Bastet

Bastet or Bast (Ancient Egyptian: bꜣstjt "She of the Ointment Jar", Coptic: Ⲟⲩⲃⲁⲥⲧⲉ[2] /ubastə/) was a goddess of ancient Egyptian religion, worshiped as early as the Second Dynasty (2890 BCE). Her name also is rendered as B'sst, Baast, Ubaste, and Baset.[3] In ancient Greek religion, she was known as Ailuros (Koine Greek: αἴλουρος "cat").

Bastet was worshipped in Bubastis in Lower Egypt, originally as a lioness goddess, a role shared by other deities such as Sekhmet. Eventually Bastet and Sekhmet were characterized as two aspects of the same goddess, with Sekhmet representing the powerful warrior and protector aspect and Bastet, who increasingly was depicted as a cat, representing a gentler aspect.[4]

Bastet
Bastet
Bastet in her late form
cat-headed, rather than lioness-headed
Name in hieroglyphs
W2t
t
[1]
Major cult centerBubastis
Symbollioness, cat, the sistrum
ConsortRa
OffspringMaahes

Name

Bastet, the form of the name that is most commonly adopted by Egyptologists today because of its use in later dynasties, is a modern convention offering one possible reconstruction. In early Egyptian, her name appears to have been bꜣstt. In Egyptian writing, the second t marks a feminine ending, but usually, was not pronounced, and the aleph (Egyptian 3 symbol.png) may have moved to a position before the accented syllable, ꜣbst.[5] By the first millennium, then, bꜣstt would have been something like *Ubaste (< *Ubastat) in Egyptian speech, later becoming Coptic Oubaste.[5]

Wadjet N5139 mp3h8831
Wadjet-Bastet, with a lioness head, the solar disk, and the cobra that represents Wadjet

What the name of the goddess means, remains uncertain.[5] Names of ancient Egyptian deities often were represented as references to associations or with euphemisms, being cult secrets. One recent suggestion by Stephen Quirke (Ancient Egyptian Religion) explains Bastet as meaning, "She of the ointment jar". This ties in with the observation that her name was written with the hieroglyph for ointment jar (bꜣs) and that she was associated with protective ointments, among other things.[5] The name of the material known as alabaster might, through Greek, come from the name of the goddess. This association would have come about much later than when the goddess was a protective lioness goddess, however, and is useful only in deciphering the origin of the term, alabaster.

Role in ancient Egypt

Bastet was originally a fierce lioness warrior goddess of the sun worshiped throughout most of ancient Egyptian history, but later she was changed into the cat goddess that is familiar today, becoming Bastet.[6] She then was depicted as the daughter and consort of Atum-Ra, with whom she had a son, the lion god Maahes.[6]

As protector of Lower Egypt, she was seen as defender of the king, and consequently of the sun god, Ra. Along with other deities such as Hathor, Sekhmet, and Isis, Bastet was associated with the Eye of Ra.[7] She has been depicted as fighting the evil snake named Apep, an enemy of Ra.[8] In addition to her solar connections, sometimes she was called, "eye of the moon".[9]

Bastet was also a goddess of pregnancy and childbirth, possibly because of the fertility of the domestic cat.[10]

Images of Bastet often were created from alabaster. The goddess was sometimes depicted holding a ceremonial sistrum in one hand and an aegis in the other—the aegis usually resembling a collar or gorget, embellished with a lioness head.

Bastet also was depicted as the goddess of protection against contagious diseases and evil spirits.[11]

Bubastis

Bastet was a local deity whose religious sect was centered in the city that became named, Bubastis. It lay in the Nile Delta near what is known today as Zagazig.[12][13] The town, known in Egyptian as pr-bꜣstt (also transliterated as Per-Bastet), carries her name, literally meaning House of Bastet. It was known in Greek as Boubastis (Βούβαστις) and translated into Hebrew as Pî-beset, spelled without the initial t sound of the last syllable.[5] In the biblical Book of Ezekiel 30:17, the town appears in the Hebrew form Pibeseth.[12]

Temple

Lioness Bast cosmetic jar 83d40m tut burial artifact
An eighteenth dynasty burial artifact from the tomb of Tutankhamun (c. 1323 BC), an alabaster cosmetic jar topped with a lioness representing Bastet — Cairo Museum

Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian who traveled in Egypt in the fifth century BCE, describes Bastet's temple at some length:[14]

