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Bastet

Figura Obscura
by yo go re

A tisket, a tasket, it's time to review Bastet.

Once a fierce lioness warrior and a goddess of the sun, Bastet's role changed during the course of ancient Egyptian history. Her sister, Sekhmet, is also a feline-headed deity, which can make it difficult to differentiate between the two in the iconography of these ancient times. Although early stories do little to distinguish these two daughters of the sun god Ra as individuals, later tales attribute many of the vicious and vengeful aspects of these deities to Sekhmet, while Bastet became the "Mother of Cats," which is how she is commonly known today. In addition to her connection to the sun and to felines, Bastet is also a fertility goddess and the realms of pregnancy and childbirth are part of her domain.

Bastet is often depicted as a protector who accompanies her father on his daily chariot ride as he pulls the sun through the sky. At night, Bastet transforms into a cat who protects Ra from the serpent Apep, a chaotic being who embodies darkness and disorder. Ancient stories tell of the battles between Ra and Apep. In one account, Ra is said to have taken on the form of a cat to defeat his evil enemy. Many other interpretations of this story say that it was actually Bastet whose claws and teeth kept the serpent at bay and protected the world from plunging into darkness and chaos.

Bast is the first female character in Figura Obscura line, and she's just as much a new sculpt as Anubis was. To give an "ancient Egypt" feel, she uses the torso of Illythia, because those wrapped bands of cloth give her a "mummy" vibe, though apparently the piece has been reculpted from scratch. Has it? It certainly looks the same, so if it was that seems like a waste of time. The bit between her shoulderblades, where wings or armor would pop in if she had any, might be minorly different? It's hard to see the details on Illythia's since it's all black.

Her limbs are new as well, sculpted with bands around her biceps, wrists, and ankles. Some of the parts have already been reused for Mythic Legions figures that went up for preorder prior to the reveal of this figure, but this is still where they originated. Like Anubis (who would be her... step-brother? Half-brother sometimes?), she wears a fancy usekh collar, though hers has a golden falcon on the front. She also wears a much simpler belt, just cloth with a feline head clasp in the center and a flap in the back. The figure's skirt and loincloth are softgoods with posing wires in the hems, but blend with the upper body's sculpted bandages very well.

Like the Anubis toy, this one includes multiple heads. Unlike the Anubis toy, these multiple heads may not simply be different stylistic representations. And that means it's time for you to get a history lesson! *cheap DJ airhorn sound!!* The bio at the top of the review briefly touched on this, but there were two cat-head goddesses in Egypt: Bast, who was a housecat cat, and Sekhmet, who was a lion cat.

Sekhmet was created when Ra got angry that humans weren't worshipping him enough, so he plucked out his own eye, which turned into Sekhmet and began killing all the humans. All the humans. Recognizing that their powers came from the number of worshippers they had, and that there would be no one left to worship them if all the humans ended up getting shred-murdered by the angry lion lady, the other gods made Ra tell Sekhmet to stop. He did. She didn't. So they all came up with a plan: they made a lake of beer, dyed it red so Sekhmet would think it was human blood, and she drank it all and passed out.

While Sekhmet was whiskey-dicking it there on the ground, Ra showed up and took back some of his power from her. Now, depending on which tradition you follow, this power was turned into Bast, was turned into Hathor, was turned into Bast and Hathor, or just the general power loss turned Sekhmet into Bast. Like Sekhmet had been Dark Phoenix and Bast was now Jean Grey. Also, Egyptians weren't too put off by remixing their deities as the story required, so it really could have been all three, with Sekhmet, Bast, and Hathor all being aspects of the same single being, which would explain why all three of them are sun goddesses despite their provinces being otherwise pretty distinct. Or maybe Bastet and Hathor are two separate people who Dragon Ball Fusion Dance into Sekhmet whenever a war goddess is needed.

AAaaaaaaaanyway, this toy has four heads, two sculpted to look anatomical and two sculpted to look representational, and in each of those pairs, there's one that's smooth on the back and one that's designed to plug into the included wig, just like Anubis had. In ancient depictions, the easiest way to tell what was supposed to be Bastet and what was supposed to be Sekhmet was if she had hair or not - yes, despite Sekhmet being a lioness, the Egyptians were basically representing the "lion" part of it by giving her a mane. Both the "statue/mask" heads are sculpted here with a golden scarab on the forehead, while the "natural" head that can't use the hair has nothing, and the natural head that can use the hair has a golden triangle that reaches back to where the hairline begins. All four have raised golden lines around the eyes and eyebrows, and real metal earrings dangling freely.

(If you're wondering why she's sometimes Bast and sometimes Bastet, the "et" is a feminine suffix, added in the New Kingdom. In casual speech, T's at the end of words were often unreleased, meaning they weren't pronounced, similar to the way English speakers will often not actually say the G at the end of a an "-ing" suffix or the P in "nope." So in order to make sure that "Bast" wasn't being pronounced "Bas," they added the "-et" to the end so that when the final T was ineviably dropped, "Bastet" would still be pronounced "Bas-teh." Also, there's a glottal stop in there, so her name doesn't rhyme with "cast" or even "cost," it would sound more like you were saying "ballast" without the L's. Ba-ast. But without actually voicing two A's.)

If they'd wanted to, the Four Horsemen could have made Bastet's clothes more colorful instead of just being the same plain color as Anubis's. Although it's not always the case, statues of Bastet were more likely than other goddesses to be sculpted wearing decorated dresses, often with a vertical herringbone pattern that may have been meant to represent a cat's stripes. Probably would have required more explaination than the white mummy-wraps, though, so it makes sense they went this route.

Unlike Anubis, whose tail was packaged separately and needed to be attached to the figure, Bastet already has hers on. She gets a variety of alternate hands, and either human or cat feet. But her real accessories include a sekhem, a type of ceremonial sistrum rattle that represented her playful personality. Many existing statues show the goddess carrying a basket, so this toy includes one of those, as well. Why a basket? Well, she was a goddess of motherhood, and moms gotta carry things. Whoever's tending a baby has to. That's a constant throughout all history and every culture. She also has her traditional aegis, in this case "a device used to mystically ward off danger," not "a subject or area of expertise or responsibility." It's blue, and is shaped like a collar with Sekhmet's head and the sun disc on top.

Then, like Anubis, there are the "scenery" accessories, things not meant to necessarily be used by Bastet, but rather just to improve her display area: the three camopic jars Anubis didn't come with (Hapi the babboon [lungs], Qebehsenuef the falcon [intestines], and Imseti the human [liver]), the Falcon pectoral that was missing from Anubis' package, King Tut's leopard head, and display stands for those last two. Her large diorama piece is the Gayer-Anderson cat, a large statue of Bast in her purely feline form.

Just as there had technically been a Four Horsemen Anubis years before the release of this pair, Bast is far from being the first cat-headed woman they've done. She's really two figures in one, if you want her to be, but both these "Gods of Ancient Egypt" Figura Obscura releases have been really great, and improve other Egyptian toys with their sheer presence.

-- 06/15/24


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