the cat goddess was 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
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.
sometimes renamed her Bastet, a variation on
Bast consisting of an additional
to the one already present, thought to have been added
But since Bastet literally meant (female) of
the ointment jar, Bast would gradually became
thought of as the goddess of
earning the title perfumed protector. In
connection with this, when
became the god of embalming, Bast, as goddess of
ointment, came to be regarded as his wife, the
association with Bastet having been the mother of Anubis,
was broken years later when Anubis became
position as patron and protector of Lower Egypt, lead to
her being identified as the more substantial goddess
whose cult had risen to power with that of
and eventually being absorbed into her as
Mut-Wadjet-Bast. Shortly after, Mut also absorbed
the identities of the Sekhmet-Nekhbet pairing as well.
This merging of
identities of similar goddesses has led to considerable
confusion, leading to some associating things such as
the title Mistress of the
(more properly belonging to
who had become thought of as an aspect of the later
as had Mut), and the Greek idea of her as a lunar
goddess (more properly an attribute of Mut). Indeed,
much of this confusion occurred to subsequent
generations, as the identities slowly merged, as with
the Greeks during their occupation, who sometimes named
her Ailuros (Greek
for cat), thinking of Bast as a version of
their own moon goddess. And thus, to fit their own
to the Greeks, Bast was thought of as the sister of
who they identified as
(Artemis' brother), and consequently, the daughter of
the later emerging deities, Isis and
Sachmet, Sakhet, Sekmet, and
Sakhmet; and given the Greek name, Sacmis),
was originally the warrior goddess of
She is depicted as a
the fiercest hunter known to the Egyptians. It was said
that her breath created the desert. She was seen
as the protector of the
Her cult was so dominant in the culture that when the
of the twelfth dynasty moved the capital of Egypt to
the centre for her cult was moved as well. Religion, the
royal lineage, and the authority to govern were
intrinsically interwoven in Ancient Egypt during its ten
thousand years of existence.
The term Triple Goddess was popularized by poet
in his "work of poetic imagination,"
The White Goddess
(1948). Graves showed an archetypal goddess triad
occurring throughout Indo-European mythology.
archetypes. Graves extrapolated this further into a
future world where the present Monotheistic religions
are discarded and the Triple Goddess once again rules
supremeThe motif as a dream symbol has been explored
and many others.
dresses could be ornamented with beads and the cloth was
at times pleated. They covered the breasts most of the
time, though there were periods when fashion left them
bare Servants and slave girls wore at times little more
than skimpy panties and jewelry
|Costumes at our
|The mystic cat
often appears to be meditating as it adopts a sphinx-like
repose, its narrowed eyes give the impression that it is in
touch with an inner life.
She is Goddess of
sunrise. enlightenment, truth, & civilization; abundance;
protector of the home; physical pleasure, sex & erotic dance;
fertility & birth. She is also known as a goddess of love, music
and dance. Bast is the enlightened Maiden of the Triple Goddess
with Isis and Nephthys
notoriety as an Egyptian goddess today relates to her role as a
goddess of excess, especially sexual excess in a well documented
celebration which closely followed the 5-day July year end
pageant celebrating the the death and rebirth of Osirus.
At this "festival of intoxication" which indulged unspoken
desires Bast presided over huge gatheriings of party animals.
Bast is an
ancient goddess whose stories and associations changed much over
the millenniums. She is considered equivalent to Sekmut of Lower
Egypt which had been conquered by Upper Egypt, whose is a more
fierce lion headed cat.
Annual Carnival festival of the warrior cat goddess
Bast feast day is celebrated on October 31
Bast is an extremely ancient Goddess, long
predating writing and thus her meanings have changed over the
A Daughter of the sun god Re, sister of
Sekhmet the Lion Goddess, and the Wife of Ptah. She embodies the
creator/nurturer/destroyer aspect of the triple goddess [life,
death rebirth] Up until 1000 B.C. Bast was a lioness goddess,
but began to be depicted as a cat or a woman with a cat's head.
As she was a goddess of fertility, there was sometimes kittens
at her feet.
