Black cats in mythology became the historically cited companion of witches and therefore cats became notably reviled. Cats became popular and sympathetic characters in folk tales such as Puss in Boots. He has taught history, writing, literature, and philosophy at the college level. In 1233 Pope Gregory IX, in his Papal Bull “Vox in Rama”, actually denounced black cats as satanic. The writer David Derbyshire cites a 2007 CE research project in which, “the study used DNA samples from 979 wild and domestic cats to piece together the feline family tree. A medieval King of Wales, Hywel Dda (the Good) passed legislation making it illegal to kill or harm a cat.. Books Egyptian Cat Deities This was also true in China where the goddess Li Shou was depicted in cat form and petitions and sacrifices made to her for pest control and fertility. In 1836 CE, the brilliant editor and writer Sarah Josepha Hale joined Godey's and greatly enhanced its reputation and circulation. In Japan, the famous image of the `Beckoning Cat’ (the maneki neko figure of the cat with one raised paw) represents the goddess of mercy.  They lived pampered lives and even had special servants until the October Revolution, after which they were cared for by volunteers. Cats were the favorite animal of the fertility goddess Freyja, who was also the goddess of love and luck.Freyja’s chariot was pulled by cats, specifically the skogkatt (Norwegian Forest Cat), which is larger and more powerful than most domesticated housecats. An ancient Chinese myth relates that, in the beginning of the world, the gods appointed cats to oversee the running of their new creation and, in order for communication to be clear, granted cats the power of speech. Mythology of cats: Cats in Egypt Ancient Egyptians called the cats Mau and domesticated them about 4,000-5,000 years ago. On one occasion, Senchan was called to visit (human) King Guaire. Submitted by Joshua J. The goddess Bastet, commonly depicted as a cat or as a woman with a cat’s head, was among the most popular deities of the Egyptian pantheon. . Related Content Cats, however, were more interested in sleeping beneath the cherry trees and playing with the falling blossoms than with the mundane task of having to pay attention to the operation of the world. If we consider lions as cats, the cult of the Lion-headed Goddess, Sekhmet, was prominent. Several ancient Egyptian deities were depicted and sculptured with cat-like heads such as Mafdet, Bastet and Sekhmet, representing justice, fertility and power. The historian Polyaenus (2nd century CE) writes that, after the surrender, Cambyses rode in triumph through the city and hurled cats into the faces of the defeated Egyptians in scorn. The fishermen, feeling sorry for the loss of the cat, buried it and enshrined it at this location on the island. Mark, J. J. Cats were often housed in private pagodas in Japan and were considered so valuable that, by the 10th century CE, only the nobility could afford to own one. Archaeological excavations in the past ten years have provided evidence that the Near Eastern Wildcat is the closest relative of the modern-day domestic cat and was bred by Mesopotamian farmers, most probably as a means of controlling pests, such as mice, which were attracted by grain supplies. Somehow the house cat was passed by in the Chinese Zodiac and the 28 Xing Xiu ( a system that divides […] Bastets & Sekhmetsby Kotomi Yamamura (CC BY-NC-SA). Rather than disturb the cat, Muhammed cut the sleeve from his robe and left Meuzza to sleep. :79 Cats eventually displaced ferrets as the pest control of choice because they were more pleasant to have around the house and were more enthusiastic hunters of mice. The colloquial word for a cat - `puss’ or `pussy’ - is also associated with Egypt in that it derives from the word Pasht, another name for Bastet. If we consider lions as cats, the cult of the Lion-headed Goddess, Sekhmet, was prominent. Religion/Culture: Japanese mythology Realm: The spirit world Modern Cat Breed: Chausie. If somebody is hurting your cat, best keep him indoors, you don’t know what this person is going to do next time. The Gayer-Anderson Catby Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin (CC BY-NC-SA). Attracted by the cat’s gesture, the emperor entered the temple and, moments later, lightning struck the very spot where he had been standing. Isis is often depicted as a female goddess accompanied by black cats. Cats that were favored pets during the Chinese Song Dynasty were long-haired cats for catching rats, and cats with yellow-and-white fur called 'lion-cats', who were valued simply as cute pets. Filed under Uncategorized Cats have been kept by humans since at least ancient Egypt, where Bast in cat form was goddess of the home, the domesticated cat, protector of the fields and home from vermin infestations, and sometimes