I love to explore the Divine Feminine and write about Goddesses. For a list of those, click on the link: Goddesses. In order to become more balanced within ourselves and, through that, to bring greater balance and harmony to the world around us, we must find greater balance between the masculine and feminine energies within ourselves that each one of us possesses, regardless of physical gender or any other ways of self-identification.
Executioner & Executer
The Goddess Mafdet is one of the oldest deities in the Ancient Egyptian tradition. She is a feline, often depicted as some form of cat, a feline with a woman’s head or, in reverse, a woman with a feline head. It is not quite certain, whether she was a large cat, an African Civet or a Mongoose, although her history shows that her qualities were later incorporated into the cult of the Cat Goddess Bastet and some aspects were also taken over by the Lion Goddess Sekhmet.
The supposition that Mafdet was a feline is, apart from some surviving feline depictions, based on the fact that it is felines who kill venomous creatures such as snakes and scorpions, which was one of Mafdet’s main functions. Her name, also spelt Maftet or Mefdet, means the Swift One, or the Runner. This is also the reason why many believe that she was a Cheetah Goddess, as those are the fastest running mammals on earth. However, I personally believe that this is not quite so straightforward for several reasons.
Mafdet was also the slayer of evildoers in the afterlife and she was an executioner for pharaoh’s enemies. A staff at whose end a knife was tied is believed to be the weapon which was used to implement such executions in the very early days of Egyptian history. The knife symbolises Mafdet’s Claw which will tear out the culprit’s heart and, much like a cat, gifting her humans a bird or mouse by laying her dead prey at their feet, Mafdet is repeatedly shown to lay the hearts of pharaoh’s enemies at his feet in the exact same way.
This is, however, also an indication that her claws are sharp ones. And returning to the Cheetah, we must note that this is the only feline who cannot retract her claws, like a canine, a dog, hyena, jackal or wolf. So this would present somewhat of a challenge if Cheetah was to be expected to tear out heart with her claws. It is much more likely, she’d use her teeth instead, as they are much better equipped for the task.
Now to the question of being swift. A cheetah undoubtedly heads the game with a top speed of 110 km/h (68 m/h). The speed of a lion is 80 km/h (50 m/h). A leopard can reach up to 58 km/h (36 m/h) and a thoroughbred horse without a rider can reach a speed of up to 48 km/h (30 m/h). Now I dare to assume that the horses in Ancient Egypt were probably not as fast as the Arabian racehorses of our present day and were even slower with a warrior riding them on their back.
So, even a leopard or panther was still faster than a human on a horse at a short distance. And when you take into account how fast a feline is when attacking its prey, how swift these animals pounce, lash out with their claws, almost faster than the human eye can follow, there is a lot more than can be associated with the swiftness referred to in Mafdet’s name. Personally, I have always seen her as a flecked Leopard and mostly even black Panther in my own visions, but again, as I always say, I find it very important to bear in mind that everyone has their own experiences, so if she comes to you in the form of a mongoose, don’t dismiss it out of hand merely because it doesn’t coincide with what you previously read somewhere. Feel into the energy instead, connect and speak to her, ask for clear signs or knowing in order to be sure it is her or another deity or power animal.
Mafdet is the deification of legal justice and the protection of the king’s chambers and other sacred places. In Christian Jacq’s Ramses novels, she is mentioned as the guardian of a temple library and you had to go past her and survive in order to be able to access the scrolls containing secret sacred wisdom. Mafdet incarnate as a feline would slay anyone who was not of pure heart and her judgement was said to be infallible.
Mafdet was sometimes depicted as a feline running up an executioner’s staff and, during the New Kingdom, she was the ruler of the judgement hall in the afterlife, called Duat. There, as mentioned above, pharaoh’s enemies were decapitated with Mafdet’s Claw, the staff with the knife tied to it.
As much as rulers in all eras and civilisations have always used the divine as a justification to claim and hold on to their power, even to the present day, there is another deeper layer to this: Pharaoh was seen as the incarnation of Horus on earth, thus being a God in the flesh, and his responsibility was to uphold the Law of Ma’at, which is divine law and truth, order, justice, harmony and righteousness, as well as pure-heartedness.
