She is the protector of cats, women and children. The ancient Egyptians celebrated their feast day on October 31st with social feasting, music, dancing in the streets and drinking with friends – the kind of holiday we would recognize right away.
A major week-long festival was held in the holy city of Bubastis, drawing devotees from across the country to celebrate along the riverbanks and through the city streets. Herodotus reports crowds swelling to 700,000. Unfortunately, bast and its festival are overlooked in modern times, but one could perhaps say that Halloween was originally celebrated as a festival of bast
She holds in her power the mysteries of the cat – these magnetic animals with a powerful power to fascinate or repel. Let’s face it, we’ll all admit that we either love cats or can’t stand the sight of them. Historically, the cat was first endowed with archetypal power in Egypt, where it was considered a sacred animal. For the cat is identified with Bast and she is best known for her depiction as a woman with a cat’s head. When a cat curls up and its head touches its tail, it forms a circle, the symbol of eternity, the symbol of the goddess in whatever form she has chosen
Bast is the goddess of the rising sun, moon, truth, enlightenment, sensuality, fertility, gift, childbirth, abundance, home, music and dance. She was the beloved goddess and protector of women, young children and domestic cats.
Bast was the possessor of the Eye of Horus, sacred Utchat. Over time, the utchat became more associated with cats and often took the form of a cat. Egyptian women used these cat amulets as a sign of fertility and prayed to have as many children as cats have kittens
Our modern names for the cat are derived from the word utchat: cat, chat, cattus, gatus, gatous, gato, katt, katte, kitte, kitty, etc. A variation of its name was Pasht, and from this we get the rest of the Indo-European words for the cat: pasht, past, pushd, pusst and puss
The wild cats of Egypt first lived in the swamps and marshes along the Nile. As time progressed and people began to grow crops and other foods and store them longer, rodents and other vermin began to thrive. The wild cat was revered for its ferocity and greed, traits it used to keep the breeding population under control, traits it also shared with the lion. What a blessing the wild cat was to the Egyptians!
The domestic cats we know today are all descended from the Felix Sylvesteris, the wild cat of Africa and friend of the Egyptian farmer. And so began the long domestication process. Since the cat was identified with Bast, Bast gained popularity from 1000 BC. enormous popularity. The feline hunting instinct was honored but also the cat’s gentler side as a warm and loving mother to her kittens.
The ancient Egyptians must have truly appreciated the beauty of wild creatures, taking the frightening aspects of animals and turning wildness into beneficial protection. Their gods possessed animal qualities such as the precision of the hawk and the strength of the bull. So in Bast we see a cat’s grace and elegance, its agility, strength, speed and deadly claws. She has the charm, patience and affectionate nature of a house cat and the potential for raw strength of a lioness.
Like all cats, she also has the gift of seeing deep into the soul.
And it’s easy to see why bast has been associated with indulgence, music and dance for millennia. Just think of your own comfort-seeking cat who loves to be petted and petted. Cats also love to play, using their graceful movements and purring to accompany their music, and revel in the coordination of movement.
Today ruins mark the merry city of Bubastis, the once-proud temple is nothing but fallen blocks. However, the name Bast will remain. For at least 5000 years there have been many who have praised her name. Many still do this today.
Take a moment to honor this ancient Egyptian goddess. Light a green candle, her sacred color, and be affectionate to a cat, her beloved animal. When addressing a cat, remember that you are speaking to a minor divinity and a creature loved by Bast.
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