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It takes an interesting sort of culture to revere cats and cat goddesses in an organized fashion such as the ancient Egyptians did. There are some…issues with cat deities that I think many people probably weren’t prepared for. Like, say, the sort of blessings a powerful feline god might confer on its worshipers.

Bastet, also known as Bast, was a major Egyptian deity, connected directly with Ra, the sun god, and worshiped heavily in the city of Bubastis. Like many of the gods worshiped by ancient Egyptians, her personality and her role within the pantheon were multifaceted and shifted over time. Also like other gods, she had a sort of mirror image in another goddess worshiped by Upper Egypt, Sekhmet. With the victory of Upper Egypt over Lower Egypt in the wars to unify the region, many of the changes in attitude toward various gods reflected the reality of the changing political climate. Sekhmet, the protector of Upper Egypt grew in power and popularity, while the strength of Bastet, the goddess of Lower Egypt, waned.

Bastet was seen, for hundreds of years, as a strong lioness, a protector of her pride in Lower Egypt. She was a war goddess, a mother, and a major deity associated with the sun. As such, she was one of the central figures in the Lower Egyptian Pantheon. As mentioned above, when her power and popularity began to wane in the face of Upper Egypt’s version of the lion goddess, Bastet began to be perceived as a more domestic personality. She became more strongly associated with women, particularly pregnant women, the home, and domestic cats rather than the lionesses of the savannah. As her personality changed, so did her image. There are many sculptures and images of Bastet that depict her as an elegant, domestic feline.

I’ve often heard people express confusion with regards to Egyptian deities and their perception of animals within their religion. One of the biggest points of confusion seems to be their reverence for pets, especially domestic cats. Nowadays, particularly in the “First World”, cats are loved by many but seen as essentially useless creatures. They kill the occasional mouse or rat, eat bugs, warm our laps, etc. It’s all well and good to love them but to revere cats would be seen as strange today. In Ancient Egypt, however, where plague and illness were a very real possibility, where vermin often carried diseases and ruined valuable food supplies, cats could be the only thing between a city and death.

The reality is that any Egyptian would likely have found the events in this strip highly pleasing. Dead rodents were ones that couldn’t infect people or food supplies and that’s mostly definitely a blessing in a time when physicians often prescribed animal dung as a part of someone’s treatment.

If cats were one of the primary defenses against illness and illness meant you’d be ingesting or even topically applying animal dung as part of your prescription, I think we’d all be worshiping cats.

In other news, Sasquatch made an appearance in Two Guys and Guy yesterday. Did you miss it? It was pretty awesome!

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