A precursor to the goddess Bastet (and her alter-ego Sekhmet), Mafdet was the first feline goddess. Prominent during the reign of the First Dynasty pharaoh Den, she was often depicted as a woman with the head of a cheetah. She is also mentioned in the Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts as protecting the sun god Re from poisonous snakes and scorpions. The instrument of execution Mafdet was associated with was a pole to which a knife had been tied. It may have been used for decapitations in early times. In New Kingdom tomb scenes she was shown as executioner of evil creatures in the afterlife.
Her name may also be spelled Maftet or Mefdet, and means “she who runs”, thus earning her the epithet “the runner” relating to her swift execution of justice. “Swift” also applies to the cheetah, who can often be “she who runs”.