Bubastis was made famous
by the traveler Herodotus in the 4th century BCE, when
he described in his annals one of the festivals that
takes place in honor of Bastet. Excavations in the ruins
of Tell-Basta which is the former Bubastis have
yielded many discoveries, including a graveyard with
mummified holy cats.
"When the people
are on their way to Bubastis, they go by river, a
great number in every boat, men and women together.
Some of the women make a noise with rattles, others
play flutes all the way, while the rest of the
women, and the men, sing and clap their hands. As
they travel by river to Bubastis, whenever they come
near any other town they bring their boat near the
bank; then some of the women do as I have said,
while some shout mockery of the women of the town;
others dance, and others stand up and lift their
skirts. They do this whenever they come alongside
any riverside town. But when they have reached
Bubastis, they make a festival with great
sacrifices, and more wine is drunk at this feast
than in the whole year besides. It is customary for
men and women (but not children) to assemble there
to the number of seven hundred thousand, as the
people of the place say. "
-- Herodotus, Histories Book II Chap 60
Bast or Bastet?
The confusion in the
pronunciation runs deeper than one might think.
Firstly, in many cases, the Egyptians did not record
vowel sounds--so you might here "Bast" pronounced "BOST"
or even "BIST". We don't really know what the
vowel sound was between the "B" and the "ST" sounds.
Secondly, the name "Bastet" has been used because
the Egyptians used an extra "T" mark to distinguish
a female rather than male personage.
No life-size -or
greater - representations of Bast, in any form, have
survived intact, although a great many smaller bronzes and
statues have been recovered and can now be seen in museums
around the world. But this does not necessarily mean that
larger statues didn't exist. In his 'Histories', Herodotus
wrote that a statue of the Goddess existed in the main
temple shrine at Bubastis, but gives no detailed description
Today, no shrines or temples
remain of Bast in Egypt; even Bubastis was mostly ruins by
the time Naville got around to it.
There is a "Portal of Bast"
on the Giza Plateau (fittingly, near the Sphinx), and
statues have been discovered showing Khaefre accompanied by
A painting of Bast is present
within the tomb of Nefertari at Abu Simbel, and dozens of
bronze statues dating from the Late Period have been
discovered amidst the cat cemetery found at Per-Bast.
equated Bastet with Diana and Artemis and attempted to
incorporate her into the Isis and Osiris central myth as
their daughter but the Egyptians never went along
Sekmut: warrior goddess
Lionheaded Goddess, she who is the scorching power of the Sun,
defender of the Divine Order and the daughter of RE
As Lower Egypt had been
conquered by Upper Egypt,
Sekhmet was seen as the more
powerful of the two warrior goddesses, the other,
Bast, being the similar warrior
goddess of Lower Egypt.
In the myth,
Sekhmet's blood-lust was not quelled at the end of battle and
led to her destroying almost all of humanity, so Ra tricked her
by turning the Nile red like blood (the Nile turns red every
year when filled with silt during inundation) so that Sekhmet
would drink it. However, the red liquid was not blood, but
beer mixed with pomegranate
juice so that it resembled blood, making her so drunk that she
gave up slaughter and became an aspect of the gentle
An annual festival commemorating this mythical
event was held at the beginning of the year, a festival of
intoxication, the Egyptians danced and played music to soothe
the wildness of the goddess and drank great quantities of beer
ritually to imitate the extreme drunkenness that stopped the
wrath of the goddess—when she almost destroyed humankind.
the destroyer aspect of the goddess through the
temple of Mut), New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of
Amenhotep III, 1390-1353 B.C.Stone; Granodiorite
Egyptians identified the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet
(her name means “The Powerful One”) with tempestuous
weather, scorching heat, pestilence, and war. Priests
constantly strove to calm her destructive and
unpredictable nature with ceremonies and offerings.
Sekhmet was believed to be especially threatening at the
time of New Year (mid-July), for if she was not
pacified, the Nile might not rise, the new year could
not begin, and the cycle of life would cease. This image
of the goddess, brought to Boston from Egypt in 1835, is
probably one of 730 erected by King Amenhotep III in the
temple precinct of the goddess Mut, Sekhmet’s pacified
According to myth, the bloodthirsty Sekhmet
nearly destroyed all humans, but the sun god Re tricked her into
drinking mass quantities of ochre-colored beer, thinking it was
blood. Once Sekhmet passed out, she was transformed into a
kinder, gentler goddess named Hathor, and humanity was saved.
