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Bastet Aka The Cat God And The Pantheon Of Cat Gods

Bastet Aka The Cat God And The Pantheon Of Cat Gods

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It doesn’t surprise me at all that there are some cat gods that were worshipped in ancient times. I mean, it sometimes feels like my cats own me and not vice versa. Ah, the things we do for them…

Anyways, who was worshipped in Bubastis? Who is this divine feline everyone talks about? Is there more than one cat goddess?

Let’s see what the true forms of the following cat gods and goddesses were and what connections they all have. 

Some are related to Zeus, some are associated with the eye of Ra. Other than the world-famous Bastet, we have some other feline deities as well, let’s check them out.

7 Cat Gods From Ancient Cultures

There are many gods and goddesses from different cultures and civilizations that were, in one way or another, connected to cats. Some shape-shifted to become a cat, and others adored cats and treated them in a special way.

The following seven cat gods are the most popular ones and are well worth reading about. Bastet had the head of a cat, Mafdet had a cheetah’s head, then there’s a lioness, and the male cat god with whiskers… 

Oh, I hope this will be as much fun for you as it is for me! Read on!

1. Bastet (Ancient Egypt)

ancient egypt god bastet

The Ancient Egyptian civilization gave us many noteworthy cat gods and goddesses through inscriptions, pyramids, and hieroglyphics.

Cats were revered in Egypt, as they are in many cultures today. But first, let’s learn more about their cat gods and cat goddesses from other ancient civilizations to get a sense of how important they were to the people who lived then, both the common folk and the royalty.

Bastet (Ancient Egypt)

Culture it comes from: Ancient Egyptian Mythology

Related domestic cat: Serengeti

Realm of worship: Goddess of pleasure, protection, good health

A prominent cat goddess of ancient Egypt, Bastet, Bast, or Ubaste, is perhaps the most popular of all cat gods. You’ve probably seen statues or pictures of her in her most common form; with a woman’s body and a cat’s head. 

Her physical, earthly form is entirely feline. She exudes authority and contempt.She looks like any other domestic cat but has more authority than any other cat ever will.

Family Divine Ties

The goddess Bastet is seen as the Egyptian goddess of cats, but as a deity, she was the goddess of protection, pleasure, and health. According to mythology, she was believed to be the mother of Anubis and the daughter of Ra and Isis

She ran through the skies with her father, guarding him as he flew from horizon to horizon. At night while sun god Ra rested, Bastet would transform into her cat form to protect him from his greatest enemy, the snake Apep

She was also associated with Artemis since the Greeks loved and worshipped both of them. Bastet usually held a sistrum, an ancient instrument resembling a modern drum, in her right hand and an aegis, her breastplate, in her left hand.

Present Time Cat Equivalent

Bastet’s modern-day cousin is the Serengeti cat. Despite being a domestic cat breed, their ancestry is fairly close to their wild ancestry. It has large, pointed ears and a long, sinuous body, very similar to the cat statues dedicated to Bastet. 

Her slim and stately appearance represents a god, like Bastet, and is dignified enough to be worshiped. As loyal Bastet is to Ra, as are Serengeti felines to their owners.

2. Mafdet (Ancient Egypt)

mafdet egyptian deity

Culture it comes from: Ancient Egyptian Mythology

Related domestic cat: Savannah Cat

Realm of worship: Goddess of justice, judgment, execution

Mafdet, whose name means “runner”, ripped out the hearts of evildoers and laid them at the feet of the Pharaoh. She is portrayed as a woman whose hair ends in scorpion tails, but her head is the head of a cheetah.

Although she is not as famous as the cat goddess Bastet, Mafdet is believed to have had a cult in her name long before Bastet was worshipped, and she has had a great influence on Egyptian mythology and history. 

Present Time Cat Equivalent

Mafdet provided protection against scorpions and other dangerous animals. The coat fur and color are what make the Savannah cat the best choice for Mafdet’s relative. 

With spotted coat patterns like that of a cheetah and related to African wild cats, the Mafdet and Savannah cats simply have to be cousins. Like Mafdet, Savannahs can be very protective and aggressive towards strangers.

3. Sekhmet (Ancient Egypt)

sekhmet goddess

Culture it comes from: Ancient Egyptian Mythology

Related domestic cat: Abyssinian

Realm of worship: Goddess of war

Our next Egyptian cat goddess, Sekhmet, is one of the lesser-known Egyptian cat goddesses, especially compared to the goddess Bast. 

She was the goddess of war, and she protected the Egyptian pharaohs in battle. Like Bastet, she runs with the god of the Sun. However, her role was to create Ra’s Eye so as to fire up the Sun and destroy all enemies. 

