Animal Wisdom: Connecting People and Animals

A blog encouraging deeper relations between people and animals.

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Bred from the more social African wildcat, the domestic cat has been a part of people’s lives since before the time of the ancient Egyptians. Remains of the domestic cats were found, on the island of Cyprus, dating from 8000 B.C.E. Unlike her elusive cat cousins, African Wildcat liked living close to towns and villages. The domestic cat, like her ancestor, is tamer and less secretive than most wildcats. She socializes with people, however like a true cat, only on her terms.

Living in a social hierarchy, the domestic cat forms close friendships. In her family group (kindle), the domestic cat sits with and nose-bumps her friends. By rubbing her body against other cats, She reinforces the bonds of her Kindle. (A cat that is rubbed the most is the highest-ranking cat.) 

Throughout the centuries, the domestic cat’s fortunes has risen and fallen. In Ancient Rome and Egypt, She was a Goddess. Because a domestic cat symbolized the Egyptian god Bast, any person who killed a domestic cat was put to death. As the Cat-Mother, Bast embodied the benevolent aspects of Cat: fertility, love, and life-giving heat. In Rome, She represented the Goddess of Liberty. Roman legions carried images of the domestic cat on their shields and standards.

In early Christian times, the domestic cat was regarded as a helper. Aboard Noah’s Ark, She kept out the Devil, who had taken on the form of a gnawing Mouse. The “M” on her forehead was placed there by the Virgin Mary, in gratitude for her aid in putting the Baby Jesus to sleep. Stories of the saints featured the domestic cat killing the Mice that tormented various Catholic saints.

However, as Christianity spread, the domestic cat became associated with evil. Thought to be a familiar of witches, the domestic cat was endowed with evil by the Christian Church. For example, medieval people believed that She would try to thwart an expecting mother from giving birth. “Having kittens” meant that a cat, inside of a pregnant woman, wanted to get out. Such beliefs were rooted in earlier times when cats were sacred to the Great Goddess and connected to childbirth. In the Medieval Christian mind, the domestic cat was closely tied to Paganism and hence to evil.

The nadir for the domestic cat’s fortunes occurred when Baudouin III, Count of Flanders threw his cats from his castle towers. His cat killing was a symbol that Baudouin embraced Christianity with all his heart. An annual cat festival was conducted in Flanders, complete with throwing cats out of windows to mark the occasion of his conversion.

A late arrival in Japan, The domestic cat did not appear in Japanese folklore until about the 1400s. Since the Japanese believed that She brought good fortune, they made statues of the domestic cat with her front left paw raised for good luck. (“The Lucky Cat.”) In addition, Japanese sailors believed that the domestic cat kept the evil spirits away that dwelled in the sea.

Throughout it all, the domestic cat has kept her equanimity. No matter what people thought about Her, She lived her life as a champion mouser. The domestic cat helps those who ask, and ignores everyone else. People speak of the domestic cat’s independence, but what She really possesses is inner peace. No matter what happens, She knows that She is still a Goddess. Remember the saying “A cat may look at a king.”

Inscription on the royal tombs at Thebes. “Thou art the Great Cat, the avenger of the gods, and the judge of words, and the president of the sovereign chiefs and the governor of the holy Circle; thou art indeed…the Great Cat.”


Conservation Note: Feral Cats are a problem wherever they are. Cat owners fail to spay and neuter their animals, and often abandon the offspring. These ‘throwaways’ die from starvation, disease, abuse, and predators. Those that survive are a menace to birds, and are carriers of various diseases. REMEMBER TO SPAY OR NEUTER YOUR CATS.

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Virginia Carper, a Roman Polytheist, lives in the Washington D.C. area with her family. She navigates life with a traumatic brain injury which gives her a different view on life. An avid naturalist since childhood, she has a blog called “Nature’s Observations.” Having experienced the animals directly, she teaches on-line classes about the spiritual and natural aspect of animals. She has published articles on her brain injury, Roman polytheism, and working with extinct animals. In addition her writings on animals (including dragons and other mythic creatures) can be purchased her book site, Animal Teachers.  


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