Bastet is an Egyptian goddess of protection, cats, perfume, fertility, pregnancy, children, music, the arts and warfare.

Symbols: Cat, sistrum, ointment jar, solar disk, lioness
Cult Centre: Bubastis
Parents: Ra and Isis
Siblings: Horus and Anhur
Consort: Ptah
Children: Maahes
Greek equivalent: Artemis
Roman equivalent: Diana

The Gayer-Anderson Cat. A bronze statue of Bastet, c. 664-332 BC. British Museum. (c) Einsamer Schütze

Bastet was worshiped in Bubastis, originally as a lioness goddess, a role shared by other deities such as Sekhmet. Eventually Bastet and Sekhmet were characterized as two aspects of the same goddess, with Sekhmet representing the powerful warrior and protector aspect and Bastet, who increasingly was depicted as a cat, representing a gentler aspect.

Wadjet-Bastet, with a lioness head, the solar disk and the cobra that represents Wadjet, c. 664–332 BC. Louvre. (c) Rama

Cats in ancient Egypt were highly revered, partly due to their ability to combat vermin, such as mice, rats and snakes. Cats of royalty were, in some instances, known to be dressed in golden jewelry and were allowed to eat from the plates of their owners.

At Bastet’s temple at Bubastis, more than 300,000 mummified cats have been discovered. The death of a cat might leave a family in great mourning and those who could, would have them embalmed or buried in cat cemeteries, which points to the great prevalence of the cult of Bastet. Extensive burials of cat remains were found not only at Bubastis, but also at Beni Hasan and Saqqara.

Cat mummies. British Museum. (c) Mario Sánchez

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