Cats Encyclopedia

The Mysterious Cat

by Joan Moore



The Cat in Cultures & Religions Worldwide

Ancient Egypt
 Classical Greece
The Roman Empire
Celtic and Christian Europe
Scandinavia and Northern Europe

China and Japan

Russian Folklore
Native, North and South America
African Cat Lore
Australasia and Oceania

Supernatural Cat

Cats in Witchcraft
Cat and Woman
The Psychic Cat
The Occult Cat

A Western Astrological Guide to the Cat

Mythical Cat
Cat Legends
Feline Esoterica




Supernatural Cat

Cats in Witchcraft

Witchcraft survives today as the age-old worship of the bemmine Principle: the Great Mother and the Horned God. Inextricably linked with this primal symbolism is the cat. Emerging from the ancient Stone Age fertility cult when a belief in magic and the supernatural was born, witchcraft is seen to spring from a primitive animism, a belief system in which spirits were thought to haunt places, trees, stones and other natural objects.


Martha Erlebacher


Communion with the Devil

Throughout time, human beings have condemned that which they fear or do not understand and cat worship, considered a 'pagan' religion and still prevalent in the early fifteenth century, was a practice that caused concern to the Christian Church. In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII issued his famous bull Summis Desiderantes Affectibus, in which he commanded the Inquisition to burn all cat worshippers as witches.
There ensued, in the name of the Christian faith, a long period of cruel and rigorous persecution of those suspected of communing with the Devil — a popular target being lone women, living in solitude with their cat. Compounding the cat-and-witch relationship theory, the natural historian Edmund Topsell wrote in 1607: 'The Familiars (demonic 'assistants') of Witches do most ordinarily appear in the Shape of Cats, which is an Argument that the Beast is a Danger to Soul and Body.'

Hysterical accusations

Throughout Christian Europe and in the American colonies in New Enaland mass hysteria prompted wild accusations against unfortunates who were in any way 'different' from their fellows. Perhaps they were physically deformed, possessed warts in the wrong place, or had been heard mumbling to themselves, presumably in conversation with their master the Devil; some were claimed to have 'magically' healed — or harmed — others; and some were simply unfortunate enough to own cats.
Family member turned against family member in their anxiety to prove their own innocence. Countless cats and humans were burnt or tortured to death, their bodies left hanging at crossroads — shades of Hecate, deity of witches, crossroads and death — as a grim warning to all who passed by.
In Elngland Matthew Hopkins, infamous self-appointed Witchfinder General under Oliver Cromwell, was responsible for the torture and death of some sixty people in one year in the county of Essex alone. Pictured on the frontispiece of his book Discovery of Witches, published in 1647, is a group of familiars including a cat called Pyewaekett. But the tide had turned for Matthew Hopkins. In that same year he was tested by his own methods and thrown into a river. As had so many of his victims before him, he floated to the top and was duly hanged as a warlock.


