ancient egypt: history and culture
Ancient Egyptian deities: Bastet
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also Bast, Ubasti

Bast     Bastet was originally a lion, later a cat goddess, a protective deity of the home and of the domestic cat, although she sometimes took on the war-like aspect of a lioness which was the domain of the more violent and destructive Sekhmet. Daughter of the sun god Re, she was sometimes regarded as the daughter of Amen. Wife of Ptah and mother of the lion-god Mihos.
    Her cult was centered on her sanctuary at Bubastis in the delta region, where a necropolis has been found containing mummified cats.
    During the feast of Bastet the goddess was brought out of her sanctuary as is recorded on the statue of Hor, a military commander under Psammetic I

I brought out Bast in procession to her barge, at her beautiful feast of the fourth month of the second season, the fifth day until [///]
J. H. Breasted Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Four, § 973
    Herodotus seems to have witnessed these celebrations:
[2.59.1] The Egyptians do not hold a single solemn assembly, but several in the course of the year. Of these the chief, which is better attended than any other, is held at the city of Bubastis in honour of Diana...
[2.60.1] The following are the proceedings on occasion of the assembly at Bubastis:- Men and women come sailing all together, vast numbers in each boat, many of the women with castanets, which they strike, while some of the men pipe during the whole time of the voyage; the remainder of the voyagers, male and female, sing the while, and make a clapping with their hands. When they arrive opposite any of the towns upon the banks of the stream, they approach the shore, and, while some of the women continue to play and sing, others call aloud to the females of the place and load them with abuse, while a certain number dance, and some standing up uncover themselves. After proceeding in this way all along the river-course, they reach Bubastis, where they celebrate the feast with abundant sacrifices. More grape-wine is consumed at this festival than in all the rest of the year besides. The number of those who attend, counting only the men and women and omitting the children, amounts, according to the native reports, to seven hundred thousand.
Herodotus, Euterpe
    Bast was also associated with the 'Eye of Re', acting as the instrument of the sun god's vengeance. She was depicted as a cat - sometimes with kittens - or in human form with the head of a cat, often holding the sacred rattle known as the sistrum.     Artemis was often equated with Bast by the Greeks.

© October 2005


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