On the Palermo Stone, it is mentioned how Mafdet tears out the heart of an enemy and in the Nu Papyrus, she is described to cut off someone’s head. There are more mentions of her in various locations, but she is always depicted as fast, fierce and merciless each time.
In this sense, Mafdet is the executive of slaying evil, bringers of chaos and anything of lower energies that is not in alignment with living a life in accordance and harmony with the highest good of all concerned. Thus, she is a dark Goddess whose job it is to mete out the low vibrational in our lives in order to make room to bring in the light. In this, Mafdet shows no mercy. There is no middle ground, no shades of grey. She dispels the shadows by ripping out the very heart of the matter. She is not one to waste her time by fiddling about with the symptoms, she will grab the “evil,” the low vibrational, and tear it out at its roots in one swift move.
In my romance novel Born to Be Wild, the female protagonist Carry Bishop, a florist from New York City, evades a date rape by a hair’s breadth and knows she cannot sweet-talk and reason with her assailant but needs to put as much distance between them as possible. As she thinks, the man cannot be threatened with the police due to his powerful legal and political connections, she flees town and then, in her despair, begs a complete stranger whom she has flagged down on the road when her car has broken down, biker Dan, for help.
Dan isn’t one to take violence against women lightly. In this story, he is the archetypal manifestation of Mafdet’s Claw, the executive, rendering the evildoer incapable of attacking Carry again. Permanently. Thus, Carry has asserted her Goddess power, setting clear boundaries. Even when she lacks the physical capacity to stand up to a stronger man, she trusts her own instincts and is resourceful enough to find help in executing that in the physical which she cannot do herself. This doesn’t make her a damsel in distress, a helpless victim, because she is proactive and stirs events herself, rather than cowering in a corner, paralysed with fear and hoping for a hero to magically show up without any prompting and save the day. Instead, she is the director of the scenario, taking all necessary action in order to protect her own interest and ensure her safety.
The Slayer of Souls
It is probably safe to assume that, on a very mundane level, the pharaohs of old used Mafdet’s role in the afterlife as the slayer of the souls of the evil dead to cement their power and spread fear amongst their enemies. However, when working with archetypes, we must always look beyond the obvious, dive below the surface to understand the deeper meaning that hides behind the pretty (or in this case pretty horrific) stories of the respective tradition’s mythology.
When Mafdet comes running into your life and sweeps you off your feet with one swift swipe of her powerful claw, it is time to not only let go of something or someone in your life that no longer serves your highest good or has your best interest at heart, but it is a warning to cut this cancerous, festering “evil” out at once, or else, there will be dire consequences to pay. However, as Mafdet isn’t exactly a cuddly, cosy Goddess, it also means, you are in a position of strength and power to do so. You have all the power within you to proverbially raise Mafdet’s Claw over your head and strike a fatal blow at whatever needs to be instantly removed from your life.
This can include many different things from something literally and immediately life-threatening to more subtle things that still cause a great ill-effect in your life. You may need to undergo immediate surgery to have a carcinoma removed. You may need to call the police on your abusive spouse before he beats you or your children to death, or you may need to stop a destructive habit out cold like quitting smoking or drinking alcohol before your body and also your mental health suffers irreparable damage from it.
As you see, possibilities of what it could be are almost endless, but not the immediate urgency to take some very drastic action to make a profound change in your life in order to uphold and live by the Rule of Ma’at, which intrinsically means, to agree to live whole-heartedly, for everything that causes negative energies, everything that limits you in any way at all, is a resistance to life itself.
Taking a breath is the act of accepting life, of agreeing to live. And Mafdet is the executive to mete out this divine justice, to uphold divine law in your life. She is your inner executioner of all things evil, all things limiting you in your life in any way. One of her other titles is Lady of the House of Life. Now you know why.
Thus, when you embrace the power of Mafdet within you, you become a force to be reckoned with. You stand up for yourself, choosing life and defending it with all you’ve got, uncompromising, swift and lethal as this most powerful dark Goddess herself.
The scorpion is not an obvious, or comfortable, role model of a devoted mother to us, thus it may make you wonder why on earth the scorpion was associated with motherhood at all, let alone in a deified form, but the Egyptians saw the ever vigilant scorpion carry her babies on her back and took that as a symbol of conscientious and protective motherhood.