Emperor Augustus loved so much his cat that in his De vita sua called it his companion, his equal and equal to gods.
Ancient Roman priests so highly regarded cats to allow them to enter into temples, perhaps for fear of offending Diana, who – as told by Hyginus – had the power to transform herself into a cat. Her Greek corresponding Artemis, however, claimed to have created cats. Cats adorn the clothes of the hundred breasts Artemis from Ephesus, a cat towers at the foot of the goddess Libertas…
In the cold Norse lands, two cats pulled Birch, the chariot of Odin’s wife Freyja, for seven years, after which they were transformed into a sort of fairies similar to Skogkatt that, in Scandinavian folklore, is a cat-fairy with extraordinary powers.
Among Celts, Cerridwen, Goddess of the Cauldron of Inspiration, is also accompanied by two white cats that have the power to carry her into every corner of the earth, as evidenced by bas-relief on Gundestrup Cauldron (second century BC.). Also pre-Christian Ireland worshipped a slender black cat lying on an antique silver chair, which had an oracular cave in Connaught. And yet, in the Acts of the great bardic academy is said that in the burial chamber of Knowth, in Ireland, there was the abode of the king cat Irusan.
Arabs considered cat a pure soul, even before the advent of Islam and Muhammad’s cat, Muezza, which communicated with Allah and that had a place in Paradise. In India the goddess Shasti rides a cat and has traits similar to those of the goddess Bastet, protector of the family, bearer of fertility. Japanese mythology is full of anthropomorphic cats: nekomata, who reached the age of ten turns into a human necromantic shaman, and its female counterpart, nekomusume, cat woman, baneneko, huge and monstrous, and finally the famous manekineko, Tama, a Shinto monk’s cat of the seventeenth century, which brings good luck inviting it with its paw raised.
In China, during the Middle Kingdom, there was the sacred cat Mao which defended wheat cultivations and later, in the sixth century, Miao-Kuai, demon cat whose job was to awaken the deads, appeared. Among the Quechua in South America there was a spirit in the shape of a cat called Ccoa, lord of lightning and hail, for the Pawnees in North America cat is sacred and untouchable.
In all its manifestations, from the numinous to the terrifying one, in every culture cat was associated with or was itself a divine image. Then something went wrong…
To be continued