|In early Egyptian
mythology, Mafdet (also spelt
Maftet) was the deification of legal
justice, or rather of execution. Thus
she was also associated with the protection
of the king's chambers and other sacred
places, and with protection against
venomous animals, which were seen
as transgressors against Ma'at.
Since venomous animals such as
scorpions, and snake, are killed
by felines, Mafdet was seen as a
feline goddess, although it is uncertain
whether she was meant to be a cat,
panther, or mongoose. In reflection
of the manner in which these animals
kill snakes, her name means (she
who) runs swiftly, and she was given
titles such as slayer of serpents.
In art, Mafdet was shown as a feline, or a woman with a feline
head, or a feline with a woman's head, sometimes with braided
hair which ended in the tails of scorpions. She was also depicted
as a feline running up the side of an executioner's staff.
It was said that Mafdet ripped out the hearts of wrong-doers,
delivering them personally to the pharaoh's feet, in a similar
manner as domestic cats present people with rodents or birds
that they have killed or maimed. During the New Kingdom, Mafdet
was seen as ruling over the judgement hall in Duat.
Her cult was eventually replaced by that of Bast,
another cat-goddess, who was seen as the pharaoh's protector.
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