took on the warlike aspect of a lioness. Asian-Antiquites.com is the site for Cash Advance. Shakespeare noted that when Senchan began to criticize some mice on his kitchen table with his poetry, they all dropped dead from shame. Cats were so highly valued that, according to Herodotus, when an Egyptianhouse caught fire, the people first concerned themselves with rescuing their cats and only then thought to put the fire out. A Persian tale claims the cat was created magically. Mummified cats have been found at Bubastis and elsewhere throughout Egypt, sometimes buried with, or near to, their owners as evidenced by identifying seals on the mummies. Egyptian Cat Deities . In Medieval Ypres, cats were used in the winter months to control the vermin infesting the wool stored in the upper floors of the Cloth Hall (Lakenhall). After the seventeenth century, the history of cats changed once again. It is a huge creature — the size of a human or bigger — that looks like a cat. The goddess cat in Egyptian mythology is well known in the world of mythology. Herodotus also relates that the Egyptians cared so much for their cats that they placed their safety above human life and property. On the god’s third visit, the cats explained they had no interest in running the world and nominated human beings for the position. 20 Dec 2020. Cats are magical creatures. Literally the beckoning cat, it is often referred to in English as the "good fortune" or "good luck" cat. The Romans respected the vermin-catching abilities of the domestic cat, but also saw them as exotic pets and sacred animals. Her ritual centre was the city of Bubastis (“House of Bastet”) in which, according to Herodotus (484-425 BCE), an enormous temple complex was built in her honour in the centre of the city. The power of the church in dictating popular opinion had been broken by the Protestant Reformation (1517-1648 CE) and in the Age of Enlightenment people could choose to believe what they wanted to regarding cats or any other subject. Another Japanese legend of cats is the nekomata: when a cat lives to a certain age, it grows another tail and can stand up and speak in a human language. Reluctantly, Dick sent his cat. Cats in History: Chinese Truth and Mythology - Playful Kitty. The cat was known earlier, however, as by the end of the 3rd century c.e. Mark has lived in Greece and Germany and traveled through Egypt. People of the time, however, had no idea where the plague came from (the bacterium Yersinia pestis,which causes plague, was not isolated until 1894 CE) and saw no correlation between the number of rodents, cats, and the disease; therefore cats continued to be suspect of all manner of ill-will and dangerous attributes. The goddess cat was highly admired and respected.Bastet was worshipped as the protector goddess of Lower Egypt and guardian of the pharaoh. Hello Kitty, created by Yuko Yamaguchi, is a contemporary cat icon. Frey is the god of rain, … Our latest articles delivered to your inbox, once a week: Numerous educational institutions recommend us, including Oxford University and Michigan State University and University of Missouri. Its teeth were said to be venomous, its flesh poisonous, its hair lethal (causing suffocation if a few were accidentally swallowed), and its breath infectious, destroying human lungs and causing consumption” and further states, “As late as 1658 Edward Topsel, in his serious work on natural history, [wrote] `the familiars of Witches do most ordinarily appear in the shape of Cats, which is an argument that this beast is dangerous to soul and body” (158). Members of the cat family are native to most parts of the world except Australia, Madagascar and a few isolated islands. 360-63). She also protected humans from venomous animals, and since venomous creatures, such as snakes and scorpions were (and are) in abundance in the Egypt… The power of speech was then taken from the cats and given to humans but, as humans seemed incapable of understanding the words of the gods, cats remained entrusted with the important task of keeping time and so maintaining order.  The story has no origin in early Muslim writers, and seems to confuse a story of a later Sufi saint, Ahmed ar-Rifa'i, centuries after Muhammad. Cat shows became increasingly popular after this event and interest in breeding and showing cats spread throughout Europe and North America. The famous story of Puss in Boots (best known through the French version by Charles Perrault, 1628-1703 CE) is taken from a much older Indian folk tale in the Panchatantra from the 5th century BCE (though the character of the cat’s master has a very different personality in the older tale than the one in Perrault’s story). Bastet was also defender of the chief male deity, Ra, a solar deity. Since ancient times, their supernatural grace has been observed, revered (as well as demonized), and incorporated into art and mythology.  