Category Archives: Sacred Animals

The Great Cackler

The Ancient Egyptians welcomed and honored all sorts of creatures in their art,  in hieroglyphics, as well as in the depiction of the goddesses and gods. Egyptian artwork includes more than seventy species of birds and they can be seen in dozens of hieroglyphs. The wide range of birds in Egyptian art, mummified remains of birds, and textual references clearly indicate that birds played an important role in ancient Egyptian society and religion.

Waterfowl, including wild and domestic species of ducks and geese, were treasured offering (and eating) birds. There is evidence that the Ancient Egyptians actively bred geese and ducks as an environmental conservation measure. To go by the numbers recorded as part of temple offerings, Ramesses III, for example, donated over 430,000 individual waterfowl to temples during his thirty-one year reign. Obviously breeding and preserving the ducks and geese would have been of prime importance.

A Roman historian, circa 60 BCE wrote that the Egyptians, ‘raise them by their own hands, by virtue of a skill peculiar to them, in numbers beyond telling…..’ (Diodorus Siculus, Book I, 74).

 

Sanctuary ducks
Contented ducks at our Sanctuary (we do not eat our ducks!)

One of the oldest Gods, being part of the Ennead (the Creators), is Geb the God of the Earth,  whose wife is Nut, the sky Goddess. Geb is often represented as a man with a goose on his head, or simply a goose and he is known as the Great Cackler. He was believed to have fathered the primordial egg from which the sun hatched.
For Geb, it is written:

Behold, I rejoice on my standard, on my seat.
I am the Creator of Darkness, making my place in the limits of the Sky,
The Ruler of Infinity.
I am the Son of the Earth,
Sprung from the Egg of the World.
I rejoice in the Lord of the Palace.
My Nest is unseen; I have broken the Egg.
I am the Lord of Millions of Years.
I have made my Nest in the limits of the sky,
And descended to the earth as the goose who drives out all sins.
~The Leyden Papyrus

Egyptian_-_Sculptor's_Model_with_a_Relief_of_a_Goose_-_Walters_22268
Geb – the Great Cackler

A tiny protector for the full moon

What is it about bats? They have been portrayed as the alter-ego of Vampires due to the blood-sucking nature of three breeds of bats; however these are only found in South America and rarely go after humans. People are often terrified of these small animals yet most bats are harmless creatures who have unique eyesight, enjoy the dark, and have the ability to navigate with great precision in the darkness. Some are actually cute small mammals as can be seen by the featured images. Furthermore, bats are the only mammals that can truly fly and sustain flight.

Egyptian Fruit BAt

We have a small bat I’ve named Belfry who loves to fly laps around visitors to the basement of one of our Sanctuary homes; it is a charmingly Victorian Gothic experience. Belfry begged exploration of the nature of Bats in Ancient Egypt.

tinybat

The Ancient Egyptians believed that Bats could prevent or cure poor eyesight, toothache, fever, and baldness, and a Bat hung over the doorway of a home was thought to prevent the entry of demons that carried such illnesses. So rather than being blood-sucking demons, Bats were looked upon as tiny protectors.

Blessings on the Full Jasmine Moon!

Goddesses of Destruction and Creation

The Goddess of Destruction and Creation, Mother Nature, Aset, the 10,000 faces of the Goddess; it has been said (over and over again) “don’t mess with Mother Nature.” The Divine Feminine, Mother Nature, is stronger than man/humans. Throughout history She is honored, feared, worshiped, and, discussed here.

With Goddess Pele now creating fear and tremors in Hawaii, I see her in the Egyptian image of the Goddess of Destruction, Sekhmet. The Goddess is worshiped throughout the world with different words and images, however in the end they are all related, if not the same.

