About three years ago, my friend Darlene gave me a little picture of the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet that she hand painted on papyrus. She said that the goddess had told her to give it to me, so I took it home and placed it on the altar in my meditation room. Little did I know that the drawing that she’d given me was part of a grander scheme.
My friend Darlene has no last name, having legally changed her name many years ago. When I first met her back in 1990, she’d only recently moved to North Carolina from her native Wisconsin where she’d been involved with Native American spirituality. When we met, she was just beginning to learn about the practices of the ancient Egyptians from Vincent Bridges, the man who would eventually become her husband.
These days, as Lady Sekhmet, she’s a full-fledged priestess of the lion-headed goddess of the ancients, and she often travels around the country performing initiations to bring others into her goddess’s fold. In addition, she has a web site called “All Things Sekhmet”, has articles posted on the site for the San Graal School of Sacred Geometry (http://www.sangraal.com) and sells her artwork, most of which is centered around her beloved goddess.
“As Sekhmet’s sacred artist, I have become very selective about the work I am now choosing to do,” she writes on her web site. “I mostly paint and draw images of the living goddess.”
It would seem that becoming a priestess has had a profound effect on her work. Back when I was seeing her and her husband on a regular basis, she was always trying to farm her artistic talents out for income, with much less success than her considerable talents would warrant.
“Even with a refined sense of typography,” she writes on the San Graal site, “I could never find any jobs doing it. It eventually dawned on me that Sekhmet had something to do with my bad luck. A thriving graphics design career would assure that I would never return to my true vocation as Her sacred artist.”
It seems that for five years she considered herself to be a priestess of Sekhmet without devoting her art to her spiritual nature. She was doing what most of us do, separating herself into compartments. Darlene the sacred priestess and Darlene the graphic design artist had very little to do with each other, just as a supermarket clerk usually loses that identity to become wife and mother at home.
All of that changed when the comet Hyutake trekked through our solar system. “That’s when Sekhmet instructed me to begin the process of gathering together her once and future priestesses,” she explains. “Sekhmet also instructed me to paint her image on papyrus.”
Okay, I’ll admit it might seem strange to some that this woman would receive instructions from a goddess connected with a religion that’s been all but dead for over two thousand years. To others, the idea might even seem crazy. However, such experiences are not at all unusual. Millions of Christians claim to have developed “a personal relationship with Christ,” Buddhists around the world work to embody a god or goddess that will address their personal issues and New Age gurus regularly “channel” beings who are protected by copyright laws. Taken in this light, a relationship with an ancient Egyptian goddess isn’t so strange after all.
Darlene chose to follow her goddesses wishes and painted Sekhmet in what the Egyptians would call an “active stance,” with her right foot a half-step ahead of the left. In one hand, the goddess held an ankh, the Egyptian cross which symbolizes life. In the other was a lotus scepter, which represents growth. “Sekhmet accepted the image, then directed me to paint another 107 of them,” writes Darlene.
She hand-painted the miniature Sekhmets on papyri and gave them to people whom the goddess indicated should receive them. Some were given to friends, some to people whom she didn’t even like, but mostly they went to strangers. At first she thought that the purpose of this exercise was merely to teach her a lesson in giving without expectation of reward. “But stories began to trickle back to me about what effect they were having upon people and their circumstances,” she explains. “I became amazed by the accounts I heard, such as the man whose neighborhood was devastated by a hurricane – everything was gone, except for his house. He had framed the Sekhmet papyrus and had it on his wall.”
Darlene says that she has benefited greatly from this experience. “I am now on the road towards self-discovery as both a sacred artist and as a Sekhmet priestess,” she says. “I have discovered there is a relationship between creativity and sexuality which I continue to explore. But I have also learned that giving without expectation of receiving holds power. It also holds some surprises.”
As for the little papyrus painting that Darlene gave to me, it stayed on my altar for about a year, until I met someone who I thought needed it more. As far as I know, that person still has it.