The Goddess Bastet

The Goddess Bastet

 

Bastet is the name commonly used by scholars today to refer to a feline goddess of Ancient Egyptian religion who was worshipped at least since the Second Dynasty. Her name is also spelled Bast, Baast, Ubasti and Baset.

Name in hieroglyphs
W1 t B1
Major cult center Bubastis
Symbol the cat, the lioness, the sistrum
Parents Ra, Atum

Bastet, the form of the name which is most commonly adopted by Egyptologists today, is only a modern convention, which offers one possible reconstruction. In early Egyptian, her name appears to have been bȝstt, where ȝ represents an aleph. In Egyptian writing, the second t marks a feminine ending, but was not usually pronounced, and the aleph ȝ may have moved to a position before the accented syllable, as witnessed by the Aramaic spelling ȝbst.By the first millennium, then, bȝstt would have been something like ‘obest’ or ‘ubesti’ in Egyptian speech.

The town of Bastet’s cult (see below) was known in Greek as Boubastis (Βούβαστις). The Hebrew rendering of the name for this town is Pî-beset (“House of Bastet”), spelled without Vortonsilbe.

What the name of the goddess means remains uncertain. One recent suggestion by Stephen Quirke (Ancient Egyptian Religion) explains it as meaning “She of the ointment jar”. This ties in with the observation that her name was written with the hieroglyph “ointment jar” (bȝs) and that she was associated with protective ointments, among other things.

From the third millennium BC, when Bastet begins to appear in our record, she is depicted as either a fierce lioness or a

Originally she was viewed as the protector goddess of Lower Egypt. As protector, she was seen as defender of the pharaoh, and consequently of the later chief male deity, Ra, who was also a solar deity, gaining her the titles Lady of Flame and Eye of Ra.

Her role in the pantheon became diminished as Sekhmet, a similar lioness war deity, became more dominant in the unified culture of Lower and Upper Egypt

In the first millennium BC, when domesticated cats were popularly kept as pets, Bastet began to be represented as a woman with the head of a cat and ultimately emerged as the Egyptian cat-goddess par excellence. In the Middle Kingdom, the domestic cat appeared as Bastet’s sacred animal and after the New Kingdom she was depicted as a woman with the head of a cat or a lioness, carrying a sacred rattle and a box or basket.

History and Connection To Other Gods

Cats in ancient Egypt were revered highly, partly due to their ability to combat vermin such as mice, rats – which threatened key food supplies – and snakes, especially cobras. Cats of royalty were, in some instances, known to be dressed in golden jewelry and were allowed to eat from their owners’ plates. Turner and Bateson estimate that during the Twenty-second dynasty c.945-715 BC, Bastet worship changed to being a major cat deity (as opposed to a lioness deity). With the unification of the two Egypts, many similar deities were merged into one or the other, the significance of Bast and Sekhmet, to the regional cultures that merged, resulted in a retention of both, necessitating a change to one or the other. During later dynasties, Bast was assigned a lesser role in the pantheon, but retained.

In the temple at Per-Bast some cats were found to have been mummified and buried, many next to their owners. More than 300,000 mummified cats were discovered when Bast’s temple at Per-Bast was excavated. The main source of information about the Bast cult comes from Herodotus who visited Bubastis around 450 BC during the heyday of the cult. He equated Bastet with the Greek Goddess Artemis. He wrote extensively about the cult. Turner and Bateson suggest that the status of the cat was roughly equivalent to that of the cow in modern India. The death of a cat might leave a family in great mourning and those who could would have them embalmed or buried in cat cemeteries – pointing to the great prevalence of the cult of Bastet. Extensive burials of cat remains were found not only at Bubastis, but also at Beni Hasan and Saqqara. In 1888, a farmer uncovered a plot of many hundreds of thousands of cats in Beni Hasan.

The lioness represented the war goddess and protector of both lands. As the fierce lion god Maahes of Nubia later became part of Egyptian mythology, during the time of the New Kingdom, Bastet was held to be the daughter of Amun Ra, a newly ascending deity in the Egyptian pantheon during that late dynasty. Bastet became identified as his mother in the Lower Egypt, near the delta. Similarly the fierce lioness war goddess Sekhmet, became identified as the mother of Maashes in the Upper Egypt.

