Cats in Witchcraft
today as the age-old worship of the bemmine Principle: the Great Mother
and the Horned God. Inextricably linked with this primal symbolism is
the cat. Emerging from the ancient Stone Age fertility cult when a
belief in magic and the supernatural was born, witchcraft is seen to
spring from a primitive animism, a belief system in which spirits were
thought to haunt places, trees, stones and other natural objects.
Communion with the
Throughout time, human
beings have condemned that which they fear or do not understand and cat
worship, considered a 'pagan' religion and still prevalent in the early
fifteenth century, was a practice that caused concern to the Christian
Church. In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII issued his famous bull Summis
Desiderantes Affectibus, in which he commanded the Inquisition to burn
all cat worshippers as witches.
There ensued, in the name of the Christian faith, a long period of cruel
and rigorous persecution of those suspected of communing with the Devil
a popular target being lone women, living in solitude with their cat.
Compounding the cat-and-witch relationship theory, the natural historian
Edmund Topsell wrote in 1607: 'The Familiars (demonic 'assistants') of
Witches do most ordinarily appear in the Shape of Cats, which is an
Argument that the Beast is a Danger to Soul and Body.'
Europe and in the American colonies in New Enaland mass hysteria
prompted wild accusations against unfortunates who were in any way
'different' from their fellows. Perhaps they were physically deformed,
possessed warts in the wrong place, or had been heard mumbling to
themselves, presumably in conversation with their master the Devil; some
were claimed to have 'magically' healed or harmed others; and some
were simply unfortunate enough to own cats.
Family member turned against family member in their anxiety to prove
their own innocence. Countless cats and humans were burnt or tortured to
death, their bodies left hanging at crossroads shades of Hecate, deity
of witches, crossroads and death as a grim warning to all who passed
In Elngland Matthew Hopkins, infamous self-appointed Witchfinder General
under Oliver Cromwell, was responsible for the torture and death of some
sixty people in one year in the county of Essex alone. Pictured on the
frontispiece of his book Discovery of Witches, published in 1647, is a
group of familiars including a cat called Pyewaekett. But the tide had
turned for Matthew Hopkins. In that same year he was tested by his own
methods and thrown into a river. As had so many of his victims before
him, he floated to the top and was duly hanged as a warlock.
The Chelmsford witches
The first major English
witch trial took place at Chelmsford in Essex in 1566, soon after the
passing of new 'anti-witchcraft' legislation in the reign of Queen
Elizabeth the First. The case was therefore important and gave a good
general overview of alleged witchcraft in England. The three defendants,
Elizabeth Francis, Agnes Waterhouse and her daughter Joan, all came from
the Essex village of Hatfield Peveril.
After questioning, Elizabeth Francis confessed to having learnt the art
of witchcraft from her grandmother, Mother Eve, at the age of twelve.
Mother Eve advised her to renounce God 'and to give of her blood to
Satan', which she delivered to Elizabeth in the likeness of a white
spotted cat, her 'familiar spirit' teaching her to call it 'Sathan and
to keep it in a basket'. Elizabeth told the court that this animal spoke
to her. When he enquired what might be her heart's desire, she replied
'Sheep', and the cat caused eighteen of them to be brought into her
Elizabeth then asked the cat to procure the wealthy Andrew Byles as her
husband. Byles refused to marry her, however, so she willed Sathan to
waste his goods, which he did. But, not content with this, she willed
Sathan to 'touch' his body. The cat did this also, causing Byles to die.
She now looked around for another marriage prospect. This was to be
Francis, her husband at the time of the trial. It is alleged that after
they were married they lived quietly, as Elizabeth desired, until she
became, in her own words, 'stirred to much unquietness and moved to
swearing and cursing. And so she willed Sathan her cat to kill her
child, being some six months old, and this he did.' Elizabeth then
willed the cat to make Francis lame. Sathan obliged:
It [the cat] came in the morning to this Francis' shoe and lay in it
like a toad. And when he perceived it upon putting on his shoe and had
touched it with his foot, he was amazed and asked her what it was. She
bade him kill the thing and he was forthwith taken with a lameness of
which he cannot be healed.
