Who was Bastet?
Bastet was the ancient Egyptian cat goddess. She was the daughter of the sun god and the benign (good) counterpart of Sekhmet who was the goddess of battle and had the head of a lioness. Bastet was the goddess of protection, fertility and the arts.
Were cats popular pets in ancient Egypt?
Cats were highly valued pets, as they kept the grain houses free of mice, rats and snakes. Thereby keeping the food supply safe. In royal households they were sometimes dressed in jewellery. They are can be seen pictured on the walls of some of the tombs sat under their owner’s chair. Sometimes they are indoors at a feast, eating a fish under the chair, other times they are seen outdoors with their owner who is in the marshes hunting animals or birds for food. In the wall paintings they have patterned fur, and it was believed the Egyptian cats were tabbies. Recent genetic studies support this fact.
How was Bastet pictured?
Bastet was usually pictured as a woman with a cat’s head. Sometimes in early wall paintings she is seen with a lioness head, but this changed as she and Sekhmet became separated as goddesses. She is often carrying a Sistrum in one hand, a musical instrument, a kind of rattle. In other hand is an Ankh, symbol of life. Sometimes she has kittens at her feet, following her around as she is the Mother Goddess in ancient Egypt.
Did Bastet have a temple?
The centre of worship of Bastet was a city called Bubastis also known today as Tell Basta. It was in this city she had her temple. In the temple they would breed cats, and to make sure of your good luck in the future, you could go to the temple and pay for the mummification and ceremonial burial of one of the temple cats. Paying for this also showed how wealthy you were. In the tomb of Sennedjem, the goddess, in the form of a cat, can be seen killing a serpent, the divine enemy of the sun god. In doing this she is protecting the god, and showing she is the goddess of protection for all.
We know the cat was a very special pet in ancient Egypt. The tabby cats keeping the food safe by catching the mice, snakes and rats. Bastet was the goddess of protection and the arts, she was a woman with a cat’s head, so important, she had her own worship centre and temple at Bubastis.
(Written by volunteer Sue Green)
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