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Dylan Smith
Dylan Smith

Cat Goddess 145

The cemetery site where the coffins and statues were found was originally named for the ancient Egyptian cat-goddess Bast, due to the numerous statues of the deity discovered there. However, because of continued findings of statues of other gods and mummified animals, the site was renamed the Cemetery of Sacred Animals in 2019.

Cat Goddess 145

IO was an Argive princess and Naiad-nymph who was loved by the god Zeus. When Hera suddenly interrupted their tryst, Zeus transformed the maiden into a white heifer. However the goddess was not so easily fooled and requested the animal as a gift. She then appointed the hundred-eyed giant Argos Panoptes as its guard. Zeus sent Hermes to slay the warden but Hera soon retaliated by inflicing the heifer-shaped Io with a gadfly. The stinging insect drove the cow-girl mad forcing her to wander miles across the expanses of Europe and Asia to eventually reach Aigyptos (Egypt). Once there Zeus restored her form with a touch of the hand and she gave birth to their son Epaphos.

1. Local traditions. -- The place to which the legends of lo belong, and where she was closely connected with the worship of Zeus and Hera, is Argos. The chronological tables of the priestesses of Hera at Argos placed Io at the head of the list of priestesses, under the name of Callirhoë, or Callithyia. (Preller, de Hellan. Lesb. p. 40.) She is commonly described as a daughter of Inachus, the founder of the worship of Hera at Argos, and by others as a daughter of Iasus or Peiren. Zeus loved Io, but on account of Hera's jealousy, he metamorphosed her into a white cow. Hera thereupon asked and obtained the cow from Zeus, and placed her under the care of Argus Panoptes, who tied her to an olive tree in the grove of Hera at Mycenae. But Hermes was commissioned by Zeus to deliver Io, and carry her off. Hermes being guided by a bird (hierax, pikon), who was Zeus himself (Suid. s. v. Iô), slew Argus with a stone. Hera then sent a gad-fly. which tormented Io, and persecuted her through the whole earth, until at length she found rest on the banks of the Nile. (Apollod. ii. 1. 2; Hygin. Fab. 145; comp. Virg. Georg. iii. 148, &c.) This is the common story, which appears to be very ancient, since Homer constantly applies the epithet of Argeiphontes (the slayer of Argus) to Hermes. But there are some slight modifications of the story in the different writers. Some, for example, place the scene of the murder of Argus at Nemea (Lucian, Dial. Deor. 3; Etymol. Mag. s. v. Aphesios). Ovid (Met. i. 722) relates that Hermes first sent Argus to sleep by the sweetness of his music on the flute, and that he then cut off the head of Argus, whose eyes Hera transferred to the tail of the peacock, her favourite bird. (Comp. Moschus, Idyll. ii. 59.) A peculiar mournfill festival was celebrated in honour of Io at Argos, and although we have no distinct statement that she was worshipped in the historical ages of Greece, still it is not improbable that she was. (Suid. l. c.; Palaephat. p. 43; Strab. xiv. p. 673.) There are indeed other places, besides Argos, where we meet with the legends of Io, but they must be regarded as importations from Argos, either through colonies sent by the latter city, or they were transplanted with the worship of Hera, the Argive goddess. We may mention Euboea, which probably derived its name from the cow Io, and where the spot was shown on which Io was believed to have been killed, as well as the cave in which she had given birth to Epaphus. (Strab vii. p. 320; Steph. Byz. l. s. Argoura; Etymol. Mag. s. v. Euboia.) Another place is Byzantium, in the foundation of which Argive colonists had taken part, and where the Bosporus derived its name, from the cow Io having swam across it. From the Thracian Bosporus the story then spread to the Cimmerian Bosporus and Panticapaeum. Tarsus and Antioch likewise had monuments to prove that Io had been in their neighbourhood, and that they were colonies of Argos. Io was further said to have been at Joppa and in Aethiopia, together with Perseus and Medusa (Tzetz. ad Lycoph. 835, &c.); but it was more especially the Greeks residing in Egypt, who maintained that Io had been in Egypt, where she was said to have given birth to Epaphus, and to have introduced the worship of Isis, while Epaphus became the founder of a family from which sprang Danaus, who subsequently returned to Argos. This part of the story seems to have arisen from certain resemblances of religious notions, which subsequently even gave rise to the identification of Io and Isis. Herodotus (i. l, &c., ii. 41) tells us that Isis was represented like the Greek Io, in the form of a woman, with cows' horns.

Hesiod, The Aegimius Frag 5 (from Scholiast on Euripides, Phoenicians 1116) :"And [Hera] set a watcher upon her [Io], great and strong Argos (Argus), who with four eyes looks every way. And the goddess stirred in him unwearying strength : sleep never fell upon his eyes; but he kept sure watch always."