Having established to its own satisfaction that the cat was a devil, the
court was curious to know the nature of Elizabeth's relationship with
Sathan. She explained that every time he did anything for her he
required a drop of her blood which she produced by pricking herself.
'Wherever she pricked herself there remained a red spot which was still
to be seen.' Significantly, throughout her trial Elizabeth Francis made
no mention of pacts with the Devil, sabbats or covens. This aspect of
witchcraft was seen more in continental Europe, where deeper religious
conflicts were at the roots of the witchcraft mania. Acts of maleficium
or personal spite were much more typical in sixteenth-century England.
Relying entirely on Elizabeth's own confession, the court reached a
verdict of guilty and sentenced her to twelve months' imprisonment. Some
time later she was twice charged with 'bewitchment' and ultimately she
was hanged not for heresy but for causing personal injury.
Agnes Waterhouse, the second defendant in the Chelmsford trial, was
dealt with in more summary fashion. She was 'examined' over two days,
found guilty and hanged on 29 July 1566 possibly the first woman to
have been hanged for witchcraft in England.
The third defendant was eighteen-year-old Joan Waterhouse, at whose
trial one Agnes Brown spoke about a black dog said to be Satan in
disguise one of the earliest known mentions of this particular
In 1612, shortly before
another famous trial, that of the Witches of Pendle in Lancashire, a
blind old woman called Mother Demdyke and Alison, her granddaughter,
hurried away from the house of a miller. He shouted after them: Away
from here, you worthless witches! I've not so much as a mouldy crust for
such servants of the Devil!'
Mother Demdyke, her blind eyes facing the sound of the miller's furious
voice, muttered: 'I'd wish you in your grave!' Her voice grew louder as
she called: 'But your heart is already dead. Look to your daughter, whom
you hold so dear. Old Tibbs will seek her out!'
As the year wore on, the miller's daughter grew pale and sickly and did
not live to see again the first primroses blooming in the woods.
Neighbours recalled that, whenever she had been alone, the young girl
had been accompanied by a black cat rubbing against her ankles, its tail
held high. Mother Demdyke chuckled to herself as Alison led her past the
miller's door and the crone asked of her granddaughter: 'Is she there,
my dear? Is she alone? Tibbs will find her for sure!'
Witches in disguise,
known as witch-cats, were said to converse in human voices, though often
in an unknown language. Many people therefore refused to talk near a
cat, for fear that a witch would discover their secrets.
In 1718 the occupant of a house in Caithness, Scotland, claimed that a
group of cats gathered round his house one night, talking in human
language. He rushed out with an axe, killed two and wounded several
others. The next day, two old women were found dead in their beds and
another had a bad cut on her leg for which she could offer no
The Greek goddess
Hecate, who had once adopted the shape of a cat when threatened by the
giant: Typhon, thereafter had a special affection for cats. She became
the patron saint, so to speak, of witches, as Shakespeare knew when he
made his 'dark and midnight hags' appeal to her for help in bringing
about the ruin of Macbeth. And so it naturally followed that those who
practised witchcraft should also cultivate a liking for cats.
Not to be confused with
witchcraft, black or white, black magic may be defined as the use of
supernatural knowledge for the purposes of evil. In the Middle Ages,
conjuring up devils was a ceremony that generally took place at night in
a graveyard, among ruins or at a place where some fiendish crime had
been committed. Wailing and incantations were supposed to bring forth
The 'priest', wearing a black cloak and skull cap, held a hazel wand
with which he drew around himself a magic circle which he was not
allowed to leave. The names of demons to be called up were represented
by letters and geometric symbols drawn outside the circle, whereupon a
repugnant smell described as 'the sooty stink of Satan' filled the air.
An animal usually a black cat was sacrificed and its blood, caught
in a copper vessel, attracted the demons. The priest rubbed himself with
a magic ointment and chanted an incantation to summon these evil
spirits. At the touch of the hazel wand they were forced to enter the
magic circle and obey the wishes of the priest.
