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Bast, the Beloved Protector of Cats
She is the protector of cats, women and children. The ancient Egyptians celebrated her feast day on October 31st with merrymaking, music, dancing in the streets and drinking with friends – the kind of holidays we would immediately recognize.
A large week-long festival was held in the holy city of Bubastis that attracted followers from all over the country to celebrate along the banks of the river and in the streets of the city. Herodotus tells of crowds swelling to 700,000. Unfortunately, Bastet and her feast day are ignored in modern times, but it could perhaps be said that All Saints’ Day was originally celebrated as the Feast of Bastet
She holds in her power the mysteries of the cat – those magnetic animals that have a strong power to fascinate or repel. Let’s face it, we’ll all admit that we either love cats or we 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 associated with Basset and she is best known for her portrayal of a woman with a cat’s head. When a cat curls up with its head touching its tail, it forms a circle, the symbol of eternity, the symbol of the goddess in whatever form she chooses
Bast is the goddess of the rising sun, the moon, truth, enlightenment, sensuality, fertility, abundance, birth, abundance, the home, music and dance. She was the beloved and protective goddess of women, small children and domestic cats.
Bassett was the owner of the Eye of Horus, the Holy Ochat. Over time the utchat became more associated with cats and was often in the form of a cat. Egyptian women used these cat amulets as fertility tokens, praying to have as many children as cats have kittens
Our modern names for cat are derived from the word utchat: cat, chat, cattus, gatus, gatous, gato, katt, katte, kitte, kitty, etc. One variation of her name was Pasht, from which we get the remnant Indo-European words for 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 grains and other foodstuffs and preserve them for longer periods of time, rodents and other vermin began to thrive. The wild cat was admired for its ferocity and rapacity, traits it used to keep the magical population under control, traits it also shared with the lion. What a blessing the wild cat was to Egypt!
The domestic cats we know today are all descendants of the Felix Silvestris, the wild cat of Africa and the friend of the Egyptian farmer. And so the long domestication process began. As the cat was identified with the basset, so the basset gained immense popularity from 1000 BC onwards. Feline hunting instincts were respected, but so was the gentler side of the cat as a warm and loving mother to her kittens.
The ancient Egyptians must have really appreciated the beauty of the wild creatures, they took the scary aspects of the animals and turned the ferocity into a useful defense. Their gods had animal qualities like the accuracy of the hawk and the strength of the bull. So then, we see in the beast the grace and elegance of a cat, the agility, strength, speed and deadly claws. She possesses the charm, patience, and affectionate nature of a house cat, as well as the potential for the raw brute force of a lioness.
She also has the gift, like all cats, of looking deep into your soul.
And it is easy to understand why basset has been associated with pleasure, music and dancing for thousands of years. Just think of your own comfort-seeking cat who loves to be petted and petted. Cats also love to play, with their graceful movements and purring as a musical accompaniment, indulge in movement coordination.
Today, ruins mark the happy city of Bobstis, the once proud temple is nothing but falling stones. But Bassett’s name lives on. For at least 5000 years there were many who 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 the cat, her precious animal. When you address a cat, remember that you are speaking to a minor deity, and Basset’s favorite creature.
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