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The goddess Bastet was usually represented as a woman with the head of a domesticated cat. However, up until 1000 BC she was portrayed as a lioness. Bastet was the daughter of Re (or Ra which every way you want to portray it), the sun god. It may have been through him that she acquired her feline characteristics. When Re destroyed his enemy Aepe, he was usually depicted as a cat. As portrayed as a cat, she was connected with the moon (her son Khonsuwas the god of the moon). When shown as a lioness, she is associated with sunlight.
Bastet was the goddess of fire, cats, of the home and pregnant women. According to one myth, she was the personification of the soul of Isis. She was also called the "Lady of the East". As such, her counterpart as "Lady of the West" was Sekhment.
Bastet seemed to have two sides to her personality, docile and aggressive. Her docile and gentle side was displayed in her duties as a protector of the home, and pregnant women. Her aggressive and vicious nature was exposed in the accounts of battles in which the pharaoh was said to have slaughtered the enemy as Bastet slaughtered her victims.
From the third millennium BC, when Bastet begins to appear in our record, she is depicted as either a fierce lioness or a woman with the head of a lion.Images of Bast were created from a local stone, namedalabastertoday.Originally she was viewed as the protector goddess ofLower Egypt. As protector, she was seen as defender of thepharaoh, and consequently of the later chief male deity,Ra, who was also a solar deity, gaining her the titlesLady of FlameandEye of Ra.Her role in the pantheon became diminished asSekhmet, a similar lioness war deity, became more dominant in the unified culture of Lower and Upper Egypt.In the first millennium BC, when domesticated cats were popularly kept as pets, Bastet began to be represented as a woman with the head of a cat and ultimately emerged as the Egyptian cat-goddesspar excellence.In theMiddle Kingdom, the domestic cat appeared as Bastet’s sacred animal and after the New Kingdom she was depicted as a woman with the head of a cat or a lioness, carrying a sacred rattle and a box or basket. She was a local deity whose cult was centred in the city ofBubastis, now Tell Basta, which lay in theDeltanear what is known asZagazigtoday.The town, known inEgyptianaspr-bȝstt(also transliterated as Per-Bast), carries her name, literally meaning "House of Bastet". It was known in Greek asBoubastis(Βούβαστις) and translated into Hebrew asPî-beset. In the biblicalBook of Ezekiel30:17, the town appears in the Hebrew form Pibeseth.
[TempleHerodotus, a Greek historian who travelled in Egypt in the 5th century BC, describes Bastet'stempleat some length:"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 is an 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 four hundred wide, and bordered by trees reaching to heaven."The description offered by Herodotus and several Egyptian texts suggest that water surrounded the temple on three (out of four) sides, forming a type of lake known asisheru, not too dissimilar from that surrounding the Temple of the goddessMutinKarnakat Thebes.Lakes known asisheruwere typical of temples devoted to a number of leonine goddesses who are said to represent one original goddess, daughter of the Sun-God Re / Eye of Re: Bastet, Mut,Tefnut,HathorandSakhmet.Each of them had to be appeased by a specific set of rituals.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.
[FestivalHerodotus also relates that of the many solemn festivals held in Egypt, the most important and most popular one was that celebrated in Bubastis in honour of the goddess, whom he calls Bubastis and equates with the Greek goddessArtemis.Each year on the day of her festival, the town is said to have attracted some 700,000 visitors ("as the people of the place say"), 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.This accords well with Egyptian sources which prescribe that leonine goddesses are to be appeased with the "feasts of drunkenness".The goddess Bast was sometimes depicted holding a ceremonialsistrumin one hand and anaegisin the other—the aegis usually resembling a collar or gorget embellished with alionesshead.Bast was a goddess of thesunthroughout most of Ancient Egyptian history, but later when she was changed into a cat goddess rather than a lioness, she was changed to a goddess of themoonbyGreeksoccupying Ancient Egypt toward the end of its civilization. In Greek mythology, Bast also is known asAiluros.
[History and connection to other gods
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