Sin, Punishment, Repentance & Reward
Meretseger is an Ancient Egyptian Cobra Goddess whom I first came across in the Stone of Light fictional series by Christian Jacq, which centres around a village of master craftsmen who are in charge of the work building the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. The wife of the chief master craftsman is a high priestess and a familiar of the Goddess.
As I have always felt an affinity to snakes, namely, Cobra who is one of my power animals, I was fascinated. In fact, the novels of Christian Jacq were the beginning of a conscious, profound and henceforth lifelong love affair with the deities of Ancient Egypt. Anubis and Sekhmet are my closest deity guides over many years already and I have encountered them before I even knew who they were and what they were.
Meretseger is in charge of Thebes and the Valley of the Kings (and also the Valley of the Queens). Her name means She Who Loves Silence or, in reference to Osiris, Beloved of Him Who Makes Silence. If you have ever been out there in the Valley or the desert-like environment of that area or have seen it in a documentary, you may be aware of how silent the desert can be when you’re alone amongst rocks and sand. I personally had many visions of meditating in this environment and communing with my guides in human or animal form. Sekhmet loves the heat and the sand especially and Anubis often meets me in one of the tombs.
As mentioned above, I first came across Meretseger in the Stone of Light series by Christian Jacq, an author of historical novels and Egyptologist, as well as a member of the Freemasons of the higher ranks who later went on to write novels about Mozart’s life and his meeting an Egyptian priest of the old wisdom, where freemasonry first stemmed from, the relics of a highly advanced civilisation and culture whose most powerful teachings and insights were lost over the millennia. In the village of Deir el-Medina, which was originally called Set-Ma’at, lived the artisans and workers who were in charge of building and decorating the tombs of the royals and high-ranking nobles.
Meretseger, the Cobra Goddess, was elected guardian of the royal cemetery that was already founded towards the end of the Old Kingdom but had its flourish in the New Kingdom. She was both dangerous and merciful, thus being a perfect candidate for the job, as desecrations of the tombs didn’t only start in later times but were already a problem in the Old Kingdom when sometimes even the workers themselves were guilty of such crimes.
A chief wife of a Pharaoh of the Middle Kingdom was called Meretseger, in honour of the Goddess, and she was also the first to bear the title Great Royal Wife that was given to the chief wife of the ruling Pharaoh ever since. Meretseger, being a local deity of Thebes (Waset in Egyptian), didn’t have a large temple dedicated to her, but small shrines and stelae in the vicinity of the Valleys of the Kings and Queens whose inscriptions sought to appease her wrath and beg her forgiveness.
The people, especially the artisans and workers, whose patron God was Ptah who was therefore often associated with the Goddess Meretseger, feared her greatly and respected her deeply. She was associated with the highest one of the Theban hills, some 420 metres high, which is now called el Qurn, the Horn, called in Egyptian Dehenet Imentet, which means Peak of the West.
More Than Santa
When viewed from the entrance to the Valley of the Kings, its peak looks like a pyramid, which gives rise to the supposition amongst Egyptologists that the location was first chosen as a place of eternal rest for the royal sovereigns because of this association. Meretseger was seen as its real personification, but the hill was also associated with Hathor who was considered a protector of the graves in her funerary aspects of Lady Of The West and Lady Of The Necropolis who opened the gates of the Underworld.
Considering the relationship the Egyptians had to their divinities, the concepts of sin, repentance and forgiveness were very unusual. They believed in the Law of Ma’at, the concept of balance and order and its opposite, chaos, rather than good and evil, and no other deity rewarded atonement and punished sin in this manner. These characteristics of a Meretseger cult, as testified to on the stela of Neferabu, appear to be a unique one.
Meretseger is described as a Goddess who shows her wrath but when turned to in genuine repentance, she is a merciful and forgiving Goddess. Her rock shrine in Deir el-Medina used to be a series of caves that unfortunately collapsed due to earthquakes. However, many artefacts have been recovered from this site and distributed throughout a number of museums.
