25 Nov 2013

Mistery of the Cat


The cats spiritually symbolize the guardian of the Other-world or Underworld. Their being Stoic, silent and mysterious, fit the bill of Other-world guardians fairly well. They 
keep the secrets of the Underworld eternally to themselves, as they stare with guile upon a world that does not see or understand the profundity of their knowledge. The 
ancient Chinese believed that the glow from a cat’s eyes could scare away evil spirits. According to the ancient Egyptians, the life-giving rays of the sun were stored 
overnight in the eyes of a cat for safekeeping. Buddhists in South-East Asia thought that the souls of the dead pass into the bodies of sacred cats before moving on to the 
next life. A common belief is that cats can see the aura or psychic energy that surrounds the body of humans. Ancient Egyptian priests kept sacred cats and used them to 
predict the future. Every twitch of a whisker, yawn,  sneeze or stretch foretold some coming event. According to old lore, if you see a cat sleeping with all four paws tucked 
under its body, that means bad weather is coming. French peasants believed that a black cat could lead the way to buried treasure,; you had to find a place where five roads 
met, then turn the cat loose and follow where he went. Dutch people kept cats out of rooms where they were having private family discussions were going on, because they 

thought that a cat could spread the news around town. A widespread belief is that cats can see the spectre of death. In Transylvania folklore (Rumania and Hungary), a cat 
jumping over a corpse means that the corpse will become a vampire. In 16th century Italy, people believed that if a black cat lay on the bed of a sick man, he would die. A 
cat sitting on top of a tombstone was considered a sign that the soul of the dead person was possessed by the devil.
Sailors used cats to predict the voyages they were about to embark upon. Loudly mewing cats foretold a difficult voyage; a playful cat foretold a voyage with good, gusty 
winds. If a cat licked its fur against the grain, it meant a hailstorm was coming; if the cat sneezed, then rain was on the way. Cats were always well fed by sailors because 
of a popular belief that cats could start storms through magic stored in their tails. For sailors, the worst possible act was to throw a cat overboard. Storms and all kinds of 
misfortune were sure to follow. Fisherman's wives kept black cats while their husbands went away to sea.  They believed that the black cats would keep their husbands out 
of danger. 
During atmospheric changes, cats are said to act strangely and may seem uneasy, even tearing at cushions or carpets, it is said during these episodes that a cat is 
"raising the wind." The truth of the matter is that a cat has a superior nervous system and by the condition of its fur, it can sense approaching changes in the weather before 
humans can. The electricity in the air causes a cat to rub their ears and lick their fur. When a cat washes herself in her usual manner, there will be fair weather, but if she 
sits with her tail toward the fire or licks herself above the ears, bad weather is on the way. If a cat licks it's tail, there is rain in the forecast.

In the Middle Ages, cats were not very popular because of their association with witchcraft and black magic. Superstitions about cats, some of them current today, date 
back to this period.  Fisherman’s wives believed keeping a black cat in your home meant your husband would always return from the sea.  In the 9th century, King Henry I of 
Saxony decreed that the fine for killing a cat should be sixty bushels of corn. There are still people who believe that the cat is a reincarnation of the devil and regard it as bad 
luck. In the early 16th century, a visitor to an English home would always kiss the family cat to bring good luck.
Black cats can be bringers of good or bad luck according to particular circumstances and particular forms of folklore. But to find a white hair on a black cat is an infallible 
guarantee of good luck. If a black cat crosses your path while you are driving, the only way to avoid bad luck is to turn your hat around backwards and mark an X on your 
windscreen. Dutch immigrants in Pennsylvania (US) used to place a cat in the empty cradle of a newlywed couple. The cat was supposed to grant the parents’ wish for their 
children. Beware! if you kick a cat, that leg will develop rheumatism; if you drown a cat, you will die by drowning. According to French lore,  a girl who treads on a cat's tail, 
has no chance of finding a husband for the rest of the year. 

