|Deity of:||Protection, Cats, Egypt and the Sun and later the Moon|
|Consort:||Anubis possibly or Ptah|
|Symbol:||Cat and the sistrum|
|Offspring:||Unknown (complex sources)|
Bast (known as "Bastet" in later times to emphasise that the "t" was to be pronounced) was one of the most popular goddesses of ancient Egypt. She is generally thought of as a cat goddess. However, she originally had the head of a lion or a desert sand-cat and it was not until the New Kingdom that she became exclusively associated with the domesticated cat. However, even then she remained true to her origins and retained her war-like aspect. She personified the playfulness, grace, affection, and cunning of a cat as well as the fierce power of a lioness. She was also worshiped all over Lower Egypt, but her cult was centred on her temple at Bubastis in the eighteenth nome of Lower Egypt (which is now in ruins). Bubastis was the capital of ancient Egypt for a time during the Late Period, and a number of pharaohs included the goddess in their throne names.
Bastet, the form of the name which is most commonly adopted by Egyptologists today, is only a modern convention, which offers one possible reconstruction. In early Egyptian, her name appears to have been bȝstt, where ȝ represents an aleph. In Egyptian writing, the second t marks a feminine ending, but was not usually pronounced, and the aleph ȝ may have moved to a position before the accented syllable, as witnessed by the Aramaic spelling ȝbst. By the first millennium, then, bȝstt would have been something like 'obest' or 'ubesti' in Egyptian speech.
What the name of the goddess means remains uncertain. One recent suggestion by Stephen Quirke (Ancient Egyptian Religion) explains it as meaning "She of the ointment jar". This ties in with the observation that her name was written with the hieroglyph "ointment jar" (bȝs) and that she was associated with protective ointments, among other things.
Protectress of Ra Edit
As the daughter of Ra she was one of the goddesses known as the "Eye of Ra", a fierce protector who almost destroyed mankind but was tricked with blood-coloured beer which put her to sleep and gave her a hangover, stopping the carnage. As a result, she is linked to the other goddesses who were known as the "eye of Ra", most notably Sekhmet, Hathor, Tefnut, Nut, Wadjet and Mut. Her link with Sekhmet was the closest. Not only did both goddesses take the form of a lioness, they were both considered to be the spouse of Ptah and the mother of Nefertum and during the feast of Hathor (celebrating man's deliverance from the wrathful "Eye of Ra") an image of Sekhmet represented Upper Egypt while an image of Bast represented Lower Egypt.
Identifying with Artemis Edit
Merging of identities of similar goddesses has led to considerable confusion, leading to some attributing to Bastet the title Mistress of the Sistrum (more properly belonging to Hathor, who had become thought of as an aspect of the later emerging Isis, as had Mut), and the Greek idea of her as a lunar goddess (more properly an attribute of Mut) rather than the solar deity she was. The native Egyptian rulers were replaced by Greeks during an occupation of Egypt that lasted almost five hundred years. These new rulers adopted many Egyptian beliefs and customs, but always "interpreted" them in relation to their Greek culture. These associations sought to link the antiquity of Egyptian culture to the newer Greek culture, thereby lending parallel roots and a sense of continuity. Indeed, much confusion occurred with subsequent generations; the identity of Bast slowly merged among the Greeks during their occupation of Egypt, who sometimes named her Ailuros (Greek for cat), thinking of Bast as a version of Artemis, their own moon goddess. Thus, to fit their own cosmology, to the Greeks Bast is thought of as the sister of Horus, whom they identified as Apollo (Artemis' brother), and consequently, the daughter of the later emerging deities, Isis and Ra. Roman occupation of Egypt followed in 30 BC, and their pantheon of deities also was identified with the Greek interpretations of the Ancient Egyptians.