Meretseger has been depicted in many forms, not only as a cobra in part but also with the head of a lioness or in the form of a scorpion, as well as a vulture. These manifold depictions show the array of associations with various power animals, as well as other Goddesses Meretseger had. She was seen as a very powerful deity, albeit a local one. She would spit her poison on all who committed crimes but heal those who returned to her and repented. Cobras have a highly lethal poison and as scorpions are poisonous creatures of the desert as well, the association with the Goddess Meretseger is a logical one.
But Meretseger is way more than a metaphysical security guard. On a logical level, it would make sense to “invent” such a persona or deity to ward off people of evil intent and deter them from robbing the tombs. It would also make sense to create a deity that is as ferocious in punishing the wicked, as it is merciful in forgiving those who repent because this would have been an invitation to those who had already committed a crime to make amends by returning stolen goods, where possible, and to make spiritual peace. This concept is one of stick and carrot, one that is so loved by all major religions existing nowadays. Punishment and rewards seem to still hold great sway over the masses of uneducated and undiscerning followers.
However, being an Egyptian Goddess as part of the most elaborate and spiritual Earth’s known religious traditions, Meretseger isn’t merely a divine female Santa Claus, but instead, we can detect many layers of spiritual truth when we connect with her energy.
First of all, it will help to familiarise one’s self with the characteristics of real-life cobras and their meaning as power animals. Cobras are snakes who can’t hear the way we do but sense the smallest vibrations in the earth to which they are so closely connected, thus knowing if there is noise or someone approaching. Cobras are so sensitive and fine-tuned to detected these minuscule vibrations that they can quite easily be alerted by even an animal walking past in the far distance.
The Sound of Silence
Thus, the Cobra likes silence because only in silence is she truly at peace. There are no distractions, she can be completely present in the moment. So when Meretseger calls to us, we are asked to hold still, take a step back from a busy life and withdraw from all the noise to retreat in silence. Cobras are also venomous snakes and their poison can kill, but from it, you can also make powerful medicine when you are an initiate of the healing arts.
Thus, Meretseger also brings deep healing, usually not the easy kind. It is certainly no coincidence that she turned up on my inner doorstep (and let herself in, too) at a time I was going through some very intense transformation that had made me physically ill to the point that I lay in bed for nearly two weeks.
Some call this a healing crisis. The body is slow to adjust to the upgrades of the person’s consciousness and when it doesn’t receive enough care and attention, as well as rest to catch up with the spirit, it will put on the brakes and literally force you to take that time you need to fully integrate all the changes and upgrades, the energetic downloads you’ve gone through and wisdom and insights you’ve gained.
Funny enough, although I’ve had Cobra appear more regularly throughout this time, it was Python who put things into perspective. And when I felt better, I thought I’m ready to do a weekly drawing “Pick a Goddess” style, 1, 2 or 3, using my self-made Goddess Oracle for the first time. As the explanations needn’t be long, I was happy to write a short couple of paragraphs on any Goddess I pulled for this, if I hadn’t done so previously, as not all Goddesses had been written up. So I drew three Goddesses I had not written about previously, Arianrhod, Meretseger and Lakshmi.
As I started to write the short paragraphs for the free reading in my group, I quickly realised that I needed to delve deeper into both Arianrhod and Meretseger in order to capture their essence more accurately, not only for the reading but for myself as well. So I wrote a blog on Arianrhod first and then started on this about Meretseger, which was a bit of a challenge in itself, as our WiFi seemed to cut out so often, I opted for doing the online research on my phone and writing offline on my laptop instead.
About halfway through I suddenly felt overpowered by a sleepiness that had no cause, as I had not been up for more than six hours and had been well-rested. I fell into a deep sleep in which I had a dream-vision. You know, the kind of dreams that feel so real, you’re stuck in a between-world with your consciousness after waking up for hours later still? It was that kind and it was that intense, too.
Meeting Meretseger was more than pleasant. It was a real pleasure. She appeared to me as a slender woman with medium-brown skin and dark-brown hair that was quite frizzy. She was dusty all over, like someone who had indeed spent a lot of time on the ground in the arid desert. And she was so warm-hearted, beautiful and loving. The colour of her eyes seemed to change between a lighter shade of brown with amber and golden flecks and emerald green. She smiled and laughed and then her head changed to that of a cobra and she fanned out her neck, hissed at me and slew her fangs into my eyes.