She was usually seen as a lioness or a woman with a lion’s head. Interestingly enough, she was also associated with medicine and healing. Because of this, when they needed to “cure” their life problems, Egyptians would turn to her. 

Present Time Cat Equivalent

Egyptians served food and drink, played music, and burned incense at the altar as an offering. The Abyssinian is a modern breed of cat that closely resembles a small lion, imitating Sekhmet‘s appearance on Earth. 

They have large almond-shaped eyes and a very dark coat that is the result of the individual hairs being striped. This breed also originated near the river Nile.

4. Mishipeshu (North America)

mishipeshu

Culture it comes from: Ojibwa

Related domestic cat: Highlander cat

Realm of worship: Goddess of water, winter, protection

Many of the ancient cultures in North America worshiped cat gods, demonstrating that cat worship was a global phenomenon.

Mishipeshu is a creature from Ojibwa legends that were believed to be supernatural and whose name means “lynx”. The claws and fangs of Mishipeshu are sometimes said to be made of pure copper. It was believed that Mishipeshu lived deep in the lakes.

Mishipeshu was the source of waves, rapids, and generally any turbulence associated with water. However, Mishipeshu is also associated with protection and medicine, and praying to this god was believed to bring success in hunting and fishing.

Present Time Cat Equivalent

The Highlander Shorthair is actually descended from the lynx, making it a solid choice for the Michipeshu cousin. They share the same round ears and bobtails as their ancestors. Unlike most other cats, they are also huge water fans.

Additionally, Highlanders are also built like how we believe the Mishipeshu was built; they are a particularly muscular cat breed. The only thing they don’t have, to fit the full description, are fangs and horns.

5. Nergal (Ancient Babylon)

nergal deity from ancient babylon

Culture it comes from: Ancient Babylonian Mythology

Related domestic cat: Bombay

Realm of worship: God of death, destruction, war

Although the Egyptian cat gods are very well-known, many other cultures honored our feline companions. For example, many gods and goddesses in nearby Babylon took on the form and/or traits of a cat.

Nergal was usually depicted as a lion, one of the most dangerous cats known to people. He was often known as the “King of Wrath” and was frequently summoned for protection. 

I Like Nergal More Than “Burner”

He was also nicknamed “Burner” due to his love for the Sun’s rays and demolition. According to the myth, Nergal, known for his rampage and murder without remorse, one day felt bored and decided to disguise himself and go to the city of Babylon.

There he found Marduk, the god-king of the city. Marduk would know it was him if he hadn’t been in disguise and would drive him out of the town. Nergal made a sly comment about Marduk’s clothes, pointing out that they were a bit worn out. 

Marduk shyly agrees and decides to go to a tailor. After Marduk was eliminated on the other side of the city, Nergal went on a rampage in Babylon, destroying buildings and killing citizens without regret.

Nergal is believed to have helped explain why humans still experience seemingly meaningless suffering when guided by otherwise benevolent gods.

He was beyond the comprehension of both other gods and humans, allowing humans to remain safe in their beliefs while providing some kind of explanation for indiscriminate violence and terror. This gives me the chills!

Present Time Cat Equivalent

Sometimes, a cat’s behavior is beyond our comprehension. The striking Bombay Cat is depicted as a successor to Nergal. When they are bored, they may start playing pranks to get your attention or just to chat.

They are also very noisy and often meow. These spirited cats are an accurate portrayal of vengeful Babylonian gods, but their catastrophic power is usually limited to a single room in a house rather than an entire town.

6. Kasha (Japan)

Culture it comes from: Japanese Mythology

Related domestic cat: Chausie

Realm of worship: The world of spirits

Kasha are seen as otherworldly monsters, demons, or ghosts, in Japanese folklore. The kasha is a huge creature that resembles a cat and is the size of a human or larger. They prefer to appear during storms or at night, usually accompanied by dreadful fire and lightning. 

They can then conceal their true identities and live as normal domestic cats among humans. Kasha reveals their true selves at funerals, jumping off the perch and tearing the corpses out of their coffins. 

It was believed that a person whose body was stolen could not go into the afterlife. Kasha either eats the corpse or carries it to the underworld. As a defense against Kasha, the monks held two funeral ceremonies for people. 

The first ceremony was a fake, in which the coffin was filled with stones, and the real ritual was performed after the kasha had been and gone.

