In detail

Goddess Bastet in ancient Egypt: legend of the holy cat


The goddess Bastet has a permanent place in Egyptian mythology as a cat goddess. The woman with the cat's head was revered for many predominantly good qualities. Learn more about the legend of the sacred cat here. The Egyptian goddess Bastet was depicted as a woman with a cat's head - Shutterstock / aSuruwataRi

The Egyptian goddess Bastet was depicted as a woman with a cat's head - Shutterstock / aSuruwataRi The ancient Egyptians worshiped cats so much that they made the velvet paws like pharaohs into mummies - Shutterstock / Andrea Izzotti

In ancient Egypt, cats had a special position most of the time, were often solemnly buried and even mummified as part of the worship of Bastet. No wonder that the cat also appeared as a motif in religion or in the images of some gods. Unfortunately, the cat cult for the fur noses sometimes had unsightly consequences.

Characteristics of the goddess Bastet in ancient Egypt

The meek goddess Bastet has many qualities that give the cat goddess a special place in Egyptian mythology. Originally, she also had angry qualities, but these were passed on to the goddess Sachmet. The woman depicted as the daughter of the sun god Ra with the cat's head (in older traditions with the lion's head) stands for:

• fertility and pregnancy
• love and sexuality
• Joy and celebration
• dance and music

She was also worshiped as a protective deity against evil and darkness. The fight light against shadow was very important in ancient Egypt. According to tradition, the cat goddess Bastet fought together with the sun god Ra against the shadows and the snake god Apohis.

Bastet also had a special status with pregnant women, since she was also considered the patron saint of pregnant women. For example, one prayed to her when childbirth was imminent.

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Different representations of the goddess Bastet

Over the years there have been various depictions of the cat goddess Bastet. In the early days she was shown as a lioness or woman with a lion's head. So you could easily confuse them with Sachmet, Menhit or Thermutis. Later there were more and more representations as a woman with a cat's head - the head roughly corresponded to that of a domestic cat. Recent traditions also show Bastet as a sitting cat without human elements.

Cultural space and worship of Bastet in Egypt

Bastet was first worshiped in the Old Kingdom in Memphis and especially Bubastis. Her "cat cult" later spread all over Egypt. The high point is attributed to the Greco-Roman period in ancient Egypt.

From our point of view cat lovers cruel: The sacrifice of cats for mummification was a common motive in the worship of Bastet. The priests and followers of the cat goddess roamed the country and sold cats to the population for sacrificial purposes. In the famous Valley of the Kings, for example, innumerable cat mummies were found that stem from this unsightly practice in which the priests solemnly killed and mummified the cats after they were sold.

After all, if a cat was killed outside the holy places or not in the context of deference to Bastet, this was considered a serious crime in Egypt. In part, this even resulted in the death penalty.