Bastet (mythology)

Bastet (mythology)

In Egyptian mythology, Bast (also spelled Ubasti, and later Bastet) is an ancient solar and war goddess, worshipped at least since the Second Dynasty. In the late dynasties, the priests of Amun began to call her Bastet, a repetitive and diminutive form after her role in the pantheon became diminished as Sekhmet, a similar lioness war deity, became more dominant in the unified culture of Lower and Upper Egypt. In the Middle Kingdom, the cat appeared as Bastet’s sacred animal and after the New Kingdom she was depicted with a woman with a cat’s head carrying a sacred rattle and a box or basket. [ Bastet] Egyptian Museum]

Bast or Bastet was the cat goddess and local deity of the town of Bubastis "Tell or Per-Bast in Egyptian, where her cult was centered. Bubastis was named after her. Originally she was viewed as the protector goddess of Lower Egypt, and consequently depicted as a fierce lioness. Indeed, her name means "(female) devourer". As protector, she was seen as defender of the pharaoh, and consequently of the later chief male deity, Ra, who was a solar deity also, gaining her the titles "Lady of Flame" and "Eye of Ra".

The goddess Bast was sometimes depicted holding a ceremonial sistrum in one hand and an aegis in the other – the aegis usually resembling a collar or gorget embellished with a lioness head.

Bast was a goddess of the sun throughout most of Ancient Egyptian history, but later was changed to a goddess of the moon by Greeks occupying Ancient Egypt toward the end of its civilization. In Greek mythology, Bast is also known as "Aelurus".

History and connection to other gods

Due to the threat to the food supply that could be caused by simple vermin such as mice and rats, cats, and their ability to fight and kill snakes, especially cobras, cats in Egypt were revered highly, sometimes being given golden jewellery to wear and being allowed to eat from the same plates as their owners. Consequently, later as the main cat (rather than lioness) deity, Bastet was strongly revered as the patron of cats, and thus it was in the temple at Per-Bast that dead (and mummified) cats were brought for burial. More than 300,000 mummified cats were discovered when Bast's temple at Per-Bast was excavated. Egyptians believe, when a cat in the family dies, to show respect, they display the body outside of the home.

As a cat or lioness war goddess, and protector of the lands, when, during the New Kingdom, the fierce lion god Maahes of Nubia became part of Egyptian mythology, she was identified, in the Lower Kingdom, as his mother. This paralleled the identification of the fierce lioness war goddess Sekhmet, as his mother in the Upper Kingdom.

As divine mother, and more especially as protector, for Lower Egypt, she became strongly associated with Wadjet, the patron goddess of Lower Egypt, eventually becoming Wadjet-Bast, paralleling the similar pair of patron (Nekhbet) and lioness protector (Sekhmet) for Upper Egypt.

Later prepiation

Later scribes sometimes renamed her Bastet, a variation on "Bast" consisting of an additional feminine suffix to the one already present, thought to have been added to emphasize pronunciation; but perhaps it is a diminutive name applied as she receded in the ascendancy of Sekhmet in the Egyptian pantheon. Since "Bastet" literally meant, "(female) of the ointment jar", Bast gradually became regarded as the goddess of perfumes, earning the title "perfumed protector". In connection with this, when Anubis became the god of embalming, Bast, as goddess of ointment, came to be regarded as his wife. The association of Bastet as mother of Anubis, was broken years later when Anubis became Nephthys' son.

This gentler characteristic, of Bastet as goddess of perfumes, together with Lower Egypt's loss in the wars between Upper and Lower Egypt, led to a decrease in her ferocity. Thus, by the Middle Kingdom she came to be regarded as a domestic cat rather than a lioness. Occasionally, however, she was depicted holding a lioness mask, hinting at potential ferocity. Because domestic cats tend to be tender and protective of their offspring, Bast was also regarded as a good mother, and she was sometimes depicted with numerous kittens. Consequently, a woman who wanted children sometimes wore an amulet showing the goddess with kittens, the number of which indicated her own desired number of children. Eventually, her position as patron and protector of Lower Egypt led to her being identified with the more substantial goddess Mut, whose cult had risen to power with that of Amun, and eventually being syncretized with her as "Mut-Wadjet-Bast". Shortly after, Mut also absorbed the identities of the Sekhmet-Nekhbet pairing as well.

This merging of identities of similar goddesses has led to considerable confusion, leading to some attributing to Bastet the title "Mistress of the Sistrum" (more properly belonging to Hathor, who had become thought of as an aspect of the later emerging Isis, as had Mut), and the Greek idea of her as a lunar goddess (more properly an attribute of Mut) rather than the solar deity she was. Indeed, much of this confusion occurred with subsequent generations; the identities slowly merged among the Greeks during their occupation of Egypt, who sometimes named her Ailuros (Greek for "cat"), thinking of Bastet as a version of Artemis, their own moon goddess. [ [] ] Thus, to fit their own cosmology, to the Greeks Bastet was thought of as the sister of Horus, whom they identified as Apollo (Artemis' brother), and consequently, the daughter of the later emerging deities, Isis and Osiris.

Appearances in literature

*Bastet has been an influential figure in literature since her cult was first formed around the Second Dynasty. From appearances in early papryi manuscripts to references in modern culture, she is a popular figure both as the paradigmatical cat and as a goddess.

*Bast is the central figure in the comic by Marvel Comics titled Bast.

*In the DC Comics series Catwoman Annual 1997, Catwoman steals an amulet from a mummy, who comes to life and initially mistakes her for Bast.

*Bastet makes three appearances in Neil Gaiman's "The Sandman" graphic novel series, in the story arcs "A Season of Mists", "Brief Lives", and "The Wake". She is depicted as an old friend and would-be lover of Dream, who is loyal to him as far as cats can be loyal. In 2003 she was central in the three-issue series "The Sandman Presents: Bast" written by Caitlín R. Kiernan, and appears as a minor character in the Neil Gaiman novel "American Gods". A cat-goddess named Bast is also portrayed as one of the major goddesses worshiped by the Amazons of Bana-Mighdall in the DC Comics book "Wonder Woman".

*In the DC Comics graphic novel Watchmen, the character Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias has a pet large cat genetically modified by an extinct tiger species that he calls "Bubastis." This is in keeping with his fascination with Ancient Egypt.

*Bast often appears in literature as the goddess of cats, either directly appearing as such or being mentioned in passing. Some such instances include references in and The Three Lives of Thomasina.

*Bastet makes an appearance in "".

*In the last episode of the first season of the CBC series Twitch City, Lucky, the cat, tells Curtis that she is in fact Bastet.

*Inspired by the goddess, a race of felines (some of whom are shapeshifters) called Bast were written into the core rulebook of the roleplaying gave CJ Carella's WitchCraft, produced by Eden Studios, Inc.

*In the novel series "Wicked" by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie, the cat owned by the main character (Holly Cathers) is named Bast.

*In the Amelia Peabody series of mysteries by Elizabeth Peters, the Emerson family adopts an Egyptian cat and names it Bastet. The cat often accompanies Walter Peabody "Ramses" Emerson, with noted dog-like devotion.

In other media

*During the September 15th, 2008 episode of "The Colbert Report" an image of Bast from a mural is displayed as the punch line of a joke. Host Stephen Colbert regards Bast for a moment and remarks, "I'll bet she looks like a tiger in bed."


External links

* [ Exhaustive scholarly essay on the goddess]
* [ Bast: Feline Goddess Revered Throughout Egyptian History]
* [ "Encyclopedia Mythica":] Bast

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