Present Time Cat Equivalent

Kasha’s related domestic cat would be the Chausey since, like the Kasha, the Chausey is a large cat, some can grow up to 18 inches. They are also particularly bright and very mischievous when left alone. As with Kasha, you need to keep an eye on them.

7. Dawon (India)

statue of parvati with lion darwon

Culture it comes from: Hinduism

Related domestic cat: Toyger

Realm of worship: The goddess Parvati

Hinduism, an ancient religious ideology practiced primarily in India, has its cat goddess as well. Cats play a less significant role in this pantheon, but the gods from the subcontinent were powerful entities with a close relationship to humanity.

Dawon is a sacred tiger given to the deity Parvati as a gift from the other gods to indicate her power. In battle, Dawon acts as Parvati’s warhorse, attacking enemies with its claws and sharp teeth. 

Present Time Cat Equivalent

Dawon was frequently depicted as a Ghatokbahini or lion-tiger hybrid. The Toyger cat, as the name suggests, has tiger-like stripes, making it an obvious choice as Dawon’s modern younger sibling. 

Toygers are known for being great human companions, as Dawon was Parvati’s partner. They can even be trained to walk on leashes, which isn’t quite the same as riding into battle, but putting a leash on your cat could be considered a battle.

Other Interesting Facts Concerning Cat Gods

freyja's chariot being pulled by cats

Besides cat gods, there are also some fun and interesting stories of gods and goddesses who worshipped cats and included them in their reign. 

Cats Can Be Chariot Pullers

Freyja, the Norse goddess of love and lust, but also war and death, rode in a chariot drawn by two giant gray cats bestowed upon her by the god Thor. 

She is seductive and playful, much like a cat, but she takes a different, more aggressive attitude to those who displease her. She is known as a cat goddess because she is usually portrayed riding in a chariot pulled by cats.

Who Wouldn’t Want To Shape-Shift Into A Cat?

Ai-Apaec, a god of the Mochica civilization, was usually described as a really old man with a wrinkled face, inhumane long fangs, and not a mustache but cat-like whiskers. 

He was said to have developed from an ancient cat god and to be capable of taking on the form of a cat.

Cats As Guardians Of The Household

The Chinese Book of Rites mentions a cat god named Li Shou. Farmers worshiped him because he kept rats and mice from eating their crops.

Being A Cat Is Hard To Resist

The uraeus was a common motif in Egyptian art, representing a variety of goddesses associated with the Eye of Ra. When Hathor was illustrated as a uraeus, it signified her fierce and protective nature. 

She also took on the form of a lioness, which had a similar meaning. In contrast, the domestic cat, which was sometimes associated with Hathor, frequently represented the civilized form of the Horus goddess.

Mighty Cat Protector Or A Firestarter?

Many farming families worshiped Ovinnik, who appeared in the form of a black cat in ancient Poland, because he guarded farm animals and chased away evil spirits and evil-natured fairies. 

Like most Slavonic mythological creatures, they were great until you didn’t respect them or give them what they required — then they would cause mischief, often with tragic consequences. 

Ovinnik is portrayed as a black cat carrying fire and holding a grudge. Now we don’t want to know what a grudge and a fire could do, do we?

The Greek Goddess Knew Her Way Around A Monster

According to (my highly favored) Greek mythology, the goddess Hecate disguised herself as a cat so she could flee the monster Typhon. Following that, she loved all cats and treated them like kings.

The Celtic Goddess Knew Her Way With Cats

This Celtic (Welsh) goddess of wisdom, named Ceridwen, was accompanied by white cats when she visited Earth. These cats obeyed her orders, wow! I wish she could come now and do some training and exercise with my cats, lol!

Ok, Shape-Shifting Into A Cat Is Cool, But A Jaguar?

Tezcatlipoca was an Aztec god of transformation, the sky, and kin. Tezcatlipoca took on the shape of a jaguar, becoming the deity Tepeyollotl, who ruled over the shadows, caves, animals, and earthquakes. 

Final Thoughts On Cat Gods

replica of a statue of the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet in front of a real European tabby cat

Today, there are many trinkets and knick-knacks which represent different deities and feline deities in particular. Black cat amulets and necklaces, different stories and legends in mythology that say this or that.

If I were to encompass it all, I would need to write at least a trilogy (like that of LOTR) to sum up all the legends and tales about cat gods, goddesses, and “regular” gods associated with cats.

I hope this brief article was fun for you, that you’ve learned something interesting, and eventually that you’ve found out what you were looking for!

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Wednesday 30th of November 2022

[…] of the main reasons why they were so sacred was that they were connected to Bastet, the goddess of protection and good health. They were so sacred in Egypt that any person who killed […]