As divine mother, and more especially as protector, for Lower Egypt, Bastet became strongly associated with Wadjet, the patron goddess of Lower Egypt. She eventually became Wadjet-Bast, paralleling the similar pair of patron (Nekhbet) and lioness protector (Sekhmet) for Upper Egypt.

Later perception

Later scribes sometimes renamed her Bastet, a variation on Bast consisting of an additional feminine suffix to the one already present, thought to have been added to emphasize pronunciation; perhaps it is a diminutive name applied as she receded in the ascendancy of Sekhmet in the Egyptian pantheon. Since Bastet literally meant, (female) of the ointment jar, Her name was related with the lavish jars in which Egyptians stored their perfume. Bast thus gradually became regarded as the goddess of perfumes, earning the title, perfumed protector. In connection with this, when Anubis became the god of embalming, Bast, as goddess of ointment, came to be regarded as his wife. The association of Bastet as mother of Anubis, was broken years later when Anubis became identified as the son of Nephthys.

Lower Egypt’s loss in the wars between Upper and Lower Egypt led to a decrease in the ferocity of Bast. Thus, by the Middle Kingdom she came to be regarded as a domestic cat rather than a lioness. Occasionally, however, she was depicted holding a lioness mask, hinting at her potential ferocity.

Because domestic cats tend to be tender and protective of their offspring, Bast also was regarded as a good mother, and she was sometimes depicted with numerous kittens. Consequently, a woman who wanted children sometimes wore an amulet showing the goddess with kittens, the number of which indicated her own desired number of children.

Eventually, her position as patron and protector of Lower Egypt led to her being identified with the more substantial goddess Mut, whose cult had risen to power with that of Amun, and eventually being syncretized with her as Mut-Wadjet-Bast. Shortly after, in the constantly evolving pantheon, Mut also absorbed the identities of the Sekhmet-Nekhbet pairing as well.

This merging of identities of similar goddesses has led to considerable confusion, leading to some attributing to Bastet the title Mistress of the Sistrum (more properly belonging to Hathor, who had become thought of as an aspect of the later emerging Isis, as had Mut), and the Greek idea of her as a lunar goddess (more properly an attribute of Mut) rather than the solar deity she was. The native Egyptian rulers were replaced by Greeks during an occupation of Egypt that lasted almost five hundred years. These new rulers adopted many Egyptian beliefs and customs, but always “interpreted” them in relation to their Greek culture. These associations sought to link the antiquity of Egyptian culture to the newer Greek culture, thereby lending parallel roots and a sense of continuity. Indeed, much confusion occurred with subsequent generations; the identity of Bast slowly merged among the Greeks during their occupation of Egypt, who sometimes named her Ailuros (Greek for cat), thinking of Bast as a version of Artemis, their own moon goddess. Thus, to fit their own cosmology, to the Greeks Bast is thought of as the sister of Horus, whom they identified as Apollo (Artemis’ brother), and consequently, the daughter of the later emerging deities, Isis and Ra. Roman occupation of Egypt followed in 30 BC, and their pantheon of deities also was identified with the Greek interpretations of the Ancient Egyptians. The introduction of Christianity and Muslim beliefs followed as well, and by the sixth century AD only a few vestiges of Ancient Egyptian religious beliefs remained, although the cult of Isis had spread to the ends of the Roman Empire.

Dear Lady Bast
Shining, bright one
Goddess of Egypt
Deity of the moon
And Patroness of cats and women.
Guide me,
Bless me,
Light up my life with your divine intervention.
So mote it be.

The ritual of Bast

Begin the ritual with a breathing exercise to relax the participants and enliven their energy. Now light the anointed candles which stand before the goddess. Next, construct a cone of power. The cone is a travelling one, and the participants must visualize it leaving this world, travelling through space back in time to ancient Egypt, and alighting in the desert.

The visualizer now takes over, and says:

Step out of the cone and into the desert. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin and the burning heat of the sand beneath your feet. In the distance you can see a vast temple rearing up to meet the sky. Begin to walk towards the temple, noting anything that you see on the way. As you draw closer you pass by an oasis pool surrounded by tall palm trees. Lionesses doze in the shade of the trees and as you pass by they lift their heads as if to grant you passage into the temple.

