By: April Carson
At first, the domestication of cats was thought to have occurred in ancient Mesopotamia. But recent archaeological evidence has changed that theory and now it is believed that domestication occurred much sooner and somewhere else. In 2004, a 9500-year-old grave was found containing a human who had been buried together with a cat. In ancient Egypt, cats also became a symbol of divine power. Cats were worshipped as early as 3100 BC and they eventually became one of the most valued and frequently-used animals in the lives of people there.
There is a long history of human beings associating cats with divinity, and the tradition continues in modern times. The Ancient Egyptians worshiped many gods but one was very closely associated to felines: their goddess Bastet who had a cat's head as well as all other parts of her body. Cats were so important to these people that they even mummified them when they died.
Goddess Bastet -
The legend of the Egyptian cat goddess, Bastet, may actually be a result of Egyptians worshiping domesticated cats. Bastet was one of the most important deities in ancient Egypt-- she was revered as a bringer of health and fertility to people and even as a protectress. Many depictions show her holding an ankh in her paw or on her forehead (which is how you can tell it's a representation of Bastet, because she always holds this ankh in Egyptian art). By the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt, around 1650 BC, her cult became so popular that it eventually spread to other countries. She was also associated with the Eye of Ra -- and sometimes wearing the Eye of Ra at her neck.
Bastet was associated with the sistrum, which was a musical rattle-like instrument that was used in sacred rituals. Bastet is known to be one of the earliest deities worshiped in ancient Egypt, and even predates the more popular deities like Horus and Isis.
The Divine Symbols -
Many symbols used in ancient Egyptian art make appearances, including hieroglyphics and obelisks. One of the most important animals to Egyptians was cats because they were useful predators for both food sources as well as catching mice that could ruin supplies kept by people on their boats along the Nile River. Cats also became a symbol of divinity and protection over time-- which is why there are so many cat references found throughout Egypt's history!
For thousands of years, Egyptians worshipped a variety of creatures. Animals were respected for different reasons. Dogs were valued for their potency to defend and hunt, while cats were considered the most unique. Cats were regarded as magical beings that might bring good fortune to those who adopted them. They were believed to have powerful senses and the ability to understand people. Cats could even predict an upcoming disaster or sense if a person was evil.
People began worshiping cats as far back as 3100 B.C., when they were considered a symbol of grace and poise because they killed the poisonous animals that caused harm by entering homes in search of food.
Cats were also one of the few beings in ancient Egypt that could kill a snake, which was revered as a magical and mysterious creature. With time the cat's status only increased. By 1,600 B.C., cats became associated with spiritualism for many Egyptians to the point where they were considered gods and goddesses.
Cat Worshipping -
Cats were adored and revered throughout history, and cats had their own distinctive kingdom. People began to celebrate the annual day of felines on December 19th, partly as a tribute to these cherished pets. Wealthy families adorned them in jewels and fed them royal meals in order to commemorate them. When the cats died, they were mummified.
Cats were so beloved by the Egyptians that anyone who killed one, even unintentionally, was subject to capital punishment which was death.
The Egyptians worshipped cats as gods and believed cats were the physical forms of the gods that governed the forces of nature. They worshipped them in order to bring out these desired traits within themselves. Cats became divine symbols for the Egyptians and played a significant role in the lives of those who lived thousands of years ago.