More than all animals, the domestic cat is a major actor in the legends and myths of different people. Over the centuries it has been a symbol of both good and evil, religion and black magic, light and darkness.
Ancient Egyptians deified the cat. Until the eighteenth dynasty (about 1560-1309 BC), cats played a lesser role in cult rituals. It was only after the cult of the sun god Amon Ra began to give them a great deal of importance. The ancient legend of The Book of the Dead narrated that in the city of Heliopolis the god of the sun had acquired the image of a cat to defeat its enemies and the power of evil. In the illustrations of the book, he often appears in the image of a cat who cuts off the head of the Apophis snake – probably the ritual nature of snake hunting with the cat and hunting in general. Amon Ra was also called “The Great Cat” and “The Good Cat”, and in this image is found on stone vaults of the XIXth Dynasty. Often on the ancient frescoes the god of the sun was also depicted as a cat with a cat’s head.
According to an ancient legend, the mythical "biblical patriarch" Noah rescued himself from the "sacred flood" of himself and his family as well as all the animals by hiding in a Noah's Ark a pair of any animal species, thus becoming "the originator" of the new human race and saved from dying the animal kingdom. Unfortunately, Noah failed to put cats in the coffin because he did not know them. This has led to the immense multiplication of mice and rats that have begun to destroy food supplies in the coffin. Then Noah "asked" the king of the animals - the lion, to help. The lion responded to the request, sneezing, and a pair of animals, which were his miniature copies, sprang from his two nostrils. These were cats that immediately took up the extinction of numerous mice and rats, greatly reducing their numbers. The other living rodents so frightened that they sprawled on the holes and then lived there.
According to an ancient Chinese legend, the cat originates from a cross between a lion and a monkey. From the lioness she inherited the dignity, and from the monkey the playfulness and the curiosity - qualities typical of the domestic cat.
In Japanese mythology, there are legends about the vampire cat, which strangled O-Touyou - the prince of Hizen's favorite and accepted her image of a man.
In the past centuries people most seriously believed in the miraculous abilities of cats. The sailors who roamed oceans and seas and touched the superstition and customs of many peoples were convinced that the presence of a cat on a ship (especially in black without a white hair) was a guarantee of "happy sailing". And the English fishermen of Yorkshire believed that storms did not pose a threat to those who had a black cat at home, and only then would their men return unharme
In German-Scandinavian mythology, the cat was the beloved animal of the goddess of hunting and beauty Freya, who, like some feminine saint, wandered through the clouds with her beloved. Frey was also a goddess of fruitful love and often portrayed her with a carriage harnessed with a pair of cats that embody the gracefulness and fertility of these animals. Her husband, the god of the summer sun Odur, is also personified and depicted as a cat.
During the slave rebellion (73-71 BC) in the Roman Empire the cat was declared because of its independent character as a symbol of freedom. The image of cat's head appeared on the banner of the leader of the greatest rebellion, the Thracian Spartak.
In the Russians, Poles and Czechs there was a belief that if they bury a living cat in the field, rich harvests are provided. The Scandinavians believed that the laying of a cat under the threshold of a newly built house would make the owners happy. The Germans believed that the cat was "fireproof" and did not burn, and if it was tri-colored, it was endowed even with fire-fighting properties - a home in which a cat was not threatened by fire. And the French even called them "fiery" animals, and the henchmen recommended their cultivation to protect a person from fever.
The Middle Ages have left the superstitious horror of the luminous cat lit eyes, as well as many other superstitions and dislikes, related to these animals, especially the black cat. For example, if you are thundering, you have to throw the black cat out, otherwise it can attract the thunder in the house and others.
During the Dark Ages of the Middle Ages in Europe, the cat gradually became something terrifying and scary. The Catholic Church began to see incarnation of the devil and death in it. For the cat in the fifteenth century there have been "black days". The Pope of Rome, Innocent VIII, ordered the Inquisition to declare them to be witchcraft and unclean forces for the hell. And since the cats "did not want to acknowledge their sins," they were subjected to torture and crucified, anathematized and burned in the pits thrown from the cathedral towers, living in vain, put into boiling oil, and so on. Especially black cats were hunted. For example, in Flanders, for example, almost 900 years have been the "feline Wednesday law" - every day on that day, cats were thrown out and towed from a high tower
Time and place changed the views and attitudes of humans to the cat. It is enough to peep into the myths and beliefs of another country and find a completely different interpretation of the "cat qualities". In England, for example, in the X century they worshiped the cat very much - theft or murder of a cat was punished with death. At the same time, in France, they considered it a satanic whim and pursued her, and the owners of a black cat (and sometimes white) accused of a conspiracy with the devil; some of them were even burned with their four-legged pets. In England, it is now believed that meeting a black cat brings happiness, especially if crossing the road. The English are even afraid to put their black cats out of their home, lest someone steal them. But there was another interpretation of this belief - in East Yorkshire, happiness was to have a black cat, but misfortune - to meet. In most European countries, the belief that if a black cat crosses someone's paths, it is unfortunate. In some South American peoples black cats are considered prey to disease and death. The encounter with a white cat in Britain was a bad omen, while in the United States, Belgium, Spain and other European countries it was just the opposite.
By the middle of the eighteenth century the cat had become a desirable friend of the man again. She began to treat her even more, since in a French city, mice and rats, this animal saved the inhabitants from a plague epidemic spread by the new invasion of the gray rat. For this "merit" the grateful inhabitants and erected a magnificent monument of the city square. Then even the pope allowed the monks to have cats, and he himself had such a valuable helper.
Unfortunately, the 19th century marks a further decline in the attitude towards the cat. It is paradoxical that the reason for this was the scientific discoveries of the world-famous French physician microbiologist Louis Pasteur. By discovering the causative agents of the diseases, he inspired human horror at anything that might be a carrier of microbes. So domestic animals, and especially the cat, became the first "victims" of sterility and pasteurization. In the defense society, they refused to touch an animal at all, even with horses climbing with gloves.
In the twentieth century, the love and affection of the cats return to the cat again. From a useful animal that was considered to be the mid-century primarily a hunter of harmful rodents, the cat becomes one of the close friends of man and a favorite creature in the home.
All photos were taken personally by me during my visit to Bulgaria in November 2017
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