“The mystical divinity of unashamed felinity, round the cathedral rang ‘Vivat!’ Life to the Everlasting Cat!” I’m not sure if this is T. S. Eliot, Andrew Lloyd Webber, or a chimeric mix of the two, but it is an interesting bit of mythology. My daughter is the consummate Cats fan and has been asking me to write a post on Cats and religion. When I read (or hear) the above lines of poetry, I must confess, my mind wanders to Xenophanes who stated that if horses could draw they would draw their gods like horses. Ditto for cats.
Everlasting cats, however, have their roots deep in religions of the ancient world. Although the word “cat” never occurs in the Bible (“dog” is there plenty of times, with even a “bitch” or two) cats are certainly within the biblical culture. Eternal Egypt knew of an everlasting cat — Bastet, the “cat goddess.”Hailing from Bubastis, Bastet (I just can’t call her Bast, since it sounds like slathering meat with some kind of ambiguous liquid, something I can’t stomach as a vegetarian) seems likely to have some connection with the sun. Regarding yesterday’s post, the ancient Egyptians had a plethora, a veritable superabundance even, of solar deities. Bastet was called the Eye of Ra. She was also associated with war, appropriate enough to anyone who’s read Erin Hunter’s Warrior series. As a goddess, Bastet qualifies as an everlasting cat.
So do the numerous cat mummies from ancient Egypt. Preservation of the body was an aspect of realizing life beyond life for the Egyptians. It would also obviously help to keep the mice out of heaven. T. S. Eliot was C. of E. (Church of England, not Copt of Egypt) and had a savvy sense of wit. Ignoring the biblical snubbing of cats, he named the wisest and most respected of Old Possum’s Practical Cats with a biblical name — Old Deuteronomy. Although I am not a cat owner (is anybody really a cat owner?), I do have great respect for felines, mystical or not. And I am not alone as long as the ancient Egyptians kept a mummy or two around and an Eye of Ra to keep that solar barque on its course.