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Friday January 21, 2005: Goddess of Destruction, Her Role in Medicine

            Why would anyone worship a goddess of destruction, and how could any culture associate one such goddess with medicine and healing? If you logged into this site thinking you’d find an ally to help you gain power or revenge – forget it. Forget movies like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and its Hollywood notion of Hindu Kali worshipers, or books, like Bless the Child with the antagonist’s satanic appeal to the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet. Americans are way too conditioned to think of destruction in negative terms. If modern-day fictional accounts use goddesses of destruction or their worshipers as bad guys, it’s because the writers think any action taken by such a figure must have an evil or malevolent intent. That’s not the reality of how the original cultures understood their goddesses.

        The Egyptian goddess Sekhmet was considered the fierce or burning force of the solar-god Ra. As a war goddess, Sekhmet was nothing like the Greek god Ares – he was an instigator of violence. Instead, Sekhmet was called upon to ride in battle with the Egyptians, protecting the king and visiting destruction upon Egypt’s enemies. If you were the enemy, it probably mattered little whether your life was ended in the name of Sekhmet or Ares, but I think the deities’ original motivation for being in the thick of battle was significantly different.

        What about the question of why a goddess of war, famine, plague and pestilence would have temples for healing? Destroying and healing – they don’t seem to have much in common. Yet, I don’t think Egyptians worshiped Sekhmet out of fear she might bring plague and pestilence if ignored or slighted. She is listed as the one to whom people brought appeals for relief.

        The reasoning for that concept only made sense to me after an unusual and ill-timed encounter with Sekhmet. (If the concept of interacting with deities seems far out – which it probably will – you may want to read this entry first.) For reasons I won’t go into now, I had challenged Sekhmet. There was a brief moment of me realizing what a dumb thing that was to do, and then she challenged me right back.

        ... "You were once my High Priestess, child. Did I ever compel you to destroy?"

        "No," I said slowly and sincerely, "I can't remember you ever compelling me to destroy."

        "Think child," she shouted, whirling towards me. She stuck her face up close to mine and I knew I’d given the wrong answer. I saw two images before me. I saw the face of a woman, almond eyes and finely chiseled features, a timeless beauty. I saw the head of a lioness, heard the throaty breathing, realized the power of jaws inches from my own face. There was no way to focus on just one image. If I focused on the human face, I was aware of the lion's face, and vice-versa. She was not either/or. She was both and neither could be separated from the other. God protect me, I didn't know what answer she wanted from me. She straightened up.

        "Did you not, as High Priestess, ever have a limb so filled with poisons that you were compelled to cut out huge chunks of flesh, sometimes even remove the entire limb?"

        "Yes," I remembered, curious at the direction she was leading me. She leaned closer.

         "And did you enjoy the destroying? Did you rejoice that you had the excuse to hack and maim and disfigure some poor slob who deserved nothing more than to serve your pleasure?"

        "No," I shouted, horrified by the idea. "I only removed what had to be removed, to save a life."

        Sekhmet stood up tall. It was unnerving to be aware of the human standing regal and tall while I was also so aware of the lithe and muscular body of a lioness.

        "So, you destroyed the part when it was the only way to save the whole."...

        Ah, so that was the reasoning. As the encounter progressed, things began making more sense to me. By the time it ended, by the time I’d came back to everyday reality, I had a markedly different understanding of Sekhmet -- even that story about her supposed attempt to destroy mankind. (That myth I will address in future entries.)

        In the days following this encounter, I thought mostly about medicine and medical practitioners. Sekhmet had pointed to amputations and removal of large areas of tissue as an act of destruction. An amputation could still be considered an act of destruction, though it would be a last resort in the modern world of medicine.

        I remembered a pathologist who once said cancer treatment was a choice of being cut, burned, or poisoned (surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy). All three treatments destroyed healthy cells or tissue along with the malignancy. You just hoped the procedure killed most of the malignant cells and a minimum of healthy cells. That could certainly be considered an act of destruction. So for that matter could antibiotics killing off bacteria. But why stop there?

         Is it not the nature of medicine that it always seeks to remove something? It removes imbalances, imperfections, disruptions in the normal functioning of systems. A doctor or healer never takes a patient in the prime of health and seeks to make changes. They work to remove obstacles to normal health. Success is removal or replacement of that which prevents the body from operating in a normal healthy fashion.

        The more I explored these concepts, the more I understood Sekhmet’s connection to medicine and healing. The role of a goddess of destruction also helped explain those strange moments in my life -- when windows opened into other dimensions and I knew how to heal. The techniques I knew didn’t mesh with techniques I’d seen written about by current day healers. Healing would have been a pulling rather than a pushing or outward flowing of energy; probably because goddesses of destruction remove that which stands in the way of cosmic order. My method could be a karmic disaster if not done properly, and I’ve always been prevented from using it in this lifetime (must have gotten it wrong somewhere in my past).

        It seems odd to say that, while today I don’t follow any goddess of destruction, I still follow the concepts of that path: the basic core of my being was created by the divine out of its love; the universe as a whole, despite flaws which seem to operate in the lowest levels, retains a basic element of balance and harmony; by removing the imperfections within myself, I come closer to being one with that harmony. I am less inclined to see the everyday world as a trap, a battlefield between forces of good and evil that one must escape before finding lasting peace. I do not see spiritual progress as overcoming or denying a world made of negativity, but as stripping the negativity from myself, so I may see the workings of the divine within all its creation.

        This was not all I was to learn from my encounter with Sekhmet. To be continued.....

Posted on Friday, January 21, 2005 at 07:15AM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | Comments1 Comment

Reader Comments (1)

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July 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAir Jordan

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