Now that sounds a lot more horrific than it actually was. It didn’t hurt and I welcomed it, knowing from previous experiences with Cobra and the Hindu Cobra Goddess Manasa that this is the way, a Power Animal imparts and transfers his or her healing powers and medicine on to the spiritual seeker. In my romance novel Snake Goddess Rising, which is set in India and entails a woman being chosen by the Goddess Manasa as a healer, I describe this exact same act already.
The story was written in 2012 originally six years later, I am writing on Goddess Meretseger and my Power Animal Cobra doing the same thing to me while merging in and out of one another, which also means that I am integrating their energies more fully and deeply into my own being. Remember, these archetypes are not separate from you or me, but are aspects of ourselves that we may or may not yet be able to accept and embrace fully within ourselves. Any resistance is creating chaos and disease in our lives and, quite often, our bodies.
In getting to know Meretseger, I met an ascetic, one of those people who cut all ties with society and take off to live in and meditate in the wilderness, commune with animals and plants on a first-name basis and can often be perceived as crazy by our “civilised” standards when we don’t have the open mind to step out of the cage of our preconceived notions and are ready to enter a whole new universe of perception of reality. I would imagine, it is a bit like taking a mind-altering drug like LSD without the loss of control and the harmful side effects on body and psyche, but this is based on others’ description of the effects of this drug, as I don’t have any experience with it myself, so I may be wrong.
Meretseger is crazy, untamed, wild and authentic love. She laughs loudly from her belly, challenges your thinking and just when you think, she is the jester at the court of desert nature, she goes all serious and talks about healing art and deep spiritual truths. She explains concepts, or better, shows them to you by slaying her fangs into your eyeballs and granting you clear sight and understanding in this way.
She may do this differently with you. Please don’t ever think that when you have a different experience with a spiritual being than you’ve heard or read described by someone else that yours is not valid or wrong somehow. We are all unique and have very unique lifepaths, as well as ways of best connecting to the divine. What is trust-inducing and loving to me may freak you out and the same guide might choose a different way of imparting their teachings with you that is perfect for you. And even the teachings or their emphasis are likely to be different from one person to another.
So listen more and judge less. Go into the silence of the desert, physically, if you can, spiritually through visualisation, is just as well, too, and commune with the spirit of the Goddess Meretseger. Be open and receive all she has to offer to you. Ask your questions and ask for gifts and signs if in doubt.
On a physical level, you may want to delve into grounding and healing in all its aspects, too. Also, explore your emotional feminine side. What can you do to empower yourself or other women in building them up and making them strong without denying their innate femininity as weak and falling back on living too much their masculine sides, or seeing the masculine as more powerful and stronger than the feminine when, in fact, they are completely equal.
Meretseger is your inner female shaman, the one who walks between the worlds, the world of Gods, the Underworld and the physical world. It is certainly not a coincidence that she was quite frequently depicted with three heads, that of a snake or a woman, that of a lioness and that of a vulture. In this, she symbolises the trinity, not of the maiden, crone and mother, although this is certainly an aspect of it, but also the three levels of human existence, the unconscious, the conscious and the superconscious.
Returning to the sin-repentance-and-reward concept that is so uniquely hers in an otherwise very differently structured Egyptian worldview, it is also worthy to note that Meretseger is the one who rubs your nose in it when you have done something wrong. And when you understand what you did wrong, you are empowered because you have the power to take the necessary steps to learn from the consequences of your actions and choose a different path of action in the future.
And thus, she is your guide, your guardian and your challenger, all in one. She will not appear to the faint of heart, so decide carefully if you are ready to meet her. There is no shame in acknowledging when you are at a time in your life that you are not ready to face the intensity of this particular Goddess. We all need islands of rest, and as much as Meretseger loves silence, to get there can be a bumpy, unravelling ride at times.