Bast: Roles and Hieroglyphs

Bast is one of several gods who are known as the "Eye of Ra", a title that denotes a god Who functions as a protector or avenger. Since the earliest of times She has been associated with the king. Pyramid Texts 892 name Her next to the king as the, "Knowledge through which death cannot approach too closely." She also serves as his protector, a trait that is common in many other feline gods such as Mafdet -- (lit. "the Runner") protector of Pharaoh's chambers -- and Sekhmet -- destroyer of the King's enemies.

As a regional god associated with Per-Bast, Bast was strongly connected to the delta region of Kemet (referred to as Lower Egypt). Her initial role as the protector of the ruler spread out to children and pregnant women in later times as Her image became "softened" by Her associations with such gods as Het-hert [Greek: Hathor], Mut, and Aset [Greek: Isis]. She was also invoked in the hopes of bestowing fertility (perhaps due to the proliferation of cats themselves), and as She became more closely associated with Het-hert She also picked up many of that goddess's associations, such as music and the arts.

The hieroglyphs for Bast are --the jar-like symbol representing "bas" (see section on pronunciation) and the half-circle (a loaf of bread) standing for the feminine "-t" ending. The jar and two loaves of bread are the hieroglyphs for Bastet, a common source of confusion as to the translation of Her name. The bas-jars themselves are heavy vessels used to store perfume--one of the most valuable commodities of Kemet--and Bast Herself has relations to perfumery (a second translation of Her name is "Lady of the Ointments"). Contrary to claims made by Egyptologists at the beginning of the 1900's (as per E.A. Wallis Budge's The Gods of the Egyptians), Bast's name has nothing to do with "friction", "heat", or "fire".


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
How to cite this work.