Good Thursday, dear readers!
I had a sudden realization recently and that was: I haven’t done any posts on Egyptian gods. Which is bonkers since I’ve known about Egyptian gods the same length of time as Greek gods. Unfortunately, given the popularity of Greek versus Egyptian gods, Greek gods came up more often. Even as I was researching today’s subject, the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet, I couldn’t find a lot of information on her. I thought about talking about Anubis as he’s one of the Egyptian gods I’ve known about the longest, but I thought I would shed some light (both on myself and you readers) on the lesser known goddess, Bastet.
Bastet’s story is an interesting one, seeming to involve many spiritual transformation and cultural appropriation/colonization changes. I wasn’t able to find many myths and legends about her in my research, as a matter of fact, “Egyptian Cat Names” came up more in my search than the actual goddess did. Which is too bad considering her cult lasted for over than two thousand years, longer than both Christianity and Islam. In one of the videos I watched, the narrator had stated her worshippers were “long gone”. I heard that and thought, “Yeah, sure, ok.” I scrolled through the comments and turns out people shared my skepticism as they were worshippers of the goddess herself! Hm, maybe I should talk to them? Especially given the back-and-forth of information on this goddess. Some sources claim she is responsible for killing the serpent god Apep, other sources credit Mau (the cat personification of the sun god Ra) with the act. Should you have any information on the goddess Bastet, please comment below!
Here’s what I found:
Bast, lion goddess of Lower Egypt, was depicted as a woman with a lioness’s head. She was known as the sun god’s daughter and therefore associated with light and protection. As time wore on, and the domestication of cats arose, Bast became Bastet and her (new) sister, Sekhmet, became the woman with the lioness’s head and the symbol for Upper Egypt. Sekhmet became credited with ferocity and the protection of warriors while Bastet grew into a more docile creature, losing association with her father and her cat-human chimera appearance. Bastet became the goddess of the home and home protection, love, fertility, and self-indulgence. The Aphrodite of Egypt, who also was the goddess of cats.
It is believed catteries were created in her honor, made for the sole reason of breeding sacrificial cats for the goddess. For if a message came to the goddess in the form of a cat, surely she would be more likely to hear it. Cats and cat figurines were in many homes, both as gifts for the goddess and as symbols of protection. It is said that when a person’s domestic cat died in Egypt, the family shaved their heads in mourning. In Bubastis, where Bastet’s largest cult resided, hundreds of mummified cats were found as gifts to the goddess.
They say Sekhmet is an alter-ego of Bastet, symbolizing the greater cats and their ferocity while Bastet resembles the more family-oriented, domestic cat. Across the board, however, many people agree that the cat and even Bastet herself is capable of both fortune and failure. She imparts wrath on those who do evil, and luck on those who do good. For women and children primarily, she is their ally.
As a result of this goddess’s rise, those who were wealthy adorned their cats in gold and had statues made with scarab beetles on their collars to ward off evil.
When the Greeks came, Bastet was given qualities similar to Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon and hunt, as cats were viewed as skilled hunters in the home. When the Romans came, they took the idea of the cat goddess back with them (no surprise there, they plagiarized the Greek gods. Just to give my ancestors some crap, haha), and her idols can be found in places such as Nemi and Pompeii.
For such a popular, inspiring, and far-reaching goddess, it is a shame there isn’t more information on her like there are the Greek and Roman gods. Should anyone have information on her, please comment below! I would love to know more!
Thank you all for reading,
Want to learn more myths and legends about unheard of gods? Click the Follow button on the upper-righthand side of the page and search my archives for more. 🙂 I post every other Thursday!