"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.
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
Bastis, "the Tearer"
Bubastis Greek version,
Pacht, Pasht Pasch
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.
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
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
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Cemeteries of mummified felines have been unearthed
by archaeologists and in the 19. cen. bastards of English
sold thousands of those mummies as fertilizer.
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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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.
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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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.
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.
cat, lioness, sistra (especially later periods),
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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 !)
Temple honoring Bast were found at Bubastis, Memphis-Sakkara
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
 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.
 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.
 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.
 Dead cats are taken away to sacred buildings
in the town of Bubastis, where they are embalmed and buried
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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
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
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
Bast is the daughter and/or wife of Ra, the God of the Sun.
And now enter
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