Cat lovers understand the unique and special qualities of the feline species, valuing their independence and poise. And yet whilst we certainly appreciate these attributes today, the ancient Egyptians went several steps further, revering the species and worshiping the cat goddess Bast; a powerful symbol of protection, fertility and motherhood.
Scientists believe that cats were first domesticated around 10,000 years ago in the area of the Mediterranean that now forms northern Egypt. First valued for their abilities in vermin control, and respected for their intelligence, by 1,000BC cats had become such an object of veneration that it was common for cats to be mummified after death and buried with food and belongings for their passage to the next life.
History records the discovery in 1888 of 80,000 mummified cats and kittens in tombs in the limestone cliffs at Beni Hassan. Sadly the tombs were soon plundered by locals selling relics and parts to passing travellers, before some quite impressive entrepreneurship took hold. The cats’ linen wrappings were exported to America to be made into paper, whilst the twenty tonnes of cat remains were shipped to Britain to be sold as fertiliser for £4 a tonne. Sadly, not quite the glorious afterlife that might have been imagined by the ancient Egyptians: see HERE.
As sacred beings, cats were afforded special protection under ancient Egyptian law. It was illegal to sell or trade the animals with foreigners, and killing a cat was punishable by death. However, by 390 AD the veneration of cats had declined to such a degree that the Bast religion was officially banned by the state. In modern Egypt, cats are now simply kept as pets, and any religious symbolism has long since evaporated.
And whilst our modern society may not place cats on the pedestals they no doubt feel they deserve, there’s no reason why you can’t kit your own cat out like a queen! We think that this regal red velvet bow collar, for example, would look just the part!
Please note: The Ralph Site is not affiliated with the third-party organisations in any of the links shared here, and the views, ideas and suggestions expressed in this and other blogs are simply shared with the intention of helping you, our friends, take care of the special animals in your lives.