Johann Zoffrany


The Chelmsford witches

The first major English witch trial took place at Chelmsford in Essex in 1566, soon after the passing of new 'anti-witchcraft' legislation in the reign of Queen Elizabeth the First. The case was therefore important and gave a good general overview of alleged witchcraft in England. The three defendants, Elizabeth Francis, Agnes Waterhouse and her daughter Joan, all came from the Essex village of Hatfield Peveril.
After questioning, Elizabeth Francis confessed to having learnt the art of witchcraft from her grandmother, Mother Eve, at the age of twelve. Mother Eve advised her to renounce God 'and to give of her blood to Satan', which she delivered to Elizabeth in the likeness of a white spotted cat, her 'familiar spirit' teaching her to call it 'Sathan and to keep it in a basket'. Elizabeth told the court that this animal spoke to her. When he enquired what might be her heart's desire, she replied 'Sheep', and the cat caused eighteen of them to be brought into her pasture.
Elizabeth then asked the cat to procure the wealthy Andrew Byles as her husband. Byles refused to marry her, however, so she willed Sathan to waste his goods, which he did. But, not content with this, she willed Sathan to 'touch' his body. The cat did this also, causing Byles to die.
She now looked around for another marriage prospect. This was to be Francis, her husband at the time of the trial. It is alleged that after they were married they lived quietly, as Elizabeth desired, until she became, in her own words, 'stirred to much unquietness and moved to swearing and cursing. And so she willed Sathan her cat to kill her child, being some six months old, and this he did.' Elizabeth then willed the cat to make Francis lame. Sathan obliged:
It [the cat] came in the morning to this Francis' shoe and lay in it like a toad. And when he perceived it upon putting on his shoe and had touched it with his foot, he was amazed and asked her what it was. She bade him kill the thing and he was forthwith taken with a lameness of which he cannot be healed.
Having established to its own satisfaction that the cat was a devil, the court was curious to know the nature of Elizabeth's relationship with Sathan. She explained that every time he did anything for her he required a drop of her blood which she produced by pricking herself. 'Wherever she pricked herself there remained a red spot which was still to be seen.' Significantly, throughout her trial Elizabeth Francis made no mention of pacts with the Devil, sabbats or covens. This aspect of witchcraft was seen more in continental Europe, where deeper religious conflicts were at the roots of the witchcraft mania. Acts of maleficium or personal spite were much more typical in sixteenth-century England. Relying entirely on Elizabeth's own confession, the court reached a verdict of guilty and sentenced her to twelve months' imprisonment. Some time later she was twice charged with 'bewitchment' and ultimately she was hanged — not for heresy but for causing personal injury.
Agnes Waterhouse, the second defendant in the Chelmsford trial, was dealt with in more summary fashion. She was 'examined' over two days, found guilty and hanged on 29 July 1566 — possibly the first woman to have been hanged for witchcraft in England.
The third defendant was eighteen-year-old Joan Waterhouse, at whose trial one Agnes Brown spoke about a black dog said to be Satan in disguise — one of the earliest known mentions of this particular phenomenon.


Pierre-Auguste Renoir


Old Tibbs

In 1612, shortly before another famous trial, that of the Witches of Pendle in Lancashire, a blind old woman called Mother Demdyke and Alison, her granddaughter, hurried away from the house of a miller. He shouted after them: Away from here, you worthless witches! I've not so much as a mouldy crust for such servants of the Devil!'
Mother Demdyke, her blind eyes facing the sound of the miller's furious voice, muttered: 'I'd wish you in your grave!' Her voice grew louder as she called: 'But your heart is already dead. Look to your daughter, whom you hold so dear. Old Tibbs will seek her out!'
As the year wore on, the miller's daughter grew pale and sickly and did not live to see again the first primroses blooming in the woods. Neighbours recalled that, whenever she had been alone, the young girl had been accompanied by a black cat rubbing against her ankles, its tail held high. Mother Demdyke chuckled to herself as Alison led her past the miller's door and the crone asked of her granddaughter: 'Is she there, my dear? Is she alone? Tibbs will find her for sure!'


Suzanne Valadon



Witches in disguise, known as witch-cats, were said to converse in human voices, though often in an unknown language. Many people therefore refused to talk near a cat, for fear that a witch would discover their secrets.
In 1718 the occupant of a house in Caithness, Scotland, claimed that a group of cats gathered round his house one night, talking in human language. He rushed out with an axe, killed two and wounded several others. The next day, two old women were found dead in their beds and another had a bad cut on her leg for which she could offer no explanation.

Hecate's legacy

The Greek goddess Hecate, who had once adopted the shape of a cat when threatened by the giant: Typhon, thereafter had a special affection for cats. She became the patron saint, so to speak, of witches, as Shakespeare knew when he made his 'dark and midnight hags' appeal to her for help in bringing about the ruin of Macbeth. And so it naturally followed that those who practised witchcraft should also cultivate a liking for cats.


