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Bast (Bastet, Pasch, Ubasti, Ba en Aset) - Daughter of the sun god Ra, wife of Ptah, and mother of Mihos, Bast is an ancient Egyptian goddess who is still greatly revered by many today. Her worship began around the year 3200 BCE during the second dynasty in northern Egypt and her city is Bubastis. There, and in many other ancient cities, Egyptians celebrated Bastís feast day, October 31st, with great joy and enthusiasm honouring their goddess, their protectress. Related to Neith, the Night Goddess, Bast symbolized the moon in its function of making a woman fruitful, with swelling womb. She was also the Egyptian Goddess of pleasure, music, dancing and joy, and associated with the Eye of Ra, acting as the instrument of the Sun God's vengeance.

Bast is the Sacred Cat and her name means devouring lady. She is depicted as having the body of a woman and the head of a domestic cat. She holds the sacred rattle, Sistrum, and she possesses Utchat, the divine, all-seeing eye of Ra.

Indeed, the people of ancient Egypt turned to Bast for protection and for blessing, as she was a renowned and beloved goddess. She was the protectress of women, children, and domestic cats. She was the goddess of sunrise, music, dance, and pleasure as well as family, fertility, and birth.

The goddess' protection can still be invoked for modern cats in homes and apartments.

Cats were very sacred animals to the ancient Egyptians. They held a high, honoured position in many households and were more important even than humans. Cats were demigods in ancient Egypt. Anyone caught harming or killing a cat, even by accident, was punished by death, for cats guarded the royal granaries keeping them relatively free from vermin which threatened the food supplies.

Ruins of Bubastis

The famous Temple Ruins of Bast at Bubastis (Per-Bast in Tameran, today Tell-Basta). The sacred enclosure consisted of a grove of tall trees (the only one to be found in an Egyptian temple) holding the shrine of the goddess within. The temple was full of cats who were carried around in baskets and ritually fed.

"Other temples are greater and more costly, but none more pleasing to the eye than this." - Herodotus, Histories Book II, Chap. 137

Though the cat-headed goddess Bast was revered and loved throughout Egypt from the earliest of times (her worship was formalized at the end of the First or beginning of the Second Dynasties), there were several cities sacred to her cult and which hosted several large, important and influential temples. Among the more well-known cities were Memphis (Mennefer), Heliopolis (Iunu) and Herakleopolis (Henen-nesut); among the dozen or so cities important to the Bast Cult, none was more important or holy than Bubastis.

Located in the Eighteenth ("Prince of the South") Nome of Lower Egypt, in the southeastern portion of the Delta, the city the Greeks called Bubastis was originally known simply as Bast; early in its long history it became known as Pwr-Bast or Pwr-Bastet. The Egyptian word "pwr," commonly rendered as "per," can be translated either as "house" or "realm," so the city would have been known as the House of Bast. Exactly why this city, relatively unimportant in Egypt's larger history until the advent of the Twenty-second Dynasty in the Tenth Century BCE, should be so important to the Cat Cult, or become so identified with the goddess Bast, is one of the many mysteries of Egypt lost in the proverbial mists of time, unlikely to leave physical traces in the archaeological record.

During the Bubastite period (22nd dynasty), cat cemeteries became popular, and a huge profusion of cat amulets were being made. Cats were mummified and ritually buried. In 640 AD Bubastis was still alive and people were still worshipping cats there.

Once per year, a great festival was held in Bubastis to honour Bast, attracting devotees from all over the country. According to Herodotus, the original accidental tourist, upwards of 700,000 people attended, most traveling by barges to the sound of flutes and percussion instruments. Though this was a religious festival, gaiety was rampant along the riverbanks and through all the avenues of the city, and in character it could easily be compared to Mardi Gras. One aspect of the festival, however, was quite moving, and came on the last night - in a town of silence, a town of darkness, a single light is lit in the Temple of Bast, and from there the light spreads through the town, carried by devotees; and prayers rise into the night, accompanied by music and incense.

All things come to an end, and so it came to Bubastis, destroyed by the Persians in 350 BCE. Today, only ruins remain of Bubastis, and the once-proud temple is nothing but tumbled blocks. One of few sights to see these days is the famous cat cemetery, where so many beloved pets journeyed to the Other Realm.


Sekhmet - Twin Sister of Bastet

Another aspect of Bast is her twin sister, Sekhmet. Sekhmet is also a goddess, depicted as a woman with the head of a lioness. She represents the negative, darker side of the goddess. As the lioness goddess, Sekhmet symbolizes the destructive forces in Nature and in human nature, while Bast is everything pure and good and life-giving. Together, the sister goddesses make up a whole - the balance of good and evil.

Apep (Snake King) & Bastet

A Prayer

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.

You may wish to take a moment to honour this great ancient egyptian goddess. Light a green candle (Bast's sacred colour) and be nice to a cat, her cherished animal.

O Ra, exalted Lion-king, thou art the great cat, the avenger of Gods and the judge of words... The seventy-five praises of Ra - c. 1700 BC

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