Our pet cats and kittens bring us joy, make us laugh, give us comfort and occasionally confuse us with their quirky cat behaviour. Many of us have a family cat as part of our lives and can’t imagine a life without them. But how much do you know about the ancient myths and legends about cats from around the world?
There has always been a certain sense of mystery that has surrounded cats more than most other creatures in the world. Throughout history, these curious creatures have been the subject of countless legends, myths and superstitions. From being revered as divine beings in ancient civilizations to their association with magic and witchcraft, cats have left an unforgettable mark on human culture.
Cat Superstitions from Around the Globe
From Russia to India, Japan to Wales, cats have been at the centre of various beliefs and superstitions. In some cultures, a cat entering a house signifies prosperity; while in others, it’s believed that cats can see spirits. Black cats are seen as unlucky omens in certain countries, but in others, it’s white cats that are associated with bad luck.
These superstitions have been passed down through generations, and can offer us a glimpse into the cultural significance of cats and the different ways they’ve been perceived. The fact that there are so many different myths and legends about cats from all over the world proves that cats have long been a big part of our lives.
Ancient Egypt: Cats as Divine Beings
Revered for their grace and poise, cats were seen as divine beings in ancient Egypt. Cats were also the totem animal of the Egyptian goddess Bastet (or Bast), the deity of home, fertility, and protection.
The ancient Egyptians believed that cats possessed magical powers, safeguarding homes from evil spirits and misfortune. Killing a cat, even accidentally, was considered a grave sin and was punishable by death. Cats were so beloved in ancient Egypt that when a family cat passed away, the cat was mummified.
Norse Mythology: Freyja’s Chariot Cats
Cats held a special place in ancient Norse mythology, particularly in the tales surrounding the goddess Freyja. Known as the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility, Freyja was a prominent figure in the Norse pantheon and had a unique way of getting around: a chariot pulled by two giant cats with gleaming fur.
The association of cats with the goddess Freyja also cemented their reputation as bringers of good fortune in Norse culture. Households often believed that having a cat would invite Freyja’s blessings, ensuring love and prosperity within the home. During festivals dedicated to Freyja, cats would often be adorned with ribbons and treated with extra care, reflecting their divine connection.
Witches and Their Feline Familiars
Black cats have long been mysterious symbols associated with the supernatural. In many cultures, they’re seen as harbingers of good luck.
However, during the Middle Ages in Europe, their reputation took a dark turn. Associated with witchcraft and the occult, black cats were believed to be witches’ familiars, aiding the witches in their dark arts. This superstition led to many black cats being persecuted, a belief that contrasts starkly with other ancient myths about cats as divine beings. From these ancient superstitions arose other beliefs, such as the idea that if a black cat crosses your path it’s seen as a bad omen.
It could be because of these black cat superstitions and the long association with ‘bad luck’ that black cats are less likely to be adopted than cats of other colours. If you’re considering adopting a pet cat or kitten, a black cat could make the perfect new addition to your family.
The Cat’s 9 Lives Myth Origin
Ever wondered why cats are believed to have nine lives? This belief stems from the cat’s uncanny ability to escape from potentially dangerous situations unscathed. Their agility, keen senses, and survival instincts have given rise to tales of their multiple lives. From dodging fast-moving vehicles to surviving high falls, their resilience has only added to the myth around the cat’s nine lives.
The Maneki-neko: An Iconic Japanese Talisman
If you’ve ever been to Japan, you may have seen the charming figure of the maneki-neko, or the ‘beckoning cat’ (neko means cat in Japanese). Often seen in shops and restaurants, this cat statue is believed to bring good luck and prosperity.
The most common pose you’ll see a maneki-neko in is with its left or right paw raised. When the right paw is raised, the maneki-neko is beckoning in money and fortune. When the left paw is raised, it is beckoning people and customers.
You will also notice that maneki-neko statues come in many different colours. A black lucky cat statue symbolises family peace and prosperity. Red is for good health, while yellow is for good luck with money. White is often the most common colour for maneki-neko statues, and it is thought to invite general good fortune.
Nekomata: The Two-tailed Japanese Necromancer
While the image of a cute and friendly maneki-neko is easily recognisable in Japanese culture, Japan also has its fair share of scary cat tales. The story of the Nekomata is one such spooky Japanese folktale.
Originating from tales in mountainous regions, the Nekomata is said to have once been a regular feline. As it ages, its tail splits in two and it takes on a much larger cat form, becoming a supernatural creature with magical powers.
One of the most chilling abilities of the Nekomata is its power to raise the dead. It’s said that this cat can animate corpses, making them dance or move at its will. This necromantic ability has made the Nekomata a feared creature in many Japanese folktales.
Pet Insurance For Your Lucky Little Fur Baby
While cats have been associated with luck and good fortune throughout the ages, our beloved domestic cats are not always so lucky. Sometimes, accidents and injuries can happen despite your care and attention. If the worst should happen, then pet insurance can help ensure our beloved cats receive the medical attention they need without causing financial strain. From unexpected injuries to routine check-ups, pet insurance provides peace of mind for cat owners.
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