Who is Bastet?
Ancient Egyptian goddesses worshiped in the form of a lioness and latterly a cat. The daughter of Ra, the sun god, Bastet was an ancient deity whose ferocious nature was perfected after the domestication of the cat around 1500 BCE.
She was native to Bubastis in the Nile River delta but also had a significant cult at Memphis. In the Late and Ptolemaic ages, large cemeteries of mummified cats were created at both spots, and thousands of citation figurines of the goddess were deposited as votive immolations. Small numbers of cats were also worn as amulets; this too was presumably related to the cult of Bastet.
What Was Bastet Power as a Goddess?
Bastet is the Egyptian goddess of the home, domesticity, women’s secrets, cats, fertility, and childbearing. She shielded the home from evil spirits and ill, especially diseases associated with women and children. As with numerous divinities in Egyptian religion, she also played a part in the afterlife.
She’s occasionally depicted as a companion and assistant to the dead although this wasn’t one of her primary duties.
She was the daughter of the sun god Ra and is associated with the conception of the Eye of Ra ( the each-seeing eye) and the Distant Goddess( a female deity who leaves Ra and returns to bring metamorphosis). Bastet was one of the most popular divinities of ancient Egypt as she was the protection of everyone’s home and family.
Meaning of Bastet’s Name
Her name was initially B’sst which came from Ubaste, also Bast, also Bastet; the meaning of this name isn’t known or, at least, not widely agreed upon. Geraldine Pinch claims that” her name presumably means She of the Ointment Jar” as she was associated with protection and defensive ointments( 115).
The Greeks associated her nearly with their goddess Artemis and believed that, as Artemis had a twin brother( Apollo) So Should Bast. They associated Apollo with Horus, the son of Isis( Heru- Sa- Aset) and so-called the goddess known as Bastba’Aset( Soul of Isis) which would be the nonfictional restatement of her name with the addition of the alternate’ T’ to denote the feminine( Aset being among the Egyptian names for Isis).
Bastet, still, was also occasionally linked with the god of incense and sweet smells, Nefertum, who was allowed
to be her son, and this further links the meaning of her name to the ointment jar. The most egregious understanding would be that, firstly, the name meant commodity like She of the Ointment Jar( Ubaste) and the Greeks changed the meaning to Soul of Isis as they associated her with the most popular goddess in Egypt. Indeed so, scholars have come to no agreement on the meaning of her name.
Bastet was extremely popular throughout Egypt with both men and women from the Alternate Dynasty of Egypt(c. 2890-c. 2670 BCE) onward with her cult centered at the city of Bubastis from at least the 5th century BCE.
She was first represented as a woman with the head of a lioness and nearly associated with the goddess Sekhmet but, as that deity’s iconography depicted her as increasingly aggressive, Bastet’s images softened over time to present further of a day-to-day companion and assistant than her earlier forms as savage chastiser. Scholar Geraldine Pinch writes:
“From the Pyramid Texts onward, Bastet has a double aspect of nurturing mother and the terrifying avenger. It is the demonic aspect that mainly features in the Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead and in medical spells. The “slaughterers of Bastet” were said to inflict plague and other disasters on humanity. One spell advises pretending to be the ‘son of Bastet’ in order to avoid catching the plague. (115)”
Although she was greatly reverenced, she was equivalently feared as two of her titles demonstrate The Lady of Dread and The Lady of Slaughter. She’s associated with both Mau, the godly cat who’s an aspect of Ra, and with Mafdet, goddess of justice and the first nimble deity in Egyptian history.
Both Bastet and Sekhmet took their early forms as nimble protectors of the innocent, punishers of the wronged, from Mafdet. This association was carried on in delineations of Bastet’s son Maahes, protection of the innocent, who’s shown as a lion-headed man carrying a long blade or as a lion.
In Bastet’s association with Mau, she’s occasionally seen destroying the adversary of Ra, Apophis, by slicing off his head with a blade in her paw; an image Mau is best known by.
In time, as Bastet came further of a domestic companion, she lost all trace of her lionine form and was regularly depicted as a house cat or a woman with the head of a cat frequently holding a sistrum. She’s occasionally rendered in art with a waste of kittens at her feet but her most popular definition is of a sitting cat gaping ahead.
