BUBASTIS, CITY OF THE CAT GODDESS BAST (Part II)

Within the temple of Bubastis, priests cared for cats with donations from pilgrims, and eventually killed and mummified them to be sold as votive offerings to Bast.  Cat amulets and statues made of bronze and gold were also sold to enthusiastic pilgrims especially during the annual festival of Bast.  The Decree of Canopus, a stele written during the Ptolemaic era in two languages and three scripts,

Copper alloy cat amulet, the late period, British Museum

Copper alloy Cat Amulet
The Late Period
Courtesy the British Museum

provides us with information regarding the festival of Bast.  “All Egypt on the day on which the star (the Dog Star) riseth, which is called the beginning of the year in the writings of the House of Life, which shall be celebrated in the 9th year of the 1st day of the second month of the season of Shemu (summer)…..on which are celebrated the festival of the goddess Bast and the great festival procession of Bast, which is the period when the crops are gathered in, and the inundation of the Nile taketh place…..And the festival shall be celebrated for a period of 5 days, during which the people shall wear garlands and libations shall be made, and burnt offerings shall be offered up.” (Budge, 1929 p.272)  Herodotus gives us a first hand account of the festival:  “Now, when they are coming to the city of Bubastis they do as follows:  they sail men and women together, and a great multitude of each sex in every boat; and some of the women have rattles(sistrums) and rattle them, while some of the men play the flute during the whole time of the voyage, and the rest, both women and men, sing and clap their hands; and when as they sail they come opposite to any city on the way they bring the boat to land, and some of the women continue

Bastet

Bastet (Photo credit: Xenocryst @ Antares Scorpii)

to do as I have said, others cry aloud and jeer at the women in that city, some dance, and some stand up and pull up their garments.  This they do by every city along the river-bank; and when they come to Bubastis they hold festival celebrating great sacrifices, and more wine of grapes is consumed upon that festival than during the whole of the rest of the year.  To this place (so say the natives) they come together year by year even to the number of seventy myriads (700,000) of men and women, besides children.” (Herodotus, Bk2, 60)  As described by Herodotus, the festival devoted to the cat goddess Bast was one of the largest celebrations held in all of ancient Egypt.

 

 

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