For centuries in Europe the cat was seen as evil and feared, particularly black ones who were always associated with witches and believed to be in league with the devil. Persecution was so fife that by 1400AD the cat was almost extinct in many parts of Europe. The Church of the times was very much to blame for this and was responsible for the 'Cats' bad press. It became obsessed with its pagan connections.
However, in ancient Egypt, Rome and pagan Scandinavia the cat was always associated with fertility, pleasure and good fortune, and was never connected with anything to do with the Devil. Ancient Egyptians were the first to domesticate this animal, first as rat catchers and then as sacred animals. Much worship was focused on a cat-like goddess of fertility named "Bastet" or Bast, cats were mummified and buried in temples as a mark of respect. Even after the fall of the Egyptian Empire cats were revered and treated as good luck omens.
In Europe the situation was they enjoyed a great degree of worship and superstition but in the middle ages this came to an abrupt end. The by then, the very powerful Christian Church was in fear of Pagan cult worship, and they embarked upon a terrible campaign against so-called witches who, were believed to be able to transform into cats at times of trouble or persecution.
Women in particular were targeted and many were tortured until they at last gave in to false confessions, they were cruelly executed. Many were solitary elderly woman who maybe kept a cat as a companion, they would be drowned or burnt at the stake,along with their pet cat. Cats would suffer the same fates, and not just black ones but all colours. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries the cat population diminished. It was not until the 18th century that the cat was restored to favour, and the witch hunts died out.
The cat resumed its place as an household pet and rat catcher. In Britain today black cats are considered to be lucky, whereas in North America the reverse is true.
Many cats even today are found in buildings mummified under the foundations of old buildings, it was thought to bring luck and good fortune for both the structure and its occupants.
Sailors are renowned for their superstitious natures and they still today have cats on board their vessels both as rat catchers and to bring good luck to the ship. Even so cats generally dislike water but seem to take up residence on ships quite happily (especially fishing vessels). In fact cats have migrated all around the world thanks to their affinity to ships.
Sailors always believed the cat had the power to protect them from dangerous weather and disasters at sea. Throw a cat overboard and this would mean impending doom and at least nine years bad luck for all the crew. Cats are excellent weather forecasters and it was believed that a cat could start a storm with its tail if it was angered, hence many cats fared very well.
Cats today are very much at the centre of many peoples lives, and it would seem they now enjoy a pampered existence. Purrrrrrrrr!
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