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loves: you win if you guessed "pets" and "museums". Also books, art history, travel, British punk, Korean kimchi, bindis, martinis, and other things TBD. I will always make it very clear if a post is sponsored in any way. Drop me a line at thepetmuseum AT gmail.com !

Thursday, January 17, 2013

some thoughts on the ancient egyptian cat

In A Handbook of Egyptian Religion by Adolf Erman (London, 1907), I find some ideas on the cat in ancient Egyptian theology that are pleasingly different from those I usually see:

Because the sistrum which is shaken before the goddess (Isis - curator) is rounded at the top and has four transverse bars, it is to the wise a symbol of the orbit of the moon, which embraces everything, and of the four elements which are contained within it. Also because the sistrum is frequently decorated at the top with a cat, the profane imagine it is on account of the cat-headed, joyous Bast. Plutarch, however, knows the true reason: the cat also has a significance connected with the moon, because it is a fickle, nocturnal, prolific animal, or because it widens its eyes at the full moon. (p. 244,and here's where you can see some sistrums)

Another great aid to the deceased in his search for justification, namely, that he has heard that word which the ass spake with the cat, etc., is considered a proof that he has been a faithful servant of Osiris, and has taken part in the feasts and ceremonies. (p. 104.  I wonder what the word was? This follows an excerpt of the lists of sins the good Egyptian soul has not committed.  Here's a few of those:  "Oh Nose in Hermopolis! I have not defrauded. Oh Devourer of Shadows in Kerert! I have not stolen. Oh Looker backward in Bosetta! I have not murdered men. Oh Double lioness in heaven! I have not diminished the measure of corn. . . . I was not deaf to words of truth. I have not caused weeping. I have not consumed my heart (with remorse). I have not calumniated. I have not uttered many words."  )

There is another great goddess of the Delta to whom it is natural to assign a similar origin; Bast, or as the Greeks called her, Bubastis, is a counterpart of the joyous Hathor, delighting in dancing and music. She is cat-headed, and is usually represented with the sistrum of the dancing women in her hand and a basket on her arm. (p. 13)

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