Not dogs and magic. Or even horses and magic. Somewhere along the path of Paganism or even Witchcraft there will be references to all and any kind of animal but the cat has long been associated with the occult and in particular women.
‘The cat, the animal which famously does not come when called, has long been an emblem of independence- and of free, independent, autonomous women.’ 1
Women have forever been inextricably linked with cats; their sinuous bodies, thoughtful natures and mysterious night time wanderings connected them also to the moon and from here, women too. Lunar phases and the midnight sky have for centuries been the territory of female deities and therefore all women.
Cat-fights and Hissy-fits describe, in colourful native dialects, the interactions and moods of women. It is interesting when people look at an image of an animal and see, not only what the animal is but what sex they perceive that animal to be, in that moment. For some reason this is important information for the human mind. Cats are female. Dogs are male. Doves are female. Hawks are male. We must get these perceptions from somewhere, history, our upbringings, cultural observations… I’m not sure. It’s just interesting.
I think even now this quote is relevant. In my own experience; all the men in my life, in fact, all the men I personally know have the wrong character for cats. They are all wonderful people and it is not their fault but by this I mean they are not suited to the intricacies or the subtle movements of a cat and it’s emotions. Them men I know who are what they call ‘cat-people’ just like the easy natures of a cat. I genuinely believe the male friends I have who call themselves ‘cat-people’ (there aren’t all that many, funnily enough) are really not. They are still heavy handed (physically and emotionally) clingy and attention-seeking (also physically and emotionally) and have no concept of the subtle nature of a cat. The men I know (and I actually know a fair few women like this too if I’m honest) who don’t know how to understand cats, tend not to ‘like’ them. People do not like what they do not understand, it’s a fact of human nature.
Personal space isn’t required when owning a dog for example. Silence and the fragile nature of peace is also, not required. Independence is not a word in the dog-owning dictionary, try inter-dependence. I believe in souls and the essence of one living thing being in a certain kind of harmony with another. Some people have an affinity for horses, some people know their pet, some people understand animals better than other people and I believe this is because of the harmony of their soul and the way they are in character and disposition. I’m not going on about some mumbo jumbo here; I believe that some people you just ‘get’ even when you have nothing in common, are drawn to you and you to them purely because of something intangible and undeniable and almost indescribable. The same with animals and maybe even other things.
But, I digress.
It has long been a folk-lore ‘fact’ that cats were tortured alongside their mistresses in the early witch burnings both in Britain and abroad for being Familiars or ties to the devil.
The fact that the cat cannot be manipulated like a dog, can move silently as and when it pleases and sometimes seems to have a ‘sixth sense’ all added to the mystery and intrigue surrounding them and historically added fuel to the flames of ignorance and fear.
I’m not completely convinced cats and indeed their people (we all know cats are never ‘owned’ but are the one’s who do you the service of owning you) were persecuted as violently or as massively as some believe but throughout history women have been persecuted, denied rights, tortured and killed. In witch burning tales the accusations of witchcraft usually came from the mouths of fearful or jealous men and women to then be taken up and acted upon by more emotionally damaged (to torture any creature, be it human or not, the person must be damaged) disturbed, violent and abusive members of the community.
It seems to me that even now, lone women (in certain circumstances) are still considered outsiders. I think for centuries now to ‘fit in’ and be one of the crowd is valued much more highly than what each individual member of said crowd’s talents and characters are. In the earliest communities in Britain, men and women looked very equal within society. Male deities have always been worshipped for strength and power. Female deities were once viewed in the same light- Freyja, Frigga, Bridgid, Hera, Athena, Minerva, Adi Parashakti, Bastet, Ma’at, Sekhmet and all the others. Bastet or Bast, the ancient Egyptian protector of the Pharaoh and solar goddess, was once a hugely popular goddess with the people. They could connect with their goddess through her animal ‘familiar’ or sacred animal, the domestic cat. Cats were every where in egypt, everyone who could have a cat near them would, they gave companionship- their own and that of the goddess, they helped keep rats and mice in check, protecting vital grain and food sources. Bast was a solar goddess and when my own cat comes to wake me every morning I can see how he also brings me the sun every day.
Freyja rode a chariot pulled by huge cats and they became synonymous with the Norse deity who by far one of the favourites of the people who worshipped at that time. Freyja was a warrior goddes, the patron of crops and childbirth, she also taught the gods the art of magic. Maybe she is the connection between cats and magic that was brought across the water for us Brits and our early ancestors?
So, was it the introduction of a religion who deified one single man and one single male God that spelled disaster for the strength of the feminine in Britain and Europe? Who decided man was greater than woman? And why do all the men I know still stick their noses up when I say I own a cat?
But again, I digress 🙂
1 The Element Encyclopaedia of Witchcraft by Judika Illes, Animals; Cats, pg 44.