Pliny linked them with lust, and Aesop with deviousness and cunning. Feline Forever: Mythology - cats in ancient Greece. The Ancient History Encyclopedia logo is a registered EU trademark. , During the Middle Ages, many of Artemis's associations with cats were grafted onto the Virgin Mary. This trend spread to the United States and was encouraged by the most popular magazine in America at that time, Godey’s Lady’s Book. It was thought that one could tell the time of day by looking into a cat’s eyes and this belief is still maintained in China. They were known to have been domesticated there approximately 12,000 BCE―about the same time as dogs, sheep, and goats. The status of the cat, therefore, was further enhanced by its association with a figure of divinity. As was the case everywhere else, cats in India were found to be particularly useful in controlling the populations of less desirable creatures like mice, rats, and snakes and so were honoured in the homes, farms, and palaces throughout the land. Vikings used cats as rat catchers and companions. If the Phoenicians did bring the cat to Europe, as seems very likely, they may have also introduced the Greek association of the cat with Hecate. ":74 The Greek essayist Plutarch linked cats with cleanliness, noting that unnatural odours could make them mad. While magical cats are nothing new, it is interesting to note that even the Great Bard, Shakespeare spoke of Graymalkin in Macbeth. Rustum told him that there was nothing he desired since everything he could want, he already had before him in the warmth and comfort of the fire, the scent of the smoke and the beauty of the stars overhead. Cat mythology in England In 16 th and 17 th century England, witches and witchcraft were all the rage (and not in a good way). In the past, the islanders raised silkworms for silk, and cats were kept in order to keep the mouse population down (because mice are a natural predator of silkworms). But Mesopotamian cultures elevated the feline to god status. Mark, Joshua J. In the Renaissance, cats were often thought to be witches' familiars (for example, Greymalkin, the first witch's familiar in Macbeth's famous opening scene), and during festivities were sometimes burnt alive or thrown off tall buildings. The cat in ancient Egypt was closely linked to the goddess Bastet who presided over the h… The deity Mut was also depicted as a cat and in the company of a cat. Shakespeare noted that when Senchan began to criticize some mice on his kitchen table with his poetry, they all dropped dead from shame. Please note that content linked from this page may have different licensing terms. In many societies and cultures, it was believed that a surefire way to bring misfortune into your... Lucky Cats. Typically made … The Norse goddess Freyja, deity of love, fertility, war, wealth, divination … Several ancient Egyptian deities were depicted and sculptured with cat-like heads such as Mafdet, Bastet and Sekhmet, representing justice, fertility and power. Evidently, the cat would grow tired of Dickens’ attention being directed toward the page instead of to feline companionship and petting (Morris, 167). For characters that appear in several separate works, only the earliest work will be recorded here. The concept, known as “transmigration of soul” is also found in Egypt. In early Egyptian hieroglyphs, her name appears to have been bꜣstt. The people of ancient Egypt worshiped the cat god, Bastet, as one of their highest deities. Desmond Morris writes, “Because the cat was seen as evil, all kinds of frightening powers were attributed to it by the writers of the day.  It is a tribute to their perceived durability, their occasional apparent lack of instinct for self-preservation, and their seeming ability to survive falls that would be fatal to other animals. Gods associated with Cats. The period of mourning was considered completed when the people’s eyebrows had grown back.  Cats could be pampered with items bought from the market such as "cat-nests", and were often fed fish that were advertised in the market specifically for cats.. Only one deity, the goddess named Bastet, had the power to become a cat. Last modified November 17, 2012. Frey & Freya. Frey & Freya. While this theory has been disputed, there seems no doubt that a decrease in the cat population would result in an increase in the number of mice and rats and it is established that there was such a decrease in the number of cats prior to 1348 CE. Humans tend to either love or hate cats. Farmers sought protection for their crops by leaving pans of milk in their fields for Freya's special feline companions, the two grey cats who fought with her and pulled her chariot. Norse Legend. Sleek, cunning, and a little detached, cats seem to have one foot in the spirit realm, their piercing eyes