Ancient Egyptian cat amulet in bronze and gold, thought to represent the goddess Bast/Bastet. Artist unknown; Third Intermediate Period (1069-664 BCE). Now in the Louvre. Photo credit: Rama/Wikimedia Commons.
Day 7 of Inktober: Bastet, the cat goddess, showing off her new tat, which, in fact, is one of her old epithets (irt-ra, ‘Eye of Ra’).
Bastet was the daughter of the sun god Ra (hence the epithet), who helped him defeat Apophis and save the world. She was originally a lion goddess by the name Bast but got tamed down to a cat form and worshipped as Bastet, especially in Bubastis in the Nile Delta. During New Year, cat amulets and flasks with 'Bastet’ inscribed in them were given as gifts to protect from the 'Demon Days’ at the end of the year.
Did you know the Egyptian goddess Bastet was associated with the New Year, and litters of kittens were given as gifts at the end of the year in her honour?
Bastet was known as a cat-headed goddess who had a milder personality than the other feline deities, although her aggressive aspect is still preserved from her origins as a lioness deity.
Her earliest form in the Early Dynastic Period depicted her as a lioness, however by the end of the New Kingdom she was represented as a cat-headed woman.
In the Pyramid texts, she appears in both her more dangerous form and as a nurse and mother of the king. In the Coffin texts she provides protection for the deceased, but still retains her aggressive aspect.
She was regarded as the daughter of Re and was associated with the ‘eye of Re’ (like other leonine deities), but also identified as the 'eye of the moon’. Although she developed into a cat goddess, she still held links to Re and became known as the 'cat of Re’ who destroyed the Re’s enemy Apophis who took the form of a snake. The Greeks also associated her with the goddess Artemis.
Her popularity was at its height during the Late Period and Graeco-Roman period, with her cult centre in the city of Bubastis in the eastern Delta.
Like other leonine deities, Bastet was seen as one of the deities that could protect against the so called 'darker forces’ that arose at the end of the Egyptian year. Due to this association, litters of kittens, amulets with cats inscribed on them and ritual 'New Year’ flasks were popular gifts for those celebrating the New Year.
Like many bronze figures of Bastet, the statuette above from either the Late Period or the Ptolemaic Period depicts the goddess with a litter of kittens at her feet and holding a sistrum.
Picture sourced from the British Museum’s online collection.
Shaw and Nicholson, The Princeton Dictionary of Ancient Egypt (London, 2008)
Wilkinson, T. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt (London, 2003).
As always I am so so so grateful when people pass these posts along.
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By the end of this sale (April 15th) I will be giving away what I think to be areally great prize to one person who has either reblogged this post or any of the past/future postings I make about items in my Spring Cleaning section.
One lucky person will receive : whatever they want !!! I will let the winner decide what kind of prize they would like, (a cat amulet? a locket? a caterpillar brooch?) and I will make it especially for them. ♥.♥