Goddess of the Month - Bast


Bast by Susan Seddon Boulet
Bast by Susan Seddon Boulet.

Bast is an ancient Goddess of Kemet or Egypt, Who has been known since at least the time of the 2nd Dynasty period, 2890 -2650 BCE. She is the Protectress of the Royal House and The Two Lands. She is also most famously the Goddess of Cats, and statues of Her in cat form are almost ubiquitous in reproduction. Her other roles include being one of the divinities associated with the Sun, as well as being the Goddess of Joy and Protectress of Womyn. Her name means "Devouring Lady", and it is fitting since She is a huntress and protectress first and foremost. Some of Her other names include:

Bastis - The Tearer
Ba en Aset - The soul of Aset (Isis)
Lady of the East
Lady of Truth
Goddess of the Birth Chamber
Daughter of Ra
Lady of Flame

Ancient Worship of Bast

The center of Bast's worship was the city of Bubastis, on the east side of the Nile Delta. Her temple was of solid red granite blocks, with a large sacred grove in the center, which contained the main shrine. The temple had many cats running around the compound, who were beloved of the priestesses and well cared for as living representatives of the Goddess. She also had large temples at Memphis and Dendera. The sistrum, which is a kind of rattle, was Her instrument, and Her priestesses used it extensively in Her worship.
Bast with Sistrum and kitties
Ancient Egyptian Bast with Sistrum
and cats
"When the people are on their way to Bubastis, they go by river, a great number in every boat, men and women together. Some of the women make a noise with rattles, others play flutes all the way, while the rest of the women, and the men, sing and clap their hands. As they travel by river to Bubastis, whenever they come near any other town they bring their boat near the bank; then some of the women do as I have said, while some shout mockery of the women of the town; others dance, and others stand up and lift their skirts. They do this whenever they come alongside any riverside town. But when they have reached Bubastis, they make a festival with great sacrifices, and more wine is drunk at this feast than in the whole year besides. It is customary for men and women (but not children) to assemble there to the number of seven hundred thousand, as the people of the place say." - Herodotus, The Histories, Book 2, Chapter 60.

Bast became the Guardian of the Pharaoh starting the in the 22nd Dynasty (around 950 BCE), when the capital of the empire was moved to Her holy city of Bubastis. At this time Her worship became quite prominent in Egypt as She was assumed into the divine family of gods that the royal household paid homage to on a regular basis. It was at this time that She became known as a Daughter of Ra, and the stories of Her defending Her father from his enemy Apep the serpent became part of Egyptian lore.

There are many different depictions of Bast from bejeweled cats to the most well-known ones of which many were found at the temple site in Bubastis, which show Bast as a cat-headed womon wearing fine clothes and having a regal bearing. She holds a sacred sistrum in Her right hand and has a bag over Her left arm. Around her feet are many kittens playing. A large statue of Her in this form was found in the main shrine of Bast at the center of Her temple in Bubastis. At that same temple site were found many offertory sculptures of cats as well as jars of honey and scented oils and ointments. Another feature of the temple site is a huge burial ground where thousands of mummified cats, often wrapped with jewels and small mummified rodents, were found. The coorborates stories by Herodotus that Egyptian families would come to Bubastis when a beloved household cat had died. They would shave off their eyebrows in respect and bring the cat to the great temple to be buried in the fields of Bast.

Hymn to Bast by Satiah

Hail Lady of the East
Be Welcome in peace, Daughter of Ra
Strong One who guards this house
Beautiful One who brings joy
Radiant One who gives abundant life to the faithful
Lady of Perfume
Your scent is the most intoxicating of all
I come to you with joy and laughter
Offering all the things in which you delight in
That you may always smile upon me
Your claws reserved for my enemies
Homage to you sweet Bast
Strong One who guards me
Beautiful One who teaches me to find joy in life
Radiant One who gives my life more meaning
I dance with all my being to honor you
I take joy in the great and small things to honor you
I protect all I hold dear to honor you
Because of you Beautiful and Radiant One
I have learned to surrender to joy
To accept it whenever it comes in whatever form
Because of you, Strong Protectress of the Two Lands
I have learned to be unyielding and strong
To recognize what I value most and to protect it at all costs
May you always be with me
Be welcome in peace always

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