always gazing just … Bast. The Persian soldiers painted images of cats on their shields, and may have held cats in their arms, as they marched behind the wall of animals. Long before trick-or-treaters and buckets full of candy, cats were often depicted as the supernatural companions of witches. The latter had a calmer temperament and so was more commonly domesticated than its wilder relative. Get the best of Insurance or Free Credit Report, browse our section on Cell Phones or learn about Life Insurance. This story was popularized by the Latin writer Antoninus Leberalis (2nd century CE) in his Metamorphosis, a retelling of older tales, which was popular enough to be copied and distributed up through the 9th century CE and to enjoy a wide readership through at least the 16th century CE. Rustum offered the older man the hospitality of his tent and, as they sat outside under the stars, enjoying the warmth of a fire, the magician asked Rustum what he wished for as a gift in repayment for saving the man’s life. The Egyptians worshiped a huge pantheon of gods and goddesses, with the inclusion of various sacred animals. Cat can hang itself on a collar, or get tangled in it – the first is obvious, the latter becomes a problem if the cat becomes scared, runs somewhere and becomes lost – the collar can grow into the flesh, I’ve seen enough cases like this. It tells of a poor boy in the 14th century, based on the real-life Richard Whittington, who becomes a wealthy merchant and eventually the Lord Mayor of London because of the ratting abilities of his cat.  He is reported to have loved cats so much that, "he would do without his cloak rather than disturb one that was sleeping on it". Cats which have died are taken to Bubastis where they are embalmed and buried in sacred receptacles” (Nardo 117). Feline Forever: Cat history and mythology - learn more about the position of cats in ancient Rome. Cats were obviously important, and there were enormous cults, which revered these felines.  White cats, bearing the colour of ghosts, are conversely held to be unlucky in the United Kingdom, while tortoiseshell cats are lucky.  Cats were sacred animals and the goddess Bastet was often depicted in cat form, sometimes taking on the war-like aspect of a lioness. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 17 Nov 2012. Cats in Egypt held a special importance to the people, as they still do today in most cultures — just think of how people react when they see a black cat on the street. She was a warrior goddess, who led the pharaohs in warfare.  Cats are often shown in icons of Annunciation and of the Holy Family and, according to Italian folklore, on the same night that Mary gave birth to Jesus, a cat in Bethlehem gave birth to a kitten.. The goddess cat was named Bastet, also known as Bast.  Elsewhere, it is unlucky if a black cat crosses one's path; black cats have been associated with death and darkness. In Norse mythology, Freya, goddess of fertility, war, and death, would lead Valkyries into battle to collect fallen soldiers, riding on a chariot led by two formidable blue cats: Bygul and Trjegul. Ancient History Encyclopedia. These are referred to in the Prose Edda as ‘gib-cats’ and are depicted as grey or blue in colour. Bastet was also defender of the chief male deity, Ra, a solar deity. Known as the cat goddess of ancient Egypt, Bast, also called Bastet, is the female, first-born child of the sun god Ra. Three times the gods came to check on how well the cats were doing their job and all three times were disappointed to find their feline overseers asleep or at play. According to legend, the `M’ design on the forehead of the tabby cat was made when the prophet blessed his favourite cat by placing his hand on its head. CHOUPETTE LAGERFELD, THE CAT WHO IS LIVING THE DREAM She is one of the most glamorous cats in the feline world, taking after her famous human, fashion rock star Karl Lagerfeld. Ancient History Encyclopedia. The cultural depiction of cats and their relationship to humans is old and stretches back over 9,500 years. Cats in Ancient Egypt History. Although cats were kept by people in Greece and Rome, the appreciation for the animal as a hunter was not as great in those cultures owing to the Greek and Roman practice of keeping domesticated weasels for pest control. Some referred to Bastet as “Lady of Flame” and “Eye of Ra”.In ancient Egypt there was a death penalty for killing a cat. The greatest example of Egyptian devotion to the cat, however, comes from the Battle of Pelusium (525 BCE) in which Cambyses II of Persia defeated the forces of the Egyptian Pharaoh Psametik III to conquer Egypt. Exporting them out of the country was illegal, and killing one was a crime punishable by death. For example, a cat named Mimsey was used by MTM Enterprises as their mascot and features in their logo as a spoof of the