The Japanese are famous cat lovers, so it's not surprising that there are so many cat myths and cat legends here. Cats in the Land of the Rising Sun live up to 12 years on average, which is an advanced age for pets. According to sociologists, almost 20 million cats today have their own plates and litter boxes in Japanese houses. Let's explore some cat legends and cat myths today.
Cat myths and reality
Contrary to popular cat legends, cats appeared in Japan much earlier. In the 6th-7th century AD, they sailed along with sailors from China. On ships, animals acted as guards of ancient manuscripts, protecting them from rats. Over time, cats in Japan have become reliable keepers of great and valuable book depositories. It is noteworthy that it was very difficult to buy a cat then. In those days, this familiar pet cost a fortune in Japan. Therefore, cats were very cherished, and owners were afraid that cats could be stolen or run away. Cats were led on leashes, which excluded the possibility of catching mice and rats significantly.
Japanese folklore, cat legends and cat myths say that mice and rats are afraid of a cat's gaze and run away from the room at the same moment as a cat appears there. Keepers of book depositories and libraries, whose funding was very good, could afford to have cats, but common Japanese people, who dreamed of getting rid of rodents, scared away these pests with the image of cats, as cat myths ordered. This is how cat figurines, images of cats, and many cat legends and cat myths associated with the appearance of these souvenirs emerged.
One of the common cat myths states that in a house where there is an image of a cat, there will be no mice and rats. Thus, the image of a cat gradually became a kind of talisman in Japan, bringing happiness, good luck, and prosperity. There are many cat legends and cat myths associated with the appearance of such a talisman. Cats brought to Japan were predominantly white, sometimes black ones, and over time, cats of a very rare hair appeared – tricolor; they became the heroes of many cat legends and cat myths. The attitude of the Japanese to such cats was special. People believed in cat myths that a rare tricolor cat brings good luck, patronizes sailors, and warns about sea storms. Therefore, sailors and fishermen considered it obligatory to take tricolor cats from cat legends in swimming.
Cat Myths Busted
As you can see, in ancient times, cats in Japan were respected, worshiped, and considered to be living talismans, which is confirmed by many well-known cat legends and cat myths. But fame and human worship is a very changeable thing, and after two centuries, the Japanese attitude towards a cat has changed, and we got a lot of good cat myths busted. Folk fantasy divided cats into two mystical varieties of cat legends and cat myths: neko-mata (werecat, evil and bloodthirsty) and maneki-neko (fortune or good luck cat).
Cat myths about werecats
In cat myths, a werecat is a terrible bloodthirsty creature that can kill and eat a person who has angered her or simply got in its way. The most interesting thing is that tricolor cats, so revered until that time in many cat legends and myths, have now become the main contenders for the role of a bloodthirsty werecat monster. Cat myths and legends say that almost all tricolor cats are werecats.
How can you identify werecats in ancient cat myths? Folk fantasy drew such an image in cat myths: in human form, this is predominantly a beautiful and attractive woman who drives men crazy. In cat myths, this woman was distinguished by the presence of a cat's tail, which she carefully hid from people. Myths about cat say that if such a werecat developed its magical abilities and became stronger, it could grow one or more tails over time. In addition, cat myths said that if a woman died because of the cruelty or betrayal of her husband / lover, she could return in the form of a werecat to take revenge on her offenders with the help of her cat power.
Since the cat's tail was the hallmark of the werecat in cat myths, almost all cats at that time underwent the painful and sometimes fatal procedure of cutting off their tails. In almost all images and figurines of cats, in cat legends and myths at that time, the cat was depicted with a severed tail. Because of cat myths, an ordinary cat with a tail was considered a devil's offspring. Later, the Japanese began to breed special breeds of tailless cats, fearing cat legends and myths. Over time these cat myths were busted.
Cat myths about Lucky cats
In cat myths, the lucky cat was the exact opposite of werecats. According to one of the cat myths and legends, a monk adopted a homeless cat. The temple where the monk lived was very poor; there was no money for its reconstruction and maintenance in good condition. One day the monk complained to the cat, saying that if the cat were a human, he could help the temple somehow. These myths about cat say that soon a noble prince, returning from a successful campaign, passed by the temple. The prince saw a cat on the threshold of the temple, beckoning him with its front paw, entered the temple and donated money for repairs.
Since then, this temple, which created one of the most famous cat myths, has been honored by cats, and the owners bring images of their dead pets here. Cats are buried on the territory of the monastery. Cat myths say that if the owner pays posthumous honors to the pet, he or she will have good luck, prosperity and happiness. The cat referred to in these cat legends and myths was precisely the cat of happiness, the cat of good luck with a friendly raised front paw, the so-called "inviting cat" from cat myths.
But there are other alternative myths about cat. One of the different cat myths says that one poor woman had a beloved cat. But she became so impoverished that there was no food left in the house at all. Then she told her cat that she had to let him go in the wilds, because she had no food left to feed the cat.
Alternative Cat Legends and Myths
According to new cat legends and myths, at night she dreamed of a cat who comforted her and promised that everything would be fine if she crafted his figurine and sold it. At the same time, the cat raised one paw in a friendly way. Cat myths say that in the morning a woman made a figurine of a cat with a friendly raised paw, and on the same day she sold it to a passerby for good money. Since then, no matter how many figurines she made, they all sold well. According to cat myths, poverty is forever gone from a woman's home.
This is how the cat from cat myths, a cat with a raised paw, became a nationwide symbol of good luck, happiness, success, and prosperity. Now this symbol can be found everywhere in Japan: on the signs of restaurants and hotels, among souvenirs, in paintings, statues, and sculptures in cities and parks. After all, cat myths live forever, just like our love for cats.