Religion & Iconography
Bastet appears beforehand in the 3rd millennium BCE in her form as a redressing lioness in Lower Egypt. By the time of the Pyramid textbooks(c. 2400- 2300 BCE) she was associated with the king of Egypt as his nursemaid in youth and protection as he grew. In the later Coffin textbooks(c. 2134- 2040 BCE) she retains this part but is also seen as a protection of the dead.
Her cult center at Bubastis in Lower Egypt came one of the richest and most luxuriant cities in Egypt as people from all over the country traveled there to pay their felicitations to the goddess and have the bodies of their dead cats buried in the city. In Egyptian art, her iconography is espoused from the earlier goddess Mafdet and also from Hathor, a goddess associated with Sekhmet who was also nearly linked to Bastet.
The appearance of the sistrum in Bastet’s hand in some statues is a clear link to Hathor who’s traditionally seen carrying the instrument.
Hathor is another goddess who passed a dramatic change from murderous destroyer to a gentle friend of humanity as she was firstly the lioness deity Sekhmet whom Ra sent to earth to destroy humans for their sins. In Bastet’s case, although she came milder, she was no less dangerous to those who broke the law or abused others.
Anubis and Bastet
Anubis and Bastet were two Egyptian gods said to be the children of Ra, the king of the gods. Anubis played an important part in death and mummification. He was believed to be the defender of souls. He was also responsible for importing the souls of the dead, sitting in judgment of them in the Hall of the Two trueness.
Bastet was the Egyptian goddess of protection and good fortune, among numerous other effects. She was nearly associated with cats, as they kill rodents and vermin that might destroy crops and spread illness and complaint.
Although They are not directly connected Their names became tied by the curious student and searchers in the modern times leading to a lot of fiction stories and fan art.
The Tale of Setna & Taboubu
The Tale of Setna and Taboubu( part of the work known as First Setna or Setna I) is the middle section of a work of Egyptian literature composed in Roman Egypt history and is presently held by the Cairo Museum in Egypt.
The main character of the Setna tales is Prince Setna Khaemwas who’s grounded on the factual prince and High Priest of Ptah Khaemweset(l.c. 1281-c. 1225 BCE), the son of Ramesses II(r. 1279- 1213 BCE). Khaemweset, known as the” First Egyptologist”, was notorious for his restoration and preservation sweats of ancient Egyptian monuments and, by the time of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, was greatly deified as a savant and magician. Although the story may be interpreted in numerous different ways, Geraldine Pinch argues that this section of the tale can most easily be understood as an illustration of how Bastet punishes criminals.
In this story youthful Prince Setna steals a book from a tomb, indeed after the occupants of the tomb supplicate him not to. Shortly latterly he’s in Memphis, near the Temple of Ptah, when he sees a beautiful woman accompanied by her servants and lusts after her.
He asks about her and learns her name is Taboubu, daughter of a priest of Bastet. He has never seen any woman more beautiful in his life and sends her a note asking her to come to his bed for ten gold pieces but she returns a counter-offer telling him to meet her at the Temple of Bastet in Saqqara where she lives and he’ll also have all he desires.
Setna travels to her palace where he’s eager to get to the business at hand but Taboubu has some reservations. First, she tells him, he must sign over all his property and effects to her. He’s so consumed with lust that he agrees to this and moves to embrace her. She holds him off, still, and tells him that his children must be sent for and must also sign the documents agreeing to this so that there will be no problems with the legal transference.
Setna agrees to this also and sends for his children. While they’re subscribing the papers Taboubu disappears into another room and returns wearing a linen dress so sheer that he can see” every part of her body through it” and his desire for her grows nearly uncontrollable.
With the documents signed, he again moves toward her but, no, she has a third demand his children must be killed so that they won’t try to renege on the agreement and broil her in a long, drawn-out court battle. Setna immediately agrees to this; his children are murdered and their bodies were thrown into the road. Setna also pulls off his clothes, takes Taboubu, and leads her snappily to the bedroom.
As he’s embracing her she suddenly screams and vanishes- as does the room and manor around them- and Setna is standing unclothed in the road.
