Bast the Cat and the Queen of Wands


I often draw a random tarot card in the morning to see what images related to the card will cross my path during the day.  One recent morning I drew the Queen of Wands from the Waite-Smith deck:

Waite-Smith Queen of Wands (1909)

Shortly thereafter I was browsing Facebook and came across a cartoon featuring the Celtic horned god Cernunnos and the Egyptian cat goddess Bast:

In ancient Egypt cats were revered much as cows are today in India.  Not long ago National Geographic reported that under the streets of modern-day Alexandria Egyptian archaeologists had discovered a temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Bast or Bastet, built by Queen Berenike II, wife of Greek King Ptolemy III, who ruled Egypt from 246 to 221 B.C.

The goddess Bast (Baast, Bastet, Ubasti, Pasht) came to be depicted as a woman with the head of a domesticated cat, much as astrologers today depict the Sagittarian centaur as a horse with the torso of a man.  Bast gradually morphed from a fierce lioness to a female goddess with the head of a lion, and finally to a rattle-carrying goddess with the head of a domestic cat who likes to be pampered.

Egyptian cat goddess Bast (Bastet)

Bast was associated with sunlight because she was the daughter of the sun-god Amun Ra.  Among her many titles were Lady of Flame, Eye of Ra, Lady of the East, Goddess of the Rising Sun, Soul of Isis, Goddess of Pleasure; and Holder of Utchat, the sacred all-seeing eye of Horus.  Her many roles included protector of Egypt, defender of the pharaoh, goddess of firefighters, and protector of the home and pregnant women.  Cats in Egypt were especially revered for their ability to combat vermin and poisonous snakes.

Herodotus, a Greek historian who traveled to Egypt in the 5th century BCE, described the Festival of Bast:

“…thousands of men and women travelled on boats, partying like crazy. They had music, singing, clapping and dancing. When they passed towns, the women would call out dirty jokes to the shore-bound, often flashing the townsfolk by lifting up their skirts over their heads! When they reached Bubastis, they made their sacrifices of various animals, and drank as much wine as they could stomach.”

Because the Queen of Wands was already on my mind, I began to see many similarities between the attributes of the Egyptian cat-goddess Bast and the modern attributions of the Queen of Wands.  For quite some time my personal mental shorthand for the Queen of Wands has been “the cat lady,” so this association did not come as a great surprise.  According to the description at http://www.goddess-guide.com/bast.html , Bast can be associated with the following:

  •  As a fierce lioness, she takes control and aggressively protects her young as well as others under her care.
  • As a goddess of sunlight (daughter of solar god Ra), she is associated with the Greek element Fire, which typically is related to the phallic suit of Wands in the tarot and to the astrological fire signs: Aries the Ram (who likes to butt heads and kick butt), Leo the Lion (who likes to roar, be in charge and command attention), and Sagittarius the Man-horse or Centaur (who likes to roam freely, seek adventure, and gallop unrestrainedly through the forest).
  • As a goddess of the royal flame, she destroys the bodies of the dead who fail the feather-test judgment of Maat, but she protects firefighters through her ability to escape from fire unscathed by its flames.  She is also able to light the fire of sexual desire.
  • As a domestic cat deity, she is able to propagate like a rabbit and is goddess of fertility and children.
  • As a domestic cat goddess, she is able to protect homes from rats, snakes, thieves and other varmints.
  • Through the rattle that she carries, she is linked to music, dance, revelry, celebration, pleasures (and perhaps also to babies).
  • Her hieroglyph is also used to represent a ceramic jar that holds expensive perfumes.  She likes to dress to the nines and enjoy sensual pleasures.
  • As a symbol of a warrior, Bast embodies ideas about establishing personal independence and a firm sense of self, standing up for one’s rights, setting clear personal boundaries, and defending those one cares about.
  • As a symbol of a lover, Bast embodies ideas about looking for love, enjoying the finer things in life, and discovering where one’s true passion lies.

Compare the description of Bast with the following excerpt about the Queen of Wands from Wikipedia:

“The Queen of Wands combines the properties of the Suit of Wands, associated with elemental fire, with the figure of the Queen, which embodies nurturing, feminine, inwardly-focused and embracing personality.…a vivacious and warm personality, full of a fiery passion put to the service of encouragement, assurement, attraction, esteem, and enthusiasm. … The lions on the back of her throne are associated with the element fire. Her golden attire shows that she is strong and her fire is burning with great intensity. The desert behind her is another indicator of fire. The rocks on the right side of her throne can show toughness, a hard soul, her independence.  She is holding a sunflower. …The sun in astrology is considered to be the ruling planet of the sign of Leo [the Lion].”

It does seem that the modern Queen of Wands and the ancient cat goddess Bast are manifestations of the same universal archetype which recurs at different periods of history and in different cultures.  From now on when the Queen of Wands shows up in a tarot reading, I will ask myself what the goddess Bast is trying to tell me.

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About Anthony Louis

Author of books about astrology and tarot, including TAROT PLAIN AND SIMPLE, HORARY ASTROLOGY, and THE ART OF FORECASTING WITH SOLAR RETURNS.
This entry was posted in Astrology, Tarot and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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