Ancient Egyptian Religion
Bronze Age—Iron Age Ancient Egypt, Bubastis, Lower Egypt.
The temple of Bastet had a waterway running around it, a statue of Bastet herself, the cat goddess, and lots of friendly, well-looked-after cats lying around, sitting, sunning themselves.
'What would you have felt when you were walking around?' asked Miranda.
'In the Temple of Bastet at Bubastis east of the Nile Delta, seventy miles northeast of Memphis? It was a lovely place by all accounts.' said Quintin. 'Set in a depression, not as large as some temple compounds elsewhere, with a waterway running around it, a statue of Bastet herself, the cat goddess, at its centre and lots of friendly, well-looked-after cats lying around, sitting, sunning themselves. People of the time really liked it. They had festivals there and things.'
'You would also know, like everybody else, that when a family pet or a cat whose job it was to keep down the mice around a granary died, it would be given exactly the same funerary treatment as a human,' replied Miranda. 'A huge graveyard of mummified cats was found in Egypt in the late Victorian period, over eighty-thousand mummies, all of the second millennium BC. And thousands more have been found elsewhere. So what would you feel as you stroked one of these cats sitting in the dappled sunlight beneath a fig tree in the temple compound, as the cat responded to your touch and jumped up to be friendly, looking you straight in the eye and wanting to play? Knowing as you do the stories of the goddess Bastet? Knowing, perhaps, that the whole idea behind mummification was to imitate the pupae of the scarab beetle that renews itself from the crud. And don't forget that Herodotus, the Greek historian writing in the sixth century BC, said of the Egyptians that they believed in the immortality of the soul and:
maintain that after death it enters another creature at the moment of that creature's birth. It then makes the round of all living things – animals, birds, and fish – until it finally passes once again, at birth, into the body of a man. What would the priestess have taught you when you were a child?'
'That animals have the same soul as a human.'