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Definition: Bast, in Egyptian religion from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(băst), ancient Egyptian cat goddess. At first a goddess of the home, she later became known as a goddess of war. The center of her cult was at Bubastis. Her name also appears as Ubast.


Summary Article: Bastet from The Encyclopedia of Ancient History

Bastet was an ancient Egyptian goddess, whose cult probably first appeared in the city of Bubastis (see Bubastis/Tell Basta); her name in Egyptianmeant "she of Bubastis". Bastet was the benevolent version of more aggressive goddesses, such as Sekhmet and Tefnut. Shewas the daughter of Re (see RE and RE Horakhty) and mother of Mihos, a lion god of Lower Egypt.

Bastet was depicted as a woman with a cat's head and was also worshipped in the form of sacred domesticated cats, numerous mummified examples of which were found buried in Bubastis. Her cult is attested since the Old Kingdom, but became more prominent from the 22nd Dynasty onwards.

Bastet was known as the mother of the king or as the Eye of Re. In the private sphere of worship, however, her powers were mainly linked to childbearing and motherhood (Lesko 1999: 151–2).

Her temple in Bubastis was visited in the fifth century bce by Herodotus, who described it in detail and probably witnessed a festival dedicated to her cult, including processions, sacrifices, and ritual frenzies (Hdt. 2.60). According to Herodotus, the popularity of Bastet's cult was related to the prestigious status cats enjoyed in Egypt. The Greeks associated Bastet with Artemis, perhaps owing to their common character as potent goddesses. Later the Romans imported her cult into Italy (Watterson 1999: 193–4).

Apart from Bubastis, the cult of Bastet was also active in Thebes, through her association with the goddess Mut.

SEE ALSO:

Animals, Egyptian sacred; Gods, Egyptian.

References and Suggested Readings
  • Ikram, S. (2005) Divine creatures: animal mummies in ancient Egypt. Cairo.
  • Lesko, B.S. (1999) The great goddesses of Egypt. Norman, OK.
  • Malek, J. (2006) The cat in ancient Egypt, 2nd rev.ed. London.
  • Otto, E. (1975) "Bastet." In W. Helck; W. Westendorf, eds., Lexikon der Ägyptologie, vol. 1: 628-30. Wiesbaden.
  • Pinch, G. (2004) Egyptian mythology: a guide to the gods, goddesses, and traditions of ancient Egypt. Oxford.
  • Watterson, B. (1999) The gods of ancient Egypt, new ed. London.
  • Wilkinson, R. (2003) The complete gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt. London.
  • Nikolaos Lazaridis
    Wiley ©2012

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