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Bastet
"Devouring Lady" (from bas, to devour, with feminine ending)

Bast is first and foremost a protectress; specifically of the royal house and the Two Lands. Later she got the life-preserving goddess of joy and protector of women. However, Bast's original role did not include the "cat as sex symbol" archetype. Worshiped in the Delta city of Bubastis and usually depicted as a cat or in human form with the head of a cat, Bast was seen as a protector of cats and those who cared for them.

Bastet

You are about to enter the shrine of the ancient Egyptian goddess Bastet. (Entrance at the bottom of this page)
 


Click here to have only a short info about her.


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Other Names and Titles Her Role
The Cat in Egypt Her Signs and Symbols
Bast Poetry Offerings
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Other Names and Titles


Bastet, Bast, Bastis, "the Tearer"

Bubastis Greek version,

Pacht, Pasht  Pasch

Ubast, Ubasti

Ba en Aset : the soul of Aset (Isis)

Other titles Bast was given with time were "Lady of the East", "the Light
Bearer", "Lady of Truth" and "Goddess of the Birth Chamber".

The vase is a bas vase, and the loaf represents the sound /t/. The word Bast is made up of the word "bas" and the Egyptian suffix "-t", and is pronounced "baohst" in the sense that there is a long "a" which has a bit of an o-sound to it. Bastet, another form of her name would then be the feminine of Bast, which is already feminine! This could be due to the fact that a vase and two loaves were often given to her as an offering. Change them to hieroglyphics and it would be "bas" + "t" + "t". Result... Bastet! That is not the preferred name, but since it is widely used in books it deserved an explanation.

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Relations in the Egyptian Pantheon



Although she can be traced back as far as 3000 B.C., it was not until later times that Bast was acknowledged as sister to Horus and the daughter of Isis and Osiris. She does not appear in the original Osirian myth.

Several theories have arisen regarding the origin of Bast. We have already noted how she was considered by some authorities to have been the daughter of Ra, but another school of thought insists that her oldest form was as a lioness-headed Goddess named Tefnut, Horus being another (or later?) version of Tefnut's twin, Shu the Sky God. It is on account of this portrayal in lioness form that she no doubt became confused with Sekhmet, who is desingated as the warrior aspect of Hathor. Again, there are those who consider Sekhmet and Bast to be one and the same Deity with Bast representing the more domesticated aspect of the cat family, while others do not see Bast as an entity in her own right at all, but as the personalized anima (female aspect) of Horus.

Bast was said to be the daughter of Ra himself and legend has it that she defended her aging parent against his only real enemy, the serpent Apep, a representation, no doubt, of the eternal force of evil or darkness.

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Shame on them:

Cemeteries of mummified felines have been unearthed
 by archaeologists and in the 19. cen. bastards of English
 merchants sold thousands of those mummies as fertilizer.

 
The Cat in Egypt

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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.

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Her Role

"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.

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Her Signs and Symbols

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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.

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Offerings

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Cult Centers

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

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Short Information on Bastet

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.

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Some text and information about Bast was taken from "The Way of Cartouche" by Murray Hope.
CATS IN THE ANCIENT WORLD From the Internet Book, The Amazing Ancient World
By C. Rempel, Foothill College Online Course Student