Growing up in Turin, and spending a lot of time in the halls of the old Egyptian Museum, I became acquainted early on with Bastet and Sekhmet, the two cat-goddesses of the Egyptian pantheon.
Both goddesses started out as lionesses, but later Bastet (or Bubastis) was characterized more as a cat, while Sekhmet retained her lion aspect and her fierceness.
But there was a third cat goddess, I was surprised to find out, one whose acquaintance I made only in the last few days, as she became instrumental in resolving the plot of the latest story I wrote.
I am talking of Pakhet.
O You of the dawn who wake and sleep,Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts, Spell 470
O You who are in limpness, dwelling aforetime in Nedit,
I have appeared as Pakhet the Great,
whose eyes are keen and whose claws are sharp,
the lioness who sees and catches by night….
Compared to her two “sisters”, Pakhet, “She Who Opens the Ways of the Stormy Rains,” remained through all of her tenure a wilder, less predictable and less reassuring goddess.
Granted, she was often portrayed killing snakes and thus defeating evil, and yet she was the sort of good deity you don’t want to provoke, and whose attention is better not to attract.
She is a huntress, and therefore was later identified with Artemis or Diana, because the Greco-Romans thought cultural appropriation is for wussies, but she’s a lot darker than those classical virgins.
And if Bastet is a cat and Sekhmet is a linoess, then Pakhet is a caracal, an African medium-sized desert cat that became, quite interestingly, very popular as a pet with the Ming dynasty in China, and was employed as a hunting animal in India.
Will She Whose Eyes Are Keen and Whose Claws Are Sharp bring good fortune to my story?
I certainly hope so.