Walk on, past the lionesses, towards the temple. As you get closer you begin to realize what a massive structure it is. It is constructed of vast columns, which are intricately carved with symbols and hieroglyphs. Ahead of you there is a wide sandstone path leading up to the main entrance, which is flanked by two huge obelisks. These are constructed of rough golden sandstone and are so tall that they seem to reach up to the sky. Walk up the path and amongst the columns. Once you are in their shade the air feels cool and refreshing. It seems like a haven from the relentless heat of the desert. You can smell a strong fragrance of cut blooms on the air and the subtler scent of exotic musky incense.

You find that you are standing in the outer courtyard of the temple. There are trees cultivated here and in the centre you can see a large circular pool. This pool reflects the burning gold of the sun in the daytime and the silver light of the moon by night for these are both aspects of the Goddess. There are temple staff around you, all going about their duties. Many of them smile at you in greeting but none approach you. It is as if you are expected here.

At the back of the courtyard you can see a huge doorway which leads to the outer shrine. Walk towards it. Either side of this great doorway you can see that the walls are carved with pictures of cat headed people and seated cats. You can reach out and run your hand over the warm stone. Feel the contours of the carvings beneath your fingers.

Step inside the shrine now. The room is dimly lit, let your eyes adjust after the bright sunlight outside. After a moment you can see that before you stand a statue of a great cat carved from smooth, black stone. It wears thick gold earrings and an ornately crafted collar of faience. At its feet lie offerings left by visitors to the temple. You can see many flowers and perfume jars, as well as statues and figurines. Priests and priestesses are in the shrine, tending a multi­tude of cats. The air around you is full of the music of the cats; their purrs and cries. Pause to pay your respect to the sacred cat of Bast, and then walk on down a corridor to your right.

You are making your way towards the inner sanctum of Bast down a short corridor lit with flickering lamps and candles. At the far end the corridor opens out into a vast room lined by pillars. At the other end of the room, so huge that it fills your vision, is a flight of golden steps that leads up to an immense golden statue of the goddess. She is depicted as a beautiful cat-headed woman. She wears heavy jewellery at her ears and throat and is swathed in a robe carved from gold. In her hand she carries a golden sistrum, her sacred rattle, and at her feet are tiny golden kittens. The steps below her are covered in cats, sleeping, grooming, playing. The room is full of soft but lively music, played by priestesses on flutes and drums and rattles. Other priests and priestesses dance sinuously to the music, like cats themselves. The floor is covered in petals and as you walk upon them, they release their heady fragrance. Approach the foot of the stairs and raise your arms.

The visualizer shakes a sistrum three times. The charge-reader says:

Oh, Bast, lady of Asheru,

ruler of Sekhet-Neter,

Ruler of the divine field, lady of Ankhtawy, Life of the two lands,

We, your priestesses call to you.

Hear our prayers.

We come before you in love.

We come before you in peace.

We come before you in joy.

And ask that we might speak with you.

May your essence enter into the statue before us.

And become your living body in this world.

Dwell here in gentleness, Bast,

And let your blessings be upon us.

The whole group shake their sistra, conjuring the Heka ofBast to enter the statue, both in the visualization and in the statue at home.

Concentrate on this happening. When you feel a change in the energy of the room let the shaking die away. (A group may need a few attempts before they sense energy in unison but it will happen with practice.)

The visualizer resumes:

Now visualize that the statue before you begins to comealive. The eyes become the living eyes of a cat, and gradually the gold turns to furry skin. The kittens at her feet begin to play and the folds of her dress flow softly. The goddess begins to descend the stairs towards you, her eyes full of benevolence and peace.

While this is happening, you must cast your inner eye back to the room where your statue of the goddess stands before the anointed candles. Imagine that the light of these candles shines into the statue, which is like an extension of the senses of Bast in the temple. Through the light of these candles, Bast can see your soul, and recognizes you.

