the cheetah goddess

Mafdet, also known as Maftet or Mefdet, is the earliest Egyptian feline goddess, predating Bastet and Sekhmet. Indeed, Maftet appears in the Egyptian pantheon as early as the First Dynasty.

Even though she is commonly depicted as a woman with the head of a cheetah, she was also referred to as the panther goddess.

The cult of Mafdet

Mefdet was the Egyptian goddess of justice and judgment. She was also the protector of Pharaoh. Devotees of the cheetah goddess also believed she was the protector against poisonous animals, including snakes and scorpions. Aptly, she was known as the killer of snakes.

Maftet was also the goddess of execution. During the New Kingdom, she presided over the Hall of Judgment in Duat. It was in this hall that the king’s enemies and rebels were executed with his harpoon, which closely resembled a feline’s claw. This weapon was known as Maftet’s claw. She was believed to be the avenger of the king.

Unfortunately, there is little information about the extent of Maftet’s cult. As the popularity of Bastet increased and Maftet’s influence waned, her cult eventually disappeared.

An ancient Egyptian cat goddess

She’s believed to be the first cat deity. Maftet appears in early temple paintings and hieroglyphics as well as ancient writings, some of them being spells of protection.

Here’s some interesting information about this mysterious mythical being.

What’s in a name?

Mafdet means swift runner. And appropriately, her most common depiction is that of a woman with the head of a cheetah, the fastest of the felines. She was believed to be a swift executioner of justice.

In addition to being known as the slayer of snakes, Maftet was also known as the runner and the manhunter.

Appearance of the Egyptian Cat Goddess

As mentioned before, Maftet was portrayed as a woman with the head of a cheetah. However, she sometimes was depicted as a cat or a leopard, and was believed to take on the form of a mongoose when attacking venomous animals. She was also depicted as a woman with the head of a lynx.

Some depictions show Maftet wearing a headdress made of intertwined scorpions.


The following books contain information about Maftet, cats in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Egypt mythology, and magic. They make great gifts for people who love felines –big and small, real and mythical –and for those who love all things Egyptian.

--Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: The One and the Many by Erik Hornung and John Baines

--The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day - The Complete Papyrus of Ani Featuring Integrated Text and Full-Color Images by James Wasserman, Eva Von Dassow, Dr. Ogden Goelet, and Carol Andrews

--Circle of Isis: Ancient Egyptian Magic for Modern Witches by Ellen Cannon Reed

--The Cambridge Ancient History Volume 1, Part 2: Early History of the Middle East by I. E. S. Edwards, C. J. Gadd, and N. G. L. Hammond

--The Cat in Ancient Egypt by Jaromir Malek

Related Links

Bastet - Goddess of Protection and Fertility

Egyptian cats - mysterious and magical

Egyptian Cat Art

Egyptian Mau

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