about Pasht....

    O You of the dawn who wake and sleep,
    O You who are in limpness, dwelling aforetime in Nedit,
    I have appeared as Pakhet the Great,
    whose eyes are keen and whose claws are sharp,
    the lioness who sees and catches by night....

    Coffin Texts, Spell 470, Faulkner translation

On the Internet at least, much has been said about the so-called goddess Pasht. That her name is the root word for our modern "passion", that she is a form of Bast, that she's a "gentler" side of Bast, a goddess of lust.

All of this is fabrication. The root word for "passion" is the Latin pati ("to suffer") according to Merriam Webster dictionaries. Moreover, Pasht cannot be "another form" of Bast, nor can she be a goddess of lust. Why? Because Pasht never existed to begin with.

When I originally wrote this essay I assumed that Pasht was a typo in Budge, thus leading to the misunderstanding that she was a separate, distinct goddess -- as well as the modern attribution of qualities to her by those with over-active and misguided imaginations. In regards to the typo, I am no longer clear as to whether Budge is the original perpetrator (more on that later). Having a copy of his Gods of the Egyptians Volume One next to me, what follows is his single reference to Pasht:

    "The goddess here found, however, is Bast [glyphs], who was for some time confounded by Egyptologists with the goddess Pekheth [glyphs], or Pekhet [glyphs], or Pekh [glyphs], the Cat or Lioness deity of Pekhit [glyphs], in honour of whom a temple of Pekheth [glyphs] was hewn out of the solid rock in the mountain near the modern village of Beni Hasan in Upper Egypt; this temple is known by the name "Stabl al-Antar" and "Speos Artemidos". The name Pekht, or Pakht, or Pasht means the "tearer", and is, of course, suitable for a goddess who possessed the attributes of the cat or lioness...."
    E.A. Wallis Budge, Gods of the Egyptians Vol. One
    page 517

Budge's translations lack accuracy, so the first assumption one must make is that he is even correct in presenting the spelling "Pasht". Though he provides hieroglyphs in the text for most of the other spellings, he does not provide one for Pasht. Regardless of whether the spelling is an authentic one or not, Budge still presents Pasht as merely a variation on the Romanized spelling of the name of the deity he refers to as Pakht (more commonly spelled Pakhet).

Initially, I turned to the resources at my disposal to prove or disprove Pasht. My first check was in R.O. Faulkner's Dictionary of Middle Egyptian, which contains no entry for Pasht. Pakhet, yes -- Pasht, no.

Delving into a more complete dictionary, Woerterbuch Der Aegyptischen Sprache by Adolf Erman and Hermann Grapow, we find the following for p3s ("pas"):

    p3s, also b3s. Middle Kingdom, New Kingdom. The water-pot of a scribe.
    WB I, page 499
Hieroglyphs next to it indicate b3s ("bas") was the Middle Kingdom spelling, and New Kingdom was most usually p3s ("pas"). There is no entry for p3S.t ("Pasht") or even p3S ("pash").

Moving from there to the p3X.t ("Pakhet") entry in Woerterbuch, we see:

    p3X.t Belegt seit M.R. Name der loewengestaltigen Goettin von Speos Artemidos bei Beni Hasan. 14. Gr. auch als Name der Isis 15, vgl. pX3.t

    English translation: p3X.t Known from the Middle Kingdom. Name of the lion-formed goddess of Speos Artemidios at Beni Hasan. Greco-Roman Period, also the Name of Isis, see pX3.t.

    WB I, page 498

14. and 15. are illustrations of the hieroglyphs. 14 is p (mat), kh ("placenta?"), t (loaf) plus seated lion. 15 has "Gr" and p, kh, t, egg (the Greco-Roman ending for "t" or "goddess feminine"), then a comma, and p, kh, standing lotus, lion head, t, egg

Under the entry for pX3.t, we find:

    pX3.t Gr. als Beiname der Isis, als "Herrin der Schrift" 2.