These sinister ceremonies were fairly common practice in medieval
France, according to the Histoire At la Philosophic Occulte by the
occultist Alexandrian, 'with overlords, princes, witches and Church
alike taking part to call forth spirits a general belief which was
backed by the law'.
All Hallows' E'en or
Hallowe'en is celebrated on 31 October. This wake was originally a pagan
feast of the dead and marks the moment when supernatural forces
symbolising cold and death return to Earth. Witches and warlocks,
accompanied by their feline familiars, travel on broomsticks to these
great sabbats, and followers of the path of Wicca call this night
Samhain. Because of its sinister looks and nocturnal habits the black
cat has been considered the consort of witches since ancient times.
Superstitions about cats were rife during the time of the witchcraft
purges and many of these are still in use today. For instance, some
people believe that the black cat is a reincarnation of the Devil and
regard it as an ill omen if one crosses their path. More commonly now
the reverse is held to be true a black cat crossing one's path is said
to bring good luck. However, it is said that your luck will run out if a
black cat crosses your path from left to right, or if it turns tail and
runs away from you. Γξ keep your luck 'safe', it helps if you confront
the cat, greet it politely and give it three gentle strokes! In some
countries, seeing a black cat at the start of a journey is sufficient
for a person to turn around and go back home again, fearing that
disaster will ensue if they continue on their way!
We saw earlier how, during the Middle Ages, black cats or matagots were
thought to possess the evil eye. None the less, anyone finding the one
pure white hair in an all-black cat and plucking it out without
being scratched was reputed to go on to enjoy great wealth and good luck
in love. The famous story of Dick Whittington, the poor boy who became
Lord Mayor of London in the fourteenth century, and his famous black cat
bears out, in part, this last superstition. (Interestingly, some
authorities assert that Whittington's cat was not a feline at all but a
heavy ship known as a 'cat' which was used to carry coals from Newcastle
That the black cat should have now become a symbol of good luck is
possibly due to the idea that it may retain some of the magical powers
to which witches laid claim. For instance, it is said that a stray black
cat coming into one's home will bring money in its train; to stroke one
brings good luck; and if a black cat should cross a path or road, the
next person to pass that way will have a wish come true!
In the theatrical world, actors believe that a black cat in the audience
on opening night portends a successful run the Haymarket Theatre in
London used to keep one there permanently. However, it is a bad sign if
a black cat runs across the stage during a performance.
Cat and Woman
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Of all the animals, the
psyche of the cat is most compatible to that of woman, and if she were
to metamorphose into any species it would certainly be the cat.
The ways of the feline are similar to those of woman: they can be
sensitive, sensual and beguiling, but at the same time often wily and
devious. Cats possess the attributes of mystery, beauty and elegance, to
which most women aspire, and in an attempt to imbue themselves with the
same style and grace women have frequently clothed themselves in the
skins of cats large and small. Perhaps reflecting a mutual
self-awareness, American writer Lillian Jackson Braun wrote that 'Cats
never strike a pose that isn't photogenic'. Woman can also be a warm,
affectionate kitten, but hell hath no greater fury than when she is
scorned or rejecred then she can turn into a savage, spiteful fighting
cat, red in tooth and claw!
Woman the homemaker offers the family cat an opportunity to bond with
her in a positive and fulfilling way. 1 his is often a reciprocal
relationship, with woman supplying food, warmth and affection and Cat in
turn providing a quiet undemanding companionship. Said to sleep away
two-thirds of its life, the cat will come to rest on woman's knee.
Grooming, cither subconsciously by stroking or as part of the daily
routine, will strengthen the bond, while the soft female voice is
soothing to the cat's highly sensitive hearing mechanism.
