Senryu : bask

French: Bastet. Antiquité égyptienne du musée du Louvre. photo by Guillaume Blanchard, July 2004. Wikimedia commons.

Bastet basks in sun
Greeks thought her Artemis — wrong!
Lions, cats like heat

senryu by M. LaFreniere

Bastet originated as a lion warrior Goddess of the sun, protector of Lower Egypt whose titles included Lady of Flame and Eye of Ra.

Bast became Bastet in the 2nd dynasty (945-715) BC and with the “et”, she also became associated with the domestic cat.  Cats were prized because they could kill snakes, even cobras and also killed rats and other vermin, protecting the food supply.

When the Greek rulers came in, replacing the native Egyptians, they morphed a lot of the Egyptian pantheon with the Greek one — mostly giving a Greek diety an Egyptian name.

Neues Museum, Berlin. photo by Carole Raddato. via Wikimedia Commons.

So they associated Artemis with Bastet, transforming Bastet from a sun goddess to a moon diety.  Like cats, Bastet had been seen as a good mother, often depicted on amulets with many kittens.  Egyptian women would buy amulets with the number of kittens illustrated equaling the number of children they hoped to have.  Like the sun, this aspect didn’t mesh well with Artemis who was associated with chastity.  However, Artemis was the goddess of childbirth.  I’m not sure how chastity and childbirth go together.  They must have merged her with another goddess previously.  It does make some sense to associate Bastet and Artemis as Artemis is a war goddess and goddess of the hunt.

This practice of new rulers co-opting previous pantheons by merging them into their own religion was often used.  When Christianity moved northward from the Middle East, many of stories of saints in Europe were actually previously existing myths of the local gods and goddesses.  Adopting, adapting and merging was a more peaceful option than burning, killing and eradicating and probably resulted in less rebellion and resentment.  When did killing and eradicating become the mode of choice?

References:

Bastet
Wikipedia

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