Cat lore can be found in many ancient and modern cultures. Cats’ mysterious demeanor and personality have always inspired all types of beliefs and myths.
Ever since cats gained prominence in Ancient Egypt, they have been used to explain many mysteries. Cats were, in many instances, revered as gods and goddesses. Ancient people of Egypt and other nations attributed magical powers to cats.
Despite all these reverence and prominence, however, it hasn’t all been a positive experience for cats. In many cultures, and during different periods in history, cats were seen as evil creatures and bearers of misfortune. These beliefs cost many cats their lives as they were mercilessly persecuted.
If you are interested in learning more about cat folklore, you will like to read the small collection of cat lore, cat myths, legends, and beliefs listed below.
Ancient and modern cat lore
As I said before, cat folklore shows up in many cultures, old and new. Here are some interesting beliefs from times past.
Ancient Egyptians held cats in high regard. Archeologists have found evidence that reveals that cats were very much part of Egyptians’ daily life. When cats died, they were mourned with the same honors as that of any other family member. Tombs filled with cat mummies have also been found.
Ancient Egyptians later worshiped cats as divine beings. Bastet, the cat goddess, is one of the best-known deities of the Ancient Egyptians’ pantheon. Cats were believed to be representatives of the cat goddess and anyone who killed a cat was punished with death.
Ancient Romans too held cats in high esteem, but not to the degree Ancient Egyptians did. Cats were not considered major gods in Ancient Rome. However, felines were worshiped as household gods. At that time it was pretty common for Romans to have household gods. Mostly, these lesser gods were consider protectors. Cats, however, were not thought of as protectors but as bearers of good luck.
The Siamese cat is one of the most popular cat breeds, and a lot of its success is attributed to the Siamese’s unique beauty and personality. This breed is believed to have originated in Siam (now modern Thailand).
Some legends claim that Siamese cats would only be kept at the royal palace. Others say that Siamese cats were consider sacred and lived in and guarded Buddhist temples.
According to yet another legend, whenever a member of the royal family or high ranking official passed away, his or her soul would be received by a chosen Siamese cat. Afterwards, the cat would go on to live in extreme luxury at one of the sacred temples. After some time the soul living in the cat would move on to the next world.
Cat lore is present in many other cultures. Here are a few more legends…
Hebrew – A legend says that before the great flood there were no cats. A couple of lions did make it onto Noah’s ark. According to this legend, after some time of floating in the waters, the ark became infested with mice. These rodents almost ate all their food reserves. Noah was beside himself. So he prayed to God for a solution. God told Noah to hit the male lion on the face. As Noah did so, the lion sneezed and out of the lion’s nostrils came a pair of cats.
Christian – According to a popular legend, tabbies got the M on their foreheads from the Virgin Mary. Legend says that when Baby Jesus was born, a tabby cat kept him warm. The Virgin Mary put her mark on the cat’s forehead as a symbol of her gratitude.
Europe - Medieval Times – People thought that if you kicked a cat, you would develop rheumatism.
Indonesia – Legend says that cats can control rain.
Books for cat lovers
Did you enjoy these tidbits of cat lore? Then you’ll enjoy the following books. And by the way, these tomes make great gifts for cat lovers.
--Planet Cat: A Cat-alog by Sandra Choron, Harry Choron, and Arden Moore
--Your Magical Cat: Feline Magic, Lore, and Worship by Gerina Dunwich
--Meow!: Illinois Cats in History, Mystery, Legend, Lore, Humor and More! by Carole Marsh
--Tiger in the House: A Cultural History of the Cat by Carl Van Vechten, Stephen Budiansky
--Cat-A-Logue: A Curiosity of Feline Facts by Deborah Robertson
--Lion Sneezed: Folktales and Myths of the Cat by Maria Leach
Cat myths and legends
Cat quotes for the cat lover
Interesting facts about cats
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