Saqqara has not only offered archeologists a treasure trove of tombs and mummies, but also the pyramid texts; texts that are written in limestone which contain thousands of lines of hieroglyphs describing myths and religious rituals. Gaston Maspero, in 1894, was the first to discover and then translate these texts in which we find a reference to the cat goddess Bast.
“28. Litany of Ascension,Utterances 5
When he lifts himself to
The heart of Nefekare is
like that of Bastet.
Bastet is again mentioned on the Metternich Stele found at Heliopolis, not far from Saqqara. The Metternich Stele or Magical Stele, dates to the 30th dynasty around 380-342BC during the reign of Nectunebo II and was later taken to Alexandria by Alexander the Great. In 1828, Mohammed Ali Pasha, ruler of Egypt, gave it to Prince Metternich, the well-known German-Austrian diplomatic strategist. The main purpose of the stele is to give magical remedies for healing poisoning mostly caused by scorpions. Below is an example of one of the spells used to cure Bast of the sting of a scorpion by invoking RA.
“O Re! Come to thy
daughter (Bast), whom a scorpion
has bitten on a lonely Road!
Her cry reaches even to heaven…..poison oppresses herlimbs, and
Flows in her flesh, and she turns her mouth to it, (ie. She
attempts to suck the injured part) Re answers her:
Do not fear, do not fear, my splendid daughter;
Behold, I stand behind thee. It is I who destroy the poison, that
is in all the
Limbs of this cat.” (Erman, 1907, p.150)
Even though much of the necropolis of cats at Saqqara has been desecrated throughout the ages, and the sanctity of the spot has long been lost, the memory of the power of the cat in ancient Egypt cannot help but live on at Saqqara and in Thebes to which we turn next.