Bast and Sekhmet were
connected to Hathor, , Tefnut, Atum (her father) and Mut. It was
only in the New Kingdom that she gained the head of a house cat
and became a much more 'friendly' goddess, though though the
lion-headed warrior woman image remained. As with Hathor, Bast
is often seen carrying the sistrum rhythm instrument.
Even from very old times, as protector, Bast was
seen as the fierce flame of the sun who burned the deceased
should they fail one of the many tests in the underworld.
Some of Bast's festivals included the
'Procession of Bast',
'Bast appears to Ra', the 'Festival of Bast',
'Bast Goes Forth from Bubastis' and 'Bast guards the Two Lands'.
There was even a 'Festival of Hathor and Bast', showing the
connection between the two goddesses.
Egypt is given credit as the breeder of the first domestic cats
from Africa who likely made good companions to the large grain
stores which needed to be protected from mice.
Beer, made from fermented barley bread, was the
drink of choice for the festival of drunkenness as celebrated at
the Temple of Mut.
watchful, Bast also became known as the “sacred and all-seeing eye”, or
"utchat", where the word “cat” is probably derived from
the eye which had been robbed by Seth, and healed by Thoth after its
return. The wedjat
is the symbol of the power of Re.
The Wadjet (or Ujat, meaning "Whole
One") is a powerful symbol of protection also known as the "Eye of
Horus" and the "all seeing eye". The symbol was frequently used in
jewellery made of gold, silver, lapis, wood, porcelain, and carnelian,
to ensure the safety and health of the bearer and provide wisdom and
prosperity. However, it was also known as the "Eye of Ra", a powerful
destructive force linked with the fierce heat of the sun which was
described as the "Daughter of Ra". The "eye" was personified as the
goddess Wadjet and associated with a number of other gods and goddesses
(notably Hathor, Bast, Sekhmet, Tefnut, Nekhbet and Mut).
The restored eye became emblematic of
the re-establishment of order from chaos, thus closely associating it
with the idea of Ma´at. In one myth Horus made a gift of the eye to
Osiris to help him rule the netherworld. Osiris ate the eye and was
restored to life. As a result, it became a symbol of life and
As an amulet it protects against the
The temples of Heru/Horus at Edfu and
Hwt–Hrw/Hathor at Dendera document this ceremony.
Just before sunrise a
procession of priests and priestesses dressed in ritual garb, including
sacred masks of many of the Neteru, began deep in the temple. They
carried offerings, ceremonial implements and shrines holding gold
statues of the Neteru. Slowly climbing the eastern staircase the
procession echoed the steady ascent of both Sirius and the Sun. Once on
the roof the shrines were opened to greet the morning light.
Inscriptions from Dendera take up the
narrative. Hwt–Hrw is ". . . the beautiful one who appears in heaven,
the truth who regulates the world at the head of the sun barge, the
Queen and Mistress of awe, the ruler (of Gods and) Goddesses, Isis the
great, the Mother of the Gods." Here Hwt–Hrw’s identity extends to Isis
(Aset) and Sopdet— the Ancient Egyptian name for the star Sirius .
Additional inscriptions continue:
"Radiantly, above Her father’s forehead, the Golden One rises, and Her
mysterious form occupies the bow of His boat. Her rays unite with the
luminous God on that beautiful day of the birth of the sun disk on the
morning of the new year’s feast" Rejuvenated by the combined light
of Sun and star, the statues were returned to their shrines and the
procession began its journey down into the temple via the opposite
staircase representing the westerly journey of these celestial bodies.
Just twenty days after the New Year
Festival the ceremony known as the "Inebriation of Hwt–Hrw" occurs.
O Golden One, who consumes praise because the food of
her desire is dancing, who shines on the festival at the
time of illumination, who is content with the dancing at
Come! The procession is in the place of inebriation, that hall of
traveling through the marshes. The drunken celebrants
drum for you during the cool of the night" .