Micha Koeck


Black magic

Not to be confused with witchcraft, black or white, black magic may be defined as the use of supernatural knowledge for the purposes of evil. In the Middle Ages, conjuring up devils was a ceremony that generally took place at night in a graveyard, among ruins or at a place where some fiendish crime had been committed. Wailing and incantations were supposed to bring forth 'spirits'.
The 'priest', wearing a black cloak and skull cap, held a hazel wand with which he drew around himself a magic circle which he was not allowed to leave. The names of demons to be called up were represented by letters and geometric symbols drawn outside the circle, whereupon a repugnant smell described as 'the sooty stink of Satan' filled the air. An animal — usually a black cat — was sacrificed and its blood, caught in a copper vessel, attracted the demons. The priest rubbed himself with a magic ointment and chanted an incantation to summon these evil spirits. At the touch of the hazel wand they were forced to enter the magic circle and obey the wishes of the priest.
These sinister ceremonies were fairly common practice in medieval France, according to the Histoire At la Philosophic Occulte by the occultist Alexandrian, 'with overlords, princes, witches and Church alike taking part to call forth spirits — a general belief which was backed by the law'.


Marcus Stone


Black cats

All Hallows' E'en or Hallowe'en is celebrated on 31 October. This wake was originally a pagan feast of the dead and marks the moment when supernatural forces symbolising cold and death return to Earth. Witches and warlocks, accompanied by their feline familiars, travel on broomsticks to these great sabbats, and followers of the path of Wicca call this night Samhain. Because of its sinister looks and nocturnal habits the black cat has been considered the consort of witches since ancient times.
Superstitions about cats were rife during the time of the witchcraft purges and many of these are still in use today. For instance, some people believe that the black cat is a reincarnation of the Devil and regard it as an ill omen if one crosses their path. More commonly now the reverse is held to be true — a black cat crossing one's path is said to bring good luck. However, it is said that your luck will run out if a black cat crosses your path from left to right, or if it turns tail and runs away from you. Γξ keep your luck 'safe', it helps if you confront the cat, greet it politely and give it three gentle strokes! In some countries, seeing a black cat at the start of a journey is sufficient for a person to turn around and go back home again, fearing that disaster will ensue if they continue on their way!
We saw earlier how, during the Middle Ages, black cats or matagots were thought to possess the evil eye. None the less, anyone finding the one pure white hair in an all-black cat and plucking it out without
being scratched was reputed to go on to enjoy great wealth and good luck in love. The famous story of Dick Whittington, the poor boy who became Lord Mayor of London in the fourteenth century, and his famous black cat bears out, in part, this last superstition. (Interestingly, some authorities assert that Whittington's cat was not a feline at all but a heavy ship known as a 'cat' which was used to carry coals from Newcastle to London.)
That the black cat should have now become a symbol of good luck is possibly due to the idea that it may retain some of the magical powers to which witches laid claim. For instance, it is said that a stray black cat coming into one's home will bring money in its train; to stroke one brings good luck; and if a black cat should cross a path or road, the next person to pass that way will have a wish come true!
In the theatrical world, actors believe that a black cat in the audience on opening night portends a successful run — the Haymarket Theatre in London used to keep one there permanently. However, it is a bad sign if a black cat runs across the stage during a performance.


David Hockney


Cat and Woman

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec


Of all the animals, the psyche of the cat is most compatible to that of woman, and if she were to metamorphose into any species it would certainly be the cat.
The ways of the feline are similar to those of woman: they can be sensitive, sensual and beguiling, but at the same time often wily and devious. Cats possess the attributes of mystery, beauty and elegance, to which most women aspire, and in an attempt to imbue themselves with the same style and grace women have frequently clothed themselves in the skins of cats large and small. Perhaps reflecting a mutual self-awareness, American writer Lillian Jackson Braun wrote that 'Cats never strike a pose that isn't photogenic'. Woman can also be a warm, affectionate kitten, but hell hath no greater fury than when she is scorned or rejecred — then she can turn into a savage, spiteful fighting cat, red in tooth and claw!
Woman the homemaker offers the family cat an opportunity to bond with her in a positive and fulfilling way. 1 his is often a reciprocal relationship, with woman supplying food, warmth and affection and Cat in turn providing a quiet undemanding companionship. Said to sleep away two-thirds of its life, the cat will come to rest on woman's knee. Grooming, cither subconsciously by stroking or as part of the daily routine, will strengthen the bond, while the soft female voice is soothing to the cat's highly sensitive hearing mechanism.
Less euphemistically, cats naturally gravitate towards places where food and warmth are readily available: the kitchen, traditionally seen as the woman's domain. Rudyard Kipling recognised this in 'The Cat that Walked by Itself, in which the wily cat is drawn towards woman's warm, welcoming cave.


