06 February 2009

Cats Revered and Persecuted

My friend's loathing of cats has inspired a little research on my part.

Many know that cats were highly revered in ancient Egypt, which started as a symbiotic relationship between cats, humans and nature. Cats killed the rats that lived, ate and pooped in the grain stored by the Nile river. Eventually, the cat came to be worshiped and the Goddess Bastet arose. Cats were highly regarded and mummified upon death. It was against the law to export cats, but eventually, the Greeks and Romans took cats to most of Europe to kill rat populations. They were also prized rodent catchers in China, India and Japan.

Now, here is where it gets interesting. Somewhere along the way, in the Middle Ages in Europe, the perception of cats changed. Cats were viewed as evil and thought of to have powers of black magic. People who had cats were suspect to witchcraft and wickedness and often put to death with their cats. Cats were hunted, tortured and sacrificed. Cats were sealed into walls of buildings and houses believing that this would bring good luck.

(Cats were viewed as evil, yet sealing one in the wall would bring good luck? That's some pretty backward assed thinking. I'm sure it smelled real good, too when the carcass began to rot.)

Well, it goes without saying that the rodent population soon got out of hand and a lot of people died from disease…karma.

I was thinking that as Christianity spread in Europe, that any link to Goddess worship was seen as evil. The cat was linked to the Egyptians and to the very Goddess, Bastet. I thought that the destruction of cats was, yet, another way to destroy anything to do with the natural world and nature religions. Then I read that Cardinal Richelieu, (1585 - 1642) liked cats and by the 1800's cats were in vogue again. That blows my hypothesis since a member of the Catholic Church was a noted cat lover.

Cardinal Richelieu did take out the Protestant Huguenots. That was a big bloody battle, but, hey, he did do a lot for the reputation of the cat.

1 comment:

  1. i love cats, cats don't usually love me. si wants one so bad- and well, if it lets the goddess in... and dingle needs a pet anyway.