Less euphemistically, cats naturally gravitate towards places where food
and warmth are readily available: the kitchen, traditionally seen as the
woman's domain. Rudyard Kipling recognised this in 'The Cat that Walked
by Itself, in which the wily cat is drawn towards woman's warm,
All the great cat
goddesses such as Isis, Bast, Diana and Hecate, with their eternal Moon
link, combine woman with Cat. Emphasising this empathy, the mysterious
feline has always been construed as woman and vice versa. Since time
immemorial, women have been thought to possess an ability as mediums,
with a talent for soothsaying and clairvoyance. Second sight, too, is
deemed to be a natural female attribute. Cats, silently wise and
'knowing', with eyes reflecting the
secrets of time itself, arc said to be 'old souls', and the attraction
of woman to Cat could be seen to represent a look back to an ancient
part of the human soul. And what woman deep within her Moon-centred self
doesn't nurture a fascination with the past the 'unknown'; ancient,
forbidden secrets; and the mystical world of the occult?
Perhaps, at some distant point in time, Cat and woman with their
beguiling ways and inbuilt urge to procreate underwent a transmigration
of souls, each now sharing the ' complex psyche of the other. Both are
symbols of fertility; both project innate feminine traits of intuitive
sensuality and nurture and cherish their young. The female cat, both
domestic and in the wild, is known to be a caring, efficient mother and
the old French proverb, Jamais chatte qui a des petits n'a de bans
morceaux, (a cat with little ones has never a good mouthful) illustrates
the devotion and selflessness of the maternal feline.
Creatures of the Moon
Cat, said to be ruled
by the Moon, represents our own subconscious, our inner reflective
being. Woman, too, is Moon-ruled, and like the tides her emotions ebb
and flow. Her feminine cycle reflects the twenty-eight-day lunar cycle
during which the Moon occupies each of the twelve signs of the Zodiac.
Cats are by nature negative or jeminine, which in the astrological sense
is construed as expressing receptivity, sensitivity, reflectiveness and
the ability to absorb. In astrology the Sun sign Virgo is linked with
the cat. Both represent fertility and both characteristically show a
painstaking fastidiousness with regard to personal health and hygiene!
'Cats, whose eyes grow wider or narrower according to phases of the
Moon,' wrote the sixteenth-century German alchemist Cornelius Agrippa,
'arc lunar animals and arc of the same nature as menstrual blood, with
which many wonderful and miraculous things arc wrought by magicians.'
An early link
The Ancient Egyptian
symbol Ru, appearing in many magical texts at a time when Cat and woman
were worshipped as one, is shaped like the half-dilated pupil of the
cat's eye. Ru meant, among other things, a doorway or passage from one
space to another, equating with the passage of birth or a symbolic
transition from the spiritual to the material plane. This connection
between birth, the female and the cat features in early Christian
imagery, where a cat is seen giving birth in the manger at the same time
as Mary gave birth to Jesus. In other examples, the Virgin and Child are
pictured playing with a cat.
A secret life
human to cat has already been encountered in the context of classical
mythology and medieval and later tales of witchcraft. More recently,
country folk in Shropshire in the north-west of England used to tell of
an early nineteenth-century lord of the manor whose wife had died and
whose aughter, Lady Catherine Hansby, subsequently played hostess at his
many wild parties and gatherings. However Catherine, a handsome, lively
and accomplished young woman,
seemed inexplicably unable to play her usual role around the time of the
full Moon. Indeed, she was nowhere to be found at that particular point
in the lunar calendar. Her maid, though, swore to her mother in the
village, that her mistress's bed had been slept in. The sheets were
greatly disturbed, torn and soiled and, oddly, traces of blood and
black cat hairs could be seen adhering to the linen.
Following these perplexing periods of absence, Lady Catherine would
appear with a look of supreme satisfaction on her face. Almost, as the
wide-eyed maid explained to her equally wide-eyed mother, like a cat
that had finished off all the cream!
So it was rumoured among the local folk that the Lady Cat, as she came
to be called, consorted with the Devil in feline form when the Moon
waxed full. Certainly the young woman repelled the advances of every
suitor her father placed her way since, it was said, she enjoyed her
secret life too much to allow it to be curtailed by marriage. Anyway,
the villagers argued with guarded yet knowing looks, what tricks could
mere mortal man teach her that she couldn't learn from the Master
Goddesses old and new
In ancient times a
seeker of truth would enlist the aid of the Moon-ruled deity Bastet
also known as the Lady of Truth who was said to cast her light on what
was hidden in darkness, offering insight by her illumination. Along her
path of silvery moonbeams the seeker would accordingly tread, and this
narrow path of light was called a 'cat-walk'. This phrase is very
familiar to us today in the context of modern 'goddesses' fashion
models pacing elegantly down a spotlit length of stage!
