Selket, the Ancient Egyptian goddess whose symbol is the scorpion - one of the most deadly creatures found in North Africa - seems appropriately scary to be The Bad Witch's Goddess of the Week just before Halloween.
The photo was taken at the Blue Moon Festival, where priestess Caroline Wise gave a talk about Selket, and explained that although she might look frightening, the Ancient Egyptians didn't see her as being evil.
In Egyptian mythology, Selket - sometimes spelled Serket - is the goddess of stings and poisons. Scorpion stings can lead to paralysis and Serket's name describes this, as it means "she who tightens the throat". However, Serket can be read as "she who causes the throat to breathe" and the goddess was also thought to have power over healing insect and snake bites, neutralising poisons and protecting against stings.
In Ancient Egyptian art, Serket was depicted as a scorpion or as a woman wearing a scorpion on her head. She was a highly important goddess and even the patron of pharaohs - The Scorpion Kings.
With her venomous powers, Serket was considered a protector of the dead. Her image is found in tombs on canopic jars containing intestines, the organ associated with poisons.
I must admit I wish I had learnt about Selket sooner. This summer my attic was infested with wasps. At first, I simply left them alone because I believe all creatures have their place in nature, but after I was stung twice and my aged mother stung once, I decided to call in a pest controller to get rid of them. Maybe if I had said a prayer to Selket, asking for protection against stings, I could have avoided a lot of discomfort.
Next week, the British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B3DG, is hosting an exhibition entitled Journey Through the Afterlife: Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, where you can learn more about Selket and other deities associated with Egyptian funeral rites. The exhibition runs from Thursday 4 November 2010 - 6 March 2011 and follows the ancient Egyptians' journey from death to the afterlife as depicted in the Book of the Dead - a collection of spells to guide the dead person through the dangers of the underworld. I'll be writing more about this on A Bad Witch's Blog over the next few weeks. Adult tickets are £12. Advance booking essential via http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/future_exhibitions/book_of_the_dead.aspx
The photo above shows Selket on the screen at the Blue Moon Festival