Save for the entrance, it stands on an island; two separate channels approach it from the Nile, and after coming up to the entry of the temple, they run round it on opposite sides; each of them a hundred feet wide, and overshadowed by trees. The temple is in the midst of the city, the whole circuit of which commands a view down into it; for the city's level has been raised, but that of the temple has been left as it was from the first, so that it can be seen into from without. A stone wall, carven with figures, runs round it; within is a grove of very tall trees growing round a great shrine, wherein is the image of the goddess; the temple is a square, each side measuring a furlong. A road, paved with stone, of about three furlongs' length leads to the entrance, running eastward through the market place, towards the temple of Hermes; this road is about 400 feet wide, and bordered by trees reaching to heaven.

This description by Herodotus and several Egyptian texts suggest that water surrounded the temple on three (out of four) sides, forming a type of lake known as, isheru, not too dissimilar from that surrounding the temple of the mother goddess Mut in Karnak at Thebes.[12] These lakes were typical components of temples devoted to a number of lioness goddesses, who are said to represent one original goddess, Bastet, Mut, Tefnut, Hathor, and Sakhmet,[12] and came to be associated with sun gods such as Horus and Ra as well as the Eye of Ra. Each of them had to be appeased by a specific set of rituals.[12] One myth relates that a lioness, fiery and wrathful, was once cooled down by the water of the lake, transformed into a gentle cat, and settled in the temple.[12]

At the Bubastis temple, some cats were found to have been mummified and buried, many next to their owners. More than 300,000 mummified cats were discovered when Bastet's temple was excavated. Turner and Bateson suggest that the status of the cat was roughly equivalent to that of the cow in modern India. The death of a cat might leave a family in great mourning and those who could, would have them embalmed or buried in cat cemeteries—pointing to the great prevalence of the cult of Bastet. Extensive burials of cat remains were found not only at Bubastis, but also at Beni Hasan and Saqqara. In 1888, a farmer uncovered a burial site of many hundreds of thousands of cats in Beni Hasan.[4]

Festival

Herodotus also relates that of the many solemn festivals held in Egypt, the most important and most popular one was that celebrated in Bubastis in honor of this goddess.[15][16] Each year on the day of her festival, the town was said to have attracted some 700,000 visitors, both men and women (but not children), who arrived in numerous crowded ships. The women engaged in music, song, and dance on their way to the place. Great sacrifices were made and prodigious amounts of wine were drunk—more than was the case throughout the year.[17] This accords well with Egyptian sources that prescribe that lioness goddesses are to be appeased with the "feasts of drunkenness".[5] A festival of Bastet was known to be celebrated during the New Kingdom at Bubastis. The block statue from the eighteenth dynasty (c. 1380 BC) of Nefer-ka, the wab-priest of Sekhmet,[18] provides written evidence for this. The inscription suggests that the king, Amenhotep III, was present at the event and had great offerings made to the deity.

History

Bastet first appears in the third millennium BC, where she is depicted as either a fierce lioness or a woman with the head of a lioness.[12] Two thousand years later, during the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt (c. 1070–712 BC), Bastet began to be depicted as a domestic cat or a cat-headed woman.[19]

British Museum Egypt 101-black
The Gayer-Anderson cat, believed to be a representation of Bastet

Scribes of the New Kingdom and later eras began referring to her with an additional feminine suffix, as Bastet. The name change is thought to have been added to emphasize pronunciation of the ending t sound, often left silent. Use of the new name became very familiar to Egyptologists.

Cats in ancient Egypt were revered highly, partly due to their ability to combat vermin such as mice, rats (which threatened key food supplies), and snakes—especially cobras. Cats of royalty were, in some instances, known to be dressed in golden jewelry and were allowed to eat from the plates of their owners. Turner and Bateson estimate that during the Twenty-second Dynasty (c. 945–715 BC), Bastet worship changed from being a lioness deity into being predominantly a major cat deity.[4] Because domestic cats tend to be tender and protective of their offspring, Bastet was also regarded as a good mother and sometimes was depicted with numerous kittens.

