We don’t often share articles from other publications but we thought this piece from National Geographics is well worth it!
Those of you that have been falling us from the beginning might remember that we travelled a few times to various places in Egypt on our own quest to look at the relics of ancient history and how they worshipped cats! And in fact, Bastet and Pyramids have featured in various of our posts such as this fun poem or the handmade mystical cat pyramid toy!
But on to the small section of the full post from the National Geographic website.
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Clues from ancient texts guided European archaeologists in their long search for Bubastis, sacred to the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet.
Southeast of the modern Egyptian city of Zagazig are the red granite ruins of a city sacred to the followers of the cat goddess Bastet. She was worshipped for thousands of years in ancient Egypt, and her popularity peaked during the 22nd dynasty, whose pharaohs built her a magnificent temple in the city, then named Per-Bast.
This city is referenced in the Bible, sometimes by its Hebrew name of
Pi-beseth. In chapter 30 of Ezekiel, it is mentioned, along with Heliopolis, as a pagan shrine that will be destroyed by the wrath of God, but it is better known today by its Greek name, Bubastis.
After declining and falling into ruin over the millennia, this mysterious city captured the imagination of 19th-century European scholars who flocked to the Nile Delta in search of it. Guided by intriguing hints from classical accounts, they wanted to find Bastet’s city, unearth her glorious temple, and gain a clearer understanding of how the cat goddess played such an important role throughout the long history of ancient Egypt.
Traces of Bastet’s cult can be found as early as the 2nd dynasty (third millennium B.C.). Representations of the cat-headed deity became common in the Old Kingdom (ca 2575-2150 B.C.). She was initially regarded as a fearsome protector of the pharaoh and later of the dead.
Bastet’s feline associations began to change around the same time as cats (known as miu or miit—he, or she, who mews) were being domesticated in Egypt. Bastet became more closely linked with nurturing and protective aspects while the mighty lion-headed goddess of war, Sekhmet, took on the characteristics of ferocity and vengeance. From the second millennium B.C., Bastet’s appearance became less leonine, and she was consistently depicted as a domestic cat with a woman’s body.
One of the most important sources about the city is found in the works of Herodotus. In his fifth-century B.C. tour of Egypt, the Greek historian provided a vivid description of Bubastis, the Temple of Bastet, and the fervor of her worship: “In this city there is a temple very well worthy of mention, for though there are other temples which are larger and build with more cost, none more than this is a pleasure to the eyes.”
He described the city’s beauty and the noisy revelers traveling in boats to Bubastis, “where they hold a festival celebrating sacrifices, and more wine is consumed upon that festival than during the whole of the rest of the year.”After the Muslim conquest in the seventh century, Bubastis was abandoned, and the memory of its location was lost for centuries.
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