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Discovery Magazine 08/01/2000

Cats of Bubastis

An angry mob assembled around a house in Egypt where a Roman soldier was hiding. The soldier supposedly had killed an Egyptian cat, and in those days killing a cat in the land of Egypt was a terrible crime punishable by death. The mob demanded that the soldier be brought to justice and killed for his crime. Although the soldier pleaded innocent, he was dead by the next morning.

To people in the Western countries in the year 2000, such harsh punishment makes little sense. But to an Egyptian 2500 years ago, it was the right thing to do. Egyptians protected cats because they associated them with gods and goddesses. One Egyptian goddess, whose name was Bast, was pictured as having the body of a woman and the head of a cat. She was the mythical goddess who represented life and warmth. Every year a huge festival would be held to honor Bast in the city of Bubastis. Sometimes about 700,000 people would visit during this feast. The Egyptians loved to worship their cats and their cat goddess.

In fact, cats were so important in Egypt that people often strange things for them. If an Egyptian saw a dead cat in the street, he would cry and mourn loudly so that no one would think he had killed the cat. Imagine your parents stopping the car to weep loudly beside every dead cat you saw on the road! Also, if a family's cat died, the family members were supposed to shave their eyebrows to show that they were very sad. Some cats were even mummified and buried with mummified mice placed next to them.

Cats were so important in ancient Egypt that some people even risked their own lives to save their furry friends. If a house was burning and a cat was inside, people would rush into the fire to rescue the animal.

The value of cats has dropped tremendously in Egypt. Today you will not find Egyptians worshiping and serving cats. Instead, you will find thousands of cats digging through garbage trying to find enough food to survive. Egyptians have realized that cats aren't gods at all.

Throughout the history of the world people have worshiped and served many different things. Let us pray that everyone will start worshiping the one true God—the God of the Bible.

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