The Psychic Cat
Cats have the power to
reflect the nature of our own psychic state, and to the mediumistic they
can facilitate access to the collective unconscious.
Deep within our soul there dwells the Cat somewhere in the forests of
ancient memories it sleeps, the embodiment of old fears, superstitions
and primitive passions. Age-old beliefs, combining the physical world
with the spiritual, centre on the predatory cat, endowing it with a
powerful magical aura. In myths and folklore around the world,
supernatural tales abound of a legendary half-human, half-feline
creature stalking the spirit realms and hunting the souls of unwary
travellers. A creature such as this is often regarded as the soul of
dead ancestors, evil sorcerers and even the transformed essence of
A Celtic belief is that cats' eyes are the windows through which humans
may explore an inner world, and by the same token it is said that cats
rcllcct not only the nature of our psychic state but also the times in
which we live and possibly the future itself. Who knows?
Under the influence of narcotics. Amazonian shamans saw with 'jaguar
eyes', viewing the occupants of the world not as human beings but as
hunting cats. For centuries warriors, shamans and sorcerers in primitive
hunting societies have associated themselves with the most powerful and
ferocious of all beasts, the big cat.
Occult powers are often
attributed to cats and it is said that they have the power of hypnotism.
Outside the staunchly scientific fraternity the psychic powers of the
domestic cat are seldom doubted and, reflecting the mystical witches of
medieval times, many women cat owners are known to experience a psychic
rapport with their feline companions.
Several years ago, a number of my Siamese cats and I could silently
communicate using the technique sometimes known as 'shining'. This
involves a form of telepathy between two beings, in which the unspoken
thoughts of one may be comprehended by the other. At the point of
contact there is a strong and exhilarating psychic surge almost like a
charge of electricity.
When attempting this exercise, it is important to be alone with your cat
and 'centre' your thoughts that is, clear your mind of everything else
but the cat before you. It is best for your cat to be seated at eye
level and opposite you on, say, a table or other flat surface so that it
maintains its own equilibrium and independence. Concentrate on those
jewel-like eyes and allow yourself to 'drown' in their depths. Make no
mistake, the cat will know what is happening, but at first ma)' need
some gentle persuasion to allow access to its inner secret self.
He or she will let you know when they have had enough, and you must then
postpone the exercise until another occasion. It is important to work at
the cat's pace. Let the words you wish to say project from your mind,
clearly, simply and in an unhurried way. Without removing your gaze from
the eyes of your cat, will the words to enter through the portals or
windows, as it were, of your cat's eyes and into its very being or soul.
Do not allow your concentration to lapse or wander, or the moment is
It may take some time for you and your cat to communicate in this way,
but holding him or her in your arms at these times will increase the
bond between you. Conversely, this might also enforce the 'mother and
baby' link, so that metaphorically you are still at the 'coochy coo,
who's a pretty puss cat, then?' stage. This is not what you are seeking.
Shining may not happen for you at the first attempt, nor perhaps after
many attempts but, if you truly want to have this incredible
experience, persevere. Remember, though, to make haste slowly, or even
to abandon the plan altogether if necessary, for this is a very special
esoteric practice in which your cat may have no wish to take part.
The sixth sense
There is a certain
indefinable feeling, retained from our primeval ancestors which alerts
us to something that is amiss in our world. We call this alarm bell that
sounds in our minds just before the intrusion of conscious thought, our
sixth sense. Animals and some humans possess it to a greater degree.
In animals, the sixth sense includes a homing instinct and sometimes an
ability to forecast and predict events. Cats appear to possess the
former and occasionally the latter. There is also the belief that cats,
via their sixth sense, know when they are about to die.
