THE ASSIMILATION AND EVOLUTION OF THE CAT GODDESS BAST

Gayer Anderson Cat, British Museum, cat in ancient Egyptian art

Gayer Anderson Cat, British Museum

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The assimilation and evolution of the cat goddess Bast took place gradually over the entire span of the ancient Egyptian kingdom.  The gods and goddesses were continually changing, sharing and combining attributes.   Because of the complexity of the Egyptian pantheon, various theories of the origin of the goddess Bast have emerged.  However, archeologists believe that in the Old Kingdom, Bast first merged with Hathor;

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hathor Museo Egizio Basalt, cat goddess bast

Hathor
Museo Egizio Basalt

in theMiddle Kingdom, the cat goddess became associated with Mut, the mother and creator of all; in Memphis, Bast was associated with her evil sister Sekhmet, the lion goddess; in Heliopolis, Bast was identified with Tefnut, daughter of Atum; and at Edfu, she is called the “Ba,” or soul of Isis (Redford, 2003).

 

Goddess Mut, cat goddess bast

Goddess Mut

Some archeologists and researchers believe that Bast merged into the sky goddess Nut, as well as into the deities Bes and Neith.  “At the ancient shrine of Denderea she (the Sky Goddess Nut) was the cow-goddess Hathor; at Sais she was the joyous Neit; at Bubastis in the form of a cat, she appeared as Bast, while at Memphis her genial aspects disappeared and she became a lioness, Sekhmet, the goddess of storm and terror.” (Breasted, 1908, p.60)

Goddess Sekmet shown with her sun disk and cobra crown from a relief at the Temple of Kom Ombo, cat goddess bast

Goddess Sekmet
shown with her sun disk and cobra crown from a relief at the Temple of Kom Ombo

 

The sky goddess Nut was one of the oldest deities of Egypt.  Originally the goddess of the night sky, she also appeared as a cow and thus a crossover to Hathor, and hence like Hathor, a protector of children and childbirth.  Hathor was the cow goddess whose horns contained stars linking her to the sky.  She was also a goddess protector of motherhood, childbirth, children, music, dance and fertility.  She and Bes were two of the few deities that in statuary looked straight forward, which was symbolic of their ability to be all-seeing protectors.

 

Sky Goddess Nut, cat goddess bast

Sky Goddess
Nut

 

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