The idea that a religious holiday would
indulge dancing, drinking and sensual festivities occurring throughout
the night may be foreign to us but if communion with the gods is the
objective and altering your state of consciousness is the path then it
is easy to understand the importance of intoxication. This intoxication
could, be achieved through the use of alcohol or narcotics. However,
inebriation also was achieved through the use of chanting, fasting,
dance and music. In essence these were all seen as a means to create an
altered state allowing one to become more open to the spiritual forces
In the Ancient Egyptian religious and
magical expression all of these methods were frequently applied. The
Goddess Hwt–Hrw’s title "Lady of Drunkenness" clearly reveals this
aspect of Her nature. This "sacred drunkenness" or "sober drunkenness"
can take on many forms.
"His prayer displays a
profound awareness that Maat and Hathor, order and drunkenness,
are both needed in the solar circuit. Right action by itself was
never the goal of the Egyptian solar cult; nor were excess,
delight, wine and fire ever suppressed for the sake of
duty–bound moral worth alone. And if it can be said that Maat
directs and guides, equally it must never be forgotten that
Hathor is the power who moves the desire for life and existence"
The Power of the Goddess in Ancient Egypt. Copyright 1997.
Inner Traditions. Rochester, Vermont, U.S.A.
How often have you found yourself
caught up in the rhythm of a song or dance; or been swept up in the
ecstasy of love, or the passion of sexuality? These are all states of
"intoxication." A similar and yet perhaps more profound intoxicating
state of mind occurs when communing with the divine.
go to the place of drunkenness, my place of passion
repeatedly in the Goddess’ temple of Dendera. "place of
passion" is a metaphor for the intoxicating state of
mind in which one is in direct communion with Hwt–Hrw
By dancing to the rhythm of the drumming and
chanting this ancient incantation, the deeper levels of
the mind become more open to a state of spiritual
Mixed gender pair dancing as
we know it today was unknown. Egyptian dancing may have been
influenced by the Nubian tradition, which became very popular in
Rome during the days of the empire, and is still alive in parts
of the Sudan today. Dancers from the south were brought to Egypt
and seemingly much
appears to have been complex. Dances could be mimetic,
expressive - similar to modern ballet with pirouettes and the
like, or gymnastic, including splits, cartwheels, and backbends.
A few pictures of acrobatic dancers have been found,
generally depicting a number of dancers performing the same
movement in unison.
For sociable banquets the
dancing girls were often selected from among the servants or the
women living in the harem of the nobleman in whose house the
party was held; possibly professional dancers were also hired
for these occasions. Pictures of such gatherings show girls
performing slow elegant dance steps, which may have alternated
with wild acrobatic movements.
Public celebrations were accompanied by dancing, be it
spontaneous or orchestrated.
"[The city] is bestrewn with faience, gleaming with natron,
garlanded with flowers and fresh herbs. The prophets and
fathers–of–the–god are clad in fine linen, the king’s entourage
are arrayed in their regalia. The city’s youth are drunk, it
citizens are glad, its young maidens are beautiful to see,
rejoicing is round about it, festivity is in all quarters, there
is no sleep in it until dawn" p
g229 Lesko, Barbara S. The
Great Goddesses of Egypt. Copyright 1999. University of
Oklahoma Press, U.S.A.
the upper part of the convex surface of the sistrum is
carved the effigies of a Cat with a human visage, as on
the lower edge of it, under those moving chords, is
engraved on the one side the face of Isis, and on the
other that of Nephthys."
