Bast: Egyptian Goddess Of Protection And Pleasure

Bast was the Egyptian goddess of sensual pleasure, protector of the household, bringer of health, and the guardian saint of firefighters – she was the original mistress of multi-tasking!

Bast
Gunawan Kartapranata, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

​Also called Bastet or Basthet, the goddess Bast is widely known today as the “Cat Goddess.” Egyptian cats were believed to be magical and had a special place in society. Legend has it that, by day, Bast would ride through the sky with her father, the sun god Ra, his boat pulling the sun through the sky.

Bast Against Apep

​Ever watchful, she protected Ra from his enemies. Thus she became known as the Lady of the East, the Goddess of the Rising Sun, and The Sacred and All-Seeing Eye.

​But by night, she was a different creature entirely! Bast transformed herself into a cat (renowned for its superb night vision) to guard her father from Apep (also known as Apophis), a serpent who was her father’s greatest enemy.

​Ra’s priests burned wax models of the snake and wrote his name with green ink, trying to put a “hex” on him — but to no avail. Finally, with her cat eyes shining in the dark, she managed to kill the evil serpent.

​Credited with killing the vile Apep, the goddess Bast ensured the sun’s warmth would continue to bless the delta of the Nile with fertile soil and abundant crops and was honored as a goddess of fertility.

Depiction

​Because of her all-seeing sacred eye (called the utchat) that magically saw through the dark, Bast is one of the few sun goddesses that is also classified as a moon goddess, with her glowing cat’s eye reminding us of the moon that it reflects.

​One of the most ancient Egyptian goddesses, she is depicted as a slender woman having the head of a domestic cat. Sometimes she is shown holding a sistrum, a rattle used as a musical instrument in ancient times. Agile and lithe, Bast was recognized as the goddess of music and dance.

How People Worshiped Bast

​The worship of Bast began around 3,500 BCE, before the invention of writing. In 950 BCE, it became the ‘national religion’ when her hometown, Baubastis, became the capital of Egypt.

​Her shrine in Baubastis, fashioned from blocks of pink granite and a lengthy entrance lined with enormous trees, was considered to be one of the most beautiful temples in the world.

​The temple grounds held an extensive cat cemetery, where her beloved companions, after being mummified, were entombed so they could join Bast in the spirit world.

Cats and Their Roles In Bast Worship

​Cats were honored in the temples of Bast, and many felines were in permanent residence there. If a local house caught on fire, the cats would be dispatched to run into the flames, drawing them out of the building. (History’s first record of a fire brigade!)

​Undoubtedly many returned to the temple a bit singed, but as heroes of the townspeople. Any unfortunate kitty who perished in the undertaking would be restored to life by the goddess Bast. This is possibly the source of the belief that cats have nine lives.

Bast As a Symbol Of Fertility

​Consistent with her cat-like image and her status as a fertility goddess, Bast was associated with childbirth, perhaps because of the mother cat’s continuous production of litter and the loving way she fiercely defends and cares for her kittens.

An amulet featuring a mother cat with several kittens suckling or playing at her feet was often given as a wedding present to a bride, invoking the help of the goddess to ensure that a woman could conceive and bear children.

​Bast, more than any other of the Egyptian goddesses, was perceived as a protector and friend of women and young children. It is hardly surprising that the ancient Greeks referred to Bast as “The Egyptian Artemis.”

Bast As a Protector Against Illnesses

​As a gentler, more benevolent evolution of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet, her violent and bloody sister who could bring plagues, the goddess Bast could be invoked to prevent the spread of illness.

​Most households contained a small statue of Bast as a form of household protection. The All-Seeing Eye wards off thieves, the Cat Goddess keeps the house free of snakes, and as the healer, she wards off infectious diseases.

​An amulet with the utchat (all-seeing eye) hung over the door deterred thieves and vandals; placed over the mantel, it averted illness and worn around the neck, it protected you as you traveled. 

The More Sensual Side Of Bast

​Does this goddess sound like a gal that the phrase “sex kitten” would be invented for? Hardly! But, of course, there is more to the story than we’ve told so far; we saved the juicy parts for last.

