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Bast the Beloved from Tales of Ancient Egypt

Updated on September 15, 2014

Bast the Cat-Headed, Ancient Goddess of Egypt

Bast is the protector of cats, women and children and holds the mysteries of the cat in her power - those magnetic animals with such strong power to fascinate or repel.

To those in her favour, Bast gave great blessings, but her wrath was legendary, she was an avenging Goddess who punished the enemies of her country.

Her worship was widespread, and her city, Bubastis, was once the capital of Egypt.

The Sacred Cat

Beloved of Bast

The Wildcat of Egypt, Felis libyca, first lived in the swamps and marshes along the Nile.

As time progressed, and the people began to grow grains and other foodstuff and keeping it for longer periods of time, rodents and other vermin found they could easily get a free meal. The wild cat with its ferocity and rapacity, could keep the rodent population under control.

Domestication seems to have occurred about 3000 BCE, very recently compared to the dog which has been working for us for about 30,000 years. This desert-living cat is now thought to be the ancestor of all domestic cats, the forbear of the black furball who is curled on the desk by my computer.

The Cat became a Divinity

Can you see the scene? Wild cats creeping into the villages to hunt down the vermin, and the grateful Egyptians leaving out scraps of food to encourage the cats to stay. A few cats finding their way into the Egyptian homes and allowing themselves to be petted and hand fed.

The cat is a passionate creature, and shows affection with a purr. Let a cat snuggle up and purr to you and your stress levels will plummet!

These rodent-killing cats were held in the highest esteem and the penalties for injuring or killing one were severe.

The Cat became a Divinity.

All Cats are named for Bast

Bast and the Eye of Horus

Bast was the possessor of the Eye of Horus, the sacred utchat. (Also known as wadjet or ouadjit)

Over time the utchat became more associated with cats and was often cat shaped. Egyptian women used these cat amulets as fertility tokens, praying to have as many children as cats have kittens.

Our modern names for the cat are derived from the word utchat: cat, chat, cattus, gatus, gatous, gato, katt, katte, kitte, kitty, etc.

One variation of her name was Pasht, and from this we get the remaining Indo-European words for the cat: pasht, past, pushd, pusst, and puss.

Every time you call your cat, you are using the name of the Ancient Egyptian Goddess

Eye of Horus

Bast has the qualities of cats

Feline hunting instincts were honoured, but so was the cat's gentler side as a warm and loving mother to her kittens.

So then, we see in Bast the grace and elegance of a cat, the agility, strength, speed, and the deadly claws. She holds the charm, patience and affectionate nature of a domestic cat, as well as the potential for the raw brute strength of a lioness.

She also has the gift, like all cats, of looking deep into your soul.

Remember always, when you speak to a cat, you are speaking to a small and minor god, a creature beloved of Bast, under her care and protection.

When a cat curls up with its head touching its tail, it forms a circle, the symbol of eternity, the symbol of the goddess in whatever form she has chosen

Bast the Protector

Bast is the Goddess of the rising sun, the moon, truth, enlightenment, sensuality, pleasure, fertility, bounty, birth, plenty, the home, music, dance, theatre and all of the arts.

She is also the vengeful Serpent Slayer of the sun.

Above all she is the Protecter of women, small children, and domestic cats.

She represents the Maiden aspect of the Goddess. But Bast moves, with the moon, to the fruitful woman with swelling womb.

Feast Day of Bast at Halloween

The ancient Egyptians celebrated her feastday on October 31 with convivial merrymaking, music, dancing in the streets and drinking with friends - the sort of holiday that you and I would recognise instantly.

A great week-long festival was held in the holy city of Bubastis, attracting devotees from all over the country to celebrate along the riverbanks and through the city streets. The ancient geographer, Herodotus, wrote of crowds swelling to 700,000.

Sadly, Bast and her feast day are overlooked in modern times but you could perhaps say that Halloween is celebrated on the Feast of Bast.

