Alternate Names: Ubasti, Bastet, Bubastis
Bast is one of the earliest documented Names which dates back to the second Dynasty. She is the firstborn daughter of Atum-Re, consort of Amun, and is strongly associated with the protection of the people, and specifically the royal houses of Lower Egypt. Her name is rendered phonetically, employing the hieroglyph for a sealed alabaster perfume jar.
Bast's earliest iconography depicts Her to be in leonine form, and it is not until around 1000 BC that the iconography of a cat becomes common. As the 'Eye of Ra', Bast takes on a leonine form and represents the rage of Ra, and the instrument of His vengeance. Unlike Sekhmet as the 'Eye of Ra', Bast softened Her vicious nature to become more peaceful and to only destroy vermin. Unlike the leonine form of the 'Eye of Ra', Bast can be fearlessly approached and stroked.
In the earliest of Her appearances, during the Pyramid Era, Bast is closely linked to the King. The valley temple of Khafre at Giza makes this rather prominent as there are only two Names on one of the facades. Those Names and titles are Het-Hert of Southern Egypt and Bast of Northern Egypt. In the Pyramid Texts, Bast is a benign royal protectoress. In one specific spell, to enable the deceased pharaoh to reach the sky, the pharaoh would proclaim that Bast was his mother and nurse. Her aggressive nature can be seen in historical texts referencing the battles which the pharaoh would partake in. One of these inferences speak of Amenhotep II's enemies being slaughtered like the victims of Bast alongside the road cut by Amun.
Bast's center for worship was at Bubastis in the north-eastern Delta. Today, Her temples are in ruins, and does not offer any inkling to the splendor of Her temples as they once were. Nearby tombs revealed the resting place of Iy, the High Priest of Bast. In the fifth century BC, the Greek historian Herodotus proclaimed that the festival of Bast in Bubastis as one of the most elaborate festivals in all of Egypt, and gives Her the name Artemis.
Herodotus also gives a very vivid description of the festival of Bast, speaking about the crowds which would congregate to Bubastis to celebrate the festival with music, dancing and unrestricted wine drinking. During the festival, the shaking of sistra (sacred rattles) was a sign of jubilation to Bast. Approximately 100 AD, Plutarch describes the sistrum as having the representation of a cat on it. This description of the sistrum was verified from examples of Ancient Egyptian bronze sistrum with a supine cat on top, as well as in statuettes discovered which show Bast holding the sistrum.
Feline cemeteries have been discovered in Bubastis, as well as in other sites along the Nile Valley. In Saqqara, the burial grounds for Memphis (the capital of Egypt at the time), Bast played a tutelary role as the 'lady of Ankhtawy' and had a temple complex called the Bubasteion located near the pyramid of King Teti. The feline mummies were stylish and well wrapped. Often times, the linens of the wrappings would form geometric patterns, and faces were painted to give a quizzical or humorous expression. That expression represented the universal affection in which Bast's sacred animal was held by the ancient Egyptians.