​For starters, one of the oldest versions of the goddess Bast was known by the name ‘Pasht,’ from which our word passion was derived. (And from which the English term “Puss” may have arisen.)

​Her name itself shares the hieroglyph of a bas-jar, a large pottery jar. They were usually filled with expensive perfume, a valuable commodity in a hot climate. Indeed, her son Nefertem, a sun god, became the Egyptian god of alchemy and perfumes.

​It’s not surprising she had a reputation since she had three husbands and was acknowledged as a sexual partner of every god and goddess (explaining her association with lesbians, although bisexuality would be a more accurate description of her nature).

Hedonistic Festivals Held In Bast’s Honor

​The rituals performed in her temples, designed for healing, protection, and ensuring fertility, were decidedly sensual, full of music and dancing. The priestesses of Bast, dressed in “her color,” which was red, were the first “strippers” famous for their erotic dancing.

​Many festivals were held in her honor, and they tended to be quite rowdy affairs. During the major festival, thousands of men and women (children weren’t invited) traveled on barges down the river to Baubastis, drinking and partying mightily.

​With loud music, women shaking their rattles, others gyrating in dance, and some lifting their skirts while making lewd comments to the townspeople lined up on the riverbank to watch the procession. The feasts of Bast may have been a precursor to the Mardi Gras and Carnivale. Some think that it is even the basis for the word “floats” that describe the decorated rides in a parade.

Lessons We Should Learn From Bast

​The Egyptian goddess Bast reminds us of all that is feline and feminine. Her gifts, very cat-like in nature, include the refusal to be at everyone’s beck and call. A lasting insistence on the freedom of expression.

​She teaches us to relax and never waste energy, reminding us to luxuriate in beauty, perfume, and sway in graceful movement. Bast refuses to take anything too seriously.

​Most importantly, Bast leads us to accept the true nature of things (ourselves included) and helps us remain unswayed by the opinion of others. ​Curled up like a cat lying in the sun, the goddess Bast forms a complete circle, a symbol of the eternal.

Bast Symbols

Bast was truly unmatched, as she was the goddess of pleasure, sun, moon, bringer of health, the protector of cats, and the patron of firefighters. Talking about multi-tasking!

This is why her symbols are often connected to Sun, moon, sensual pleasures, and cats. 

General

The rising sun is one of the most powerful symbols of Bast, as she was constantly guarding her father, Ra, who was the sun deity of Ancient Egypt. With utchat (the “All-Seeing Eye”), she could easily spot any danger or enemy that tried to approach her or Ra.

Apart from her main symbols, the sun and utchat, Bast’s other symbols are a pottery jar (perfume holder), parade, float, castanet and rattle, beer, music, and dance.

Animals

Domestic cats are perfect symbols of Bast, as she often transforms into one to guard her father. As such, Bast was often depicted as a slender and elegant woman with the head of a cat.

Lions and other wild cats are also good symbols of this glorious goddess.

Plants

Cattail and other reeds, yew, cypress, mint (especially catmint), barley, and hemp are plants often associated with Bast. It is easy to see why, as cattail, reeds, and other plants look similar to cat tails. 

Perfumes/Scents

As a goddess of sensual pleasure, Bast should be associated with equally sensual scents, such as musk, cinnamon, frankincense, myrrh, hemp, catnip, vervain, sandalwood, geranium, and lavender.

Gems and Metals

Since Bast would often transform into a cat, it is natural that the cat’s eye gemstone is a perfect symbol for this goddess.  Other gems, crystals, and precious metals symbolizing Bast are sunstone, agate, jasper, lapis lazuli, and pyrite.

Colors

Black is definitely Bast’s color, as she was often depicted as a black cat or a woman with a black cat’s head. Gold is another great choice to symbolize Bast, as gold is the color of the sun, and Bast has strong connections to the sun.

Other great color symbols of Bast are red, turquoise, clay, and silver.

