Oct 27

Black Cat Day

Black Cat
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Black Cat
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"A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place your sight can knock on, echoing; but here within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze will be absorbed and utterly disappear ..."

~ Black Cat, Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

Although black cats have been tarred with a bad reputation in many cultures and stories, they are considered good omens in many others! If you’re a single woman in Japan, owning a black cat is said to increase your number of suitors; if you’re in Germany and one crosses your path from right to left, good things are on the horizon. In Scotland the arrival of a strange black cat to your home is said to be a sign of prosperity and a very good omen. Not only were cats welcome aboard British vessels to hunt mice, but sailors generally thought a black cat in particular would bring good luck and ensure a safe return home. A few of these sailor cats have been enshrined in maritime history, like Tiddles, who traveled more than 30,000 miles during his time with the Royal Navy. His favorite pastime was playing with the capstan’s bell-rope. Never chase away a black cat from your house! Meow and Hiss!

Meow and Hiss!

 

Designed by Carol A.L. Martin, this tartan was inspired by the yellow-green eyes and shiny fur of her black cat.

The folklore surrounding black cats varies from culture to culture, with black cats being reckoned either as harbingers of good fortune or conversely, of bad tidings.    Scottish folklore is imbued with beliefs in the supernatural entities taking the form of the cat.  

The Cat Sìth is one such spectral creature from Celtic mythology.  The Scottish Highlands are said to be haunted by this entity, a large black cat with a white spot on its chest.

It was believed that the Cat Sìth could steal a person's soul before it was claimed by the gods by passing over a corpse before burial.  To prevent this, watches called the Feill Fadalach (Late Wake) were performed night and day to keep the Cat Sìth away from a corpse before burial.   Methods of "distraction" such as games of leaping and wrestling, catnip, riddles, and music would be employed to keep the Cat Sìth away from the room in which the corpse lay.  In addition, no fires would be lit where the body lay, as the Cat Sìth would be attracted to the warmth.

On Samhain, it was believed that a Cat Sìth would bless any house that left a saucer of milk out for it to drink, but those houses that did not would be cursed, their cows milk would run dry.

Another belief was that Cat Sìth was really a witch that could transform voluntarily into cat form and back nine times.  But after the night time,  the witches would remain a cat for the rest of their lives.  Some folklorists trace the origin of the belief of cats having nine lives to this superstition.

The Cat Sìth legends may have been inspired by either the Scottish wildcat or the Kellas cat, which is now known to be a distinctive hybrid between Scottish wildcats and domestic cats  found only in Scotland. Typical Kellas cats resemble large black wildcats, but with some peculiar features closer to domestic cats, and have probably been present in Scotland for centuries, maybe even some two millennia or more.

 

Once thought to be a mythological wild cat, with sightings dismissed as hoaxes, a Kellas cat specimen was obtained in 1984 and found to be a real hybrid between wild and domestic sub-species of Felis silvestris.  The specimen was named by cryptozoologist Karl Shuker after the village of Kellas, Moray, where it was first found.

Phantom and mystery big cat sightings - reports and incidents of large species not native to Britain but supposed to inhabit the British countryside - are often reported as "panthers", "pumas", or "black cats" and are known as ABCs  (Alien or Anomalous Big Cats).  The most recent large cat sighting occurred  in Scotland in 2015 was spotted on the border of Edinburgh and Ormiston and has since become known as "The Beast of Ormiston."

 

For more history on these unusual sightings, click the yellow eyes.

Officially registered tartan graphics on this site courtesy of The Scottish Tartans Authority.  Other tartans from talented tartan artists may also be featured.

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