Greek Name: Ailuros
Egyptian Name: B’sst; Bast; Bastet
Associated Animal: Lioness and Domestic Cat
Main Cult Center: Bubastis
Role: Protector of Women and the Household
Bastet was the goddess of the household, women’s secrets, cats, fertility, and childbirth. As one of the most popular goddesses of ancient Egypt, she was mostly known for protecting the house from evil spirits and disease. In early representation, she had the head of a lioness. However, by the late period, she was depicted as a domestic cat or a woman with a cat’s head. Her mood could be playful, graceful, affection, or fierce. And she is often shown holding either the ankh (representing the breath of life), the papyrus wand (representing Lower Egypt), or a was-scepter (signifying wisdom).
The true meaning of Bastet’s name has often been debated. One theory is that her name is associated with oil jars and perfumes, implying her sweet and precious persona. She’s generally thought to be the daughter of Ra, the sun god, and the wife of Ptah, the creator god, and possible mother of Nefertum, god of the lotus blossom. She is also associated with both Mau, the divine cat who is an aspect of Ra, and Mafdet, goddess of justice and first feline deity in Egyptian history.
The popularity of Bastet grew with her role as the protector of women. Women in Egypt held almost equal rights to men, which guaranteed a goddess who protected women’s secrets a high standing. Also, because cats kept homes clean of vermin, protected crops from unwanted pests, and provided fairly maintenance-free company, they were sacred, especially to Bastet. To harm one was considered to be a crime and very unlucky. When a cat died, they were mummified and presented to the goddess as an offering.
Bastet makes a quick appearance in Name of Ra in her cat form, displaying her role as a protector over women. But expect to see more of her in an Anubis novel.
- Hill, J. (2010). Ancient Egypt Online. http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk
- Oakes, L., and Gahlin, L. (2003). Ancient Egypt: An illustrated reference to the myths, religions, pyramids and temples of the land of the pharaohs. New York, New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc.
- Mark, J (2016). Bastet. http://www.ancient.eu/Bastet/
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