Bast Meditations

  • Bast, let me be like you and share my playful joy with others, helping us all to celebrate this life!
  • Great goddess, help me celebrate my vivacious feminine powers today.
  • Thank you, Bast, for helping me to be curious, energetic, and creative today.
  • Bast, I join you in playfully enjoying everyone I meet in this life, both personally and professionally.
  • Goddess of protection, show me how to land on my feet with joy and grace whenever adversity occurs.
  • I call on you, Bast, to help me develop my true gifts by knowing and accepting who I really am.
  • Bast, help me celebrate my bold feminine powers today.
  • Bast, as the goddess of pleasure, help me to take in all of the experiences that life has to offer.
  • Goddess, I reaffirm that I am a spirited and good-natured being.
  • Goddess, guide me to friends who add excitement and adventure to my life.
  • Goddess of joy, help me to keep my heart open with curiosity and playfulness.
  • Great goddess, help me use and celebrate my powers of perception today.
  • Bast, help me find ways to help myself and others to appreciate the joy in a well-balanced life.
  • Goddess, teach me to make enough time for work and play so that my life is beautifully balanced.
  • Your playfulness is infectious, Bast. Help me to share it with others.
  • Frisky goddess, remind me to follow my curiosity so that I may experience more of the best that life has to offer.
  • Great goddess, I rejoice with you in the ability to perceive even the smallest shifts in important matters.
  • Bast, help me to remain centered and emotionally available to others.
  • Bast, remind me that I must joyously play in order to have the energy to work hard.

Bast Activities

Bast
Rama, CC BY-SA 3.0 FR, via Wikimedia Commons

Everything you do to nurture your own sensual enjoyment of life will help enlarge the influence of Bast.

  • Be bold! Enjoy trying new things and pondering new ideas. Push your boundaries and leap with joyful abandon into the wider world.
  • Explore your world kinesthetically, using your body’s senses of touch and experience. Revel in the excitement, sensuousness, and adrenaline-fueled risk of action-oriented and hands-on aliveness.
  • Use networking and social interactions to create opportunities for creative collaboration. Never underestimate the creative power of even small groups with shared dreams.
  • Communicate with utmost clarity and with direct questions. Avoid deception, concealment, or evasion. Champion the truth of what actually is and have faith that you will land on your feet.
  • Indulge yourself! Relax and take great delight in sensual pleasures. Surround yourself with soft and silky fabrics (in Bast’s signature reds for extra measure), take luxuriously warm bubble baths, take delight in beautiful fragrances, and enjoy yourself profusely. Insert purr here!
  • Practice your powerful ability to see and notice even the smallest changes or shifts in habits and appearances. Noticing when things change is a useful talent and tool for both offensive and defensive moments in life because we can more effectively choose where to move next for the best outcome.
  • Practice seeing in the dark during New Moon or other dark times. Sit still and quietly, and notice how your senses all become more acute as you allow them to adapt. You will always be well-served by the ability to adapt and see clearly through darker times. Like the “utchat,” the all-seeing-eye amulet, this is a powerful form of proactive protection and productivity.

Other Goddesses

We hope you enjoyed this post. Be sure to check out some of the other goddesses we also write about. You can find the complete list of goddesses sorted across regions and religions here.

Featured Image Credit: Rama, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of author

Liz Turnbull

Sharon and Elizabeth Turnbull, mother and daughter team and the website's midwives, had over 45 years of combined work and continuous study in psychology when they decided to create the Goddess Quiz and goddessgift.com. In 2001, we launched our mission to provide visitors with tools for personal insight, self-knowledge, inspiration, and refinement. Sharon, the bestselling author of Goddess Gift (a book about finding the goddess in yourself) worked as a senior partner in a consulting firm, a speaker at seminars and conferences, and as a professor and administrator at four universities during an academic career that spanned over three decades. Liz is also a published author who works as a healthcare provider, an instructor in communication skills for healthcare providers, and leads workshops on multiple subjects including health/healing, communication, and personal growth. It is our greatest hope that our gift may help the Sacred Feminine within and all around us thrive and bless us all with Her Gifts.