In Egypt, the lion represented the ferocious destructive aspect of the heat of the sun. Sekhmet, the Lion Goddess, is the Goddess of destruction and known as the power that protects the good and annihilates the wicked. She is the bringer of justice, a guardian and the Goddess of the sun, war, destruction, plagues and healing. She was created by Fire as a weapon of vengeance to destroy men for their wicked ways. Having once unleashed her powers for the destruction of mankind (it was a bloodbath!) the Egyptians feared a repeat performance by Sekhmet. The Egyptian people developed elaborate rituals in hopes she could be appeased. This ritual revolved around more than 700 statues of the goddess.The Egyptian priests were required to perform a ritual before a different one of these statues each morning and each afternoon of every single day of every single year. Only by the strictest adherence to this never-ending ritual could the ancient Egyptians be assured of their ability to placate Sekhmet.

Sekhmet
Sekhmet – “The Powerful One”

Tutu Pele the Fire Goddess is one of the most well known and revered Goddess in Ancient Hawaiian religion. She is the Goddess of Fire, lightning, dance, wind, volcanoes and violence. One of her names is Ka wahine `ai honua – the woman who devours the land; and like Sekhmet, she is both a creator and destroyer. She throws molten fountains into the air and governs the great flows of lava. With her power over the volcanoes, she created the Hawaiian Islands, and to this day, Pele has been known to reveal herself in the lava that is still continuing to grow and change the Hawaiian Islands.

The Face of Pele
The Face of Pele

Pele is known as the “Destroyer,” yet she is also considered a Mother Goddess. She contains within her both the destructive and creative powers of life. These powers are still very evident in Hawaii where Kilauea has been erupting. The creative force in Pele’s nature is shown in the synchronization of the elements during the eruption process. All four elements work together. Earth and fire mix creating lava; lava possesses water characteristics in the liquidity of its form, while air is represented by the billowing clouds of smoke during eruption. Air and water are also present in steam when the lava reaches the ocean forming new landmass. It is in this way that the Hawaiian archipelago was formed, and Pele is credited with its creation.

Face of Pele in Steam
Face of Pele in Steam

 

Homage to Mothers and to Re

The following is an homage to Mothers  (on behalf of Mother’s day which resonates with this ancient Priestess with several children and grandchildren):

“O my heart which I had from my mother ! O my heart which I had from mother !
O my heart of my different ages ! May there be nothing to resist me at the judgment. May there be no opposition to me from the assessors. May there be no parting of You from me in the presence of him who keeps the scales ! You are my Ka within my body, which formed and strengthened my limbs. May You come forth to the place of happiness whereto I advance. May the entourage not cause my name to stink, and may no lies be spoken against me in the presence of the god ! It is indeed well that You should hear !'”

Connected with this is an homage to Re~

“Here begin the praises and glorifications,
going out and in the domain of god(dess),
having benefit in the beautiful West,
coming out by day [Re],
taking any shape he [she] likes,
playing at Senet, sitting in a booth,
and coming out as a living soul.
After he [she] has arrived in port,
Osiris, the scribe Ani, said:
‘It is beneficial to him/her
who does it on Earth.'”
Book of the Dead, Chapter 17 (Ani & Nebseni)

 

 

Serket the Scorpion Queen

Serket (also known as Selkis or Serqet) is an Egyptian goddess of fertility, nature, animals, medicine, magic, and, above all; healing venomous stings and bites. Her name means “she who causes the throat to breathe,” and as well as “she who causes the throat to tighten. In addition to stinging the unrighteous, Serket could cure scorpion stings and the effects of other venoms such as snakebite.

One of the most dangerous species of scorpion, the Deathstalker, resides in North Africa, so Serket was considered a highly important goddess, and sometimes she was the patron deity of  pharaohs. She had a close association with the early rulers as their protector, most notably the rulers Scorpion I and Scorpion II.

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Our Sanctuary has many scorpions, most of which do not sting.

