Thursday 16 October 2008

Goddess of the Week: Bast

Bast, the feline goddess of Ancient Egypt, is one of the most enduring and best loved deities. She is often asked for help by those whose cats are ill or in trouble - like my friend whose little Tom cat recently went missing.

When my own cat was so ill that the vet thought he would probably die, I asked Bast to let him live. By the next morning he was starting to look better and the vet was amazed at his fast and unexpected recovery.

So, by way of giving thanks to Bast for her help with my own moggie and the hope that my friend's roaming Tom will come home soon, The Bad Witch's Goddess of the Week is Bast.

Cats were one of the first animals to be domesticated in Egypt. They were not only prized for their use in killing vermin but also because they made such good companions for humans. They became deified in the form of Bastet, or Bast, the goddess of protection and motherhood. Cats certainly make excellent mothers to their kittens.

The Ancient Egyptians respected cats so much that they mummified them after death and severe penalties were dealt out to anyone harming a cat. Even today, cats are much loved in Egypt, although the strays that are a frequent sight wandering Egyptian streets - like the one pictured in the photo above - are often sadly scrawny and undernourished.

Cats, of course, are ruthless predators as well as loving pets and early depictions of Bast show her in this ferocious aspect, a version of the lion goddess Mafdet. In the strange synchronicity that often happens with magic, when my copy of Llewellyn's 2009 Witches' Calendar turned up in the post this morning, I found Bast featured in one of its full-length articles. It says:
"The name Bast means 'female devourer'. As the feline was domesticated, Bast too evolved to assume the gentle and protective qualities of the cat. In 1000BC, Bast took on her more cultivated feline features and was a popular deity heavily associated with pleasures, perfume, celebrations, music, song, dancing and joy."

The Concise Mythological Dictionary
Llewellyn's 2009 Witches' Calendar

No comments: