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BASTET

Bastet was the kinder more gentle version of Sekhmet - the lioness goddess - although it is thought that Bast may originally have similarly been a lioness - an inscription dating to Ramesses IV states that it was illegal to hunt lions on the festival day of Bastet.

Bastet was also the mother of the lion-god Miysis ('Lord of Slaughter'). In was during the Middle Kingdom the cat rather than the lion became her sacred animal - after the New Kingdom she was shown as a woman with a cat's head. Bastet was to become a more friendlier god - her earlier more aggressive side was transferred to the goddess Sekhmet.

The cult centre of Bastet was at Bubastis (Bast) - it was here that one of the most important festivals were held in honour of Bastet. It was through the worship of Bastet that cats in general were also held in great estem (Herodotus states that whenever of one of the family pets died the owner would shave their eyebrows and then take the cat where it would be embalmed and buried in a sacred receptacle).

Bastet began a rise in importance in the 22nd Dynasty as the local deity of these kings - this popularity was to continue until the Graeco-Roman Period.