The pharaoh comes by at this time and Prince Setna is fully lowered. Pharaoh informs him that his children still live and that everything he has endured has been a vision.
Setna also understands he has been penalized for his transgression in the tomb and fast returns the book. He further makes reparation to the occupants of the tomb by traveling to another city and reacquiring corpses buried there who were part of the grave tenant’s family so they can each be reunited in one place.
Although scholars differ on who Taboubu represents, her close association with Bastet as the daughter of one of the goddesses’ priests makes this deity a veritably likely candidate.
The raptorial nature of Taboubu, formerly she has Setna where she wants him, is evocative of the cat toying with the mouse. Geraldine Pinch concludes that Taboubu is an incarnation of Bastet herself, playing her traditional part of vigilante of humans who have offended the gods”( 117).
In this story, Bastet takes on the form of a beautiful woman to discipline a wrong-doer who had violated a tomb but the story would also have been exemplary to men who viewed women only as sexual objects in that they could never know whether they were actually in the presence of a goddess and what might be should they offend her.
Where Bastet’s Popularity Came From?
The rising popularity of Bastet grew from her part in the protection of women and the house. As noted, she was as popular among men as women in that every man had a mother, sibling, lover, wife, or daughter who served from the care Bastet gave.
Further, women in Egypt were held in high regard and had nearly equal rights which nearly guaranteed a goddess who protected women and presided over women’s secrets and especially high standing.
Cats were also greatly prized in Egypt as they kept homes free of vermin( and so controlled conditions), defended the crops from unwanted creatures, and handed their possessors with the fairly conservation-free company.
One of the most important aspects of Bastet’s jubilee was the delivery of mummified cats to her temple. When the temple was shoveled in 1887 and 1889 CE over mummified cats were found.
Bastet was so popular that, in 525 BCE, when Cambyses II of Persia raided Egypt, he made use of the goddess to force the Egyptian’s rendition. Knowing of their great love for animals, and cats especially, he’d his soldiers paint the image of Bastet on their securities and also arranged all the animals that could be set up and drove them before the army toward the vital city of Pelusium.
The Egyptians refused to fight for fear of harming the creatures and offending Bastet and so surrendered.
The chronicler Polyaenus( 2nd century CE) writes how, after his palm, Cambyses II hurled cats from a bag into the Egyptian’s faces in despisement that they would surrender their city for animals. The Egyptians were undeterred in their veneration of the cat and their deification of Bastet, still.
Her status as one of the most popular and potent divinities continued throughout the remainder of Egypt’s history and on into the period of the Roman Empire until, like the other gods, she was transcended by the rise of Christianity.
Q1: Who is Bastet?
A1: Bastet is an ancient Egyptian goddess worshipped in the forms of a lioness and later a cat. She was the daughter of Ra, the sun god, and her nature evolved as cats were domesticated around 1500 BCE.
Q2: What was Bastet’s power as a goddess?
A2: Bastet was the Egyptian goddess of home, domesticity, women’s secrets, cats, fertility, and childbearing. She protected homes from evil spirits, especially diseases affecting women and children, and played a role in the afterlife.
Q3: What is the meaning of Bastet’s name?
A3: The meaning of Bastet’s name is not widely agreed upon. It has been suggested that it might mean “She of the Ointment Jar,” linking her to protective ointments. Other interpretations and associations also exist.
Q4: How was Bastet associated with other Egyptian deities?
A4: Bastet was initially associated with the lioness goddess Sekhmet but evolved into a more nurturing and protective deity. She was also linked to Mau, an aspect of Ra, and Mafdet, an early nimble deity associated with justice.
Q5: Why did Bastet become popular in ancient Egypt?
A5: Bastet’s popularity stemmed from her role in protecting women, households, and cats, which were highly valued in Egyptian society. Her influence extended to both men and women due to her connection with domestic life and welfare.
Q6: What was Bastet’s role in Egyptian religion and iconography?
A6: Bastet appeared as a redressing lioness in Lower Egypt and evolved to become associated with the king’s protection, both in life and death. Her cult center in Bubastis became a significant religious and cultural hub.