The belief that cats
have a phenomenal homing instinct is supported by the many examples of
cats returning over vast distances to their original home. A book and
film called The Incredible Journey charted the adventures of a seal
point Siamese who found his way home after an eventful trip of several
Another phenomenon is prccognition. This method of sensing or predicting
forthcoming events is perhaps explained by the animal cats, dogs,
birds and other species are all known to react similarly sensing
vibrations or changes in the Earth's electromagnetic fields, such as
occur before earthquakes or electric storms. For example, cats
demonstrate their receptivity and heightened sensitivity to increased
static electricity in the atmosphere by excessive activity, vocalisation
and perhaps seeking shelter.
Never drown a cat
It is warned that to
drown a cat tempts Satan to take your soul. The following strange story
from Germany may prove that, in any case, drowning a cat is not to be
An old woman living in the town of Odenwald displayed for sale in her
cottage window odd items of haberdashery such as threads, ribbons, lace
and samples of material. Her only companion for many years had been a
tabby cat who never strayed from her side.
A young military man, who had his eye on the old woman's savings,
proposed marriage, and in due course they were wed. When she died the
sergeant, anxious to clear the house of his wife's body and belongings,
was prevented from doing so by the cat, which refused to leave the side
of its mistress at all costs. Much annoyed, the soldier seized the cat
by the scruff of its neck and drowned it in a nearby river.
Before long the sergeant remained, but his new wife was perturbed to sec
him on many occasions returning home frightened, out of breath and
exhausted. He explained that each time he passed the spot on the river
bank where he had drowned the cat, the animal mysteriously appeared and
followed in his steps, no matter how quickly he ran. The man married for
a third time, and this wife too was alarmed to hear the same story . . .
William Holman Hunt
The ship's cat
Words such as
paranormal and parasensory para is from the Greek word meaning
'beyond' may be applied to the following story of an extraordinary
Homeward bound from Melbourne, an elderly Panamanian-registered cargo
vessel made it to the Cape where its worn-out engine finally gave up.
Its captain, who drank heavily, was a hard taskmaster and harboured an
unusual grievance against his second mate, an unsociable yet
hard-working German called Hansen. It seemed that Hanscn's only friend
was Rhaj, the ship's cat. Rhaj followed him everywhere and Hansen talked
to him, fed him and allowed him to sleep in his bunk.
The captain, drunk and in a foul mood owing to the engine's breakdown,
again vented his spite on the second mate. For some imagined
misdemeanour, the captain struck Hansen. I he mate fell backwards and
struck his head awkwardly on the steel bulkhead. His skull cracked open
and he died instantly.
Hansen was duly buried at sea, and that evening the cat appeared on the
bridge staring at the spot where his friend used to stand. When the time
arrived for the mate to have gone off duty, the cat rose and silently
walked away. This behaviour exactly mimicked the dead Hansen's daily
routine.! he cat was seen to carry out other routines previously
performed by the second mate, and the crew lost no time in deciding that
the cat was following around the ghost of their former shipmate.
Unnerved by Hansen's violent end, the men were soon filled with
foreboding and the captain ordered the cat to be thrown overboard.
However, immediately the order was given Rhaj disappeared. He was found
two days later, curled up on the dead captain's face, having suffocated
the man as he lay in a drunken stupor. Speculation among the crew was
rife, since the captain's cabin had been locked at the time of his death
and the key was found on his person afterwards. Few knew the whereabouts
of the spare key. but Hansen, the second mate, had known exactly where
the secretive Captain had hidden it.
When the ship finally docked, Rhaj, it was said, went purposefully
ashore, his tail held aloft, and was never seen again.
John D. Batten
The Occult Cat
Eliphas Levi, occultist
and astrologer, maintained that: 'Superstition is derived from a Latin
word which signifies survival' and 'is the dead body of a Religious
Rite'. Over the ages, the cat which 'endures and endures' has
truly-found an established and significant place in occult symbolism.
Evelyn de Morgan
The cat's eye, a
variety of chrysoberyl, is used by the natives of Sri Lanka, in whose
country the finest specimens are to be found, as a charm against evil
spirits. This semi-precious stone was called 'cat's eye' since it
possessed chatoy-ancy the power to change in lustre and colour, like
the eyes of a cat in the dark.
