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Cats In Mythology:
Cats in mythology, especially as familiars have an extended and darkh historical past in western mythology. These cats often found their way into literature.
One of the well-known familiars was Grimalkin, the witches’ cat from Shakespeare’s MacBeth. Cats as witch’s companions are still part of the modern-day symbology related to the modern holiday of Halloween.
In western mythology, a familiar was an animal companion given by the devil to a witch with the intention to help her with her evil magic. These familiars would have names identical to some other pet. In the Middle Ages, when you have been caught speaking to your pet (like a lot of people do) you were believed to be consorting with the devil when found chatting with familiar.
The Middle Ages were a very dark and violent period in Europe. Their other name “the Dark Ages” should come as no surprise. Studying was confined to clergy and nobility. As a result of this the general populace was quite ignorant and liable to superstition.
A familiar may very well be any sort of animal resembling a toad, dog or cat. Black cats in mythology became the historically cited companion of witches and therefore cats became notably reviled. In 1233 Pope Gregory IX, in his Papal Bull “Vox in Rama”, actually denounced black cats as satanic. The Pope’s proclamation started the persecution of cats right throughout Europe.
Thousands and thousands of cats were burned alive in an attempt to drive out the evil Satan. Wild tales of those cats shape-shifting into different creatures had been widespread among the populace, and of course justified these terrible acts in their minds. When the power of the Knights Templar was damaged, some among the knights had been stated to have confessed to worshiping cats. As these type of confessions were given excessive torture, they would seem to speak more to the attitudes of their inquisitors than to anything the Templars themselves had actually done.
Why Black Cats?
Why were black cats specifically singled out? There are a few legends that might clarify this singular revulsion. In the first legend, as the story goes, cats who were born at the end of blackberry season were referred to as blackberry cats.
According to this legend, the end of blackberry season coincides with the expulsion of Satan from heaven. When he fell he landed on a blackberry bush which he defiled with his urine and spit. Thus, blackberry cats, particularly black ones are associated with the devil in this story.
The second story comes from Italy. The Italian witches, known as Streghe, tell a legend about Diana who is goddess of the moon and also known as “Queen of the Witches”. Her brother who was identified in historic instances as Apollo, is renamed Lucifer (Light Bearer) in this tale.
Supposedly, Diana wished to have a son by Lucifer, so she attempted to trick him by taking the form of a black cat.
As you’ can see, these tales are rather wild … and yet the folk of those dark times took them to be the gospel truth. The irony of this superstitious hysteria towards cats in mythology – was that by destroying the cats the Europeans nearly destroyed themselves.
Cats had been used for hundreds of years to keep numbers of vermin down, particularly mice and rats. When their predators were destroyed, the rat and mice population exploded. They ate giant amounts of grain that had been meant for human consumption, resulting in widespread hunger for many people. Even worse than the starvation was that the big numbers of rats became disease carriers.
The worst of these illnesses was the Bubonic Plague, otherwise often called the Black Death. The Plagues of the Middle Ages are terrible results of the repercussions that befell people because of misplaced zeal and superstition.