December 25, 2013

And there were stars: How a time out turned into the nighttime sky

Have you ever been angry with other people?

I'm not talking about being annoyed with one or two particular people, or general frustration. I'm talking about the kind of seething, frothing misanthropy that makes you furious at the human race in general, the kind of rage and disgust that makes you think, "If I never see another human being again, I could live with that." This is the kind of all-consuming anger that makes you sick of trying to get along with anybody, that has you cursing everything and everybody and just wanting to be left alone.

This is how angry Ra was with human beings, according to the myth where Sekhmet was born. In His rage – and mind you, as far as the myth goes, He was right to be angry – He sent Hethert down as the Lioness of the Blood Red Garments and told Her to chew up evil. Then She got carried away, and started chewing up everybody, not just the evil ones. Her rage was "pleasant to her heart," and She would not stop.

So Ra came up with a clever ruse with the help of a small army of priestesses and a large quantity of beer and hematite powder. Transformed into a lake of "blood," this red-tinted beer was poured out alongside the town where Sekhmet had gone a'slaughtering, and once She found it, She drank it. And once She drank it, She fell asleep. End of angry lion, end of destruction, end of story.

Or was it?