Areas of Influence: Bast the Egyptian cat Goddess had numerous areas of influence that developed over time. She became both a nurturing mother figure and a terrifying avenger.
In the early days she was the fierce lion headed Goddess of the lower Nile who protected the Pharaoh and the sun God Ra. This is why she has the title of "Goddess of protection." In this role she became Goddess of the rising sun and holder of the utchat, the all seeing eye of Horus.
As a cat Goddess she also protected houses from rats and snakes and so ensured the health of the occupants.
This Goddess is also identified with "Nubian cat," depicted with the body of a spotted cat and the head of a Nubian woman. This comes from a myth about a distant Goddess as the daughter of Ra quarrels with her father and retreats to the desert.
Although she was the only Cat Goddess in Egyptian Mythology, there were other feline Goddesses including: Menhit, Pakhet and Sekhmet.
Later the Egyptian cat Goddess was depicted with the head of a domestic cat, representing her more nurturing aspects.
The image is of a necklace from the Metropolitan Museum collection. It depicts Bast as a divine mother figure feeding the young King Taharqo. This affords him the status as a divine King.
Woman of the time would buy amulets of this Goddess illustrated with different numbers of kittens, representing the number of children they wished to have. The links to fertility and childbirth were further strengthened by the Greeks. They likened this Goddess to Artemis and she also became associated with the moon, and children.
She was also known by several different names including Bastet, Basthet, Boubastis Ubasti and Pasht. The name Pasht is the root of our word passion, linking this Goddess to physical pleasure.
A Patron Goddess of fire fighters due to the unusual Egyptian belief that if a cat ran through a burning household she would draw the flames out behind her.
In the Book of the Dead she is mentioned as destroying the bodies of the deceased, with the royal flame, if they failed the judgement hall of Maat.
The Goddess was linked to the music and dance due to the special rattle that she carried known as the Sistrum. These special rattles were used to celebrate her festivals.
She was connected with perfumes as she shares a hieroglyph with that which represented the bas jar. Her name therefore probably means "She of the ointment jar." These ceramic vessels used to hold expensive perfumes. Perhaps this is why she was also said to give protection against contagious diseases as many of the perfume ingredients were plant materials with healing properties.
Origins and Genealogy: In common with many Egyptian Goddesses her lineage is complicated. She was the daughter of Ra and in common with several other Goddesses she was known as the "Eye of Ra"
Consort: In addition to being Ra's daughter she was also his consort.
Children: With Ra She had a son named Mahes (also known as Mihos) who was also a lion God.
Although this Goddess is associated with Lower Egypt her roles and mythology often become merged with Sekhmet another feline Goddess from Upper Egypt. In this form her consort is Ptah and she bore another son called Nefertem.
Mut later absorbed her identity together with that of Wadjet to become Mut-Wadjet-Bast before also taking over the identities of Sekhmet and Nekhebet.
Strengths: Protector, sensual and caring mother figure.
Weaknesses: Chameleon like and fierce when threatened.
Portrayed as a lion headed or cat headed woman. She was also often shown with kittens.
She carried an ankh, representing the breath of life and papyrus wand symbolizing Lower Egypt. She is associated with the all seeing eye (the utchat) and a rattle (the sistrum).
Statues of this Egyptian Goddess would be placed in households to protect them from thieves.
Sacred Animals: Lions and domestic cats.
Sacred Plants: Catnip.
Festivals: Her festival was known as the Bubastis was held in May. According to Herodotus, her festivals were licentious and popular affairs celebrated with music, dancing, drinking. No wonder she is considered the Goddess of Pleasure.
Temples: Her main cult and temple was centred around the ancient city of Per-Bast. It was here that the remains of over 300 000 cats mummies were discovered. The city was later renamed Bubastis and even today it is Known as Tell-Basta.
Although her cult was centred in Bubastis, She was worshipped in temples and households throughout the whole of the lower Nile region.
In 2010 National Geographic Magazine reported that a new temple dedicated to the Goddess had been found in Alexandria.
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