Bastet “Goddess of Beauty” Bastet was worshipped in Bubastis in Lower Egypt, originally as a lioness goddess, a role shared by other deities such as Sekhmet. Eventually Bastet and Sekhmet were characterized as two aspects of the same goddess, with Sekhmet representing the powerful warrior and protector aspect, and Bastet, who increasingly was depicted as a cat, representing a gentler aspect.

Name Bastet, the form of the name that is most commonly adopted by Egyptologists today because of its use in later dynasties, is a modern convention offering one possible reconstruction. In early Egyptian hieroglyphs, her name appears to have been bꜣstt. James Peter Allen vocalizes the original form of the name as buʔístit or buʔístiat, with ʔ representing a glottal stop. In Middle Egyptian writing, the second t marks a feminine ending but usually was not pronounced, and the aleph ꜣ () may have moved to a position before the accented syllable, ꜣbst. By the first millennium, then, bꜣstt would have been something like *Ubaste (< *Ubastat) in Egyptian speech, later becoming Coptic Oubaste.

Role in ancient Egypt Bastet was originally a fierce lioness warrior goddess of the sun, worshipped throughout most of ancient Egyptian history. Later she became the cat goddess that is familiar today. She then was depicted as the daughter of Ra and Isis, and the consort of Ptah, with whom she had a son, Maahes. As protector of Lower Egypt, she was seen as defender of the king, and consequently of the sun god, Ra. Along with other deities such as Hathor, Sekhmet, and Isis, Bastet was associated with the Eye of Ra. She has been depicted as fighting the evil snake named Apep, an enemy of Ra. In addition to her solar connections, she was also related to Wadjet, one of the oldest Egyptian goddesses from the Southern Delta who was dubbed “eye of the moon”. Bastet was also a goddess of pregnancy and childbirth, possibly because of the fertility of the domestic cat.

History Bastet first appears in the third millennium BCE, where she is depicted as either a fierce lioness or a woman with the head of a lioness. Two thousand years later, during the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt (c. 1070–712 BC), Bastet began to be depicted as a domestic cat or a cat-headed woman. Scribes of the New Kingdom and later eras began referring to her with an additional feminine suffix, as Bastet. The name change is thought to have been added to emphasize pronunciation of the ending t sound, often left silent. Cats in ancient Egypt were highly revered, partly due to their ability to combat vermin such as mice, rats (which threatened key food supplies), and snakes—especially cobras. Cats of royalty were, in some instances, known to be dressed in golden jewelry and were allowed to eat from the plates of their owners. Dennis C. Turner and Patrick Bateson estimate that during the Twenty-second Dynasty (c. 945–715 BC), Bastet worship changed from being a lioness deity into being predominantly a major cat deity. Because domestic cats tend to be tender and protective of their offspring, Bastet was also regarded as a good mother and sometimes was depicted with numerous kittens.