Animal Symbolism: Meaning of the Cat
A Look at the Symbolic Meaning of Cats
Cats. Whether you love 'em, or hate 'em...there is no denying cats are cram-packed with symbolic meanings. Almost every culture has some kind of myth or story to tell that features the feline. The myths are just as rigid in good vs. evil as people's opinions about cats. Some cultures villainize them, other cultures worship them. No matter personal opinion, or stance in myth - the cat is a worldwide icon. Cats have influenced humankind's imaginations and made themselves an anchor in legend and lore told over campfires for centuries.
As an ancient symbolic Celtic animal, the cat represents the guardian of the Otherworld (or Underworld, depending which texts you read from various regions). Stoic, silent and mysterious, cats fit the bill of Otherworld guardians quite well. They keep the secrets of the Otherworld eternally to themselves, as they gaze with guile upon a world that does not see or understand the depth of their knowledge. However, black cats in Celtic lore were feared, and were sacrificed.
In Western tradition, black cats have been associated with witchcraft. This is due to black being associated with supposed perils of the night, and the cat is associated with transformation just as the veil of night shifts our perception of reality. Witches and cats go together like traffic and weather. Much of this connection may be due to the unpredictable and cagey nature of the cat (in general). In old European lore, the cat was an unsettling sight to some. And as with all symbolism, once an understanding of something is accepted, word spreads, and a whole people or tribe will adopt the meaning. Same with cats. A segment of the population established the cat as nefarious, a bunch of other people bought the bad rap, and superstition about cats went viral. Witches got a bad rap too. Their beliefs were not easily explained, just as cat behavior can be baffling. So the two made great bedfellows.
But there are plenty of segments in human population that adore and even worship the cat. Ancient Rome the cat was sacred to Diana, the moon goddess. Here the cat was also considered a guardian of homes and a symbol of domestic goodness.
In Muslim lore, the cat is honored for saving Mohammad from an attack by a fierce snake. Here it is believed the "M" marking on the forehead of many tabby cats is the mark of the prophet ("M" for Mohammad).
In Norse legend the cat is depicted drawing the chariot of their fertility goddess, Freyja, and therefore the cat is thought of as a blessing upon newborns and a good omen for those increasing their family ranks.
In ancient Egypt cats were sacred and were even depicted on the head of their lunar goddess, Bastet which was worshipped by the ancient Egyptians. In her honor, cats were even mummified along with mice for them to eat.
Symbolic Cat Meanings
Cats tend to be quite resourceful and commonly give us messages of change, flexibility of adaptability. Often, when a cat makes an uncommon appearance in our lives it is a message for us to shake up our habitual routines and make some fresh changes in our lives, as well as be more flexible in our thinking.
Cats can also be quite aloof, and this too is often a message for us to distance ourselves from people or situations. Sometimes the best cure for a problem is to step away from it - the cat inherently realizes this, and we would be wise to recognize this need as well.
Lastly, the cat animal symbolism is about mystery. Unfortunately, its unpredictability has given the cat a bad name in some areas of folk lore, specifically witchcraft as mentioned. When, in actuality, this is an asset that can be harnessed by us humans.
Sometimes displaying very strange behavior and antics, you can never really pin a cat down. Simply put, the cat animal symbolism is synonymous with magic and psychic power because of its sometimes unorthodox and surreptitious behavior. In essence, the cat teaches us a lesson about being the value of being unique. Often it's the bold, unpredictable and a little crazy among us that reap the broadest benefits in life.
The good news is, this mystery is a message to us that we have the power over illusion. Cat animal symbolism reminds us to not fall prey to false beliefs, to not be a fool out of ignorance and derive understanding from our own internal wisdom. The cat beckons us to realize that when we turn within to our own hearts, minds and souls, and trust in ourselves we will always be shown the truth of matters.
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May all your cat encounters enhance your wisdom.
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An Important Note About Signs, Symbols and Their Meanings
Signs and symbols cultivate their meanings according to culture, context, passage of time, and mass societal opinion. What's cool and highly important is that signs and symbols earn their most powerful meanings from our own personal perspectives.
This website strives to provide you with the best, time-honored information when defining signs and symbols. However, in the final analysis, "Beauty (and symbolism) is in the eye of the beholder."
Having said that, it's in our best interest to invest the time to do personal research on symbolic events happening to us. This website is just one perspective in an ocean of variety and diversity in the realm of symbolism. So dive in! There is a whole universe of deeper meanings to explore! You can start your research by clicking on the links at the end or to the side of this page. Odds are good I've got a follow-up article about this symbolic topic. ;)
As always, thanks for your willingness to learn more about the language of symbolism. It's a language that is universal and everywhere. It's super-groovy to travel with you on your symbolic path, and maybe offer a little translation along the way. Thanks for reading and exploring!