Black panther has existed in Marvel Comics since 1966. The nation of Wakanda was introduced in that same issue of the Fantastic Four (Fantastic Four #52) but not really expanded upon Until Tales of suspense #97 in which Baron Zemo attempts to invade Wakanda. The legitimacy of the Black Panther’s right to rule over Wakanda is established later on and brings me to the subject of this essay.
First a little bit of background on the Black Panther. The Black Panther is the chief of the Panther Clan. Descended from Bashenga, it is a ceremonial position that is entrusted with the protection of the great mound of vibranium at the heart of the nation. As head of the Panther Clan, the Black Panther is entitled to be anointed by the “Heart-shaped herb” Which grants powers similar to that of Captain America. That is if the individual is Worthy. If the Individual is not worthy they die. The one who makes this decision is the Panther God itself.
The position of king of Wakanda generally falls to the Black Panther. this is because the position of King is usually determined by a combat situation. Anyone can enter this contest but the individual who ends up winning generally is the one with the powers of a super soldier. In the modern readings, the position of Black Panther is tied directly to kingship and one cannot be the Black Panther and not the monarch of Wakanda. (There is one exception that we will get to later on, don’t worry)
In analyzing the monarchy of Wakanda most people state is most like the Pharaoh of Egypt. This makes a little bit of sense. the panther God is generally seen, and written, as being Bast the Egyptian god(dess) of protection. Generally seen as a Goddess of Protection and War in Lower Egypt (the Nile Delta), she was the protector of the Pharaoh when both the Kingdoms of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt were Unified. Marvel Comics is quite explicit that the Panther Cult of Wakanda, as well as the other Cults of Wakanda (Alligator, Lion, and White Gorilla), all originated in Egypt (Called the Heliopolitans, they feature a bit more in Thor and Hercules Comics). The Black Panther is the primary Priest of the panther God, which in turn grants him several privileges such as being anointed by the heart-shaped herb. this is where the similarities between the king of Wakanda and the pharaoh of Egypt end.
The primary difference between the Black Panther and the pharaoh of Egypt is that the Black Panther is not seen as a god upon Earth. Before the 12th century BCE, the Pharaoh of Egypt was not a term denoting the ruler. Pharaoh is derived from the term of “great house” specifically in referring to a dwelling. the king of Upper and Lower Egypt generally was called “The Horus” denoting their status as a incarnated god. Their power came from the fact that they were a sacred King, imbued with divine favor And Power. This was likely helped by the fact that the Pharaoh owned everything in both Upper and Lower Egypt, including the people.
The Black Panther is still part of this Sacred King tradition. I mentioned that if the person receiving the heart-shaped herb is not worthy then they die. We have seen in the comics a few people who have attempted to take the heart shaped herb. What ends up happening in each of these cases is that they go before the Panther God and have to prove their worthiness to it. This is similar to the anointing of a new monarch even in modern day. The coronation of any monarch has a religious authority anointing and granting the title. The Bishop of Canterbury for the British monarch, the Pope for Emperors in Europe (Something not done since the fall of the Holy Roman Empire), Shinto priests for the Japanese Emperor, and so forth. Here, we have the panther God literally giving its blessing to the Black Panther by taking this Earth. This sets the Black Panther apart from the rest of the people of wakanda. It anoints them as the protector of Wakanda. The only people who have taken this herb ceremonially have been from the Black Panthers Royal lineage. Imbuing even those who do not take the herb as being special in the society. It is behind this lineage that the nation unites and submits to the rule of the Monarch.
Recently, we have seen a change in how the Black Panther derives his right to rule, focusing more on the unity of the country and his people. The Black Panther has been betrothed to several women as “ceremonial wives”, from rival tribes to maintain peace and to make his personal guard (the Dora Milaje), founded “The Crew” to deal with dissent and oppression abroad, and bring Wakanda to the world stage again as the force behind the Ultimates. In Ta-Nehisi Coates, run on the Black Panther, we see that the people of Wakanda are fracturing based upon a number of disasters that have befallen them recently. T'challa is no longer the chosen of the panther God, but rather the chosen of the past of Wakanda. his sister has taken over the mantle of black panther but was grievously wounded in one of the recent disasters (The Black Order attacking Wakanda because Namor is a dick). His title is now “King of the Dead” rather than “Chosen of the Panther” end the first volume ends with T'challa going out among his people. no longer separating himself from them. This act alone shows the modernization and liberalization of the Wakandan monarchy. Moving it away from the Western and European view on monarchy and to a more nationalistic and African form. Dependent upon the will of the people and the Traditions that have existed for centuries. This seems more fitting for the African Nation that is the most advanced in the world.