Ahhhh, the good old days! When cats were cats, and humans knew their place.
Friends, thinking about Boubastis and ancient Egypt earlier this week reminded me of one of my favorite personages from those hoary days of yore – Bastet (aka: Bast, aka: Oubaste), cat-headed goddess of warfare and protection:
I will never understand why the Egyptians felt the need to mar the perfection of the feline form with human attributes (see also: the sphinx), but at least they didn’t associate their gods with us by making us their slaves!
The Egyptians appealed to Bast/Bastet for aid in warfare, for defense from enemy invasions, for protection from diseases and evil spirits, for aid in conceiving and bearing children, and as patroness of the precious ointments which Egypt so valued.
Of particular note is her role as goddess of fertility and childbirth – a natural extension of her felinity, since female cats have always been recognized (however grudgingly by dog-lovers) as paragons of motherly care and tenderness.
There is much speculation as to the origins of this particularly fetching goddess, but the end result was that all cats were believed to be gods in their own right and the murder of us – however unintentional – constituted a capital offense in ancient Egypt. Is it any wonder the Egyptians are still regarded as a pinnacle of ancient, dignified civilization? I am reminded of a particular poem by Yeats in which that Irish poet avers: “Though pedantry denies, / It’s plain the Bible means / That Solomon grew wise / While talking with his queens.” I think we can say with confidence that this is also how the Egyptians grew so great – all peoples are enhanced by due reverence for felinity.