Around 450 BC, anyone who killed a cat in Egypt was punished by death. When a cat died, the entire family would shave off their eyebrows as a sign of mourning. “The 
male cat is Ra himself, and he was called Mau because of the speech of the god Sa, who said concerning him. He is like unto that which he hath made, therefore did the 
name of Ra become Mau.’” papyrus from the XV111 Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, c.1500  In Ancient Egypt cats were known as Mau. About 4000 to 5000 years ago cats were 
domesticated and accepted members of the households of Egypt. Many of the breeds we now know have evolved from these ancient cats. Cats were considered so valuable 
that the Ancient Egyptians protected it by law (which they imposed the death penalty for killing cats - deliberately or not), they were revered as hunters and worshiped as 
The Egyptians were the first to keep and use cats to hunt fish and birds as well as to destroy the rodents that infested the grain stocks along the Nile.
The cat in ancient Egypt was a sacred and respected animal. It was in Egypt that cats were first domesticated more than 4000 years ago, and around 2000 BCE that the 
fully domesticated cat was brought into the houses of Egyptians. The ancient Egyptians took their cats on hunting trips instead of dogs, and statues of cats were placed 
outside the house to protect the inhabitants and to ward off evil spirits. This showed that the cat had become an integral part of ancient Egyptian family life.
Cats were not only protected by almost every occupant of Egypt, but also by the law. So extreme in fact was the devoutness of the Egyptian culture to the cat, that if a 
human killed a feline, either intentionally or unintentionally, that human was sentenced to death. Laws were set that also forbade the exportation of cats, though more often 
than not, many were smuggled to the neighboring Mediterranean countries. The cat held a powerful spot in the history of Egypt. While she protected the land and its people, 
she also protected the mystique that was and is the cat in ancient Egypt. Bastet the Sacred Cat and her name means devouring lady. She is depicted as having the body of 
a woman and the head of a domestic cat. Baset (Bastet) is the daughter of the sun god Ra, wife of Ptah, and mother of Mihos. Her worship began around the year 3200 
BCE. The Egyptians celebrated Baset's feast day with great joy and enthusiasm, honoring the goddess and protectress. She symbolized the moon in its function of making 
a woman fertile. She was also the Egyptian Goddess of pleasure, music, dancing and joy. The people of ancient Egypt turned to Baset for protection and for blessing. She 
was the protectress of women, children and domestic cats.

In Norse mythological facts, the chariot of Freya, goddess of beauty, love and fertility, is drawn by two large longhaired cats; these two cats were often connected with the
powers of creativity, the Earth Mother and fertility gods. Cats, domestic and wild, were also sacred to the goddess in Celtic mythology, and they were considered a potent 
totem animal of several clans. They believed that cats were guardians of the of the gates to the Otherworld, guardians of their treasures and also bring to the people the 
wholeness, as a spiritual link between humans and the universe. That cats are magical creatures, mysterious and sensual. However, black cats in Celtic lore were 
considered evil, and were sacrificed. Cats are sacred to Freya, the goddess of love and beauty, one of the original fertility goddesses of the region. Freya is viewed as the 
protector of the weak, healer, granter of magic and source of love and peace. The chariot of Freya is drawn by two large cats, other cats were also associated with this kind 
and loving goddess. All cats were secret to Frea, and farmers would leave out precious milk for them, to ensure that she blessed their harvest. When a bride had good 
weather on her wedding day, people would remark, 'She has fed the cat well', meaning that she had kept the goddess of love on her side. And, if a cat appear at the wedding 
it was a sign of a very happy marriage.

Mi-Ki, or tri-colored cats, have been long taken by Japanese sailors on their ships to bring them good luck. The native Bobtail, according to legend, is the Japanese cat of 
preference because it is less likely to “bewitch” you with a twitching tail. The figure of a cat with its left paw raised is commonly seen in gift shops in Japan where they are 
sold as souvenirs. It is believed that the beckoning cat brings good fortune to its owner. Ancient Chinese legend maintains that the cat is the product of a lioness and a 
monkey - the lioness endowing her offspring with dignity and the monkey with curiosity and playfulness. Maneki Neko is Japanese for "beckoning cat," Maneki Neko are 
revered throughout Japan for drawing good fortune and awarding of evil spirits. The beckoning cat originated during Japan's Edo period and its function derives from centuries 
old talismanic practices. Although Maneki Neko was created during the 19th and 20th centuries, where the Maneki Neko are traditionally represented by a bobtail-type cat 
seated upright with one paw raised to the side of its head.

There is a legend that many little kittens were thrown into a river to drown. The mother cat wept and was so distraught that the willow trees on the bank felt compassion and 
held out their branches to the struggling kittens who clung to them and were saved. Ever since that time, every spring, the willow trees wear gray buds that feel as soft and 
silky as kitten tails. That is why they are called “pussy willows.”

The Prophet Mohammed, the founder of the Moslem religion, believed dogs were unclean, but loved cats so much that he once cut the sleeve from his robe to avoid 
disturbing his cat which had gone to sleep in his arms. According to legend, the “M” marking on the forehead of the tabby cat was created by the Prophet Mohammed when 
he rested his hand on the brow of his favorite cat. Mohammed cut off the sleeve of his robe rather than disturb his cat from resting on it.
According to Islamic legend, the 'M' marking on the forehead of tabby cats was created when Mohammed rested his hand lightly on the brow of his favorite cat.
There’s an old myth that cats were created when Noah's ark became infested with rats.  Noah commanded the lion to sneeze and out came a cat. Christianity in the Middle 
Ages became obsessed with witches, and cats, especially black cats, were associated with witches, either as supernatural servants or as the transformed witches 
themselves. The cat population of Western Europe fell very low towards the end of the Middle Ages. It was believed that a kitten born in May will be a witches cat. Queen 
Elizabeth I reportedly ordered burning of dozens of cats on her coronation, as sign that she intended to get rid of witches.

Poem Legend of the Kilkenny Cats (a testimony to the determination of a cat) There once was two cats of Kilkenny, And each thought there was one cat too many; So they 
quarreled and fought, And they scratched and they bit, Until there was only their nails, And the tips of their tails, Instead of two cats, there weren’t any.
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