REFERENCES TO CAT GODDESS BAST IN PAPYRI AND INSCRIPTIONS AT THEBES

Many more references to the cat goddess Bast are present on

Stele Dedicated to the Great Cat

Stele Dedicated to the Great Cat
Deir El Medina
19th Dynasty
Courtesy Ashmolean Museum

steles, papyri and inscriptions from the 18th through the 26th Dynasties at Thebes. On a stela in Miramar a man says,  “I gave bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothing to the naked; I gave food to the ibis, the hawk, the cat, and the jackal. And I have buried them according to the ritual, anointing them with oil and wrapping them in cloth.” (Breasted, 1906, p.327)  An inscription by Sehetepibre refers to Amenemhet III as “He is Bast protecting the two lands.”  In a dedication tablet stele found at Elephantine Island Amenhotep II states, “There is none among them that escapes from the overthrow, like the foes of Bastet on the road of IR-Amon.” (Breasted, 1906, p. 311 Vol. II)  A Karnak relief equates Mut, the goddess of all and Bast stating,  “Mut, the Great Bast, ruler of Karnak, mistress of amiability and love.” (Breasted, 1906, Vol. III, p.74)  On the Book of the Dead papyrus of Ani,(18th Dynasty) the longest known papyrus at 78 feet, 1 foot, 3 inches, now located in the British Museum, there is this statement,

“I am the Cat which fought near the Persea tree in Anu on the night when the foes of Neb-er-Tcher were destroyed.  Who is this Cat?  This male Cat is Ra himself, and he was called ‘Mau’ because of the speech of the god Sa, who said concerning him:  ‘He is like (Mau) unto that which he hath made; therefore, did the name of Ra become ‘Mau.’  (Budge, 1895, p.287)

Ra as Bast slaying the snake under Persea Tree

Ra as Bast Slaying the Snake Apophis
Tomb of Inherkha, 1160BC
Thebes

Mau or Miu was the ancient Egyptian name for cat, obviously named after the meowing sound that they make.  Children were even named “Mit or “Miut”.  In Mentuhotep’s 11th Dynasty temple at Deir El Bahri there is a mummy of a five year old girl with the name “Miut.”  

In addition to the various references to cats during the 18th thru 26th dynasties, records indicate that the goddess Bast received many gifts.  On the papyrus Harris, it records the gift of a herd of cattle to Bast stating, “The Herd of Ramses Ruler of Heliopolis, L.P.H. Doer of Benefactions for his Mother Bast.” (Breasted, 1906, Vol. IV., p.184) A list of gifts given to Bast during the 22nd Dynasty includes a “gold and silver vessel presented before Bast, mistress of Bubastis.” (Ibid. p.364)  Another inscription of Mentemhet states, “I fashioned the august image of Bast residing in Thebes; with staves of electrum and every ….costly stone.” (Ibid. p.463) And finally, in the 26th Dynasty Psamtik I records that “I brought out Bast in procession to her barge, at her beautiful feast of the fourth month of the second season (eighth month), the fifth day …..” (Ibid. p.496)   Finally, in a letter regarding Nubian tribute, cats from MIW (a district of Nubia) were listed as gifts (1295-1069BC) (Petrie, 1906).  Could a whole district in Nubia have possibly been named after the cat since MIW was the name for cat in ancient Egyptian?

The cat goddess Bast was deeply ingrained in the ancient Egyptian culture and religion at Thebes.  The cat was loved, cherished and respected as reflected in the art work on the tombs, ostraca, steles, papyri, and inscriptions commissioned by both nobles and pharaohs.  Reverence for Bast, however, was not just apparent at Thebes.  By now her worship had spread throughout both Upper and Lower Egypt.

 

 


The Persea tree’s small yellow fruit is symbolic of Horus’s heart, and the Phoenix was thought to come to life again from the tree as it is evergreen.

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