Richard Lees



All the great cat goddesses such as Isis, Bast, Diana and Hecate, with their eternal Moon link, combine woman with Cat. Emphasising this empathy, the mysterious feline has always been construed as woman and vice versa. Since time immemorial, women have been thought to possess an ability as mediums, with a talent for soothsaying and clairvoyance. Second sight, too, is deemed to be a natural female attribute. Cats, silently wise and 'knowing', with eyes reflecting the
secrets of time itself, arc said to be 'old souls', and the attraction of woman to Cat could be seen to represent a look back to an ancient part of the human soul. And what woman deep within her Moon-centred self doesn't nurture a fascination with the past — the 'unknown'; ancient, forbidden secrets; and the mystical world of the occult?
Perhaps, at some distant point in time, Cat and woman with their beguiling ways and inbuilt urge to procreate underwent a transmigration of souls, each now sharing the ' complex psyche of the other. Both are symbols of fertility; both project innate feminine traits of intuitive sensuality and nurture and cherish their young. The female cat, both domestic and in the wild, is known to be a caring, efficient mother and the old French proverb, Jamais chatte qui a des petits n'a de bans morceaux, (a cat with little ones has never a good mouthful) illustrates the devotion and selflessness of the maternal feline.


Gustave Courbet


Creatures of the Moon

Cat, said to be ruled by the Moon, represents our own subconscious, our inner reflective being. Woman, too, is Moon-ruled, and like the tides her emotions ebb and flow. Her feminine cycle reflects the twenty-eight-day lunar cycle during which the Moon occupies each of the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Cats are by nature negative or jeminine, which in the astrological sense is construed as expressing receptivity, sensitivity, reflectiveness and the ability to absorb. In astrology the Sun sign Virgo is linked with the cat. Both represent fertility and both characteristically show a painstaking fastidiousness with regard to personal health and hygiene!
'Cats, whose eyes grow wider or narrower according to phases of the Moon,' wrote the sixteenth-century German alchemist Cornelius Agrippa, 'arc lunar animals and arc of the same nature as menstrual blood, with which many wonderful and miraculous things arc wrought by magicians.'


Pierre-Auguste Renoir


An early link

The Ancient Egyptian symbol Ru, appearing in many magical texts at a time when Cat and woman were worshipped as one, is shaped like the half-dilated pupil of the cat's eye. Ru meant, among other things, a doorway or passage from one space to another, equating with the passage of birth or a symbolic transition from the spiritual to the material plane. This connection between birth, the female and the cat features in early Christian imagery, where a cat is seen giving birth in the manger at the same time as Mary gave birth to Jesus. In other examples, the Virgin and Child are pictured playing with a cat.


Pierre Bonnard


A secret life

Shape-shifting from human to cat has already been encountered in the context of classical mythology and medieval and later tales of witchcraft. More recently, country folk in Shropshire in the north-west of England used to tell of an early nineteenth-century lord of the manor whose wife had died and whose aughter, Lady Catherine Hansby, subsequently played hostess at his many wild parties and gatherings. However Catherine, a handsome, lively and accomplished young woman,
seemed inexplicably unable to play her usual role around the time of the full Moon. Indeed, she was nowhere to be found at that particular point in the lunar calendar. Her maid, though, swore to her mother in the village, that her mistress's bed had been slept in. The sheets were greatly disturbed, torn and soiled — and, oddly, traces of blood and black cat hairs could be seen adhering to the linen.
Following these perplexing periods of absence, Lady Catherine would appear with a look of supreme satisfaction on her face. Almost, as the wide-eyed maid explained to her equally wide-eyed mother, like a cat that had finished off all the cream!
So it was rumoured among the local folk that the Lady Cat, as she came to be called, consorted with the Devil in feline form when the Moon waxed full. Certainly the young woman repelled the advances of every suitor her father placed her way — since, it was said, she enjoyed her secret life too much to allow it to be curtailed by marriage. Anyway, the villagers argued with guarded yet knowing looks, what tricks could mere mortal man teach her that she couldn't learn from the Master himself?

