Photo by tiny_packages
I am not talking about the love of cats and animals in this post but idolatry and superstition. This is not a scientific article but an expression of opinion. Worship is the expression of a profound and submissive respect (src: oldpaths.com). Humans have a propensity to worship things greater than themselves. It is reassuring. You feel better, safer and it gives the hope of a better life. In the past certain peoples worshipped cats. We know of the God Bastet from ancient Egypt.
Bast developed into an immensely popular and important deity representing fertility, motherhood, protection, and the benevolent aspects of the sun..
Bastet is the deification of the cat. Why? Well the answer is hard to find but it was probably due to a long term reverence for the domestic cat as at that time it was particularly useful in catching rodents and snakes. However, cat worship was dangerous for the cat because it was not really the worship of a cat. It was the worship of something greater than the Egyptian people (a god) in the form of a cat (an animal that they knew well and admired and which they had domesticated from the African wild cat probably by taking and hand raising cubs).
Statues were made of Bastet (or Bast) and cats mummified and offered to the god. They were then buried in nearby cat cemeteries. However commercialism always rears its ugly head. It is said that priests killed and preserved cats bred for the purpose of creating an offering to the god. Yet it was a crime of the highest order to kill a cat at that time in Egypt even if it was an accident. How do these square up? And there were over 300,000 mummified cats at the temple of Bast when excavated. Did all these cats die naturally? Apparently there was a large colony of temple cats at the temple of Bast.
The temple's cat population, while respected, was extremely large and needed to be moderated by the periodic sacrificial culling of kittens, which were then mummified and sold to pilgrims as relics.
More cat cruelty, then. Temple cats are commonplace today, in fact. Although they aren’t sacrificed to a god. In fact this website makes a monthly contribution to the upkeep of an entire colony of temple cats! (see PoC Donations). In another aside legend states that the Birman cat has its origins in a temple cat.
The impression we have of the ancient Egyptian era is that the Egyptians were great cat lovers and that it was a golden era for the then newly domesticated cat. But I don’t see it that way. The cat was domesticated because it was useful. It was a working animal. It was used as a sacrifice to their god to appease the god. Accordingly, the cat was used to improve the lives of the people of Egypt, no more or less. And the cat sometimes suffered as a result. And in Egypt the cat still suffers.
In Egypt today the Egyptian Mau (possibly the domestic version of the wild cat ancestor) has turned wild again (become feral) and is persecuted. In the west, say in America, it is bred to show at cat shows and win prizes. But all this is done for us not for the cat.
A more respectful approach to the cat is found in the Islam faith. I made a post about that some time ago: Islam Faith. This is starkly contrasted by attitudes in medieval Christian Europe where the cat was satanized: Medieval Cats (new window). This shows the irrational and unpredictable nature of human thought as contrasted by the highly predictable and rational thought of the cat! Incidentally, the Hindu and Parsee religions require respect for all living creatures (see Indian Cats and Law)
I have mentioned the domestic cat above. The wild cat has been worshipped. It still is, in a distorted way. The mighty jaguar one of the big cats has been worshipped in South America. It was and still is associated with power and strength. I refer to this in an article about the jaguar wild cat.
But the worship of a wild cat because it has strength and characteristics that we admire is not good for the cat. This is dangerous and misguided cat worship. It inevitably leads to the death of the cat one way or another over time. This is because if the human admires the strength of a wildcat he is also frightened of it. And what we are frightened of we ultimately kill.
The worse kind of cat worship is one where we like to eat it to see if we can take from it, its superior characteristics of strength and sexual potency. This is one cause of the demise of the proud tiger. Its bones have become more valuable than precious stones and gold. (please see Tiger Bone and Tiger).
Cat Worship - Photo of statue of Bastet RHS of page: published under a Attribution 2.0 Generic creative commons license - by soham_pablo