healing haven

August 1, 2008

Hall of Remembrances: Divided Identities

 

She found herself walking back to the entrance to the catacombs, taking a torch, going past the statues of Jesus, the angels and the gargoyles, wondering if she would be able to find her way back to the Hall of Remembrances.  Walking down one tunnel, Thalia came across a statue of a regal-looking cat on a tombstone. 

 

 

Oh, oh.  I didn’t come this way before.  Must have taken the wrong tunnel.  I would have remembered seeing this sleek cat.  What does it say?

 

BAST–MET

GENTLE FRIEND

FIERCE PROTECTOR

 

No date.  Wonder when this is from?  Wonder about the name—seems like an obvious combining of Bast and Sekhmet, both goddesses in Egyptian mythology, but is it?  Was Bast the name in itself or short for Bastet?  That would say a lot about the date right there.  And both gentle and fierce—how intriguing.  Well, the solid black statue doesn’t tell me why this cat was named a composite name of two Egyptian goddesses generally depicted as lionesses.

 

A faint noise coming from behind the tombstone caught her attention.  She listened, heard it again, and cautiously moved around in that direction.  She almost didn’t spot the kitten curled up on the floor, pressed against the tombstone. 

 

“Oh, how sweet.  How did you get in here?  Are you okay?”  Thalia squatted down and extended out her hand to stroke the kitten… and her hand passed tight through.  The kitten looked up at her and edged closer, obviously wanting contact.  “Why are you still here?  Did you know the cat…Bast-met?”

 

The kitten’s thoughts came throughThat is me.  I’m Bast-Met.  I’m actually the kitten who became Bast-Met.  But I’m still confused.

 

Why are you confused?  You were obviously loved by your owner.

 

Yes, I was.  But people don’t realize how important a name is.  I was confused because I was named after two different aspects of goddesses, even though both were lionesses at one time—Best and Sekhmet.

 

Lions?  I thought they were cats.

 

No.  Bast was the ancient Lower Egypt solar and war goddess and protector.  She was depicted as a fierce lioness while also associated with the sunlight so was called ‘Goddess of Fire’ or ‘Lady of the Flame.’  Later she became Bastet, her role diminishing as Sekhmet , a similar deity in Upper Egypt when Lower Egypt lost dominance in the unification of the Upper and Lower sections.  The feminine suffix of ‘et’ is the diminutive name that applies as she receded and Sekhmet rose to power.  Her gentler aspect as protector of the home and pregnant women changed as her appearance changed to a domestic cat.  Then during the times when the Greek occupied Egypt, she changed again to a goddess of the moon.

 

So Bast become Bastet and took the appearance of a domestic cat.  Why would a cat still be important?

 

Cats were revered highly because they could catch and kill threats to the fragile food supply like rats and mice and snakes.  So much so they were mummified before burial.  More than 300,000 mummified cats were discovered when Basts’ temple at Per-Bast was excavated.

 

What about Sekhmet?  Was she also a lion who changed to a cat?

 

Sekhmet was a warrior lioness goddess of Upper Egypt, the lioness being the fiercest hunter the Egyptians knew.  They thought her breath created the desert and so she was a protector of the pharaohs.  She was also a solar deity and became more powerful than Bast, so was seen as ‘The Avenger of Wrongs.’  Sekhmet was also seen as a bringer of disease as well as a healer of those diseases, with her worship centered in Memphis.  ‘She Who Is Powerful’ was depicted as a woman with the head of a lioness.  Pyramid texts themselves say the Pharaoh was conceived by Sekhmet who was the wife of Ptah, ‘The Creator.’ Other myths say she was created by the fire of Ra’s eye to use her as a weapon of vengeance to destroy men because of their wicked ways.  Sekhmet is the Goddess of the West and Bastet is the Goddess of the East.  Both are shown with heads of lionesses with Bastet wearing green and Sekhmet wearing red. 

 

So that’s why this statue has a jeweled collar of red and green gems.  A while back I even saw a refrigerator magnet with a picture like this statue on it.  Quite a contrast between being considered goddesses and being on a fridge magnet.  But why are you still here?

 

I was always confused as to who I really was and my mistress expected two different behaviors—sometimes I should be like a lioness, the aggressive war goddess, and other times I should be gentle like a healer and docile protector of pregnant women.  Mistress would encourage me to be ‘Avenger of Wrongs’ and ‘Lady of Slaughter,’ both titles of my suffix namesake.  But then would be upset when I caught a rat and brought it home to her to show I was the ‘Lady of Slaughter.’  No, now she preferred for me to be tame like the mummified cats.   

 

And all I wanted was to be me—a kitten needing to be petted and loved and let to develop naturally, not forced into predetermined roles.

 

Would you mind if I write your story down?  Because this also applies to modern day parents and children.

 

It does?  How?  I thought it was because I couldn’t talk to my mistress.

 

No.  Even when children are all grown up and can discuss issues like this with their parents, it usually doesn’t help.  Because parents who try to force children into a mold they want usually aren’t able to truly listen and understand what is being said.  Parents who listen and understand from the beginning usually tend not to force anything on anyone.  They realize each has their own way to grow into their adult selves. 

 

 

By this time the kitten was curled up in Thalia’s lap, purring as she was stroked.  She stretched out, putting her front paws on Thalia’s shoulders.  Thank you for listening and helping me to understand I was not alone in dealing with the expectations of others.  I would be verrrrry happppy for you to wrrrrite my storrrry.  I just wwwwanted to be mmmmme and not torrrrn in two diffferrrrent dirrrrections.  Can you call mmmmme Kitty?

 

 “My pleasure, Kitty.  You’re such a sweet kitten.  And your fur is so silky, Kitty.”

 

The purring increased in volume as Kitty’s substance solidified and matured.  Thalia and Kitty rubbed noses.  Then both Kitty’s purring and her body faded and disappeared as Thalia continued to stroke the empty air while thinking of an anonymous quote she had seen: “Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as gods.  Cats have never forgotten this.”  One more contrast.  Treated as goddesses and important enough to be preserved as mummies but now the likeness is on refrigerator magnets.  She said ‘NO’ to both aspects—she just wanted to be Kitty.

(see also http://cityofladies.wordpress.com/2008/08/02/hall-of-remembrances-divided-identities/#comments)

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