Saturday, December 3, 2011


I would like to hear one good reason why this name can't be used on a person. Bastet is famous for being the Ancient Egyptian goddess of cats, but she's a lot more than that.

The first matter that needs clearing up is the subject of Bastet's names. Bastet (pronounced "bas-TET") was not her name back in Ancient Egypt. It is the most widely adopted version of her name by Neo-Pagans and scholars alike, but it is a modern invention and only one of many possible interpretations. The earliest known pronounceable name that we know of is Obest or Ubasti. Another well used variation of her name is Bast.

What the name means is uncertain, but there is one recent suggestion. Author Stephen Quirke listed the meaning as "she of the ointment jar." This would make sense because aside from being the goddess of cats, she is also the goddess of perfume. In some traditions it is believed that she is the wife of Anubis (god of mummification and the afterlife) because mummies were anointed during embalming.

Originally, Bastet had nothing to do with domestic cats. The earliest depictions show her as a lioness or as a woman with the head of a lion. This was when she was a protector goddess of Lower Egypt and defender of the Pharaoh. When the two cultures of Upper and Lower Egypt merged, Bastet was pushed away for a time as Sekhmet took her prior role. In the now peaceful kingdom, people began keeping domestic cats as pets. As the popularity of the pet grew more popular, Bastet resurfaced as their protector, and changed into a woman with the head of a cat.

Many sources list Bastet as a moon goddess. This is not true. Bastet is a solar goddess, which makes this name perfect for the Yuletide season. The misconception occurred when Greeks occupied Egypt and decided to merge the identities of Egyptian gods with their gods. They thought that Bastet was a lot like Artemis, who is the goddess of the moon. But these two goddesses evolved separately.

It's common knowledge that cats were revered in Ancient Egypt. Mostly because they killed rats, mice, and snakes. The treatment of cats in this civilization was similar to the treatment of cows in modern India. Royal cats were dressed in jewelry and had permission to eat from their owners plates. The Ancient Egyptians noticed how tender most cats are to their kittens. So Bastet also presides over pregnant woman and their children. If a woman wanted to become pregnant, they would wear an amulet of Bastet with kittens at her feet. The number of kittens would indicate the number of children the woman wanted to have.

Bastet even had her own cult, but it was contained in one city known today as Tell-Basta. A massive festival in Bastet's honor was held annually in this city. The holiday would be celebrated by men and women, but children were not allowed to attend. The celebrants would crowd onto ships, and they would dance, drink, and play music on the way to Tell-Basta. When they arrived, they would perform sacrifices, and drank the even more wine. At this point I should probably mention that Bastet is also the goddess of joy, dancing, music, and sensual pleasure. Tell-Basta is where archaeologists have found the mummified remains of holy cats.

This name does belong to a fictional Witch. In the sadly-now-out-of-print Bast mystery series by Rosemary Edghill, Bast (whose real name is Karen Hightower, but considers Bast her true name) is a youngish practicing Wiccan living in New York City. She is also a sleuth, and she needs to solve a murder mystery in each book. Bast is a complex character who experiences a lot of doubt in her life and in her chosen path, but she's also quirky and funny. It is considered to be one of the best works of Pagan fiction, and there is no hint of tired fantasy cliches or references to Satan.

Bastet appears to be a favorite magickal name, and it's easy to see why. But I've never seen it given a child. Why not? I know that this is a name people like to give to their pet cats. So is that why it hasn't been used? Because it's a pet's name? That doesn't stop people from naming their sons Rex. I will say that this is a goddess that teenage girls in particular seem to love. I was one of them. But perhaps this association makes the name seem a little juvenile. That's still not a real reason.

So I'm going to make a case for Bastet. It's unique. The goddess association is a benevolent one. The sound is vaguely..."Frenchified" for lack of a better term. It's a very daring first name option and a interesting middle name idea. Bastet or Bast would make anyone an excellent name.


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1 comment:

  1. I love Bastet -- the "tet/et" sound is totally underrated!


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