Cat Deities

Cats in Ancient Egypt were very important. Much of the worship during that time centered around cats in both Upper and Lower Egypt. They were liked due to their ability to control the snakes and vermin of that time and eventually the ‘house’ cat became a very much accepted animal within that society. It was especially liked due to its symbolic composure and grace. This acceptance carried over into their funeral arrangements and mummified upon death much like humans.

Early on, from the 1st Dynasty, the Mafdet goddess worshipers came forth. This goddess was associated with justice and execution, but eventually she was replaced with Bast, another cat goddess type cult. Mafdet was known as a feline with mongoose-like predator skills that could kill snakes and scorpions with such fierceness that there was no match to her powers. During the Middle Kingdom she was shown alongside magical objects with apotropaic features. The many depictions of Mafdet are difficult to discern because there is no clear distinction as to what type of cat she represents. She is mentioned in various temple inscriptions and her name was many times used to invoke magical spells that brought forth strength and power.

The abovementioned goddess Bast, eventually came to represent motherhood and fertility. Many of the cat deities were often shown wearing jewelry, which gave them even more significance within the society. Of course, lion symbols, were also very prevalent during Ancient Egypt and this is shown throughout the many artifacts and statues that were eventually found.

In the Walters Art Museum, a statue of the cat Bast can be seen. This cat wears a golden scarab on his forehead, a necklace around his neck, and is sporting golden earrings. This particular cat culture was very important during the New Kingdom and in the city of Bubastis; whereby, a large temple was built to worship this deity and was very much respected.

In addition to Bast, Bastet also existed. This was a deity with lioness origins, but that eventually changed to a regular looking cat deity. This goddess was identified with the ‘Eye of Re’ and associated with the ‘Eye of the moon.’ In addition, she was known as the daughter of the sun god. She is also depicted as a woman with the head of a cat in a bronze statue.

Another cat god (Great Cat of Re), which picture dwells in Heliopolis, is often depicted in the various funeral art of Ancient Egyptian. In this, the Great Cat of Re is shown killing the serpent deity Apophis and is also mentioned in Chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead. These are just a few of the many cat cultures that existed during the Pharaoh Dynasties.