Egyptian Gods: Pakhet

Pakhet is an ancient Egyptian war goddess whose following was centered in the area of Beni Hassan (formerly Al Minya) in the Middle Egypt during the Middle Kingdom. She is believed to be a combined form of Bastet of Lower Egypt and Sekhmet of Upper Egypt whose functions she has likewise assimilated. She became a deity on her own when Bastet took the form of a domesticated cat and Sekhmet as a fearsome lioness in the Middle Kingdom. Pakhet was considered to be less domesticated than Bastet but less ferocious than Sekhmet. She takes the form of a woman with the head of a lioness or simply a lioness in art forms. In some forms, she is a desert wildcat. She may also be seen wearing a solar disc as part of her crown. Her name may also be spelled as Pachet, Pehkhet, Phastet or Pasht, which means “she who tears”, “she who snatches” or “the tearer” suggestive of her fierce nature.

Like most deities, she had a duality in her roles. One of the most crucial functions she acquired from Bastet is that she is the protector of mother making her the goddess of motherhood.

More than a war goddess whose strength is inner quality rather than an outward show Pakhet is also a huntress. She known as the “Night Huntress” believed to wander deep into the desert at night to catch her prey. This made her associated with desert storms, presumably due to her connection to Sekhmet. She is believed to use her sharp eyes and pointed claws in killing snakes, venomous creatures and vermin. Many people assumed she was also the goddess of the night because of this.

Aside from that, she also had the epithet “Goddess of the Mouth of the Wadi”. Wadi is an area of water near the border of the desert. Owing to the fact that hunters proliferate this area and presumably, because lions are often seen skirting the area due to presence of prey attracted to the waters, she was given such title. She was also known as “She Who Opens the Valley”, perhaps because of the flooding that happens in the narrow valley of Al Minya from storms that struck it.

In amulets, she is often depicted as a lioness standing over her fallen captives and prey – a representation of the subdued chaos she signified. If worn everyday, these amulets are useful for protection and fertility.

In the Middle Kingdom, the pharaoh Hatshepsut built an enormous shrine underground dedicated to her in Al Minya now Beni Hassan. Thousands of mummified cats were buried there. Being a hunting deity, she often link to Greek counterpart Artemis. When the Greeks invaded Egypt, they named her temple Speos Artemidoros or “Grove of Artemis” or “Cave of Artemis”.