The native Egyptian rulers were replaced by Greeks during an occupation of Ancient Egypt in the Ptolemaic Dynasty that lasted almost 300 years. The Greeks sometimes equated Bastet with one of their goddesses, Artemis.[10]

See also

References

  • Herodotus, ed. H. Stein (et al.) and tr. AD Godley (1920), Herodotus 1. Books 1 and 2. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • E. Bernhauer, "Block Statue of Nefer-ka", in: M. I. Bakr, H. Brandl, Faye Kalloniatis (eds.): Egyptian Antiquities from Kufur Nigm and Bubastis. Berlin 2010, pp. 176–179 ISBN 978-3-00-033509-9.
  • Velde, Herman te (1999). "Bastet". In Karel van der Toorn; Bob Becking; Pieter W. van der Horst. Dictionary of Demons and Deities in the Bible (2nd ed.). Leiden: Brill Academic. pp. 164–5. ISBN 90-04-11119-0.
  • Serpell, James A. "Domestication and History of the Cat". In Dennis C. Turner; Paul Patrick Gordon Bateson. The Domestic Cat: the Biology of its Behaviour. pp. 177–192.
  1. ^ Hart, George (2005). The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, Second Edition, p. 45
  2. ^ "Coptic Dictionary Online". corpling.uis.georgetown.edu.
  3. ^ Badawi, Cherine. Footprint Egypt. Footprint Travel Guides, 2004.
  4. ^ a b c Serpell, "Domestication and History of the Cat", p. 184.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Te Velde, "Bastet", p. 165.
  6. ^ a b Pinch, Geraldine (2002). Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Traditions of Ancient Egypt. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 115.
  7. ^ Darnell, John Coleman (1997). "The Apotropaic Goddess in the Eye". Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur. 24: 35–48 – via JSTOR.
  8. ^ Pinch, Geraldine (2002). Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Traditions of Ancient Egypt. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 130.
  9. ^ Wilkinson, Richard H. (2003). The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. p. 176
  10. ^ a b Delia, Diana (1999). "Isis, or the Moon". In W. Clarysse, A. Schoors, H. Willems. Egyptian Religion: The Last Thousand Years. Studies Dedicated to the Memory of Jan Quaegebeur. Peeters. pp. 545–546
  11. ^ Mark, Joshua J. (July 24, 2016). "Bastet". Ancient History Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on November 13, 2018. Retrieved December 5, 2018.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Te Velde, "Bastet", p. 164.
  13. ^ Bastet Archived July 3, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Egyptian Museum
  14. ^ Herodotus, Book 2, chapter 138.
  15. ^ Herodotus, Book 2, chapter 59.
  16. ^ Herodotus, Book 2, chapter 137.
  17. ^ Herodotus, Book 2, chapter 60.
  18. ^ "restoration". project-min.de. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  19. ^ Robins, Gay (2008). The Art of Ancient Egypt: Revised Edition. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 197. ISBN 978-0-674-03065-7.

Further reading

Bastet Istanbul museum
Ancient Egyptian statue of Bastet after becoming represented as a domestic cat
  • Malek, Jaromir (1993). The Cat in Ancient Egypt. London: British Museum Press.
  • Otto, Eberhard (1972–1992). "Bastet". In W. Helck; et al. Lexicon der Ägyptologie. 1. Wiesbaden. pp. 628–30.
  • Quaegebeur, J. (1991). "Le culte de Boubastis - Bastet en Egypte gréco-romaine". In L. Delvaux and E. Warmenbol. Les divins chat d'Egypte. Leuven. pp. 117–27.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  • Quirke, Stephen (1992). Ancient Egyptian Religion. London: British Museum Press.
  • Bakr, Mohamed I. & Brandl, Helmut (2010). "Bubastis and the Temple of Bastet". In M. I. Bakr; H. Brandl & F. Kalloniatis. Egyptian Antiquities from Kufur Nigm and Bubastis. Cairo/Berlin. pp. 27–36. ISBN 978-3-00-033509-9
  • Bernhauer, Edith (2014). "Stela Fragment (of Bastet)". In M. I. Bakr; H. Brandl; F. Kalloniatis. Egyptian Antiquities from the Eastern Nile Delta. Cairo/Berlin. pp. 156–157. ISBN 978-3-00-045318-2

External links

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4257 Ubasti

4257 Ubasti, provisional designation 1987 QA, is a stony asteroid, classified as near-Earth object of the Apollo group and as Mars-crosser, approximately 1.5 kilometers in diameter. It was discovered by American astronomer Jean Mueller at the Palomar Observatory in California on 23 August 1987. The asteroid was named for Bastet – also known as Baast, Ubaste or Ubasti – the Egyptian goddess of cats.

