Witches and Warlocks, have you ever wondered what makes cat’s so awesome, and more importantly, why they are associated with Halloween. Is it because they are a Wizard of fantastical power, and named Blizzard? Is it because they are realistically tiny death machines, and can wipe out a whole neighborhood of small animals (squirrels, birds, tree frogs, bunnies, whatever else they could catch) Is it because they are prolific breeders, and you can only hope to slow them down Bob Barker, not wipe them out?
It is all of that, and none of that, so Ol’ Uncle Jay is going to sit down, light his pipe, and totally zone out because I don’t use tobacco….
Okay, I’m back. Ol’ Uncle Jay currently has two female cats, Panda Lucifer and Chloe Kardashian. It is a well known fact that all cat’s need two names, so when they do something naughty (push things, knock things over, sit on a keyboard, nuzzle a book, etc…) you need to use both names so that they know you mean business, and can scurry away, or ignore you, depending on their mood. So I am a cat guy currently, though I do enjoy a dog.
But cat’s have been domesticated (human words, not theirs) for centuries. In ancient Egypt, it is well know that cats, lions, and tigers, were worshipped by the people. They were a symbol of power, and virility. They believed in a goddess named Bast. Bast had the head of a feline, and would only come out at night (hence black cats), and would fight another god each night, the Serpent of Darkness. Every time the sun rose, the Egyptians knew that she was victorious, and the Serpent was licking its wounds all day, waiting for the rematch.
In China, felines were considered a fertility god, who got sacrifices. The cats also performed double duty for the Buddhists, Burmese, and Siamese cultures, because they thought that souls of the recently departed bonded with cats, and the cats carried the souls into paradise, because you can’t have paradise without a bunch of cats.
In Japan, cats were also held in high regards. In fact, in the 10th century, they were held in such high regard, only nobility could own them. By the 11th century, and ancient knight, Sir Ota, travelled to Japan and changed this law single handedly.
The French believed that if a strange white cat showed up your doorstep, that speedy nuptials were soon to follow. Twice divorced, when I researched this, they had it under a good thing, but personally, I am shooing away strange white cats on my doorstep.
The goddess Freya’s chariot was pulled by the warmest, most lovable pets ever…you guessed it, the cats. She was the goddess of love and beauty, and since most domesticated cats are full of love (on their schedule), and beauty, this total checks out.
Now the Middle Ages were a bit of a mess. I’m going to start out with the feel good stories, and then we’ll dip into the bad things that were believed to have happened because of cats.
Before we could even start the middle ages, the Irish had a cat headed god in the first century. It must have been a tortoise shell cat, because the Irish have always believed that having one, or seeing one, brought good fortune. Or, perhaps it helped St Patrick chase the snakes out of Ireland.
Back then, the black cat was a sign of good luck. In fact, if you received one as a wedding gift, it was considered lucky. If the cat sneezed on the wedding day, and the bride happened to hear it, good tidings were heading her way. If I was a bride, all she had to do was eat a bowl of anything, let the cat sniff it, and it would immediately sneeze into your food…that’s science folks.
Now, because in the Middle ages they were considered good luck, those crazy bastards were known to put kittens in when they walled up anything, to control the rat population. If they lived long enough, and they had walled up a human, I guarantee that there was more than rat on the table that night. If you put a male and a female in there, you will have 73 cats in there by the end of the year, no rats, and the human is fighting them off, at the same time petting them.
Also in the middle ages, some thought cats were evil. They thought that they made beer go sour, carried souls to the devil, and were generally evil. Oh, and they also thought that their teeth had venom, that their flesh was poison. Probably a good thing for cats, that their hair suffocated you, and that their breath caused consumption, or good ol’ tuberculosis as we call it now a days. (I hope this doesn’t check out)
They also believed in Cat Siths. (not the cool Star Wars ones, though it would make sense) Cat Siths are fairy like creatures, in the shape of a large black cat, with a white spot on it’s chest. They would go around, steal souls on the Scottish Highlands, and basically keep people honest. Why did they steal souls. Part of the reason is it’s believed, that if you didn’t leave a saucer of milk out for it on Samhein, that the Cat Sith would curse your house, while if you did, you were blessed. Now, I have been cursed many a time by my cats for having the audacity to make a pot of coffee, and not leave them wet food as tribute.
The Hebrews believed that cats were vampires, who preyed on the souls of newborn children. They were called Estries. The tie in to the feline world is that it was believed that when they were going to get caught, they would turn into a cat, or a bird, to avoid detection.
In more modern times, the cat was often thought of as a witch’s demonic assistant, especially the black cat. Much like Estries, when a witch was about to be detected, it was believed that they would shape shift into the form of a black cat, to escape detection. That is why today, you can’t buy a witch decoration without a black cat nearby, its back arched in fright.
This is why it is sometimes very hard for a black cat to be adopted at a shelter. In fact, studies have shown that a black cat is less likely to be adopted over another cat. Let me tell you kids, the only difference between a black cat, and any other, is that when you wear white, you now have to look out for their fur on that, instead of every dark piece of clothing you have having a reminder that you have a light fur cat. Go adopt a kitty, maybe two, and be opened up to a purring bundle of love…well…when they feel like it.