Bast, the cat goddess, was probably the most famous
Egyptian goddess after Isis. Cats were sacred to Bast, and to
harm one was a great transgression. Bast's importance in the Egyptian
pantheon is probably due to the fact that cats were greatly valued
in ancient Egypt. Cats curtailed the spread of disease by killing
rats, snakes, and other vermin, and even though the idea of bacteria
& viruses were unknown to the Egyptians, they likely made
the connection between rats and disease. Cats were often carefully
mummified at death, and Bubastis, which was the capital of Egypt
around 950 BC, had a huge cat cemetery.
In early times, Bast was often seen as a beautiful
girl with the head of a lion, which was a sign of her war-like
nature (she was sometimes listed as one of Ra's avenging deities
who punish the sinful and the enemies of Egypt). It was only in
the New Kingdom that she gained the head of a house cat and became
a much more friendly goddess. Bast is also called Bastet when
she is fully in cat form. Bastet is the name of a bas
(jar) with the feminine ending of t. These were heavy
perfume jars used in ancient Egypt, often filled with expensive
perfumes. Bast was considered to be mother of Nefertem (as was
another Egyptian goddess by the name of Sekhmet), who was a god
of perfumes and alchemy.
Bast is often confused with Sekhmet. Bast and Sekhmet
are an example of Egyptian duality: Bast was a goddess of Lower
Egypt and sekhmet of Upper Egypt, Bast represented the beneficent
power of the Sun and Sekhmet personified it's destructive power.
Some information states that these are very distinct and separate
goddesses in their own rights, and other information states that
Although Bast originated in ancient Egypt, she was
worshipped in a lot of other cultures, including the Greek, Roman,
Germanic and others. She was associated by the Greeks with Artemis,
a goddess who is considered a guardian and protector. Bast was
also seen as a protector -- as the fierce flame of the sun who
burned the deceased should they fail one of the many tests in
the underworld. Bast has the rare distinction of being both a
moon and a sun goddess. She also symbolized the moon in its function
of making a woman fruitful, with swelling womb. Bast had many,
sometimes contradictory, roles -- some of which include goddess
of pleasure/music/dancing/joy, goddess of the household/protector
of the home, goddess of creation/fertility/sex/birth, goddess
of the moon, goddess of the rising sun, just to name a few.
There were many festivals related to Bast, including
the "Procession of Bast," "Bast appears to Ra,"
the "Festival of Bast," "Bast Goes Forth from Bubastis,"
and "Bast guards the Two Lands." These festivals included
light-hearted barge processions and orgiastic ceremonies. The
"Festival of Bast" is described a a great big boat party,
with thousands of men and women traveling to Bubastis by river.
There was music, singing, clapping, and dancing. Whenever they
passed by towns, the women would call out dirty jokes to those
onshore, and flash the townsfolk by lifting their skirts over
their heads. Upon reaching Bubastis, they ate and drank to excess,
hence the popularity of the festival! One tradition stated that
Bast accompanied the un god Ra's boat of a million years on its
daily journey through the sky, and at night fought Ra's enemy,
the serpent Apep. Ra was an Egyptian sun god, and Bast is known
as Ra's daughter, and also known as his wife.
Personally, I am drawn to Bast because of her multi-faceted
personality: fierce protectress of home and hearth, independence
personified, joyous celebration of all of life's frivolities.
I look forward to working with this particular goddess in the