The visualizer shakes the rattles. The charge-reader says:

Oh, Bast, queen of all cats, Daughter of Ra,

We bring offerings to you

As symbols of our love and respect.

We offer food to the great goddess in the temple of Bast.

We offer drink to the cat of the heavens.

We offer incense to the gentle cat.

We offer love to the daughter of Ra.

Now burn some incense and eat the feast, but leave a small portion of each item you eat for Bast. These morsels should be pIaced in a separate dish. The feast can be shared with any cats that are present. Pass round a goblet of wine (which can be refilled as often as you like), each person present splashing a little of it over the other offerings in the dish. Try to imagine that you are still in the temple rather than at home; the visualization has not ended. After this has been done, place the dish of offerings on the altar before the statue. Now close your eyes and make yourself comfort able to return to the visualization.

The visualizer shakes the sistrum three times, and says:

See the temple clearly once more around you.

Bast is standing before us, enjoying the offerings we have given her.

The visualizer shakes the sistrum three times again. The charge-reader says:

Oh Bast. daughter of Ra. Divine cat, lady of all magic,

Accept our offerings for they are given in love.

Grant to us our desires and come to our aid.

Reach out to us with gentle hands,

And let your blessing be upon your priestesses.

So it is spoken, so it is done.

Each member of the group now visualizes clearly in pictures exactly what he or she wants from Bast. Imagine yourself as happy, carefree, loved and loving, but show it in pictures rather than words. After an appropriate time, the visualizer shakes the sistrum and the charge-reader says:

Oh Bast, queen of cats, Lady of laue and pleasure,

We offer you our humble thanks for all that you have granted to us.

Continue to share with us your strength and your fire.

Lend us your understanding, show us your wisdom.

Give us the courage to be all that we may be

And the ability to know ourselves as you know us.

May we take with us from this temple a feeling of peace that will be with us in the days and weeks to come.

May we feel enlivened and liberated from all care.

May you strengthen this sisterhood,

With love, unity and grace.

We ask this in your name, Bast, Lady of Ankhtawy, lady of Asheru,

Ruler of the divine field,

Ruler of Sekhet-Neter.

Continue the visualization for a few moments. It is time for all present to commune privately with the goddess. She may have. knowledge to bestow or gifts to impart. She may take you to other parts of the temple, or elsewhere in her realm. You may meet other people or gods. After an appropriate time, the visualizer shakes the rattles, and the charge-reader says:

Oh, Bast, we thank you for this audience.

We go from your temple with your presence in ourhearts.

We are your priestesses and will do all in our power

To protect your children on this earth.

When we make love, we will do so as an offering to you.

When we partake of delicious food and drink, we will do so as an offering to you.

When we dance, we will do so as an offering to you.

When we sing, we will do so as an offering to you.

We give you our love and our gratitude,

Be forever in our hearts, Bast, even when we here present are apart.

The visualizer resumes:

Now bow to the goddess, and see her begin to retreat up the stairs. When she reaches the top she assumes her normal position and turns back into a sleeping statue of gold. When you are ready, bid farewell to the priests and priestesses, and to all the cats. Walk back down the corridor again. In the outer shrine it is time to have a few thoughts for your own cats. Perhaps you may like to ask for Bast’s protection for them. You can also ask for her blessing for any other loved ones. When you have finished bow your head to the statue to show your thanks and continue on out of the temple. Make your way back through the outer courtyard and out of the huge entrance again. You can see the cone of power shining in the distance. Walk towards it, past the oasis pool and the lionesses. Once you reach it step inside and sit back down.

The person designated to construct the cone now brings it back to present space and time, and dismantles it. When this is done, he or she says, ‘When you are ready, open your eyes.’

After the ritual

Once everyone has opened their eyes, it is a good idea for them to talk about their experiences. Some people might feel that their visu alizations are too personal to discuss at that time, and this must be respected. In our group, we always tape the results of a working, and type it up afterwards as a permanent record. You may like to make a note of your experiences in your magical diary.

After the discussion, we always enter party mode. The first thing we do is dance for Bast. We play our favourite songs and usually sing to them – badly, it has to be said, but we are sure Bast does not mind that! On many ritual nights we have sat up drinking wine and talking until dawn. These are special nights, and everyone should enjoy them as they see fit.