Goddesses old and new

In ancient times a seeker of truth would enlist the aid of the Moon-ruled deity Bastet — also known as the Lady of Truth — who was said to cast her light on what was hidden in darkness, offering insight by her illumination. Along her path of silvery moonbeams the seeker would accordingly tread, and this narrow path of light was called a 'cat-walk'. This phrase is very familiar to us today in the context of modern 'goddesses' — fashion models — pacing elegantly down a spotlit length of stage!


Pierre-Auguste Renoir


The Psychic Cat


Cats have the power to reflect the nature of our own psychic state, and to the mediumistic they can facilitate access to the collective unconscious.
Deep within our soul there dwells the Cat — somewhere in the forests of ancient memories it sleeps, the embodiment of old fears, superstitions and primitive passions. Age-old beliefs, combining the physical world with the spiritual, centre on the predatory cat, endowing it with a powerful magical aura. In myths and folklore around the world, supernatural tales abound of a legendary half-human, half-feline creature stalking the spirit realms and hunting the souls of unwary travellers. A creature such as this is often regarded as the soul of dead ancestors, evil sorcerers and even the transformed essence of shamans.
A Celtic belief is that cats' eyes are the windows through which humans may explore an inner world, and by the same token it is said that cats rcllcct not only the nature of our psychic state but also the times in which we live and possibly the future itself. Who knows?
Under the influence of narcotics. Amazonian shamans saw with 'jaguar eyes', viewing the occupants of the world not as human beings but as hunting cats. For centuries warriors, shamans and sorcerers in primitive hunting societies have associated themselves with the most powerful and ferocious of all beasts, the big cat.


Cecilia Beaux



Occult powers are often attributed to cats and it is said that they have the power of hypnotism. Outside the staunchly scientific fraternity the psychic powers of the domestic cat are seldom doubted and, reflecting the mystical witches of medieval times, many women cat owners are known to experience a psychic rapport with their feline companions.
Several years ago, a number of my Siamese cats and I could silently communicate using the technique sometimes known as 'shining'. This involves a form of telepathy between two beings, in which the unspoken thoughts of one may be comprehended by the other. At the point of contact there is a strong and exhilarating psychic surge almost like a charge of electricity.
When attempting this exercise, it is important to be alone with your cat and 'centre' your thoughts — that is, clear your mind of everything else but the cat before you. It is best for your cat to be seated at eye level and opposite you on, say, a table or other flat surface so that it maintains its own equilibrium and independence. Concentrate on those jewel-like eyes and allow yourself to 'drown' in their depths. Make no mistake, the cat will know what is happening, but at first ma)' need some gentle persuasion to allow access to its inner secret self.
He or she will let you know when they have had enough, and you must then postpone the exercise until another occasion. It is important to work at the cat's pace. Let the words you wish to say project from your mind, clearly, simply and in an unhurried way. Without removing your gaze from the eyes of your cat, will the words to enter through the portals or windows, as it were, of your cat's eyes and into its very being or soul. Do not allow your concentration to lapse or wander, or the moment is lost.
It may take some time for you and your cat to communicate in this way, but holding him or her in your arms at these times will increase the bond between you. Conversely, this might also enforce the 'mother and baby' link, so that metaphorically you are still at the 'coochy coo, who's a pretty puss cat, then?' stage. This is not what you are seeking.
Shining may not happen for you at the first attempt, nor perhaps after many attempts — but, if you truly want to have this incredible experience, persevere. Remember, though, to make haste slowly, or even to abandon the plan altogether if necessary, for this is a very special esoteric practice in which your cat may have no wish to take part.


Tsuguharu Foujita


The sixth sense

There is a certain indefinable feeling, retained from our primeval ancestors which alerts us to something that is amiss in our world. We call this alarm bell that sounds in our minds just before the intrusion of conscious thought, our sixth sense. Animals — and some humans — possess it to a greater degree.
In animals, the sixth sense includes a homing instinct and sometimes an ability to forecast and predict events. Cats appear to possess the former and occasionally the latter. There is also the belief that cats, via their sixth sense, know when they are about to die.

