Differences between Sekhmet and Hathor

Hathor and Sekhmet are pivotal figures in Egyptian mythology, embodying contrasting aspects of life. Hathor, goddess of love and beauty, contrasts Sekhmet, the lioness deity of war and chaos, together illustrating the duality of existence in ancient Egyptian beliefs.


Hathor was one of the most famous and highly revered goddesses in ancient Egypt. She was the daughter of the sun god Ra and was commonly depicted as a cow, a woman with a cow’s head, or a woman wearing the headdress of a cow’s horns and a sun disk.

She was associated with many aspects of life, including love, beauty, music, motherhood, joy, and fertility. As a sky goddess, she was also sometimes identified as the mother of the celestial bodies, the sun and the moon.

Hathor was also associated with the afterlife. In the Pyramid Texts, she’s described as the mother of the pharaoh, who she nurses and takes to the afterlife after his death. She’s also portrayed as a protector of ordinary people in their journey to the afterlife, providing them with food and other support.

Lioness Goddess Sekhmet

Sekhmet, whose name means “the powerful one,” was a lioness goddess, one of the oldest known Egyptian deities. She was depicted as a lioness or as a woman with the head of a lioness, often wearing a solar disk headdress.

Sekhmet was associated with war, chaos, and destruction, and was known as a fierce protector of the pharaohs. According to mythology, she came into being from the fire of Ra’s eye as a means of wreaking vengeance on humans for their disobedience. In a fit of rage, she nearly annihilated mankind but was tricked into drinking beer dyed red to resemble blood, which made her become inebriated and cease her rampage.

Their link to the Eye of Ra

The Eye of Ra, also known as the “Eye of Re,” “Udjat,” or “Wadjet Eye,” is a powerful and multifaceted symbol that represents the sun god Ra and various aspects of the divine and cosmic order.

In ancient Egyptian mythology, both Sekhmet and Hathor have a close relationship to the Eye of Ra, a powerful symbol associated with the sun god Ra, often embodying his feminine counterpart or daughter.

The Eye of Ra is frequently personified as a number of goddesses, including Sekhmet and Hathor, who each represent different aspects of the Eye’s characteristics.

Sekhmet is one of the most well-known forms of the Eye of Ra. She is often depicted as a lioness, the fiercest hunter known to the Egyptians. According to one myth, Ra sends his eye in the form of Sekhmet to punish humanity for its disobedience and disrespect. As the Eye of Ra, Sekhmet’s role was to bring Ra’s fiery vengeance down on humanity. She did this so well that she almost annihilated all of mankind, but was eventually tricked into stopping her rampage.

Despite her fearsome characteristics, Sekhmet also had healing aspects. She was the patron of physicians and healers, and her priests became known as skilled doctors. As a result, the fearsome deity also played a role in warding off plague and curing diseases. Image: Sekhmet shown with her sun disk and cobra crown from a relief at the Temple of Kom Ombo;  and Sekhmet from the temple of Mut at Luxor, granite, 1403–1365 B.C., in the National Museum, Copenhagen

Hathor, on the other hand, represents the benign and life-giving aspects of the Eye of Ra. As the Eye, Hathor could be a protector and a provider of love, music, and joy. In the aftermath of Sekhmet’s rampage, Hathor was often invoked as the Eye to bring about healing and restoration.

Unlike Sekhmet’s more destructive aspects, Hathor’s role as the Eye of Ra was more benevolent and nurturing. Image: Depiction of Hathor as a cow

Myth of the Distant Goddess

The duality of Hathor and Sekhmet as manifestations of the Eye of Ra represents the balance of mercy and punishment, creation and destruction, which were important aspects of the ancient Egyptian understanding of divine power.

This idea is most dramatically played out in the story of the Distant Goddess, a myth in which the Eye of Ra (in the form of Sekhmet or Hathor) goes out into the desert in a fit of rage, and must be coaxed back to civilization and transformed from a savage lioness into a peaceful cow.

Hathor in Egyptian Mythology

Goddess of: sky, women, fertility, music, love and joy

Meaning of the name: “Estate of Horus”

Father: Ra

Consort: Ra, and sometimes Horus the Elder

Issue: Horus the Child

Association: Sekhmet, Mut, and Isis

Symbols: Cow horns, turquoise, lion, sycamore tree, cobra

Worship places: Dendera Temple, Memphis

Epithets: “the Lady of Song”; “Atum’s hand”; Mother of creation”; “the Driving force of Creation”; “the Golden One”; “the Mistress of Maidens”; “the Lady of the Sycamore”; and “Lady of Turquoise”

Depiction: A woman wearing the headdress of a sun disk and cow horns

Greek equivalent: Aphrodite

Roman equivalent:  Venus

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