Mar 16

99 Problems but Bast ain't one

There was no new post last week. Sorry. My cat, at the age of 17, had to be put down and I was preoccupied with that on the days I normally write this blog.

In the week since all of the religion news is, to be honest, monumentally depressing and all of the variety of "second verse same as the first." So, I am left with the choices of talking about Zack Snyder's sacrilegious corruption of a messiah figure as symptomatic of a larger societal disbelief in the capacity for human good, a loving God, or any with power being trustworthy or I can talk about cats.

Let's go with cats.

From ancient times several cultures have venerated the cat. In Egypt the goddess Bast (Bastet, Baast, Bubastate, or various other cognates) was the goddess of warfare in Lower Egypt, the Nile River delta region, before the unification of the cultures of ancient Egypt.The uniting Egyptian cultures had deities that shared similar roles and usually the same imagery. In Upper Egypt, Sekhmet was the parallel warrior lioness deity. Often similar deities merged into one with the unification, but that did not occur with these deities having such strong roots in their cultures. Instead, these goddesses began to diverge. During the 22nd Dynasty (c. 945–715 BC), Bast had transformed from a lioness warrior deity into a major protector deity represented as a cat. Herodotus ( Book 2, chapter 138) describes her temple in the 5th century BCE:

Save for the entrance, it stands on an island; two separate channels approach it from the Nile, and after coming up to the entry of the temple, they run round it on opposite sides; each of them a hundred feet wide, and overshadowed by trees. The temple is in the midst of the city, the whole circuit of which commands a view down into it; for the city's level has been raised, but that of the temple has been left as it was from the first, so that it can be seen into from without. A stone wall, carven with figures, runs round it; within is a grove of very tall trees growing round a great shrine, wherein is the image of the goddess; the temple is a square, each side measuring a furlong. A road, paved with stone, of about three furlongs' length leads to the entrance, running eastward through the market place, towards the temple of Hermes; this road is about 400 feet wide, and bordered by trees reaching to heaven.

He also describes her festival, the town (Bubastis, center of her cult) was said to have attracted some 700,000 visitors, both men and women (but not children), who arrived in numerous crowded ships. The women engaged in music, song, and dance on their way to the place. Great sacrifices were made and prodigious amounts of wine were drunk. This is consistant with other Egyptian accounts of her feast day.

Other cat imagery related to ancient gods include:
Freya of Norse Myth, whose chariot was pulled by cats.
Ai-Apaec, a god of the pre-Inca civilization known as the Mochica, was often depicted as an old man with a wrinkled face, long fangs and cat-like whiskers. He was said to have evolved from an ancient cat god and to be able to assume the form of a tomcat.
A cat god called Li Shou appears in the Chinese Book of Rites. He was worshiped by farmers because he protected the crops from being eaten by rats and mice.
In ancient Poland, Ovinnik, who appeared in the form of a black cat, was worshiped by many farming families because he watched over domestic animals and chased away evil-natured ghosts and mischievous fairies.
Greek mythology tells of how the goddess Hecate assumed the form of a cat in order to escape the monster Typhon. Afterwards, she extended special treatment to all cats.
Ceridwen, the Welsh goddess of wisdom and mother of the famous bard Taliesin, was attended by white cats who carried out her orders on Earth.

That cats were so association with witches and pagan beliefs, and the fact that domestic cats are not mentioned in the Bible, has often led to their persecution in Christian nations. Pope Gregory IX (1147-1241) hated cats and in a Papal Bull (1233) he condemned the black cat as diabolic and thereby giving his blessing to the torture and killing/burning of cats. Pope Innocent VII (1339-1406) and Pope Innocent VIII (1432-1492) both gave their blessings to persecution of cats.Pope Innocent VIII went out of his way to remind the inquisitors to always burn the cats together with the witches. This association continues with the "don't let a black cat cross your path" superstition.

Cat imagery, especially connected with supernatural themes, continues in our culture today in both good and evil roles.

Thus, I leave you with this:

Leave a Reply