MGM lion. Cats in Norse Mythology Cats were the favorite animal of the fertility goddess Freyja, who was also the goddess of love and luck. They prefer to come out during stormy weather, or at night, and are usually accompanied by hellish flames or lightning. It is clearly established that, by 450 BCE, the penalty in Egypt for killing a cat was death (though this law is thought to have been observed much earlier). Cat popularity in the United States grew appreciably after the Godey article. Viking-era cats descend from the second wave, which began as early as 1700 B.C., as sailors began bringing cats with them on their ancient voyages for … The prophet Muhammed was also very fond of cats. The deity Mut was also depicted as a cat and in the company of a cat. This list may not reflect recent changes (). , The lineage of today's cats stems from about 4500 BC and came from Europe and Southeast Asia according to a recent study. The god Zeus seduced Alcmene and she became pregnant with Heracles. Cats in Norse Mythology. The Egyptians are also responsible for the very name `cat’ in that it derives from the North African word for the animal, “quattah”, and, as the cat was so closely associated with Egypt, almost every other European nation employs variations on this word: French, chat; Swedish, katt; German, katze; Italian, gatto; Spanish, gato and so forth (Morris, 175). In 1233 Pope Gregory IX composed in his Papal Bull “Vox in Rama” really denounced black cats as hellish. Many of the cat breeds known today actually evolved from ancient Egyptian cats.  Cats are rarely mentioned in ancient Greek literature, but Aristotle does remark in his History of Animals that "female cats are naturally lecherous. Why were Cats so Important in Ancient Egypt?Wild Ciencias Channel :https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDBgTJ_aPb8YT4FuLZ6WU2w♦Consider to Support the … Web.  It is common lore that cats have nine lives. In Mahabharata a famous passage concerns the cat Lomasa and the mouse Palita, who help each other escape from death and discuss at length the nature of relationships, particularly those in which one of the parties is stronger or more powerful than the other. Felines as familiars have a long and dark history in western mythology. The Greek myth which suggests this link is the well known story of Heracles (the Roman Hercules) and concerns Galinthius, a maid-servant to Heracles' mother, the Princess Alcmene. THEY’LL STEAL YOUR BABY’S BREATH. It should not be assumed that the common people would have read Vox in Rama and responded to it, nor even that the bull was widespread (it was issued only to Henry III, Count of Sayn, in Germany) but the opinion of the church toward cats would certainly have filtered down from the highest levels to the lay-people of the congregations. A city by the Nile delta, Bubastis, once worshipped a cat-headed goddess named Bast or Pasht, who was associated with happiness, pleasure, dancing and the warmth of the sun. Black cats are also believed to bring good luck in many ways. Freyja’s chariot was pulled by cats, specifically the skogkatt (Norwegian Forest Cat), which is larger and more powerful than most domesticated housecats. Some mistakenly assume that the domestication of cats first happened in Egypt about 4,000 years ago. Cats were obviously important, and there were enormous cults, which revered these felines. Dick was a rich man. Owning a cat, and especially letting one into a new house before the humans move in, is said to bring good fortune.. For centuries, folks in England believed that a cat is liable to … The last common ancestor of wildcats and domesticated cats lived more than 100,000 years ago” (Derbyshire). Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/article/466/. According to Egyptian mythology, gods and goddesses had the power to transform themselves into different animals. Although cats seem to have enjoyed their ancient high standing in European countries at first (in Norse mythology, for example, the great goddess Freya is depicted in a chariot drawn by cats and in both Ireland and Scotland cats are depicted as magical in a positive sense) the Christian Church, following their regular course of demonizing important pagan symbols, drew on the pre-existing link between the cat and witchcraft to associate cats with evil as personified in the Devil. by Mary Harrsch (Photographed at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, Calif.) (CC BY-NC-SA), by Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin (CC BY-NC-SA), by Mary Harrsch (Photographed at the Museo Archaeologico Nazionale di Napoli) (CC BY-SA). As the Phoenicians are acknowledged to have extensively traded with every known civilization of the time, cats could have been spread around the region on a fairly regular basis. 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