The remains of the feast should be cast out over a garden or some other appropriate spot. During the following days, many of us also like to make some kind of donation to a charity associated with cats, whether in cash or simply a can of cat food in one of the many charity dump bins in pet stores.

This rite can be adapted for use as a simple ‘thanks’ ritual. Instead of asking Bast for her help, the time in the ritual apportioned for requesting boons can be spent simply thanking the goddess for past help and for her presence in our lives. We think it is as important to do this as any potent ritual to improve a situationor create opportunities. The aid of the gods should never be taken for granted.

 

 

Now visualize that the statue before you begins to comealive. The eyes become the living eyes of a cat, and gradually the gold turns to furry skin. The kittens at her feet begin to play and the folds of her dress flow softly. The goddess begins to descend the stairs towards you, her eyes full of benevolence and peace.

While this is happening, you must cast your inner eye back to the room where your statue of the goddess stands before the anointed candles. Imagine that the light of these candles shines into the statue, which is like an extension of the senses of Bast in the temple. Through the light of these candles, Bast can see your soul, and recognizes you.

The visualizer shakes the rattles. The charge-reader says:

Oh, Bast, queen of all cats, Daughter of Ra,

We bring offerings to you

As symbols of our love and respect.

We offer food to the great goddess in the temple of Bast.

We offer drink to the cat of the heavens.

We offer incense to the gentle cat.

We offer love to the daughter of Ra.

Now burn some incense and eat the feast, but leave a small portion of each item you eat for Bast. These morsels should be pIaced in a separate dish. The feast can be shared with any cats that are present. Pass round a goblet of wine (which can be refilled as often as you like), each person present splashing a little of it over the other offerings in the dish. Try to imagine that you are still in the temple rather than at home; the visualization has not ended. After this has been done, place the dish of offerings on the altar before the statue. Now close your eyes and make yourself comfort able to return to the visualization.

The visualizer shakes the sistrum three times, and says:

See the temple clearly once more around you.

Bast is standing before us, enjoying the offerings we have given her.

The visualizer shakes the sistrum three times again. The charge-reader says:

Oh Bast. daughter of Ra. Divine cat, lady of all magic,

Accept our offerings for they are given in love.

Grant to us our desires and come to our aid.

Reach out to us with gentle hands,

And let your blessing be upon your priestesses.

So it is spoken, so it is done.

Each member of the group now visualizes clearly in pictures exactly what he or she wants from Bast. Imagine yourself as happy, carefree, loved and loving, but show it in pictures rather than words. After an appropriate time, the visualizer shakes the sistrum and the charge-reader says:

Oh Bast, queen of cats, Lady of laue and pleasure,

We offer you our humble thanks for all that you have granted to us.

Continue to share with us your strength and your fire.

Lend us your understanding, show us your wisdom.

Give us the courage to be all that we may be

And the ability to know ourselves as you know us.

May we take with us from this temple a feeling of peace that will be with us in the days and weeks to come.

May we feel enlivened and liberated from all care.

May you strengthen this sisterhood,

With love, unity and grace.

We ask this in your name, Bast, Lady of Ankhtawy, lady of Asheru,

Ruler of the divine field,

Ruler of Sekhet-Neter.

Continue the visualization for a few moments. It is time for all present to commune privately with the goddess. She may have. knowledge to bestow or gifts to impart. She may take you to other parts of the temple, or elsewhere in her realm. You may meet other people or gods. After an appropriate time, the visualizer shakes the rattles, and the charge-reader says:

Oh, Bast, we thank you for this audience.

We go from your temple with your presence in ourhearts.

We are your priestesses and will do all in our power

To protect your children on this earth.

When we make love, we will do so as an offering to you.

When we partake of delicious food and drink, we will do so as an offering to you.

When we dance, we will do so as an offering to you.

When we sing, we will do so as an offering to you.

We give you our love and our gratitude,

Be forever in our hearts, Bast, even when we here present are apart.

