Click to enlargeBast

Bast, daughter of the Egyptian sun god, Ra, has many qualities. The goddess of sensual pleasure and fertility, she also protects the home and women in childbirth. She brings health and healing. She is usually depicted as a cat or a woman with a cat or lion head. As goddess of music and dance, she often holds a sistrum - a rattle used to make dancing music in ancient times.

Bast rode with her father every day as his boat pulled the sun through the sky. She protected him from enemies, especially the giant serpent, Apep. At night, when his sun boat sank below the horizon, she transformed herself into a cat, with eyes that saw in the dark, so she could continue to defend him and the sun. Because of this, Bast is both a sun and a moon goddess. Her feline grace and beauty are matched only by her fierce defense of home and family.

She is one of the most ancient of goddesses. Her worship began around 3,500 B.C. By 950 B.C., her cult became the state religion when the city of Bubastis, where her temple stood, became the capital of Lower Egypt. During the Festival of Bast, thousands of men and women sailed down-river to her temple, singing, dancing, and telling bawdy jokes as they flocked to worship the pleasure-loving goddess. More wine was consumed at her festival than at any other time of the year.

Above all, Bast loved cats. Egyptians loved them too. Like Bast, cats could see in the dark. With all-seeing eyes and feral instincts, they protected Egyptian homes from thieves, vermin and snakes. Independent and proud, they could be capricious. But they were loving, and a delight to the eye. Hundreds of felines were brought to live in Bast's temple. After death, they were mummified, and placed in vaults so they could be with the goddess forever.

Families that did not own a cat could still invoke the protection and blessings of Bast by keeping an amulet or small statue of her in their home. Many did both. Bast was a beloved goddess. (Story on back of card.)

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