Bastet and Apep are two of the most famous and powerful deities in ancient Egyptian mythology. They represent the eternal struggle between order and chaos, light and darkness, life and death. But how did Bastet, the cat goddess of protection, joy, and fertility, manage to defeat Apep, the serpent god of destruction, evil, and chaos? In this blog post, we will explore the myth and symbolism of their epic battle.
Bastet is the daughter of Ra, the sun god and the supreme ruler of the gods. She was originally depicted as a lioness goddess, like her sister Sekhmet, but later became more associated with cats, which were revered animals in ancient Egypt. She was worshipped in her cult center at Bubastis, where a large festival was held in her honor every year. She was also seen as a goddess of music, dance, perfume, and healing.
Apep is the enemy of Ra and all that he stands for. He was a giant snake or dragon that lurked in the underworld, waiting for his chance to attack Ra and his solar barge as they traveled through the sky and the netherworld. He was the embodiment of chaos (isfet) that threatened to overthrow the cosmic order (maat) established by Ra. He was also associated with storms, eclipses, darkness, and death.
Every night, Bastet would accompany her father Ra on his journey through the underworld, where he had to face many dangers and obstacles. The most formidable of them was Apep, who would try to swallow Ra and his sun disk, plunging the world into darkness and chaos. Bastet would use her sharp claws and teeth to fight off Apep and protect her father from his ambush. She would also use her magical powers to create spells and charms that would weaken Apep and make him vulnerable.
In some versions of the myth, Bastet would also enlist the help of other gods and goddesses to defeat Apep. For example, she would ask Set, the god of storms and violence, to use his thunderbolts to strike Apep. She would also ask Thoth, the god of wisdom and magic, to use his words of power to confuse Apep. She would also ask Isis, the goddess of magic and healing, to use her spells to bind Apep.
Eventually, Bastet would succeed in killing Apep or driving him away from Ra’s barge. She would then celebrate her victory with music and dance, rejoicing in her father’s safe passage. She would also receive praise and gratitude from Ra and the other gods for her courage and loyalty.
Bastet’s defeat of Apep was not only a mythological story but also a symbolic representation of the natural cycle of day and night, sunrise and sunset, life and death. It also reflected the Egyptian belief in maat , or cosmic order and balance that Bastet helped to maintain and restore every night. By worshipping Bastet and following her example, the Egyptians hoped to achieve harmony with themselves, their society, and their environment.
Bastet’s defeat of Apep also inspired many artistic expressions in ancient Egypt. Her image was carved on temples, tombs, statues, amulets, jewelry, and other objects. Her name was written with a hieroglyph that depicted a cat or a lioness head with an ointment jar (bast). Her story was told in hymns , prayers , spells , books , and paintings . Her cult center at Bubastis was one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in ancient Egypt.
Bastet’s defeat of Apep is one of the most fascinating aspects of Egyptian mythology. It reveals how the ancient Egyptians perceived and celebrated their most vital natural phenomenon: the sun. It also shows how they connected their religion , culture , history , art , and science with their environment .