Sunday, 31 October 2010

Cats and the Possessed.

        On Halloween, spirits from the underworld are said to roam the earth. This tradition has it roots in the

 pagan festival of Samhain. This marked the start of winter when a portal between the spiritual and physical

 worlds briefly opened. The Anglo Saxons held a similar the festival on the same date ‘Halloween’, before

 the Catholic Church christianised October 31st, as the eve of All Saints Day.

    However, folklore in many countries has it that the devil can enter man’s domain throughout the year, using the cat as his agent.  Old English custom held that a cat roving a graveyard was looking for a soul to possess and a cat sitting on a tombstone meant the deceased now belonged to the devil. Two cats fighting in a cemetery were the devil and an angel fighting over a soul of the dead. Throughout medieval Europe, pagan black mass often involved a black cat, to represent the devil, and a white cat, a healer.

    Remarkably similar superstitions existed in ancient China.  On the death of his owner, a cat would be given away until after the burial. The relatives believed that if the cat leapt over the body, the corpse would rise up and miss its chance of redemption. In parts of Eastern Europe, a cat jumping over a corpse was said to transform the deceased into a vampire and in Northumbria during the middle ages, a cat that walked over a body would be killed, so that it couldn’t steal the soul of the departed human.

     On a more positive note, the Malayan Jakurs believed that when they died, a cat would be ready and waiting to lead them through the fires of hell to heaven, spraying as he went to cool the pathway. Likewise the Egyptian Pharaoh, Tutankhamen, was led to the underworld by a black cat.

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