The face of Isis represents Generation, and that of Nephthys
Corruption, and Plutarch says that the Cat denotes the moon,
variety of colours, its activity in the night, and the
peculiar circumstances which attend its fecundity making
it a proper emblem of that body. For it is reported of
this creature, that it at first brings forth one, then
two, afterwards three, and so goes on adding one to each
former birth till it comes to seven; so that she brings
forth twenty-eight in all, corresponding as it were to
the several degrees of light, which appear during one of
moon's revolutions. But though this perhaps may appear
to carry the air of fiction with it, yet may it be
depended upon that the pupils of her eyes seem to fill
up and to grow larger upon the full of the moon, and to
decrease again and diminish in their brightness upon its
waning--as to the human countenance with which this Cat
is carved, this is designed to denote that the changes
of the moon are regulated by understanding and wisdom."
represents death and destruction or the crone in
the triple goddess, Isis is the mother nurturer and the
cat is the maiden forming a bridge not only between good and
evil, but between interior and exterior life, and between
supernatural forces and the tribe.
strongly revered as the patron of cats, and thus it was in the
temple at Per-Bast that dead (and mummified) cats were brought
for burial. More than 300,000 mummified cats were discovered
when Bast's temple at Per-Bast was excavated. Egyptians believe,
when a cat in the family dies, to show respect, they display the
body outside of the home.
There is a Gnostic belief that it
was a cat that originally sat in the Garden of Eden guarding the
Tree of Life with its knowledge of good and evil.
BEER: Invented &
often toasted by the Egyptians
till drunk while enjoying the feast day!
Inscription from the tomb of
Petosiris, 4th century BCE
M. Lichtheim Ancient Egyptian Literature, Volume III,
The mouth of a perfectly contented man is filled with beer.
Inscription dating to 2200 BCE
Both men and women were known to get intoxicated. In one
tomb picture a woman is seen vomiting, in Pahery's tomb at el
Kab a man is depicted saying
Give me eighteen jugs of
wine - I want to get drunk, my insides are as dry as straw.
Strabo, a geographer living in the first century CE, only the
Egyptians brewed beer from barley. Unfortunately his remarks are
very general and don't give us any pointers on the methods used:
Barley beer is a
preparation peculiar to the Egyptians. It is common among
many tribes, but the mode of preparing it differs in each.
together with bread, oil and vegetables, was an important part
of the wages workers received from their employers. The standard
daily ration during pharaonic times was two
containing somewhat more than two litres each. It was a
healthier drink than water drawn from the river or some canal,
which was often polluted.
The Egyptians liked their
beer cool as can be learned from a complaint against some
robbers who had stolen some food and drink:
They drew a bottle of beer
which was [cooling] in water, while I was staying in my
Egyptian publications of Mariette
G. Maspero, Etudes de mythologie et d'archéologie égyptiennes vol. 3, 1898
beer, with pasteurizing unknown, often turned bad in the hot
climate, and dead pharaohs were promised:
bread which doesn't
crumble and beer which doesn't turn sour.
beer production seems to have been a royal monopoly. Temples had
their own breweries, while brewing in towns and villages was
farmed out. One of the earliest breweries found operated at Hierakonpolis during the middle of the 4th millennium BCE and
produced possibly more than 1000 litres of beer per day.
of ivory dice made sometime before 1500 B.C. have been found in
Egypt. Dice are
possibly the oldest form of gambling, predating playing cards by
hundreds of years. Originally a form of fortune telling in
ancient Egypt, bone rolling slowly evolved into a gambling game.
The original dice were made of bones and teeth of animals.
The previous version of backgammon
was called Senat, as found in Egypt excavations. These ancient
boards go back as far as 3,000 BC In
ancient Egypt inveterate gamblers could be sentenced to forced
labour in the quarries
It is thought that gambling appeared very early in our human
history and it is possible that Egpyt was the first
was an accepted part of Egyptian life and had little to do
with sex. According to tomb depictions children were often naked
and even grown ups removed their clothes in public when the work
they were doing required it.
The ancient Egyptians frequently went around
in light, see-through clothing or, alternately, no
clothing at all. It was hot, after all.
A Connection to
Bastet has been known as the
"hidden lady of Bubastis." The images of her which bear the
"feather of Maat" point to her partial identification with the
goddess of balance and equilibrium. The place of the cat as a
medium, lies between good and evil, inner and outer life,
gods and men - linking and separating the two. If man consults
this animal with access to both worlds and allows it to lead him
wherever it will, he may receive knowledge that would otherwise
remained hidden. If he acquires foreknowledge of future delights
in store for him, the cat will appear to be an "omen of good
luck." If he receives a presentiment of disaster, he may declare
that the prophetic cat was black.