Egyptian Cat Goddess Bastet & Cat-Worship | Facts & Importance

The Egyptian mythology upholds Bastet, Bast, or Ailuros (Greek words for Cat) as a solar deity. In addition, the cat is worshiped as the goddess of fertility and the protector of pregnant women. She also has the power to control solar eclipses. Cat goddess has been depicted as a woman with a cat’s head, and holding a sacred musical instrument in hand. She is sometimes also adorned with a big earring, a necklace, and a basket. Bubastis in the eastern part of the Nile Delta was a religious center. The temples had cats that were considered as an incarnation of the goddess and hence they were treated in the best way possible. When these animals died, they were mummified in places reserved for them.

As strange it is to hear about a cat being adorned as the most important God, the stranger it is to face the other peculiarities that the Goddess and the beliefs carry.

Really wondering what? Test out these facts about the cat goddess Bastet and cat worship in ancient Egypt.

1 Cat Goddess Bastet Looked Up With Great Respect

Egyptian Cat Goddess Bastet & Cat-Worship

Bastet – Cat Goddess

The Cat God was seen with great respect, and the eastern sky was its hours of glory. During the transition period between the Middle and the New Empire (between 1785 and 1557 BC) the Egyptians worshiped Bastet, the cat-goddess with a woman’s body and a cat’s head.

2 The Cat City In Ancient Egypt

Egyptian Cat Goddess Bastet & Cat-Worship

Ruins Of Bubastis City

Egyptian Cat Goddess Bastet & Cat-Worship

Cat cemetery in Bubastis city

The cat was a figure of love and reproduction that was highly thought of in Bubastis, a city that became the capital during the reign of the Libyan kings, and in Saqqara, where the Bubastéion temple was built. The creation of sacred cats during the annual festivities was a frequent practice.

3 House Of Bastet

Egyptian Cat Goddess Bastet & Cat-Worship

The religious center was Bubastis, whose name in Egyptian – Per-Bastet – means House of Bastet. The cat-goddess was worshiped in her temple, from the Old Empire (c. 2575 to 2134 BC) and her effigies exist even today. Many of them are scattered around the world. This deity has a strong association with the Moon and is known to protect deliveries and pregnant women from disease and evil spirits. It also became the patron saint of the festivals, in which drunkenness was common.

4 Goddess Bastet Symbolism

The Egyptian goddess Bastet was represented as a woman with a cat’s head. She was worshiped around 3,000 BC and was considered a solar deity and the goddess of fertility, protective of pregnant women. She also represented pleasure, music and love. Bastet is a representative of the beneficial powers of the Sun. Egyptians, and other ancient cultures like Mayas and Incas, worshiped the Sun. Then there would be a connection between the Sun and the eyes?

5 Goddess Bastet In Different Dynasties

Bastet was an old deity who had already been mentioned in the early dynasties. It was identified with the population of the wild cats across the country. The Middle Empire (c. 2040 to 1640 BC) associated it with the domestic cat. The name Bastet means “goddess of the bas”, a word that identifies a jug of ointment for funerary ceremonies.

The goddess has been looked up as a symbol of maternal love, productiveness/richness, and sweetness. She was the protector of homes and from the IV dynasty (c. 2575 BC) appears as the mother of the pharaoh, whom she helps. Being the royals of the XII dynasty (1991 to 1783 AC), they made native goddess Bastet a national deity. From then she was considered the daughter of Ra and the beneficent powers of the Sun were incorporated to her.

6 Egyptian Cat – Before & After Death

The animals were fed with bread soaked in milk and Nile fish. They were then displayed in a basket in order to receive the tributes of the people. After death, they were covered by a sheet and their body was treated with cedar oil by an embalmer.

7 Mummified Cats In Beni HasanEgyptian Cat Goddess Bastet & Cat-Worship

It was only after the XXII dynasty (950 BC) that the practice of mummifying the cats began. Later, under the XXX dynasty, there was an intense transmission of Greek culture in the country of the Pharaohs. In the fourth century BC, at the time of the occupation of Egypt by the Persians, the practice was deeply rooted in customs.

Mummies increased manifold and this was proved by the discovery of sixteen cat necropolises. The most important mummies are located in Beni Hasan, at the sanctuary of the cat goddess Bastet, Saqqara and Bubastis.

Archeologists have many found cemeteries of mummified sacred animals in Egypt. The practice gained importance in the history of ancient Egypt under the rule of the Ptolemies. It should not be considered typical of the religious life of Egypt at its peak. Cemeteries of animals were situated in the vicinity of their centers of worship. Cats represent the Bastet goddess with joy and love and were thus mummified and buried in Bubastis.