Herodotus, Histories 2. 41. 1 :"All Aigyptians (Egyptians) sacrifice unblemished bulls and bull-calves; they may not sacrifice cows: these are sacred to Isis. For the images of Isis are in woman's form, horned like a cow, exactly as the Greeks picture Io, and cows are held by far the most sacred of all beasts of the herd by all Aigyptians alike." [N.B, Io was identified with the Egyptian goddess Isis.]

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 145 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :"From Inachus and Argia [was born] Io. Jupiter [Zeus] loved and embraced Io, and changed her to heifer form so that Juno [Hera] would not recognize her. When Juno [Hera] found out, she sent Argus, who had gleaming eyes all around to guard her. Mercurius [Hermes], at Jove's [Zeus'] command, killed him. But Juno [Hera] sent a fearful shape to plague her, and out of terror of it she was driven wildly and compelled to cast herself into the sea, which is called Ionian. Thence she swam to Scythia, and the Bosporus is named from that; thence she went to Egypt where she bore Epaphus. When Jove realized that for his sake she had borne such suffering, he restored her to her own form, and made her a goddess of the Egyptians, called Isis."

Ovid, Heroides 14. 85 ff (trans. Showerman) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :"Clear it is that Juno's [Hera's] wrath endures from the time the mortal maid [Io] became a heifer, and the heifer became a goddess. Yet it is punishment enough that the tender maid was a lowing beast, and, but now so fair, could not retain Jove's [Zeus'] love. On the banks of her sire's [Inachus'] stream the new-created heifer stood, and in the parental waters beheld the horns that were not her own; with mouth that tried to complain, she gave forth only lowings; she felt terror at her form, and terror at her voice. Why rage, unhappy one? Why gaze at thyself in the water's shadow? Why count the feet thou hast for thy new-created frame? Thou art the mistress of great Jove, that rival to be dreaded by his sister--and must quiet thy fierce hunger with the leafy branch and grassy turf, drink at the spring, and gaze astonied on thine image there, and fear lest the arms thou bearest may wound thyself! Thou, who but now wert rich, so rich as to seem worthy even of Jove, liest naked upon the naked ground. Over seas, and lands, and kindred streams dost thou course; the sea opens a way for thee, and the rivers, and the land. What is the cause of thy flight? Why doest thou wander over the long seas? Thou wilt not be able to fly from thine own features. Child of Inachus, whither doest thou haste? Thou followest and fliest--the same; thou art thyself guide to thy companion, thou art companion to thy guide!The Nile, let flow to the sea through seven mouths, strips from the maddened heifer the features loved of Jove."

Propertius, Elegies 2. 33A :"Once again to my sorrow the dismal rites have returned: now for ten nights is Cynthia engaged in worship. Down with the rites which the daughter of Inachus [Io-Isis] has sent from the warm Nile to the matrons of Italy!The goddess that has so often sundered ardent lovers, whoever she was, was always harsh. In your secret love of Jove [Zeus], Io, you certainly discovered what it means to travel on many paths. When Juno [Hera] bade you, a human girl, put on horns and drown your speech in the hoarse lowing of a cow, ah, how often did you chafe your mouth with oak leaves and chew in your stall the arbute you had fed on! Is it because Jupiter [Zeus] has taken that wild shape from your features that you have become such a haughty goddess? Are the swarthy daughters of Aegyptus (Egypt) too few for your worship? What profit is it to you that girls should sleep alone? Take it from me, either you will have horns again or else, cruel creature, we will banish you from our city: the Nile has never found favour with the Tiber."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 31. 36 :"Beside the Nile with his harvests they hold a festival for another [Isis the immortalised Io], instead of sheafbearing mother Demeter; they tell of a spurious bountiful Deo, bullbred, horned, Inakhos's daughter Io [i.e. the Egyptian goddess Isis]."

Although the cult of Diana was widespread in Southern Europe, other religions existed in the north. There the various tribes of Teutonic stock, including the Goths, Franks, Saxons, Angeles, and Jutes, had largely resisted the Romans and their influence. Many of them followed the Norse religion and worshipped Odin, also known as Wotan, the warrior god; his son Thor (the origin of Thursday), the thunder god; and Freya (the origin of Friday) the fertility goddess and sister-in-law of Odin. The importance of these deities was illustrated by the description of a Norse temple in Uppsala, Sweden:

Another method used by the Catholic Church to discredit traditional religions was to link them to sexual excesses and sinful behavior. This was especially true of the cat-associated Norse goddess, Freya, who was also linked to both fertility and sexual behavior. The contrast between Freya and the Virgin Mary was stark, as noted by a historical account of Freya:


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