Cats have long been considered unusual creatures – cunning, insidious, associated with otherworldly forces. Cats have often become characters in myths, legends, and traditions.
Legends of the Slavs
Among the Slavs, a close connection of these animals with brownies is noticeable. Brownies could turn into cats or talk to them. It was also believed that brownies love milk, which cats willingly give them because they love mice more.
In Pushkin’s poem “Ruslan and Lyudmila” appears “a scientist cat”, he tells fairy tales and sings songs. In real Slavic legends, this character named Cat Bayun looked somewhat different. It was a monstrous animal that sat on an iron pillar and lured the heroes with its tales and fables.
And when those, after listening to his stories, fell asleep, the cat devoured them. However, Bayun could be tamed, and then he became a friend and even a healer – his tales had a healing effect.
In the works of Pavel Bazhov, many Ural legends have survived, among which there are stories about the Earth cat. It was believed that it dwells underground and from time to time exposes its bright red, fire-like ears to the surface. Where these ears were seen, there, then, a treasure was buried. Scientists believe that the legend was inspired by the sulfurous lights that burst out of the mountain voids.
The Icelanders have long known the Yule cat. He lives with a terrible cannibal witch who kidnaps children. It was believed that the Yule cat devoured anyone who, during Yule (Icelandic Christmastide), did not have time to get woolen clothes. In fact, the Icelanders invented this legend specifically for their children, in order to make them help them in caring for the sheep, the wool from which was at that time the main source of income for the Icelanders.
In Elder Edda, it is said that cats were sacred animals of Freya, one of the main Scandinavian goddesses. Two cats were harnessed to her heavenly chariot, in which she loved to ride. These cats were big, fluffy, had tassels on their ears, and looked like lynxes. It is believed that they are the origin of the Norwegian Forest Cats – a national treasure of this country.
Cats in the Land of Pyramids
In ancient Egypt, these animals were surrounded by religious honor. The sacred city of Bubastis was dedicated to them, in which there were many cat statues. And the goddess Bastet, who had a complex and unpredictable character, was considered the patron saint of cats. Bastet was the patroness of women, the goddess of fertility, and a helper in childbirth. Another divine cat belonged to the supreme god Ra and helped him fight the terrible snake Apop.
Such a strong reverence for cats in Egypt was not an accident. After all, these animals rid the barns of mice and snakes, preventing the threat of hunger. In arid Egypt, cats were a real rescue. It is known that cats were first tamed not in Egypt, but in more eastern regions, but Egypt was the first country in which these animals achieved such great popularity.
Jews in antiquity rarely dealt with cats, so there were no legends about them for a long time. However, the Sephardim (Jews of Spain and Portugal) have stories that Lilith, the first wife of Adam, turned into a cat. It was a monster that attacked babies and drank their blood.