Get to Know a God: Bastet

 

BastetThe goddess Bastet (sometimes called Bast) is familiar to anyone who has ever lived with a cat; the cat-headed goddess of the eastern Nile Delta represents both the docile and the vicious, just like your own cat.

On the docile side, Bastet is protector of the home, hearth, women (particularly pregnant women), and children. She’s friendly and affectionate with those she loves. In her vicious aspect, her original persona as a lioness, she is a fierce fighter, the war goddess and protector of Egypt, a relentless predator who kills without mercy and takes delight in it. Just like your cat.

Also like a cat, she’s nocturnal, which connects to the moon. Her son, Khonsu, is god of the moon. In her lioness persona, she’s associated with sunlight, since she is the daughter of Ra, the sun god. Again, just like a cat, she spends her days lying in the sunshine and her nights hunting.

Statue of BastBastet doesn’t have a mother; Ra is seen as embodying both genders and is both mother and father to her and his other offspring. Sometimes Isis is identified as her mother, but this is because Bastet is said to be the personification of the soul of Isis.

The Egyptians weren’t really in the habit of telling epic tales about their deities the way the Greeks and Romans did, so the stories of Bastet’s exploits are relatively few; the best-known is her killing of the evil serpent-god Apep. Dude had it coming.

Bastet’s temple was in the city of Per-Bast (in Greek, Bubastis) on the eastern side of the Nile. Her spring festivals were a precursor to the parties you’ve seen in those “Girls Gone Wild” commercials. According to Herodotus,  during the Festival of Bast, “more wine is consumed than during the whole of the rest of the year.” Picture thousands of drunken crazy cat ladies (and the guys who are into that) having a party. Now imagine that going on for a few weeks as the world’s biggest Spring Break. We can see why Bastet was popular in Egypt.

Things we can learn from Bastet:

1. Gentle does not equal weak.

2. It’s possible to be playful and affectionate and a stone-cold killer.

3. Don’t blame yourself for the excesses and shenanigans of your followers.

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