Mummified Cats In National History Museum, London

Egyptian Cat Goddess Bastet & Cat-Worship

The mummies were initially sent to Europe and kept in the Natural History Museum in London. However, their high number resulted in them being used as fertilizers. The progress made in radiology should be thanked, for it made possible the study of these ancient treasures. It served as an important source of revelations. These cats were very young, most of them aged between 2 to 4 months or 9 to 17 months.

9 Appearance Of Mummified Cats

The Mummies were very coarse and the body was often reduced to a skeleton before being wrapped in bandages. The bandages were applied with great skill and every effort was made to produce a convincing mummy in appearance.

10 Some Mummified Kittens Found With Strangulation Marks

New details provided new insights into the Egyptian customs. Sometimes the cats died a natural death. But many kittens had been discovered with a strangulation mark on the necks. It demonstrates that their death did not always come from natural causes.

11 Egyptian Shaved Eyebrow During The Cat’s Death 

Egyptian Cat Goddess Bastet & Cat-Worship

Herodotus Statue

Herodotus brought to mind a period of grief for families suffering from the animal’s death. The tradition demanded for the eyebrows to be shaved as a sign of consternation. The Diodorus of Sicily described the passion the Egyptians felt for the cat.

12 Egyptian Festivals In Honor of Cat Goddess 

The Egyptians celebrate every year a number of feasts. All the important ceremonies are observed with great zeal and enthusiasm. On the occasion of the festivities, life gets completely transformed in Bubastis. One will only find joy, hustle and bustle. The boats are decorated and the river runs in all directions. Men, women and children, mostly with musical instruments, fill the air with sonorous vibrations. Songs, voices, humorous and injurious words, and exclamations form a part of the gathering.

People of all classes and of all kinds take part in the party to honor the goddess and to immolate in her honor a large number of victims that they bring with them and previously chosen. The feast lasts till the expansions of joy, dancing, and drinks. In the period of festivities, more wine is consumed than in the entire year.

13 King Tuthmosis Who Mummified His Cat

Egyptian Cat Goddess Bastet & Cat-Worship

King Tuthmosis

Most of the mummified animals are from the later periods of Egyptian history, but it was in practice since the earlier periods. Long before sacred animals were worshipped, King Tuthmosis, Akhenaten’s eldest brother (c.1353 to 1335 BC), had mummified and buried his favorite cat under the title of Osiris Tamit.

14 Cat Deity Represent The Rats As An Evil Who Were Known For Plague

Cats in Ancient Egypt had a very important meaning behind being idolized as Gods. Legends tell that worship came after the realization that cats helped to fight one of their worst enemies- rats. Rats were known to plague the region by spreading disease, destroying grain and cereal crops.

15 Death Sentence For Cat Killer

Anyone who killed a cat was sentenced to death. The catlike animals too had the same funeral rituals. They were embalmed and buried, and their owners used to shave the eyebrows in mourning.

16 Cats As The epitome Of beauty

For Egyptian women cats were the symbol of beauty. Women were in the practice of painting their eyes in order to imitate the perfect outline of their gaze. The Pharaohs painted their eyes to get the powerful influence exerted by the cat’s dominating look.

17 Egyptians Call Myw To Their Cats

The Egyptians gave the cats the name “myw”. It also has correspondence to their sound, which is an onomatopoeic word. The cat was one of the most prized animals in Egypt.

18 Cat Worship In Other Cultures

Egyptian Cat Goddess Bastet & Cat-Worship

The cat was a sacred animal with influence on its worshipers. According to the historian Polybius, in the sixth century BC, cat occupied a strategic position in a military event. Even in the siege of Peluse by Cambyses II, King of Persia, the cats were precisely placed in the front line of the battle. This led to the immediate surrender of the Egyptians, who refused to have their sacred animals in the battles.

The cat was equally honored in the East. Legends tell that Muhammad preferred to sacrifice his clothes and cut a sleeve instead of waking his cat Muezza, who slept in his lap. In the thirteenth century, the sultan El-Daher-Beybars left the whole of a garden to be inherited by the stray cats. It was given the name “The Orchard of the Cats” or Gheytel-Qouttah.

In the Far East, the cat was treated with great esteem. Buddhist monks created sacred cats. In Japan, the Kyoto palace opened its doors to a white cat which gave birth to five kittens. There is a temple dedicated to the cat Maneki-Neko, which portrays the goddess sitting with a paw raised in sign of welcome. All this proves the great love that existed for the cats in the country of the Rising Sun.