Psi-trailing and precognition

The belief that cats have a phenomenal homing instinct is supported by the many examples of cats returning over vast distances to their original home. A book and film called The Incredible Journey charted the adventures of a seal point Siamese who found his way home after an eventful trip of several thousand miles.
Another phenomenon is prccognition. This method of sensing or predicting forthcoming events is perhaps explained by the animal — cats, dogs, birds and other species are all known to react similarly — sensing vibrations or changes in the Earth's electromagnetic fields, such as occur before earthquakes or electric storms. For example, cats demonstrate their receptivity and heightened sensitivity to increased static electricity in the atmosphere by excessive activity, vocalisation and perhaps seeking shelter.


Jean-Baptiste Oudry


Never drown a cat

It is warned that to drown a cat tempts Satan to take your soul. The following strange story from Germany may prove that, in any case, drowning a cat is not to be recommended.
An old woman living in the town of Odenwald displayed for sale in her cottage window odd items of haberdashery such as threads, ribbons, lace and samples of material. Her only companion for many years had been a tabby cat who never strayed from her side.
A young military man, who had his eye on the old woman's savings, proposed marriage, and in due course they were wed. When she died the sergeant, anxious to clear the house of his wife's body and belongings, was prevented from doing so by the cat, which refused to leave the side of its mistress at all costs. Much annoyed, the soldier seized the cat by the scruff of its neck and drowned it in a nearby river.
Before long the sergeant remained, but his new wife was perturbed to sec him on many occasions returning home frightened, out of breath and exhausted. He explained that each time he passed the spot on the river bank where he had drowned the cat, the animal mysteriously appeared and followed in his steps, no matter how quickly he ran. The man married for a third time, and this wife too was alarmed to hear the same story . . .


William Holman Hunt


The ship's cat

Words such as paranormal and parasensory — para is from the Greek word meaning 'beyond' — may be applied to the following story of an extraordinary cat.
Homeward bound from Melbourne, an elderly Panamanian-registered cargo vessel made it to the Cape where its worn-out engine finally gave up. Its captain, who drank heavily, was a hard taskmaster and harboured an unusual grievance against his second mate, an unsociable yet hard-working German called Hansen. It seemed that Hanscn's only friend was Rhaj, the ship's cat. Rhaj followed him everywhere and Hansen talked to him, fed him and allowed him to sleep in his bunk.
The captain, drunk and in a foul mood owing to the engine's breakdown, again vented his spite on the second mate. For some imagined misdemeanour, the captain struck Hansen. I he mate fell backwards and struck his head awkwardly on the steel bulkhead. His skull cracked open and he died instantly.
Hansen was duly buried at sea, and that evening the cat appeared on the bridge staring at the spot where his friend used to stand. When the time arrived for the mate to have gone off duty, the cat rose and silently walked away. This behaviour exactly mimicked the dead Hansen's daily routine.! he cat was seen to carry out other routines previously performed by the second mate, and the crew lost no time in deciding that the cat was following around the ghost of their former shipmate. Unnerved by Hansen's violent end, the men were soon filled with foreboding and the captain ordered the cat to be thrown overboard.
However, immediately the order was given Rhaj disappeared. He was found two days later, curled up on the dead captain's face, having suffocated the man as he lay in a drunken stupor. Speculation among the crew was rife, since the captain's cabin had been locked at the time of his death and the key was found on his person afterwards. Few knew the whereabouts of the spare key. but Hansen, the second mate, had known exactly where the secretive Captain had hidden it.
When the ship finally docked, Rhaj, it was said, went purposefully ashore, his tail held aloft, and was never seen again.


John D. Batten


The Occult Cat

Eliphas Levi, occultist and astrologer, maintained that: 'Superstition is derived from a Latin word which signifies survival' and 'is the dead body of a Religious Rite'. Over the ages, the cat which 'endures and endures' has truly-found an established and significant place in occult symbolism.