As the protector against venom and snakebite, Serket was said to protect the other deities from Apep, the snake-demon. Also, since the bite from many of the venomous creatures of Egypt could prove fatal, Serket was considered a protector of the dead, particularly being associated with venoms and fluids causing stiffening. She was the protector of the tents of embalmers and of the canopic jar associated with venom. Serket gained a strong association with Neith, Isis, and Nephthys, who also guarded the canopic jars. Eventually, as the Egyptian pantheon evolved, Serket began to be identified with Isis, sharing imagery and parentage.

Serket was shown as a scorpion or as a woman with a scorpion on her head. It is unknown if she had her own temple, however she had a good number of priests in many communities.

Nefertari’s tomb has the following utterance to Serket:

Serket, mistress of heaven and lady of all the gods. I have come before you [oh] king’s great wife, mistress of the two lands, lady of Upper and Lower Egypt, Nefertari, beloved of Mut, justified Before Osiris who resides in Abydos, and I have accorded you a place in the sacred land, so that you may appear gloriously in heaven like Ra.

— McDonald, J.K. 1996, House of Eternity: The Tomb of Nefertari, p. 69

 

 

The Hare Goddess Wenet

When we think of Easter, the “Easter Bunny” is a main topic for festivity and play.
In ancient Egypt, the rabbit, or hare, was the Goddess Wenet. The Egyptians venerated the hare because of its swiftness and keen senses. The hare’s form was also taken by other deities who had associations with the Otherworld. In one scene from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, a hare-headed god, a snake-headed god, and a bull-headed god sit side by side; a hare-headed deity also guards one of the Seven Halls in the Underworld.

Wenet is further described in a portion of spell 17 of the Book of the Dead, which reads: “…Who is he? ‘Swallower of Myriads’ is his name, and he dwells in the Lake of Wenet…” To interpret the meaning of this passage, one remembers that hares can swim, and the Egyptian creation first came about in the watery abyss of Nun, out of which rose the primordial mound where newly born gods manifested. To “dwell in the Lake of Wenet” means to live renewed, revitalized, to be reborn, to live, forever and ever, renewed after death, as the god Atum-Re. Spell 17 goes on to identify the dweller in the Lake of Wenet as Atum-Re, the creator of all, whose father is said to be Nun, because he rose out of the “watery abyss.”

Other passages in the Book of the Dead mention Wenet. Spell 149 describes the “Mound of Wenet” though which the spirit travels to be reborn, rejuvenated while in the Otherworld or Duat:

“…As for that Mound of Wenet which is in front of Rosetjau, its breath is fire, and the gods cannot get near it, the spirits cannot associate with it; there are four cobras on it whose names are ‘Destruction.’ O Mound of Wenet, I am the greatest of the spirits who are in you, I am among the Imperishable Stars who are in you, and I will not perish, nor will my name perish. ‘O savour of a god!’ say the gods who are in the Mound of Wenet. If you love me more than your gods, I will be with you for ever…”

Not only is the Mound of Wenet a site of sacred creative energy, the ability of the hare to elude destruction, shows the Goddess Wenet, as associated with the hare, to provide a haven for the spirit, where it is rejuvenated on its journey through the Otherworld, a place where it cannot perish.

Ancient Egyptian Hare
“In many ancient civilizations the hare is a “lunar animal,” because the dark patches (maria, “seas”) on the surface of the full moon suggest leaping hares….In Buddhist, Celtic, Hottentot and ancient Egyptian cultures as well, the hare was associated with the moon…known for it’s vigilance and for the myth of it sleeping with it’s eyes open. The early Christian Physiologus mentions a further peculiarity of the hare: with its shorter front legs, it can run fastest uphill, eluding its pursuers…It’s speed and vigilance, according to Plutarch (AD 46 – 120), have a “divine” quality…A trickster figure, the hare outwits larger and stronger animals…For psychologically oriented symbologists, neither the speed nor the “timidity” of the hare is critical, but rather the rate at which it multiplies: this makes the animal a symbol of fertility…”

~ Biedermann, in the Dictionary of Symbolism