"Whoever kills a cat in Egypt is condemmed to death, whether he committed this crime deliberately or not. The people gather and kill him. An unfortunate Roman, who had accidentally killed a cat, could not be saved, either by King Ptolemy of Egypt or by the fear which Rome inspired."
Sunday, April 24, 2011
In Egyptian mythology, Bast (also spelled Ubasti, Baset, and later Bastet) is an ancient solar and war goddess, worshipped at least since the Second Dynasty. In the late dynasties, the priests of Amun began to call her Bastet, a repetitive and diminutive form after 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 Middle Kingdom, the cat appeared as Bastet's sacred animal and after the New Kingdom she was depicted with a woman with a cat's head carrying a sacred rattle and a box or basket.
Bast or Bastet was the cat goddess and local deity of the town of Bubastis or Per-Bast in Egyptian, where her cult was centered. Bubastis was named after her. Originally she was viewed as the protector goddess of Lower Egypt, and consequently depicted as a fierce lioness. Indeed, her name means (female) devourer. As protector, she was seen as defender of the pharaoh, and consequently of the later chief male deity, Ra, who was a solar deity also, gaining her the titles Lady of Flame and Eye of Ra. The goddess Bast was sometimes depicted holding a ceremonial sistrum in one hand and an aegis in the other - the aegis usually resembling a collar or gorget embellished with a lioness head.
Bast was a goddess of the sun throughout most of Ancient Egyptian history, but later when she was changed into a cat goddess rather than a lion, she was changed to a goddess of the moon by Greeks occupying Ancient Egypt toward the end of its civilization. In Greek mythology, Bast is also known as Aelurus.