Mafdet was a very
old catlike goddess, predating both Bast and Sekhmet, and depicted in the
Pyramid texts as killing a snake with her claws, symbolically the harpoon of the king becomes Mafdet's
claws for decapitating his enemies in the Underworld. The mere touch of her
claws was apparently lethal to snakes. She reputedly leapt upon the necks of
serpents and was also famous for slaying scorpions. In one instance, she is
described as having braided hair, which could symbolise the bodies of scorpions
and snakes that she killed. She is at times depicted as a woman with the head of
a cheetah, her hair braided and ending in scorpion tails. Sometimes she wears a
headdress of snakes. She was prayed to for protection against scorpion stings
and snakebite, and invoked in healing rituals for those who had been afflicted
When Mafdet is
described as leaping at the necks of snakes, the imagery seems to suggest her
form takes on that of a mongoose. In one epithet, Mafdet wears braided locks,
probably a reference to her displaying the jointed bodies of the scorpions which
she has killed.
As her cult was
incredibly ancient but Mafdet was the deification of legal justice, or rather,
of execution. Thus she was also associated with the protection of the king's
chambers and other sacred places, and with protection against venomous animals,
which were seen as transgressors against Ma'at.
She also was
depicted as a feline running up the side of an executioner's staff. It was said
that Mafdet ripped out the hearts of wrong-doers, delivering them to the
pharaoh's feet, in a similar manner as domestic cats who present people with
rodents or birds that they have killed or maimed.
During the New
Kingdom, Mafdet was seen as ruling over the judgment hall in Duat where the
enemies of the pharaoh were decapitated with Mafdet's claw.
Her cult was eventually replaced by that of Bast,
another cat-goddess, a lioness warrior who was seen as the pharaoh's protector,
but her cheetah imagery continued in association with the pharaohs including
personal items and the bed upon which their mummies were placed.
Mafdet as the bed upon
which a mummy of a pharaoh is being attended to by Anubis.
Menhit on the left
with Khnum on the right, shown on the outside wall of the temple at
Menhit /Menchit was originally a foreign war goddess. A
panther/ lion-headed woman. Her name depicts a warrior status, as it means "she
who massacres" or "The Slaughterer" and like most Egyptian war-deities, she was
believed to ride ahead of the Egyptian armies and cut down the great warriors of
their enemies. Some say her consort was Onuris, the war god who was said to have
bought her from Nubia. Others say Anhur was her other half. And even more say
that Khenmu was the fortunate one and they had a son Hike/ Heka. Due to the
aggressive attributes possessed by and hunting methods used by lionesses, most
things connected to warfare in Egypt were depicted as leonine, and Menhit was no
exception, being depicted as a lioness-goddess.She also was believed to advance
ahead of the Egyptian armies and cut down their enemies with fiery arrows,
similar to other war deities.
As the centre of
her cult was toward the southern border of Egypt, in Upper Egypt, she became
strongly identified with Sekhmet, who was originally the lion-goddess of war for
Upper Egypt, after unification of the two Egyptian kingdoms, this goddess began
to be considered simply another aspect of Sekhmet.
A statue of the
goddess Menkaret shows her carrying the seated statue of King Tutankhamun over
her head. She is supporting the king's back with her right hand and his feet
with her left hand. This is the position in which female Egyptian peasants
carried water jars over their heads. The king is wearing the Red Crown of Lower
Egypt and the usekh collar; he is wrapped in a shroud like a mummy. The goddess
is standing with her left leg forward. She is wearing a long wig and a pleated
kilt. Her swollen belly and low hips show the artistic influence of the Amarna
Period. This statue was used, with two others, in the mystical pilgrimages
during the funeral of the king.
from Tour Egpyt