This most beautiful and brilliant stone is found in golden yellow,
mid-yellow, bamboo-green and bluish brown and has a powerful
silver-white beam of light, stimulated by the slightest movement across
its cut surface. This is the gemstone for second-half Geminis (5 21
June) and is believed to guard against physical danger and act as
protection against the Devil.
In addition to moonstone, cat's eye is the crystal for first-half
Cancerians (22 June 4 July). Found in delightful shades of translucent
pink, violet, yellow-pink and yellow and white, the cat's eye scapolite,
by virtue of one of its elements, aluminium, relates to the Moon the
ruling planet of Cancer because it remains untarnished by Air, an
element not found on the Moon.
In wedding and anniversary listings and their appropriate tokens, the
cat's eye crystal represents the thirty-ninth anniversary.
The alchemists' cat
The cat was not unknown
to the world of alchemy, whose exponents attempted to turn base metal
into gold. The Philosopher's Stone was a substance which the alchemists
believed would enable them to do so.
An engraving in Lambsprinck's fascinating publication De Lapide
Philosophico (The Philosopher's Stone) of 1677 depicts a large white cat
emerging from a cave in which a fierce dragon lurks; above everything is
the sky god Jupiter. In alchemy the cat was seen as a creature both male
and female, sun and shade.
The term 'Philosopher's Stone' probably arose from some Eastern
talismanic legend; the substance was, in fact, a red powder or amalgam
purporting to drive off the impurities of baser metals. According to one
legend, Noah was commanded to hang up the true and genuine Philosopher's
Stone in the Ark, to give light to every living creature therein.
The constellation of
Faelis the Cat was designated by the French astronomer Joseph Jerome
Lalande from a group of stars between Antlia (the Air Pump) and Hydra
(the Water Snake). Faelis was depicted in the Atlas Coelestis by J.E.
Bode in 1799 and again on a map published by Bode in 1805. It later
disappeared, because, in the opinion of astronomer Camille Flammarion.
it was 'superfluous'.
However, as Lalande pointed out: The large number of stars I have
supplied for M. Bodes charts gave me some right to shape new
constellations. There were already thirty-three animals in the sky; I
put in the thirty-fourth, the cat.' Explaining further, the old
astronomer said: 'I am very fond of cats. Besides, the starry sky had me
worried enough in my life, so now I can have my joke on it!' Sadly, his
joke did not last long as the new constellation was never widely
accepted by other astronomers and has now been virtually forgotten.
Leo the lion
The Zodiacal sign of
Leo symbolises strength and courage, and is of the element Fire. When
the Sun passes through this sign, it is the hottest time of the year in
the Northern Hemisphere. It signifies creativity and the Father
principle, and rules the heart and spine. Its subjects arc physically
and constitutionally strong and demonstrate a warm, sunny nature and a
hearty' generosity of spirit. Physical characteristics of Leo subjects
include a regal demeanour and a noticeably generous 'mane' of hair!
The cat, usually
thought of as a feminine creature, is also the animal attributed to the
Zodiacal sign of Virgo. Sun sign Virgo (24 August 22 September), as
the only female figure in the Zodiac, is associated with Earth goddesses
Isis, Demeter and even the Virgin Mary, and its rule takes place during
the period when the harvest is gathered in. This is a time when,
traditionally, the cat as Spirit of the Corn would be caught, sacrificed
and, in order to ensure the success of the following harvest, its
remains returned to the Earth.
When not portrayed as
the rabbit or hare, the fourth sign of the Chinese Zodiac is said to be
the cat. This has not always been so, however. T he ancients recall
that, as the death of Buddha drew nigh, all the animals came to bid
their farewell and weep at his passing, but the cat and the snake were
the only creatures who did not
weεπ. The cat's attention was drawn to the rat, who was weeping with the
other animals. The cat pounced and killed the rat, and as a punishment
for this crime, committed at a sacred moment, was not allowed to appear
in the Chinese Zodiac.
That Chinese astrology eventually equated the cat with the sign of the
rabbit or hare is possibly due to the latter's traditional Moon-gazing
habits and the cat's symbolic link with the lunar orb.