How long would you guess that cat worshipping has been being practiced?
To date we can see the domestication of cats within the human society as far back as Mesopotamia one hundred thousand years ago (and we still believe it may have been early than this), yet for cat worshipping we can date as far back as ancient Egypt. The most known is the worship of a Lioness turned Feline Goddess known in Egypt as Bast, Baast, Ubaste, or Baste ( said to mean the Soul of Isis, The Devouring Lady amongst other meanings). Dating as early as the second dynasty 2890 BC, Bast was originally known to be a Lioness, and the daughter of the Sun God Ra (also Atmun and Ammun) she was known to be the Eye of Ra and sibling to Thoth Hathor, Tefnut, Thor, Sekhmet, Serket, Shu, Anhur, and Ammut. She was sometimes known as The Lady Asheru (which means Lady of the Sacred Lake) as well as the “Southern Bubastis” and was known to represent lower Egypt. By the 22 dynasty with the rise of Thebes and the temple priests of Amun, her status had diminished and she was from then on known as Bastet the Feline Goddess. Bast has the head of a lioness or feline and the body of a woman. Bast was known as the goddess of cats, protection, keeper of the hearth, protector against disease, womens secrets, music, dancing, joy, family and of love.
I believe this love for the Goddess Bast may the the real reason behind the creation of the Sphinx, and if the carbon dating around the Sphinx can date it to the Leo Constellation (and her being known as the Eye Of Ra) then there would be the proof!
Along with more history, cat’s were wanted so badly back in the ancient times that in Egypt the government had created a branch solely to stop the export of their beloved cats from their region! They took the removal of cats so seriously that they would send out government agents to retrieve these stolen cats and return them to their land. By 450 BC the penalty for killing a cat in Egypt was DEATH! Also the death of cat was taken very seriously, upon the death of a cat the owners would shave of their eye brows and the mourning period was known to have ended upon the regrowth of the eyebrows (according to Herodotus). It is said by that during an excavation over 300,00 mummified cats in their own cemetery were found in the city of Bubastis. The biggest proof of the love the Egyptians had for their beloved cats, was their downfall. During the battle of Pelusium in 525 BC Cambyses the second of Persia, defeated the forces of the Egyptian Pharaoh PSametik the 3 and conquered Egypt by using Cats and other animals in the front line and painted cats on their shields causing the Egyptian to be reluctant to defend themselves, to hurt the cats, or offend their beloved Goddess Bast and so surrendered to the Persians.
Bast moved from Egypt to Greece and was identified with the Goddess Pakhet a Lion-Headed Goddess of Speos Artemidos (Cave of Artemis) near Beni Hassan. The cave was given the name because Bast was identified by the Greeks with Artemis “The Hunter”. When you look closer you see that they were not that similar being that Artemis was known as a celibate Goddess while Bast was known for fun and sexuality. We known that our love for cats did not end in Egypt, we instead find that the worshipping of Cats (or cat worshipping) moved across the planet as we can see this in the two great literary epics of the Mahabharata and Ramayana both from the 4/5 century BC.
In the Mahabharata there is a famous passage which concerns the cat Lamasa and the mouse Palita who help each other escape from death and discuss the nature of relationships, particularly in which one of the parties is stronger or more powerful than the other. in the Ramayana Indra disguises himself as a cat after seducing a maiden to get away from her husband. There is also a Goddess in the indian culture known as Sastht who was greatly revered and very similar in character to Bast.
There is a Persian belief that cats were created magically. In the story of the Persian hero Rustum, Rustum provides shelter to a magician and is asked what he would like in return, the hero answers he is in need of nothing so the magician create a kitten for him out of smoke, and two bright stars.
The prophet Mohammed was also known to be quite fond cats and the M on the forehead of the Tabby Cat is said to be where he blessed his cat by placing his hands on his forehead.
In China there is the Goddess Li Shou who is said to have appointed cats as the overseer of the planet and gave them the ability of speech. It is said she gave them three opportunities to watch over the planet but they were reluctant and only wanted to sleep and play. She soon tired of their reluctance, and decided to take their power of speech away and gave it to humanity. The problem was that the humans could not understand the words of the Gods, so the cats were intrusted as the keepers of time and maintaining order.
In Japan the famous image for “Beckoning Cat” (the maneki neko figure of the cat with the one raised paw) represents the Goddess of Mercy. In a story a cat sat outside of the temple Gotoku-Ji said raised her paw in acknowledgement of the Emperor who was passing by. Attracted by the cats gesture, the emperor entered the temple and moments later, lightning struck the very spot where he had been standing. The cat therefore saved the Emperor’s life and was given great honor.
In Norse mythology there is the Goddess Freya who rides a chariot and is pulled by cats, and in both Ireland and Scotland cats are seen as magical and positive.
Sadly by the middle ages, cats had become cast as demonic by the church and they were hunted and killed. During the Victorian era (1819-1901) cats began to gain their popularity again with the help of Queen Victoria of Great Britain. She had learned of the archeological finds in Egypt about Bastet and cat worship, which were being written about and decided to adopt 2 persian cats and make them a member of the court. News reached the United States by a popular magazine in Philadelphia. The “Godeys Lady’s Book” published by Louis Godey in 1860 stated that cats were not solely for older women or monarchs but that anyone should feel comfortable with the embrace, love and virtue of the cat. Cat popularity grew after that article was released. The direction and or image of cats changed to such a degree that we begin to see them appearing as characters in movies, first by Lewis Carroll in Alice and Wonderland to the first major cat show held in London at the Crystal Palace in 1871. The first cat show in America held 1895 at Madison Square Garden and by 1952 we have our will known character “Catwoman” in comics.
Catwoman has played a crucial part of the human history and woman have been so closely associated with cats that it has never been a question mark as to why we will put on the ears and tails every halloween and purr. From the 60’s all the way to our newest catwoman we have loved her and knowing that she may have existed in the past only explains why we still worship our feline friend today. Cat worshipping is probably the most natural to a cat lover, yet to know this worship may have begun by an actual worship of a Goddess for me explains a lot.