Bastet is the Egyptian cat-headed goddess. She was admired for her agility and strength. She was strictly a solar goddess until the arrival of Greek influence on Egypt, when she became a lunar goddess, as the Greeks associated her with Artemis. She is depicted most commonly as a woman with the head of a domesticated or wild cat or lion, or as a cat itself. She was originally portrayed as either a lioness or a wild desert cat, and was only associated with domesticated felines as late as 1000 BC. She was also sometimes shown holding a sistrum. It was common for her to be paired with Sekhmet (the lion-headed goddess of Memphis), Wadjet, and Hathor. She is also the goddess of fire and cats, and ruled over pleasure, dancing, music and joy. She was also called 'Lady of the East' (Sekhmet was 'Lady of the West'). Bastet was the daughter and wife of Ra, and mother of Khensu and Maahes. She was also one of the 'Eyes of Ra'- the title of avenger gods who were sent out to lay waste to enemies of Egypt and her gods. She has two sides to her personality- docile and aggressive. Her gentle, docile side is displayed in her role as protector of the home and pregnant women. Her vicious, aggressive nature was exposed in accounts of the battles in which the Pharaoh slaughtered the enemy as Bastet slaughtered her victims.
This goddess originated in the Nile Delta, but by 930 BC, she was acknowledged by all Egyptians. She dates from the 2nd Dynasty (around 2890-2686 BC). The cult of Bastet was located in Bubastis (also called Per-Bast, Pa-Bast, Pibeseth, or Tell-Basta), in the eastern Delta, from at least the 4th Dynasty. Bubastis was the capital of Egypt for a dynasty, said to possess the land's greatest temple, and a few kings took her name into their royal titles. Excavations of the city have yielded many discoveries, including a cemetery with mummified holy cats. In her temple, there were kept sacred cats who were thought to be incarnations of the goddess. When they died, they were carefully mummified.
Bastet's chief festivals were celebrated in April and May. Great celebrations were held, and flower-laden barges of worshippers- hundreds of thousands of them- were greeted by flute melodies as they disembarked for a worship service and vast trade fair. Her followers believed that in return for this enormous and orgiastic celebration, Bastet bestowed both mental and physical well being.