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Bast

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The worship of Bast has been dated to at least the Second Dynasty (that is, around 2890-2686 BCE) - that's before the building of the pyramids. Her name has existed for nearly five millennia, which makes her one of the oldest Names in existence. The first depictions of Hr as a domesticated cat appeared about 1000 BCE after Egypt had been invaded and foreign people had incorporated their own religions into those of Egypt. Bast is often shown holding an ankh or a papyrus wand. This wand signifies a "first" or primordial god such as Ma'at or Tefnut - another Goddess often depicted with a feline head.

Bast has also been known as Bastet, a common mispronunciation. When Egyptian language was becoming corrupted by foreign invasion, the scribes added another "T" on the end to stress its pronunciation. Likewise the names Pasht, Ubastet and Pakhet do not really refer to Bast. The story of Bast is very much a story of corruption and misinformation

Bast's sacred city was Per-Bast - "The House of Bast" (known as Bubastis in Greek). She was also worshipped at:

Memphis (where she was associated with Het-hert as Sekhmet) Heliopolis, where she was associated with Tefnut Herakleopolis, in a city called the Hill of Bast the Eastern Delta in Ba-ir-Ra-st on the Waters of Ra

Denderah Festivals were held in celebration of Bast at places such as Thebes, Memphis, Bubastis and Esna. Unfortunately no shrines or temples remain of Bast in Egypt, even Bubastis was mostly in ruins by the time archaeologists got there. There is a Portal of Bast on the Giza Plateau, and a painting of Bast is in the tomb of Nefertari. Dozens of bronze statues have been found in the cat cemetery found at Per-Bast.

bastet.jpg


The "Modern" Bast
The Mother of All Cats

Bast was once a lion-goddess of the sun and as Patricia Monaghan says, "Later her image grew tamer: she became a cat carrying the sun, or a cat-headed woman who bore on her breastplate the lion of her former self." 1

Practitioners of Kemetic Orthodoxy (the original Egyptian religion) do not agree with modern interpretations of the meaning of Bast to the original devotees of the Kemetic faith. The modern Bast is celebrated as a Goddess of sex, love, fertility, joy, health and other worldly things. She is often associated with Sekhmet and seen as a sex goddess. However, the Kemetic devotees describe her differently and in a much less worldly and human way.

"As the Eye of Ra, Bast acts as his personal "hitman" - ripping out the hearts of the transgressors of Ma'at and delivering them personally to His and the Pharoah's feet." 2

According to Stephanie Cass, "Bast shares qualities of (rather than acting as a foil to) both Sekhmet and Het-hert in Her role as protector, destroyer, and avenger; witness the dozens of shields belonging to soldiers with her device on them that have been unearthed in Egypt. However, at no time in the history of Kemetic religion were Sekhmet and Bast associated in a 'mother-daughter', 'aunt-niece' or 'big bad lioness/nice kitty' context. The phrase, 'She rages as Sekhmet, She is pacified as Bast,' is a fairly late one (150BCE)." 3

Later, following the Greco-Roman influence on Egypt, Bast become associated with the moon only through her later alliance with Artemis, although she has previously been exclusively solar. The Greeks identified Bast with their Artemis, a Goddess who is solitary, celibate and a hunter. A far cry from the modern interpretation of Bast as a sexual divinity which is most probably a modern interpretation. Cats are often associated with females and female sexuality. Cass says that although Bast is seen as synonymous with sex, it is important that we do not place our modern bias on the way that cats were viewed in Ancient Egypt.

"Sensuality should not be mistaken for sexuality. While Bast may exhibit the former, there is no ancient source to back up the latter."