Southeast of the Egyptian city of Zagazig lie the ruins of the city sacred to the cat goddess Bastet. Nevertheless
revered for thousands of years in ancient Egypt. Although its popularity peaked during the 22nd Dynasty. As well as the pharaohs built him a magnificent temple for the Cat ofEgypt in the town called 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 sanctuary which will be destroyed by the wrath of God. But she is better known today by her Greek name, Bubastis.
The city has declined and fallen into ruin over the millennia. Moreover, this mysterious city captured the imagination of 19th century European scholars who traveled the Nile Delta in search of it. However, guided by intriguing clues taken from classic stories. Although they wanted to find the city of Bastet, unearth its glorious temple. And also better understand how the goddess of cats played such an important role. Throughout the long history of ancient Egypt.
The Egyptians and the cult of the Egyptian cat.
In fact, the ancient Egyptians' level of devotion to their cats went far beyond the warm affection of a pet owner. Over the millennia, cats in Egypt evolved from useful predators in villages. Especially to physical incarnations of gods and symbols of divine protection.
“The Egyptians looked at the cat the same way they looked at everything. As a means of explaining and personifying the universe”.
Although the Egyptians did not worship cats. But they believed that cats contained divine energy within them. As well as the widespread belief that domestic cats carried within them the divine essence of Bastet (or Bast). The cat-headed goddess who represented fertility. Also domesticity, music, dancing and fun.
For this reason, cats had to be protected and revered. At the height of the popularity of the cult of Bastet, which took hold in the second century BC. Moreover, the penalty for killing a cat, even by accident, was death. And amulets representing cats worn by men and women to protect the hearth. Also to bring luck during childbirth. Jewelry in the shape of cats and kittens are popular New Year's gifts.
Most notable to modern archaeologists is the number of mummified cats that have been found in burial sites across Egypt, including hundreds of thousands piled up in the catacombs of Saqqara and Tell-Basta, the main places of worship of the goddess Bastet. At the Temple of Bastet at Tell-Basta, it is believed that the priests maintained large “catteries” which fueled a flourishing trade in cat mummies.
Mummified cats sold to pilgrims going to the temple of the goddess Bastet. And gave back to the goddess some of her energy.
So many cat mummies have survived the centuries. Because their destruction would have been forbidden in ancient Egypt. Because they carried the essence of Bastet. So they ended up being hidden in burial chambers. In December 2020 an excavation in the Saqqara pyramid complex. Has unearthed dozens of cat mummies, some of which are buried in limestone.
Cats buried in coffins, reserved for pets. who died of natural causes. Other cats have no doubt been killed and mummified to accompany their owners to the afterlife. And even more, cats have been sacrificed and mummified for temple rituals.