The visualizer resumes:

Now bow to the goddess, and see her begin to retreat up the stairs. When she reaches the top she assumes her normal position and turns back into a sleeping statue of gold. When you are ready, bid farewell to the priests and priestesses, and to all the cats. Walk back down the corridor again. In the outer shrine it is time to have a few thoughts for your own cats. Perhaps you may like to ask for Bast’s protection for them. You can also ask for her blessing for any other loved ones. When you have finished bow your head to the statue to show your thanks and continue on out of the temple. Make your way back through the outer courtyard and out of the huge entrance again. You can see the cone of power shining in the distance. Walk towards it, past the oasis pool and the lionesses. Once you reach it step inside and sit back down.

The person designated to construct the cone now brings it back to present space and time, and dismantles it. When this is done, he or she says, ‘When you are ready, open your eyes.’

After the ritual

Once everyone has opened their eyes, it is a good idea for them to talk about their experiences. Some people might feel that their visu alizations are too personal to discuss at that time, and this must be respected. In our group, we always tape the results of a working, and type it up afterwards as a permanent record. You may like to make a note of your experiences in your magical diary.

After the discussion, we always enter party mode. The first thing we do is dance for Bast. We play our favourite songs and usually sing to them – badly, it has to be said, but we are sure Bast does not mind that! On many ritual nights we have sat up drinking wine and talking until dawn. These are special nights, and everyone should enjoy them as they see fit.

The remains of the feast should be cast out over a garden or some other appropriate spot. During the following days, many of us also like to make some kind of donation to a charity associated with cats, whether in cash or simply a can of cat food in one of the many charity dump bins in pet stores.

This rite can be adapted for use as a simple ‘thanks’ ritual. Instead of asking Bast for her help, the time in the ritual apportioned for requesting boons can be spent simply thanking the goddess for past help and for her presence in our lives. We think it is as important to do this as any potent ritual to improve a situation or create opportunities. The aid of the gods should never be taken for granted.

 

Homage to Bast

 

Oh Bast, Lady of Aheru, ruler of Sekhet-neter

 

Lady of Ankhtawy, ruler of the Divine Field

 

Life of the Two lands

 

We call to you.

 

Hear us and awaken to our presence.

 

Bast, you are beauty, health and gentleness.

 

You comfort those who are made mad by the moon,

 

When you walk at their side in the shadow lands.

 

You, oh lady, are of the gods who protect this world.

 

Thunder and lightning strike the skies,

 

But you return in glory with your father, the sun.

 

You can blast and you can forgive

 

You can punish and you can reward

 

You can grant sunshine unto children

 

You can grant moonshine unto lovers

 

You have died and yet you live.

 

It is whispered that if one man or woman should believe in your power

 

You can hearken to the prayers of all the world. Hear us, oh Bast,

 

You can twist the skein and weave the thread of destiny.

 

You are sacred and beautiful, a lady of music.

 

You are lustrous and all-powerful,

 

And the world rides upon the arch of your back.

 

You are venerated and called the Lady of the East.

 

Bast the divine, ruler of the night, goddess of love, Infinite, all-wise and all-knowing.

 

Grant blessings unto us who follows in your ways.

 

Great cat, who is the cat of the heavens,

 

Grant to us our desires.

 

Be favourable unto us.

 

From Sekhem Heka written by Storm Constantine

 

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Categories: The Goddesses | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “The Goddess Bastet

  1. I would like to show some appreciation to you for rescuing me from such a incident. Because of surfing around throughout the online world and coming across notions which are not powerful, I was thinking my entire life was done. Living without the strategies to the difficulties you’ve solved by means of this short article is a serious case, and the ones that would have in a negative way damaged my entire career if I had not discovered your site. Your understanding and kindness in touching the whole thing was vital. I am not sure what I would have done if I had not discovered such a step like this. I’m able to at this point look ahead to my future. Thanks for your time very much for your impressive and effective guide. I won’t think twice to suggest your web site to any person who should receive care about this topic.

  2. I was just wondering if you could offer more resources to learn about Bastet as well as her cult.

    • More than happy too. I am going to do the postings about Bastet, her cult and various other info. I hope what I have come up with helps you. I am sorry it took me so long to respond. Next time, I will try to be a little faster (me, ha!). Have a super, great day sweetie!
      Lady A

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