"The dog is a peasant and the cat is a gentleman. We may, indeed, judge the tone and bias of a civilisation by its relative attitude toward dogs and cats. The proud Egypt wherein Pharaoh was Pharaoh and pyramids rose in beauty at the wish of him who dreamed them bowed down to the cat, and temples were builded to its goddess at Bubastis."- H.P. Lovecraft
Welcome to Per-Bast, my online shrine to the Kemetic goddess Bast! You may know Her better by the (incorrect) name Bastet. Per-Bast, also known by the Greek name Bubastis, is the name of the famous ancient Egyptian city that housed the Temple of Bast millennia ago. On this page you can find information about Bast and some history about Her worship.
If you seek further information, I would advise checking out the Bast-related links on the links page (the Dock.)
The best way to learn more about Bast however, is to open your heart and pray to Her. Tragically, the vast amount of information about Bast and the other Netjer (goddesses/gods) has been lost to history, and as such there is only so much that can be learned from other people.
I have a number of personal beliefs in regard to Bast and the other Netjer and how They relate to the Abrahamic religions now dominant in the world, but I will save those for the Library of Babel. Everything written on this page is based off of historical records about Bast worship.
Who is Bast?
Bast is a cat Goddess, usually depicted as a cat-headed woman, a lion-headed woman, or a housecat adorned in Egyptian jewelry. She is the daughter of Ra and the sister of Sekhmet. Bast has a major role where She watches over and protects Her father, the life-giving Sun God Ra, as He makes His journey through the sky. Ra's biggest enemy is the evil god Apep and according to legend, Bast slays him in order to protect Her father. Apep is also the embodiment of darkness and chaos, and the enemy of Ma'at, which is both the concepts of light and truth, and the Goddess that embodies these concepts. Bast is known as the Lady of the East and the Light-Bearer due to this important role. She is associated with the Eye of Ra, which represents that She acts within Ra's power and is a protector god
In addition to being the protector of Ra, Bast is also a protector of cats and was the protector of the Pharaoh. She eventually became known as a protector of women and children. Along the time that this evolution occurred, Bast also began to be associated with Her lighter aspects - pleasure, music, dance, and fertility.
Bast is often portrayed holding a sistrum (ancient Egyptian instrument) or an Ankh. She is also sometimes depicted as holding a bag of kittens or having kittens by Her feet.
Bast's name can be translated literally as both "Devouring Lady," or "She of the Ointment Jar." Her name is often incorrectly written as "Bastet," which is a misunderstanding. The "et" was added to the end of Her name to preserve the proper pronunciation in later periods of Egypt history when the "t" sound at the end of some words began to vanish as a result of foreign influences. The "bas" in Her name is the hieroglyphic used for bas jars, which were jars used for storing perfumes and ointments, and the "t" is a feminine ending. The proper pronunciation of Her name would be something close to the pronunciation of "lost," except with a "b" replacing the "l."
History of Bast Worship
Although most of the information about Bast worship is lamentably lost to time, it is known that She was worshipped since at least some time around 3,000 B.C., and continues to enjoy a following to this day. This means that Her worship predates not just any mainstream religion by millennia, but even predates the first pyramids in Egypt!
It is believed that She became known to ancient Egyptians when cats (most likely the Near Eastern Wildcat
or the African Wildcat
of today, or a close ancestor) had begun to introduce themselves to their civilisation. Ancient Egyptians were plagued on one front by mice/rats that devoured their food supplies and spread disease, and by cobras and other venomous snakes on the other. The introduction of cats, who elegantly and efficiently protected the ancient Egyptians from these animals, soon caused Egyptians to begin to revere them and consider them divine. It is likely that this is the reason that Bast was worshipped as a protectoress and even a Goddess of war.
As more cats lived and died among the ancient Egyptians and they became more integrated into their society (I don't say domesticated because cats were never truly domesticated anywhere,) this brought on a steady change in how Bast was perceived across the land. As mentioned, Bast was initially a protector of cats, Her father Ra, and the Pharaoh and went on to also become a protector of women and children as Her depiction shifted from a lioness-headed woman to a cat-headed woman or a regular cat.
Owing to Bast's new association with women and fertility, it became popular for women who wanted children to wear special amulets with Bast and some kittens on them. The number of kittens was the number of children that the woman wanted to have. Other Bast amulets were worn to protect against disease and other dangers. Although She had gained a softer side, Bast's original fierce nature continued to exist -- like any cat or mother, She has both a nurturing and loving side, and a fierce and aggressive protectoress side.
One of the only accounts of Bast worship that survives to this day comes from the Greek historian Herodotus, who visited Per-Bast circa 450 B.C.
and recalled hundreds of thousands of worshippers gathering to dance, drink wine, and celebrate. Herodotus also noted that cats in the city of Per-Bast were mummified after they passed on - an honour usually only reserved for wealthy humans - sometimes with mummified mice and jewelry for them to take to the afterlife. He observed that when a house cat passed on, their human family went through a period of grieving where every member of the family shaved their eyebrows.
Today, Bast continues to be worshipped by various Kemetic groups (reconstructions of ancient Egyptian religion,) cat lovers, and some paganists and wiccans.
How to Worship Bast
Like any other Kemetic deity, Bast should be worshipped via prayer and offerings. Specific types of offerings that Bast enjoys are meat, perfumes, ointments, catnip, and sweets such as honey. Personally I like to make a prayer and leave food and/or catnip in a designed spot outside for neighbourhood cats to find and take.