Take a moment, when you next see a cat, to think of Bast

Lessons from Bast

Feline Qualities

Bast represents many ideas but she is perfect to teach us those cat like qualities which are of most benefit. We can learn the science of relaxation and to rarely waste energy, to accept the nature of things, and refuse to be at anyone's beck and call.

We can insist on complete freedom of expression and cultivate superb indifference to opinion.

Its easy to see why Bast has been associated with pleasure, music and dancing for millennia. Just take a look at your own sensual, comfort-seeking cat.

Cats also love to play - their graceful movements are like steps in a dance, and the music, a deep throated purr.

Today ruins mark the joyful city of Bubastis, her once proud temple only tumbled, dusty blocks. But the name of Bast endures. For at least 5000 years there have been many who praised her name. Many praise Bast to this day

image : White Painted Woman

Adornments for Bast

A beautiful way to show respect for Bast. Lovely Jewelry featuring her sacred cats.

Another Goddess from Egypt

The Frog Goddess
Ask anyone for the name of an Ancient Egyptian Goddess,and the answer will probably be Isis. But Isis was on her throne in heaven and the ordinary people ha...

© 2008 Susanna Duffy

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    • mariacarbonara profile image

      mariacarbonara 4 years ago

      I love cats and its easy to see how they could be taken for gods as they can be very superior

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I love the cat goddess Bast!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I've always had a soft spot for Bast. Maybe because cats very often act like they're small gods among us. Lovely lens on a lovely goddess.

    • profile image

      RocklawnArts 6 years ago

      Enjoyed your lens. Ancient Egypt is cool. :)

    • fionajean profile image

      Fiona 6 years ago from South Africa

      I have always thought Bast was one of the most beautiful goddesses - and I love cats.

    • profile image

      barts2011 6 years ago

      Great post . I love Egypt

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

      My goodness! I had heard of Bast and knew a little bit about her, but sure learned a lot more from this page. Like you, I have a black cat curled up beside me as I type.

    • raffael lm profile image

      raffael lm 6 years ago

      Wow.. I love all you've presented here.. dear lady Susanna :) Very informative and beautiful lens about bast and tales of ancient Egypt. Tweeted to all my fans. Have a wonderful time.. always :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Good life-guide here: "Bast represents many ideas but she is perfect to teach us those cat like qualities which are of most benefit. We can learn the science of relaxation and to rarely waste energy, to accept the nature of things, and refuse to be at anyone's beck and call" - Thanks for presenting all this for us.

      I wonder if Rudyard Kipling ever knew about Bast.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Beloved Bast, mistress of happiness and bounty, twin of the Sun God, slay the evil that afflicts our minds as you slew the serpent Apep. With your graceful stealth anticipate the moves of all who perpetrate cruelties and stay their hands against the children of light. Grant us the joy of song and dance, and ever watch over us in the lonely places in which we must walk.

    • Andy-Po profile image

      Andy 8 years ago from London, England

      Very interesting lens. I have lenrolled to my Egypt travel lens (www.squidoo.com/egyptnilecruise)

    • profile image

      Braiden LM 8 years ago

      Fantastic, informative and intellectually presented. Five stars...

      xx

    • Kate Phizackerl1 profile image

      Kate Phizackerl1 8 years ago

      Great. Thanks for joining the Ancient Egypt group. Exactly the quality of lens I am looking to feature. Also rated (5 of course) and Favourited.

      Cheers

      Kate

    • Jessica-Burde profile image

      Jess Mahler 8 years ago from Lehighton, PA

      Great Lens! I have trouble finding good, well written information on Bast. Reading this page was a pure pleasure!

      Preow

    • CrypticFragment1 profile image

      Tammy Winand 9 years ago from McleodGanj HP India

      Cats are certainly gods in their own right. 5* and I lensrolled you to my Isis and Scarabs lenses...

    • profile image

      tdove 9 years ago

      Thanks for joining G Rated Lense Factory!