Evelyn de Morgan


Gemstone lore

The cat's eye, a variety of chrysoberyl, is used by the natives of Sri Lanka, in whose country the finest specimens are to be found, as a charm against evil spirits. This semi-precious stone was called 'cat's eye' since it possessed chatoy-ancy — the power to change in lustre and colour, like the eyes of a cat in the dark.
This most beautiful and brilliant stone is found in golden yellow, mid-yellow, bamboo-green and bluish brown and has a powerful silver-white beam of light, stimulated by the slightest movement across its cut surface. This is the gemstone for second-half Geminis (5 — 21 June) and is believed to guard against physical danger and act as protection against the Devil.
In addition to moonstone, cat's eye is the crystal for first-half Cancerians (22 June — 4 July). Found in delightful shades of translucent pink, violet, yellow-pink and yellow and white, the cat's eye scapolite, by virtue of one of its elements, aluminium, relates to the Moon — the ruling planet of Cancer — because it remains untarnished by Air, an element not found on the Moon.
In wedding and anniversary listings and their appropriate tokens, the cat's eye crystal represents the thirty-ninth anniversary.

The alchemists' cat

The cat was not unknown to the world of alchemy, whose exponents attempted to turn base metal into gold. The Philosopher's Stone was a substance which the alchemists believed would enable them to do so.
An engraving in Lambsprinck's fascinating publication De Lapide Philosophico (The Philosopher's Stone) of 1677 depicts a large white cat emerging from a cave in which a fierce dragon lurks; above everything is the sky god Jupiter. In alchemy the cat was seen as a creature both male and female, sun and shade.
The term 'Philosopher's Stone' probably arose from some Eastern talismanic legend; the substance was, in fact, a red powder or amalgam purporting to drive off the impurities of baser metals. According to one legend, Noah was commanded to hang up the true and genuine Philosopher's Stone in the Ark, to give light to every living creature therein.




The feline constellation

The constellation of Faelis the Cat was designated by the French astronomer Joseph Jerome Lalande from a group of stars between Antlia (the Air Pump) and Hydra (the Water Snake). Faelis was depicted in the Atlas Coelestis by J.E. Bode in 1799 and again on a map published by Bode in 1805. It later disappeared, because, in the opinion of astronomer Camille Flammarion. it was 'superfluous'.
However, as Lalande pointed out: The large number of stars I have supplied for M. Bodes charts gave me some right to shape new constellations. There were already thirty-three animals in the sky; I put in the thirty-fourth, the cat.' Explaining further, the old astronomer said: 'I am very fond of cats. Besides, the starry sky had me worried enough in my life, so now I can have my joke on it!' Sadly, his joke did not last long as the new constellation was never widely accepted by other astronomers and has now been virtually forgotten.

Leo the lion

The Zodiacal sign of Leo symbolises strength and courage, and is of the element Fire. When the Sun passes through this sign, it is the hottest time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. It signifies creativity and the Father principle, and rules the heart and spine. Its subjects arc physically and constitutionally strong and demonstrate a warm, sunny nature and a hearty' generosity of spirit. Physical characteristics of Leo subjects include a regal demeanour and a noticeably generous 'mane' of hair!


Anita Janasova



The cat, usually thought of as a feminine creature, is also the animal attributed to the Zodiacal sign of Virgo. Sun sign Virgo (24 August — 22 September), as the only female figure in the Zodiac, is associated with Earth goddesses Isis, Demeter and even the Virgin Mary, and its rule takes place during the period when the harvest is gathered in. This is a time when, traditionally, the cat as Spirit of the Corn would be caught, sacrificed and, in order to ensure the success of the following harvest, its remains returned to the Earth.


Charles Massard


Chinese astrology

When not portrayed as the rabbit or hare, the fourth sign of the Chinese Zodiac is said to be the cat. This has not always been so, however. T he ancients recall that, as the death of Buddha drew nigh, all the animals came to bid their farewell and weep at his passing, but the cat and the snake were the only creatures who did not
weεπ. The cat's attention was drawn to the rat, who was weeping with the other animals. The cat pounced and killed the rat, and as a punishment for this crime, committed at a sacred moment, was not allowed to appear in the Chinese Zodiac.
That Chinese astrology eventually equated the cat with the sign of the rabbit or hare is possibly due to the latter's traditional Moon-gazing habits and the cat's symbolic link with the lunar orb.

Silvio Merlino


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