Cats in ancient Egypt

Cats in ancient Egypt were represented in social and religious practices of Ancient Egypt for more than 30 centuries. Several Ancient Egyptian deities were depicted and sculptured with cat-like heads such as Mafdet, Bastet and Sekhmet, representing justice, fertility and power.

The deity Mut was also depicted as a cat and in the company of a cat.Cats were praised for killing venomous snakes and protecting the Pharaoh since at least the First Dynasty of Egypt. Skeletal remains of cats were found among funerary goods dating to the 12th Dynasty. The protective function of cats is indicated in the Book of the Dead, where a cat represents Ra and the benefits of the sun for life on Earth. Cat-shaped decorations used during the New Kingdom of Egypt indicate that the cat cult became more popular in daily life. Cats were depicted in association with the name of Bastet.In the late 1880s, more than 200,000 mummified animals, most of them cats, were found in the cemetery of Beni Hasan in central Egypt.

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In view of the huge number of cat mummies found in Egypt, the cat cult was certainly important for the country's economy, as it required breeding of cats and a trading network for the supply of food, oils and resins for embalming them.

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The Eye of Ra was involved in many areas of ancient Egyptian religion, including in the cults of the many goddesses who are equated with it. Its life-giving power was celebrated in temple rituals, and its dangerous aspect was invoked in the protection of the pharaoh, of sacred places, and of ordinary people and their homes.

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KV64

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Nefertem

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Nefertem was eventually seen as the son of the creator god Ptah, and the goddesses Sekhmet and Bast were sometimes called his mother. In art, Nefertem is usually depicted as a beautiful young man having blue water-lily flowers around his head. As the son of Bastet, he also sometimes has the head of a lion or is a lion or cat reclining. The ancient Egyptians often carried small statuettes of him as good-luck charms.

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Nehmes Bastet

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Pakhet

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Pami

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Ra

Ra (; Ancient Egyptian: rꜥ or rˤ; also transliterated rˤw; cuneiform: 𒊑𒀀 ri-a or 𒊑𒅀ri-ia) or Re (; Coptic: ⲣⲏ, Rē) is the ancient Egyptian deity of the sun. By the Fifth Dynasty in the 25th and 24th centuries BC, he had become one of the most important gods in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the noon sun. Ra was believed to rule in all parts of the created world: the sky, the Earth, and the underworld.Ra was portrayed as a falcon and shared characteristics with the sky god Horus. At times the two deities were merged as Ra-Horakhty, "Ra, who is Horus of the Two Horizons". In the New Kingdom, when the god Amun rose to prominence he was fused with Ra into Amun-Ra.

The cult of the Mnevis bull, an embodiment of Ra, had its center in Heliopolis and there was a formal burial ground for the sacrificed bulls north of the city.

All forms of life were believed to have been created by Ra. In some accounts humans were created from Ra's tears and sweat, hence the Egyptians call themselves the "Cattle of Ra". In the myth of the Celestial Cow it is recounted how mankind plotted against Ra and how he sent his eye as the goddess Sekhmet to punish them.

Sekhmet

In Egyptian mythology, Sekhmet ( or Sachmis (), also spelled Sakhmet, Sekhet, or Sakhet, among other spellings, is a warrior goddess as well as goddess of healing. She is depicted as a lioness, the fiercest hunter known to the Egyptians. It was said that her breath formed the desert. She was seen as the protector of the pharaohs and led them in warfare.

Sekhmet is also a solar deity, sometimes called the daughter of Ra and often associated with the goddesses Hathor and Bastet. She bears the Uraeus, which associates her with Wadjet and royalty, and the solar disk.

Shesmetet

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Tutu's iconography is anthropomorphic, consisting of the body of a striding, winged lion, the head of a human, other heads of hawks and crocodiles projecting from the body, and the tail of a serpent. He was the son of Neith, who was considered as a "dangerous goddess". Other goddesses in the same aspect were named as Mut, Sekhmet, Nekhbet and Bastet. This meant that Tutu is placed in a position of power over demons. It was his role to slay demons sent out by "dangerous goddesses"; other sons of these goddesses performed the same function. These were Maahes, Khonsu and Nefertem. Originally the protector of tombs, Tutu later guarded the sleeping from danger or bad dreams. Tutu was also regarded for ordinary people to worship, offering and rituals were made on portable altars. Offerings included goose, and bread, and rituals were for protection from demons and bad dreams. Tutu was stated to have given protection from demons, giving longer life and protecting people from the Netherworld.

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