Bast: Modern Myths

myth: sex and sexuality
It seems logical to the Western mind to link a cat goddess with sexuality, since felines are commonly associated with femininity and sex in our culture. However, in ancient Egypt it is clear based on imagery and offerings that it was Het-hert [GR: Hathor], not Bast, who most commonly presided over feminine appeal and warmth.

That said, some scholars have concluded that the presence of a cat under a woman's chair in funerary images is a sign of her sexual viability in the afterlife. Felines, however, were more commonly associated with bountiful prosperity (cats producing kittens in litters) and protection, not sexuality.

After all, if the ancient Egyptians wished to make a statement about sex and sexuality, they had no taboos preventing them from doing so.

As for Bast as the "Goddess of Lesbians" in antiquity, it's a lie. There is simply no evidence to back up this claim (and if someone claims there is, please have them send me their sources -- I'd love to see them).

Additional ideas that have no known evidence from antiquity: religious prostitution, orgiastic dance rituals, visionary orgasm, or ritualistic stripteases. Religious prostitution appears to be a factor in Sumerian religion, but was not part of Egypt's due to the cultural significance placed upon ancestry and knowing a child's parentage. While dancing was important and female priests were frequently musicians and/or dancers [21], sex in the temple was considered a heresy; in the literal House of God, it simply didn't happen [22]. And while the idea of ritualistic strippers in a desert culture is amusing, it is a modern one. The ancient Egyptians frequently went around in light, see-through clothing or, alternately, no clothing at all (it was hot, after all).

myth: the pleasure goddess
Some modern day worshippers have gone so far as to try to link the Bast from antiquity with all acts of pleasure -- up to and including drugs that are otherwise illicit in most countries. This is a modern conclusion that has absolutely no relation to the ancient concepts of Bast (the Egyptian as well as the Greek and Roman ones). While the Egyptians did use hemp for their ropes, we have no records of them burning it for recreational or visionary purposes. The only classical society that burned marijuana for this purpose was the Assyrian culture, who used it at funerals for fumigation [23].

"Bast, Goddess of Cats and Pleasure" is a title taken directly from the Deities and Demigods sourcebook of the 1st Edition AD&D roleplaying system. It has no basis in appellations from antiquity.

myth: Bast and Sekhmet as Creator Gods
Other myths include one in which Bast and Sekhmet create the world together. There is no record from antiquity that supports this myth.

Myth: extant rituals and litanies of Bast
Because there are no temples of Bast remaining, there are also no rituals or litanies unto Her remaining. While this would at first seem an extraordinary loss, most litanies in Kemet were identical from one to the next, with the exception of some words changed to fit the god being appealed to.

A poem by Dennis Saleh entitled "Oblation" is often mistaken as an authentic litany to Bast. It is not; the so-called Osorkon VII who is accredited as the original author never existed, and while Mr. Saleh has accurately recreated the gait and measure by which Kemetic litanies were written, elements of the poem do not match with ancient Egyptian symbology and philosophy.

Myth: "Mau Bast" as an ancient salutation/invocation
Some alternative religion sources refer to "Mau Bast" as a salutation or invocation unto Her. There is no record of it having been used in antiquity, however.

The possible source for this claim? Well, Budge translated "mau" as "to be like". More reliable sources, however, now translate "mau" (m3w) as "appearance/aspect". This leads me to believe that the phrase's inventor was using Budge as a source, or it could be he/she was trying to pronounce the Kemetic word for cat -- "miw".

Whether the phrase means "Cat Bast" or "Aspect Bast", it would be essentially meaningless as a salutation or invocation.

Myth: goddess of the sunrise
Bast as goddess of sunrise and the nurturing warmth of the sun was presumed by Budge; a presumption that has no known basis in any title or litany I have yet to discover. As with anything written by Budge, his words must be taken with a grain of salt.

This doubles as well to strike down the claims that Sekhmet is a goddess of the sunset and the fierce heat of the sun. Both, as stated many times over in this text, were Eyes of Ra (along with many other female gods). No notable comparisons were made in antiquity to differentiate between the intensity of the two.

Myth: goddess of cats
This is not so much a myth as a blanket definition that falls short of the mark. While Bast is associated with cats of several types, calling Her simply the protector of cats and cat owners is not reflective of Her totality. It is remarkable to see endless references to Bast as the goddess of cats, and yet very few to Heru [GR: Horus] as the god of hawks, Khnum as the god of rams, or Hethert [GR: Hathor] as the goddess of cows and the milkmaids who love them.

While the cat was determined to be the most popular expression of Bast in antiquity, to simply narrow Her down into a rattle-shaking kitten herder is missing the point.

Myth: cat worship and the domestic cat
The domestic cat is not Bast's only form, and was not Her official state form. The domestic cat statues found by the hundreds in the cat cemeteries were objects meant to stand in for the animal itself, not Bast (or Pakhet or Mafdet or Mut or any of the other gods to Who the cat was a sacred animal).

Additionally, while cats were important to the worship of Bast, cats themselves were not worshipped. There is a significant difference between seeing the nature of God in an animal, and worshipping an animal. While the ancient Egyptians doubtlessly cherished animals and saw within them echoes of their God, they no more deified them than Christians deify sheep as symbols of Christ.

Myth: Khonsu and Bast
Khonsu is the son of Mut, not Bast. While Bast is sometimes syncretized with Mut (to Whom the domestic cat is also a sacred animal), the gods Who are usually given as Bast's sons are Maahes or Hor-hekenu (a form of Nefertem or Maahes).

myth: the moon goddess
As stated previously in this essay, Bast was not a goddess of the moon until Her association with Artemis. Previous to Ptolemaic influences on Egypt the moon was always related to a male god--Heru (it being His left or "weak" Eye), Djehuty, Iah, Khonsu, and Wesir in particular. It is erroneous to refer to Bast as a "moon goddess" simply because of Her cat associations.

Other modern myths have gone further, stating that in antiquity Bast was accredited with the title of "Left Eye of Ra" (in reference to the moon), a title that has to yet to be proven to actually exist in Kemet. As the daughter of the Creator, Bast is much more strongly related to the sun -- as His Eye -- than the moon.

myth: Isis as Bast's mother
Again, confusing Bast/Artemis with Isis/Leto/Demeter is what has resulted in the blanket statement that Bast is the daughter of Aset [GR: Isis]. No source has yet been discovered from antiquity that states who Bast's mother is. Since Her parent is usually a creator deity (such as Tem or Ra), it is most likely She does not have a mother, per se, as the creator deities fulfill the role of both mother and father (Tem is referred to in some texts as "the Great He-She").

Associations between Bast and Aset do exist, however. They are the two gods who preside over the Heliopolitan Nome (according to a Middle Kingdom inscription). In one Late Period inscription, Bast is the wetnurse (i.e., the elder) of Aset (according to Nectanebo II, the last native pharaoh).

myth: Bast and Sekhmet as "sisters"
For a detailed discussion on why Bast and Sekhmet are not two sides of the same coin, please see the section of the essay titled Sekhmet and the Happy Fluffy Sex Goddess.


Kemetic Religion
  Bastet Explained
  Cult Centers
  ...and Sekhmet
  ...and Artemis
  ...and Sex
  Modern Myths
Other Feline Gods
About Pasht


Essay copyright © 1996-2010, S.D. Cass; Site copyright © 2013, N. Baan
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