Mistress of the Oracle;
Great Conjuress of the Casket
Bastet, great cat goddess, has dominion over sex, fertility, marriage, magic, music, childbirth, prosperity, joy, dance, and healing—in short, the pleasures of life. She protects humans against infertility, dangers of childbirth, evil spirits, illness, and bodily injuries, especially those caused by venomous creatures. A tomb inscription says Bastet bestows “life, prosperity and health every day and long life and beautiful old age.”
Bastet offers special protection to women and children and serves as matron of magicians and healers. Her cult began in the Nile Delta swamps. The earliest known portrait of Bastet dates to circa 3,000 BCE. By about 950 BCE, she was worshipped throughout Egypt. For a while, she was the most popular goddess in the kingdom. Her veneration reached its zenith during the reign of Osorkon II (874–853 BCE), when a major temple was erected at her cult city, Bubastis. Devotion to Bastet officially survived until 30 BCE and the Roman conquest, the Romans having little sympathy for animal-shaped gods.
Her annual festival in Bubastis was Egypt’s most popular. A precursor of modern Mardi Gras, it was renowned for parties, revelry, and drunkenness. Herodotus, the Greek traveler and historian writing in the fifth century BCE, claimed that more wine was consumed in Egypt during this festival than during the entire rest of the year. Although many details are lost, Bastet’s festival celebrated female sexuality and generative power. Boats sailed up the Nile toward Bubastis. As each barge approached towns and settlements, it would halt and the mainly female celebrants on board would loudly hail local women congregating on the riverbanks. They would shout sexual obscenities to each other, dance wildly, and perform anasuromai, the ritual act of lifting up the skirts to expose the vulva, associated with laughter, healing, and defiance of grief.
Bastet may be the wife and/or daughter of Ra, the sun. Among the spirits described as her sons are Maahes, Khonsu, and Nefertem.
Iconography: She is depicted as a cat, often bejeweled, or as a woman with a cat’s head, sometimes surrounded by kittens and fashionably dressed in a green or blue dress.
Attributes: Basket and ankh (symbol of life)
Planets: Sun and moon
Animal: Domestic cats are her servants and sacred animals.
Offerings: Her name may be related to a word meaning “perfume.” Ancient Egyptian perfume was typically in the form of a salve. Offer her precious cream perfumes or offerings that benefit her sacred animal, cats.
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From the Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.