Yes, you will find a relationship between cats and religion in many different faiths. Some of these are great relationships and some are not. Let’s take a look at some religious views on cats to note the differences.
The Early Christian View
First, the Christian view, which could perhaps emerge as the most negative one. The traditional Christian view sees all animals other than humans as lesser creatures, which can be preyed upon by humans and other animals.
Funny, how these early Christians forget that we humans are also animals. Instead, they became regarded as not distinct sentient beings with souls, feelings, emotions and intelligence. To this day many Christians still carry the burden of this human-based viewpoint.
Though the Christian religion has changed considerably from their early views, when cats became considered as linked to the devil, and many hundreds of cats joined innocent young women in death. The immediate reason had to do with witchcraft. Black cats became special targets.
Now, though we have become more enlightened, many still remain shackled to this crude past, leading to various forms of animal abuse. Modern tradition still remains rooted in the belief that humans have dominion over animals; as such, he becomes a steward of animals.
Even today many modern theologians don’t believe that animals have rights. At least in modern time, Christians believe that looking after nature ranks better than using it just for human advantage.
It is fortunate that a few early well-known Christians had a more enlightened attitude toward animals. One example is St. Francis of Assisi, born in 1182, who declared that animals “had the same source as himself,” a view that must have proved difficult for people at that time to accept.
In Contrast, The Islamic View
The cat has been venerated in the Near East since antiquity, and Islam also has that tradition. One source tells us that the prophet Muhammad prohibited the persecution and killing of cats. He is reported to have said that a pious woman went to Hell because she tied a female cat with a rope and neglected to provide her food and water until she died.
Mohammad’s favorite cat was believed to be one named Muezza. One morning when preparing to attend prayer, he discovered his cat, Muezza, sleeping on the sleeve of his prayer robe. Rather than waking the cat, Mohammad cut the sleeve off with a pair of scissors, leaving the cat sleeping.
In Islamic culture, cats receive admiration for their cleanliness, even considered ritually clean.Thus, the cats could enter homes and even mosques. Food sampled by cats is considered still fit for Muslims to eat, and water they have drunk still may find a use. Muslims also believe that cats seek out people who pray.
The Gospel Of The Holy Twelve
Though you will find no mention of cats in the Bible, you will find a couple of references in “The Gospel Of The Holy Twelve.” This rendition represents the bible as accepted by Essene Christians. In it, you can find two stories about cats.
In the first one, Jesus passes through a certain village and sees a crowd of base idlers who were tormenting a cat. They had found it and treated it shamefully. Jesus commanded them to desist, but they would not listen to his reasoning, and reviled him.
Then Jesus made a whip of knotted cords and drove them away, saying that the earth that his Father made existed for joy and gladness. He further said that these idlers had made it into the lowest hell with deeds of violence and cruelty. The evil-doers fled before his face.
In the second story, Jesus entered a village and found a young cat with none to care for her. The hungry cat cried to him, so he took her up and put her inside his garment, where she lay in his bosom.
When Jesus came into the village, he set food and drink before the cat, who ate and drank and showed him thanks. Jesus gave her to one of his disciples, a widow by the name of Lorenza, and she took care of the cat.
Then, people said, “This man careth for all creatures. Are they his brothers and sisters that he should love them?” He answered,”Verily, these are your fellow creatures of the great Household of God.” He assured them that they are our brothers and sisters, having the same breath of life in the Eternal.
Monestary Of Saint Nicolas Of The Cats
It is said that St. Helena of Constantinople (ca. 246 – 18 August 330) brought cats to this monastery in the 4th century. She originally brought the cats in order to reduce the snake population. This convent is located near Limassol in Cyprus.
The nuns still continue to care for their many cat residents, even to this day.
Cat Gods And Goddesses From Ancient Cultures
Of course, the ones we all know about involve the cat gods and goddesses that the ancient Egyptians worshipped. I love this quote from author Terry Pratchett: “In ancient times, cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.”
However, we can find lesser-known cat goddesses and gods that you may have never heard of. Let’s take a look at a few of these:
- Freyja and her cat-driven chariot: Freyja was the Norse goddess of love, fertility, war, wealth, divination and magic. She rode in a chariot pulled by two giant grey cats, a gift from the god Thor. Farmers left Freyja offerings to ensure a good harvest.
- Ai-Apaec, Peruvian shape-shifting god: Ai-Apaec, from the pre-Inca civilization known as the Mochica, often had cat-like features. Depicted as an old man with a wrinkled face, long fangs and cat-like whiskers, they believed he could assume the form of a tomcat.
- Li Shou, guardian of Chinese families: This cat god appears in the Chinese “Book of Rites.” Farmers worshipped Li Shou because he protected crops from being eaten by rats and mice.
- Ovinnik, Polish protector: In ancient days in Poland this cat, appearing in the form of a black cat, helped farming families because he watched over domestic animals and chased away any evil-natured ghosts or mischievous fairies.
- Shape-shifting goddess Hecate from Greece: The goddess Hecate assumed the form of a cat so she could escape the monster Typhon. Thereafter, she made sure that cats received special treatment.
- Ceridwen from Wales: Ceridwen holds the title of the Welsh goddess of wisdom. Her son, Taliesin, became a famous bard. Ceridwen’s supporters included white cats who carried out all her orders on Earth.
These represent just a few of the stories of cat gods and goddesses. If you’d like to learn more, research posts about Native American tribes. More of these deities reside in the stories from the past. Perhaps this taste will whet your appetite for more.
References I used for this post:
http://pictures-of-cats.org/Christianity-and-cats.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_and_cats# http://domesticcatworld.com/cats-in-religion/ blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-symbiotic-relationship-between-jews-and-cats/