This weeks wild wisdom soul story takes us to the hot climes of Egypt while also bringing us surprisingly close to home wherever that might be.
This lioness goddess of Egypt later became associated with cats. She is known for protection her name often being spelled as ‘ointment jar’ in ancient sites. In Egypt she is known for protective ointments to repel illness and evil. The original meaning of her name is not clear, as in the case of so many deities, being referred to indirectly with euphemisms. Cats were instrumental in protecting the grain from the mice making sure their human counterparts were well fed. This solar goddess is seen as guarding against contagious diseases and evil spirits. As the Eye of Ra she was seen as defender against chaos and darkness.
Bast does however have a playful side, just as cats do.
Protector of the Living
Bast is therefore seen as a protectress of Ra the great sun god. His mortal enemy was the snake god Apep of the underworld, and ‘Eater of Souls’ and bringer of darkness and evil. In this the dead were therefore thought of needing protection as did the living. No wonder the Egyptians revered cats showing such devotion that they had their cats mummified upon death.
Bast has been equated with Artemis by the Greeks. As a bear goddess this parallel is interesting as in ancient bear history they are also seen as protectors of souls as well as giving protection to the living. At the cave of Speos Artemidos (Grotto of Artemis) in Egypt there are two temples here, both of which are dedicated to Pakhet who is known to be a fusion of both Bast and Sekhmet, the two cat goddesses. Near these temples large numbers of mummified cats filled the catacombs. Curiously this association may not be as farfetched as might seem. In fact, bears did indeed once roam Egypt. The Syrian brown bear occurred in the Middle East from Turkey to Turkmenistan. Today, the brown bear is no longer found in Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the State of Palestine, and survives only in Turkey, Iran and Iraq. Local people in the Black Sea region still hunt bears illegally for bear fat, which is thought to have medicinal value. Bear fat as an ointment has been seen as having magical and medicinal properties in many cultures across the world. Bears are as home around trees as cats are.
About these wild wisdom soul stories. You take this as you wish, as a mythic exploration, spiritual gift, positive psychological programming whatever … but I offer it to you in the hope that it will serve you some good purpose. The tree teachings, #forestbathing #meditations and #wildwisdom #soulstories are not pre-planned, I don’t have the year ahead mapped out with neat little diagrams and to do lists and pre-prepared old last years’ materials. No ... these are the fresh green shoots of inspirations sent forth from the trees. I don’t care what your belief system is … in times of mass extinction, and #climatechange, my conviction is that if we connect personally with trees and nature this can only serve both us and the #earth well … I hope you agree. These stories are ancient but they are as relevant now as they ever were. They come alive when we interact with them. They are the history and archaeology of nature, culture, of our souls and so much more. But they are not dead relics they are living right now. We are a world communiTree. When we connect with wisdom from across the world we create new opportunities for learning. Each being and story featured each week is of course a brief glimpse. If you feel drawn to a particular one you could study it in greater depth and pay homage to the culture within which it arose.
Trees and their connection to Bast.
Trees, you might say, worship the sun. They open their leaves to the days of spring and summer, absorbing heat and transforming through photosynthesis, light into life. Their shade keeps the earth cool. One reason why they have such an important role to play in global warming and combatting climate change. I wrote about this in a rewilding article.
Bast is often shown holding the ankh (representing the breath of life). Like this goddess, trees too, protect against contagious disease. I wrote an in depth article about how trees help protect us from coronavirus. They absorb toxins from the air protecting us just as cats caught and killed snakes in ancient Egypt. They bring us protection by keeping our lungs strong and healthy enabling us to fight off illness in much the same way as this goddess wards off evil spirits.
I wrote recently of trees protecting and feeding children. This goddess is a protector of life. She is also a fierce huntress hunting down and killing all those who would seek to devour hard won harvests. To have food security is to have power over our own lives. In the wild world all is balanced between predator and prey. In learning to plant and protect trees we have the chance to stop being mice devouring the earths’ harvest and become its protectors instead.
I have taken a playful approach to Bast and have allowed my love of my local folklore and stories to connect my little corner of England to the hot climes of Egypt. I love ginger cats. I also like the Alice in Wonderland story too and as Lewis Carroll grew up in Cheshire it seemed fitting to draw the Cheshire Cat!
Wildness and Domestication
This goddess lithe and nimble, leaping from bough to bough, self-assured and in full possession of her own self. Even the humble domestic cat contains the origins of wildness. Of course, they always know the warmest spots to lie down, reclining in comfort. We too can do this when we lie back, relax and look above our heads. In the tree teaching I spoke of being fully present and owning your space. Have you ever known a cat that didn’t do just this? Cats and trees show us how to occupy a space in time and place being uniquely themselves. It is a lesson we would do well to learn. Even the most domesticated among us can have those moments when all thoughts drop away and we can sit and just simply be.
Cats do not stay on the level, they are not ground bound but wander with ease equally at home striding across a lawn as they are across a rooftop or branch. Cats of course can be found across the world so adept are they at making home anywhere. We humans could learn a thing or two about being flexible, about stretching our domains from merely what is plonked in front of our noses. So look up, look up to the green canopies of the trees, let go of being human and just sit with your wild human nature.
A goddess of the sun she casts light across the darkest places, we need the vision to do the same.
Blessings as ever Amanda Claire x
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