A cat tale
Cats were a revered animal in Egypt. Egypt had a cat goddess, Bast or Bastet, and all cats themselves were considered demigods. Cats lived pretty cushy lives, better so than many of the people of Egypt themselves.
Egypt's original use of cats was to keep the royal granaries and such of Egypt vermin free. The cat's job itself was not so simple; the vermin bred quite rapidly and ate like kings in the mountains of grain. The Pharaoh realized that he needed all the cats he could get, and being a king-god himself he made the cats demigods. All cats were considered property of the Pharaohs, because a human can't own a demigod, but can feed, and shelter one. As a result of all cats being not only demigods also Pharaoh property, it was a felony to kill or injure one, even by accident, the consequence sometimes resulting in death. If a house caught on fire the cats were the first to be rescued, then the humans.
If a cat died in the normal course of events, the household went into special ritualistic mourning where the humans shaved off their eyebrows, chanted while beating their breasts, and demonstrating other outward signs of grief at their loss. The body of the cat was first brought to a priest to make sure the death of the cat was natural, after that was finished with the body was brought to an embalmer to be mummified.
Aided by the priests, the belief that cats had a strong influence upon things such as health, marriage, and fortune spread over Egypt quite rapidly. The cat goddess Bastet, often depicted with a cat's head and a woman's body, was the goddess of family and life. Bast is often seen holding in her left hand an utchat, an all seeing cat eye amulet that was believed to have magical powers. The utchat was seen in kitchens, on necklaces, on doors, and many other places because it was believed to watch over people and served as some sort of protection.
The ancient Egyptian love for cats is incomparable to that of any other civilization. They were held as greatly needed by city workers, beyond reproach and dearly loved family members. Their deaths were as upsetting as that of a human, if not more, and their all seeing eyes were amulets for those in need of protection. Today cats are no longer demigods or city workers, but in many cases they are still dearly loved family members.
Photo By: TSE