Love them or hate them, you can’t ignore them.
Cats have taken the internet by storm, from the mind-numbing Nyan cat to the adorable humanized Grumpy Cat, and of course, kittens so cute, they can make you melt. Watching cats flaunt their feisty attitude or their feline reflexes at stuffed toys and lasers, makes for one of the favorite pastimes of this generation.
Apparently we aren’t the only ones obsessed with them.
Cats across cultures have been a symbol of good or evil; while Hindus maintain the belief that black cats are unlucky, Muslims believe that their luminescent eyes attract angels. So, are they really the embodiment of Satan or are they just another species in the food chain?
Let’s take a look:
Do I look like a witch to you?
In the Middle Ages, cats have often been associated with witches, hence persecuted as evil. Rural people, who thought they were destroying witches practicing black magic, usually burned cats alive [Ghastly, right?].
Want a husband? Stay away from cats
Different parts of Europe have interesting superstitions about cats. In France, for example, it was believed that a girl will not find a suitable husband for a whole year if she steps on a cat’s tail. In Western Europe, it was a widespread belief that a kitten born in May is a witch’s cat.
Holy and adorable
In Islam, cats have been held in high regard and worshipped as holy beings. It is said that cats were the Prophet Mohammed’s favorite pet. According to folklore, Mohammed was once lying under a tree, where a cat joined him and he woke to find the cat resting on his sleeve. Instead of waking the cat from slumber, he cut off his sleeve and let the cat sleep on.
Kill a cat & die
In Egypt, cats, referred to as ‘Mau’, have been respected as skillful hunters – especially handy in protecting the citizens’ homes from vermin and harmful insects. In ancient Egyptian tales, most gods such as the Bast, Maahes, and Sekhmet have heads of lionesses or have felines as pets. It is also said that ancient Egyptian law entailed a death penalty for anyone who killed a cat.
So many felines stories
A very common example of cats in story-telling is the Chesire cat of Alice in Wonderland. Leaving the judgment of the cat’s character in a gray area, Lewis Carroll worked in cryptic dialogue, where the cat, while trying to be misleading, ends up guiding Alice on to the right path.
Alternately, the Maneki Niko, also known as the ‘beckoning cat’, is considered good luck in Japanese folklore.
Poland: Furry Trees
In Poland, one of the oldest tales heard in ancient folklore revolves around cats: A mother cat grieved for its kittens that were drowning in a nearby river. Longing to help, a tree extended its branches, allowing the kittens to grab them, pulling them to safety. It is said that the same tree occasionally sprouts tufts of fur on its branches where the kittens once held on.
Looking at this mix of mystical and religious sources of beliefs prevalent all over the world, it is safe to say that whether cats symbolize good or evil may depend largely on your culture and experiences with cats.
So, it comes down to one question: what do you think cats symbolise? Tell us in the comments below with fiery passion – Are you an Egyptian who would kill a cat-killer? Or are you a rural man of the Middle Ages who’s skeptical of these purring beasts?