    English translation: pX3.t Greco-Roman, as the nickname (lit. "by-name") of Isis, as the "Goddess of Writing" 2.

    WB I, page 544

Illustration 2 on the page is the same hieroglyphs given at the end of the p3X.t entry: p, kh, t, egg.

Additionally, a check under the entry pX.t revealed:

    pX.t siehe beim Namen der Goettin p3X.t

    English translation: pX.t see the name of the goddess p3X.t

    WB I, page 542

The hieroglyphs of this entry say p, kh, t, egg.

Since at this point Woerterbuch had all but eliminated the chance that this was a spelling common to the ancient Egyptian language, next we move on to The Coptic Dictionary by W.E. Crum, Oxford Press, 1939, 1972 (revised edition). Page 277 does have an entry for p-a-sh, meaning "snare" or "trap for birds" (nothing at all about "tearing"). Additionally, the etymology of the word is Greek: pi-alpha-upsilon-iota-sigma, "payis". It was not derived from an Egyptian word. Ergo, even in the twilight era of turn-of-the-millennium Egypt, there was still no Pasht.

I am aware that a variation on Pakhet (spelled P3St) may exist in the Coffin Texts. Spell 422 of Faulkner's Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts, Vol. II mentions it. The quote (courtesy of Barbara Richter) is as follows:

    Spell 422
    [v,259] Receiving Bread. I am he who made his seat in On -- four times -- within the shining (?) Mansion of Sunrise. I am with my foot on the sky and my hand on the earth, I am he who dwells in the shining (?) Mansion of Sunrise in On, I am [260] he who rises, I am he of the Pyramidion, I am he of the bulti-fish, I am the fruitful female (?), I am the fruitful male (?), I am the messenger, P3St the great is my protection (?).
    CT II, page 68

The footnote for P3St ("Pasht") states: "Following S1C and S2Cb; B2Bo and B4Bo are obscure. P3St could perhaps stand for P3xt of Beni Hasan, e.g. BH I, 25, 18."

To my knowledge, this is the only instance of Pasht mentioned anywhere, and as anyone who studies language knows -- one variation does not equal a standard. At least, not for the Woerterbuch or Faulkner. The Coffin Texts are an inherently problematic source anyway as they were likely copied from verbal recitation, which practically invites the presence of typos if the person speaking them to the scribe had an accent or spoke with a particular dialect.

It may also be notable that Faulkner's translation of deBuck's Coffin Text hieroglyphs always uses the Pakhet translation for Her name, implying, again, that if there was a variation on it it was either a mis-spelling or too infrequent of a spelling to be considered in standard usage.

My final opinion on this matter is that even if one of the spellings of Pakhet is Pasht (or something that sounds like it), it's a fairly obscure one. It may be that Budge's spelling was his own creation -- keeping in mind that his translations come from 1906, and proved later to be faulty. It may have been his theory that the "kh" was a "sh" sound. He doesn't say as much, but then, that's why people are urged not to use him as a source. You can never tell (as in this case) when he's supposing and when he's relating fact. As you may have noticed, no hieroglyphs for the "Pasht" variation are provided by Budge.

If indeed Pasht is not a typo of the modern sort, then what I am inclined to believe is that she is a typo of the ancient sort. And perhaps that is the true source of the spelling. Until I find a sample of the spelling in hieroglyphs, however, this is merely a hypothesis -- not a fact.

Now for the curious, Pakhet and Bast do share titles, which implies a connection of some sort between them. Having read over an accurate translation of the inscriptions from the Speos Artemidos (which Budge mentions, above), I have found that the two interchange titles (both being called the mother of the same king). That to me points to the two being, if not the same goddess with alternating titles, very similar.

Many thanks to Tamara Siuda of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago for German translations and assisting me greatly with my research on this matter when a late-afternoon jaunt through the "P" section of Faulkner's tipped me off toward the truth. Thanks also to Rev. Neferuhethert, whose checking through various texts in my search for the truth has been of tremendous assistance in this matter.


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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