Thursday, February 3, 2011


The domestic cat became highly regarded by Egyptian civilization as an animal of awe and wonder. Originating between five and six thousand years ago, domesticated cats came to be praised for their excellent mouse hunting abilities. The Egyptians found cats fascinating, even regarding them as godlike. Because cats were deeply respected, they were often mummified and even buried in great tombs with their owners. Finally, the Egyptian battle of Pelusium illustrates, better than any other example, the importance Egyptians placed on cats.
Indeed, so highly regarded were cats in Egyptian society that it was considered a high crime to kill a cat, punishable by death. Families owning cats took care that they received attention and respect.
Deep respect was given to cats even after they died. Whenever a household cat died, the entire family would go through a period of grief, shaving their eyebrows to mark their sadness. Deceased cats were very often mummified and entombed with fine jewelry and treasures; a custom usually reserved for only the most powerful and wealthy. Mummified rats and mice have even been found in cats' tombs, signaling the Egyptian belief in a cat afterlife.

Bast ( Bastet, Bastis, Bubastis, Pacht, Ubast) is a name well-known in the West.
She was responsible for Joy, Music, and Dancing, also Health and Healing.
She also protected humans against contagious diseases and evil spirits.

Her cult can be traced back to about 3200 BC,
and she became a national deity when Bubastis became the capital of Egypt in about 950 BC.
Her origin is said to be in this city Bubastis,
although her association with the lion-goddess Sekhmet makes it likely that her cult was also celebrated at Memphis.
Temple honoring Bast were found at Bubastis, Memphis-Sakkara and Dendera.

Cats, as manifestations of Deity, were sacred; they protected the grain from mice and rats.
Killing a cat was punished with death.
Bast is the daughter and/or wife of Ra, the God of the Sun.
Temple honoring Bast were found at Bubastis, Memphis-Sakkara and Dendera. The center of the worship of Bast was at the city of Bubastis and, thanks to Herodotus, we have some vivid and generous accounts of her nature and rites:
Chapter 60
[1] When the people are on their way to Bubastis, they go by river, a great number in every boat, men and women together. Some of the women make a noise with rattles, others play flutes all the way, while the rest of the women, and the men, sing and clap their hands.
[2] As they travel by river to Bubastis, whenever they come near any other town they bring their boat near the bank; then some of the women do as I have said, while some shout mockery of the women of the town; others dance, and others stand up and lift their skirts. They do this whenever they come alongside any riverside town.
[3] But when they have reached Bubastis, they make a festival with great sacrifices, and more wine is drunk at this feast than in the whole year besides. It is customary for men and women (but not children) to assemble there to the number of seven hundred thousand, as the people of the place say.

Chapter 67
[1] Dead cats are taken away to sacred buildings in the town of Bubastis, where they are embalmed and buried

  • Thousands of small cat sculptures,
    probably left with offerings to the Temple by devotees,
    have also been recovered at Bubastis.
  • sweet liquids and foodstuffs
  • mint, catnip, honey, raw meat,
  • perfumes and ointments (especially in the "bas" jars which are a pun on Her name).
  • Never offered: cats (The penality for killing a cat was getting killed !)

    In addition to her major symbol, the sistrum, Bast was also allotted one of the Divine Eyes in the form of the Uraeus, or Serpent of Wisdom. According to the one version, she acquired this from her brother Horus, but the popular belief was that she was given charge of it by Ra for defending him against Apep. Although the Uraeus is considered to be the right Eye and the Horus Eye the left, there is obviously some confusion here as Eyes were depicted under the Horus banner facing either way, which rather suggests that the ancient Egyptians themselves were, perhaps, a little unsure as to which was which.
    In art Images of Bast portray her with a sistrum (ancient Egyptian percussion instrument) in her right hand, and a small bag over her left arm, with figurines of kittens surrounding her feet. Such images are among the most naturalistic works of ancient Egyptian.
    Symbols: cat, lioness, sistra (especially later periods), Udjat-eye.
    "The Tearer" is first and foremost a protectress; specifically of the royal house and the Two Lands. According to Herodotus, Bast was a happy and benign Deity who brought good fortune, music, dance and joy to all. Statues of cats are commonly passed off as facsimiles of Bast, but this is incorrect. The cat was indeed her sacred animal and the people of the time tended to see the Goddess in every cat that walked past, but her original depiction was as a royal lady or priestess with a cat's head. In addition to the symbols already discussed, her other accoutrements were the Aegis, a kind of small protective apron, and a basket often containing kittens. Bast expressed the qualities of the lion or cat family, beauty of movement, agility, strength, caution, fidelity to the pride, etc., all of which could equally be interpreted at the spiritual level.
    During the New Kingdom (1539-1075 BC), she became equated with Sekhmet, the lioness deity of war.
    Into the Greek period, She would be equated with the virgin huntress Artemis and considered the protectress of children and pregnant mothers, musicians and a goddess of all sorts of excess, especially sexual excess.
    67.jpg  bast9.gif

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