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Why Egyptians Worship Cats

Why Egyptians Worship Cats

Chances are that you are thinking about the tom cat playing with a ball or cuddling on the sofa. It is true that many people love cats, but not usually as a beloved pet. To the Egyptians, they treated the cats with love and respect. Because Egyptian cats proved to be helpful animals in household and they were the closest connection with gods and goddesses.

Cats and Egyptian Religion

Thinking about the Egyptian culture, we often see the image of a person with cat head popping up in our mind. Indeed, it is the result of the cultural promotion through movies and books. And it is a piece of Egyptian culture which worshiped cats. Egypt

Among the earliest and influential Egyptian gods was Mafdet the goddess. The Egyptians worshiped Mafdet for her power relating to the protection against venomous creatures like snakes and scorpions. Often, goddess Mafdet usually appeared in the feline form. We might see a woman with the lion or cat head.

Later, Egyptian goddess Bastet (or Bast) won the glory of Mafdet. Bastet became the feline goddess. Like Mafdet, Bastet was the protector against the poisonous creatures and the protector of home.

Egyptians worshipped goddess Bastet
Goddess Bastet depiction

Indeed, the life of the ancient Egyptians was hard because of the venomous creatures that did nothing but harm. Every corner of the house posed a threat for it might be the shelter of any creature: asps in the jar, rats in the grain store, scorpions under the chair. The only creature that was quick enough and always willing to find something to entertain itself was cat.

Treatment toward Egyptian cats

For the Egyptians, cat was the best solution to the infliction of creatures like rats inside their houses. Because cats were good at keeping these creatures under control or even killing them with small but smart movement. Accordingly, the Egyptians seriously took care of their cats. They always prioritized their cats before any other types of animals.

The Egyptians domesticated their cats and started to share food. By this way, could the Egyptians not only feel safe for a life without venomous creatures but also feel the presence of their goddess inside their house.

Anyone attempting to kill a cat would receive the death sentence. Because it was outlaw and viewed as an attempt to insult the Pantheon. To show their respect and love to the cats, the Egyptian families gave their cats jewelry whether they were the domesticated cats or the wild cats around their houses. Some sources said that the Egyptians were not allowed to own cat and only the Pharaohs could own cat for themselves. Because in the faith, cats were divine for its connection with gods which meant the ordinary people could not own a cat.

Egyptian cats head
Cat’s head with jewelry that might date back to the 30 BCE to the third century BC

The Egyptians even mummified their cats just like they mummified their Pharaoh. Generally, cats were not pets to the Egyptians. Rather, they were the incarnation of gods and goddesses. For example, the Egyptians buried hundreds of mummified cats near their temple as a sacrifice to their gods.

The mummified Egyptian cats on display in Museum
The Egyptians mummified their cats just like they mummified the humans

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