All the internet memes say so. But is it really true?
With millions of cat mummies buried in vast catacombs across Egypt, and feline-headed statues in museums around the world, you could be forgiven for thinking that cats were worshipped as gods.
Sadly (for cat lovers), it's not exactly true.
In fact, contrary to popular opinion, the Egyptians rarely worshipped any animals as deities. The most notable living animal god was the Apis Bull, with its distinctive markings, regarded as a manifestation of the Memphis creator god Ptah.
The cat mummy in your local museum was neither a sacred animal or a pet. It was a votive offering - a messenger to heaven.
To carry a prayer specifically to the goddess Bastet, who manifested herself as a cat, the person in need of some divine favour made an offering of a cat mummy. In this way the donor hoped that their prayer would be addressed to the goddess throughout eternity.
If you ever needed convincing that cats weren't actually worshipped in ancient Egypt, consider that most of the mummified cats were actually kittens, killed en masse to feed a huge demand for mummies. Murdering a furry earthly god is hardly the thing to do before you ask a favour of it.
Large scale animal mummification came about late in Egypt's history, from the 7th-century on, through to the Ptolemaic Period (332-30 B.C.)
A very few cat mummies were given expensive coffins to help protect the linen-wrapped bundle, and ensure the perpetual flow of devotion to, and divine benefits from Bastet This wonderful little bronze cat coffin is from Egypt's Late Period (25th - 30th Dynasties, 747 - 332 B.C.)
Private collection. Photo: Axel Vervoordt.
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