasons behind Her heavy-handed discipline. That is not to say that Skhmt doesn't wield Her power when it is appropriate, or that She won't slam Her children with a clue-by-four when they warrant it, but those who work with Her have come to know that Skhmt's anger comes from Her deep-rooted love for Her children. Her rage is a righteous anger at seeing Ntjr's creation muddled and tangled- so much pure potential lost and wasted. She is tough love, and She will push and roar and force Her children to live their full potential and follow Ma'at- all for the sheer passion of Her love for them and for the world in which each child contributes a necessary role. But when they are truly hurt or tired, when they honestly can't take another step (and aren't just fooling themselves into thinking that they can't), She will come- as Margaret Atwood so cynically, yet beautifully stated in her poem-

"the final one, a kind lion
will come with bandages in her mouth
and the soft body of a woman,
and lick you clean of fever,
and pick your soul up gently by the nape of the neck..."

... until you can take to your path, when She will roar Her challenge and begin the chase once more.

Skhmt is associated with the heat of the sun and the desert, and She possesses a bow and seven arrows which She can use to spread disease throughout the land. She is also, however, the patron ntjrt of doctors and in ancient times Her priests and doctors underwent special training to gain the ability to cure the ailments She spread in Her purging rages. Skhmt can be called upon for protection, and Her destructive power can be redirected toward the destruction of disease or other dangers.

She is one of the avenging Eyes of Ra, and as such Her influence is particularly great toward the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. At this time She is traditionally named as the mother of Hrw and is petitioned for His protection and good health during the new year so that, through Him, the people may have Her protection and good health as well.

Skhmt is most commonly shown carrying the ankh and the wadj scepter, but is also occasionally shown with Her bow and arrows.

The ankh is commonly held by all the ntjrw. What exactly the ankh-symbol represents is a controversial subject- most believe it to be a sandal strap, but it has also been suggested that it may be an amuletic bow (like the tyt-knot), a ritual tool used to pry open the mouths of mummies in the "Opening of the Mouth" ceremony, a symbol of sexual union, or even the sun casting His light over the horizon. What the ankh means, however, is much more clear- it is a symbol of life.

The wadj scepter- a stylized stalk of papyrus which looks like a staff with an upside-down bell shape on the tip- is a symbol shared by most ntjrwt. It represents youth, joy, fertility, and the abundance which is the gift of the Nile- most potently seen in the lush papyrus swamps that grow along its shores and the living things that thrive within them.

The bow and arrows are the tools She uses to send death and destruction or protection, at Her choosing. The arrows of Skhmt can be used for striking at demons who attack the people and the ntjrw, or for spreading plague and destruction among those who have aroused the ntjrt's anger.

She usually takes the form of a woman with the head of a male lion, but is sometimes shown as a lion wearing the sun disk on Her head. Her solar disk headdress is commonly combined with the Wadjt-cobra which She bears on Her brow- rarely, but occasionally, She can be shown wearing more than one cobra. In one statue which I have seen, She wears the headdress of Amn-Ra combined with the headdress of Hwt-Hrw and the Wadjt-cobra.

The solar disk headdress shows Her close association with the sun and its power to burn or sustain life, and the Wadjt-cobra is a symbol of divine protection commonly seen on the forehead of human royalty and some divine figures- such as Ra and Bast- where She spits fire at any who would approach to do harm.

That She would wear the headdress of Hwt-Hrw is no major surprise, since Hwt-Hrw was once said to transform into Skhmt, but that She would wear it combined with the headdress of Amn-Ra shows that She has some association with this ntjr as well- perhaps because She is a daughter of Ra and was at one time identified with Mwt, the wife of Amn. The headdress of Amn-Ra consists of twin ostrich plumes- symbols of Ma'at- which stand straight and tall, and the solar disk of Ra centered before them.

Skhmt is a daughter of Ra, a wife of Pth, and mother to the beautiful perfume ntjr Nfrtm.

It wasn't until a near fatal illness which required emergency surgery and an extensive stay in the hospital that I turned my attention, once again, to this powerful ntjrt. My mother had flown across the country to change my bandages and make me venture forth from my bed each day. She finally realized the best way to do this was to tempt me with a trip to a local Egyptian museum that I hadn't yet been able to visit (clever Mom). So I went, huffing and puffing and somewhat nauseated by the pain, and the artifacts at the museum were beautiful. I hobbled backward into one gallery while admiring a display of sistra on the wall just to my left, and when I turned around it was like hitting a brick wall- only this wall was composed of an energy more intense than anything I'd experienced in a long time. It made my chest hurt, and I almost couldn't breathe. When I looked around I saw two statues of Skhmt just before me, and I knew that one of them was an open statue.

I felt an almost irresistible draw to kneel and bow, but I also felt Her strong arms helping me to keep standing- my injuries were too great for me to get back up after bowing, or even to stand for prolonged periods on my own. Feeling Her firm support, Her kindness in that moment, changed my perception of Her completely. That one moment was a revelation for me, and from that point I knew She was with me- helping me to recover, pushing me to continue my training and education, and forcing confrontations with my personal demons. At the next Wp Rnpt saq, Skhmt officially called me into Her service.

In my personal experience, ritual encounters with Skhmt are frequently intense, and very hot. The heat builds up remarkably, until the sweat is literally dripping off my face when I bend in dua. She tends to be pretty blunt- not nearly as cryptic as some of the others- and the challenges She has issued me have involved some of the more painful aspects of my personal history. When She first called to me She was easily able to force me into facing issues that no other ntjr could make me confront- simply because I was scared spitless of Her. But I have always been better off for those encounters; She has encouraged me to learn new things every day but also to take the time to appreciate my life and understand why sticking around and learning things is so important.

Click here for titles, hymns, and sources on Skhmt

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