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Please be aware that the following text is about the cat itself and not about just the cat's milk:
There were no domestic cats in Eden - only lions, tigers, panthers and leopards - and in fact the Bible does not mention cats at all (perhaps because they were being worshiped as Pagan gods in nearby Egypt at roughly the time the Bible was being written). But legend has it that during the long weeks afloat in the Ark the rat and mouse population increased so alarmingly that the rodents soon threatened the safety of the entire ship. Noah, rising to the occasion, passed his hand three times over the head of the lioness, and she obligingly sneezed forth a cat that soon dealt with the problem.
The ancient Greeks had another story of the cat's creation - one of the few times the animals are mentioned in their literature. Apollo, it seems, created the lion and sent it to frighten his sister Diana (Artemis). The Huntress was not so easily intimidated however, and promptly created the domestic cat as a parody to poke fun at Her brother's monster. Diana was also goddess of the moon, an association cats had held earlier in Egypt and retained for centuries thereafter.
Inscription on the royal tombs in Thebes read:
"Thou art the Great Cat, the avenger of the gods, and the judge of words, and the president of the sovereign chiefs and the governor of the holy Circle; thou art indeed…the Great Cat "
The ancient Egyptians developed cat cults and worshipped a cat-headed goddess named Bast or Bastet. Bastet had the body of a woman and the head of a cat. Associated with fertility, motherhood, grace, and beauty, Bastet's largest temple was in the city of Bubastis. During the reign of the Pharaohs, it was considered a capital crime to kill or injure a cat, even if the cat died through an unfortunate accident. If a house caught fire, the rule went like this-cats first, humans second. If a cat should die of natural causes the entire household went into elaborate mourning with chanting and pounding of chests as an outward sign of grief. Family members shaved their eyebrows in mourning when the family cat died.The body of the cat had to be wrapped in linen and delivered to the priest who inspected the cat's body to be certain the cat had died a natural death. After death the cat's body was embalmed, wrapped again in linen, decorated and either buried in special cemeteries or entombed in temples. Thousands of cat mummies were preserved in a huge temple at Bubastis. Mouse mummies were also found in the tombs, to assure that the cat had food for the journey into the afterlife. In fact, the Egyptians so loved their cats that cats mummies far and away out numbered human mummies found in Egypt. Over 300,000 cat mummies were found in one excavation alone at Beni-Hassan in the 1800s.
In ancient Egypt, Rome and Pagan Scandinavia (Northern Europe), the cat was associated with fertility, pleasure and good fortune. In the Middle Ages in Europe, cats' bodies were buried in the foundations of buildings to bring good fortune to the inhabitants. If a cat's body was built into a wall, it was thought that it would deter rats. The phrase 'having kittens' comes from the Middle Ages, when it was thought that a woman in painful labour was bewitched and had kittens clawing inside her womb.
Yet the good times came to an abrupt end in Europe in the Middle Ages. The powerful Christian Church was against Pagan cult worship. It started a terrible campaign against Witchcraft. Thousands of innocent women were denounced as Witches, tortured until they confessed and then executed. Cats were considered to be consorts of the devil and familiars of Witches, and were to be treated in the same brutal way. Persecution was so effective that by 1400 the cat was almost extinct. It has even been said that if the cat population had not been almost wiped out in the Middle Ages, the rat-borne Black Death might not have killed up to a third of Europe's population. For many centuries in Europe, the cat was seen as evil, the familiar of Witches or the disciple of the devil.
It was not until the late 18th century that Witch-hunting died out and the cat resumed its role of rat catcher. The superstition that still survives today is that black cats are connected with luck. In Britain a black cat is thought to bring good luck. English sailors purchased them for their wives, believing that as long as the cat was contented the weather would be fair, and in Scotland a black cat in the house ensured that the young ladies who lived there would have plenty of beaus. Black cats are also considered good luck in the Orient. Chinese sailors carried them aboard ship to bring favourable winds. Strangely enough, in North America (en parts of Europe) it is thought to bring bad luck.
Gods / persons associated with cats:
Artemis: Moon goddess of hunting and chastity, changed Herself into a cat when She fled from Mount Olympus to Egypt
Bast / Basted: Goddess of the Moon and the Cats, represented as a woman with the head of a cat. Honoured were the hunting abilities of the cat, but also its gentle side as a warm and loving mother. Anyone who killed a cat was put to death. The cats were said to control the moon's movement, protect the dead, and had total authority over the royal houses at night because of their ability to see things that humans couldn't see in the dark.
Buddha: According to the Buddhist religion, the body of the cat is the temporary resting place of the soul of very spiritual people.
Chopin: one book reported that Chopin's cat walked across the keyboard and he liked the melody so much that he created an entire piece called The Cat Waltz around it; another website states that the title of the piece was The Cat Valse
Freya (or Freija): Norse Goddess of Love, Marriage, Fertility and Beauty. She is often depicted with rollicking cats. She had a chariot drawn by two huge grey (or black) cats. Some versions of the tale claim they became swift black horses, possessed by the Devil. After serving Freya for 7 years, the cats were rewarded by being turned into Witches, disguised as black cats.
Grimalkin: Gray cat of Celtic lore with magical powers. Used in various fiction as a
farmiliar to Witches.
Hekate: goddess of the underworld, was reputed to be able to change Herself into a cat.
Isis: Cats were sacred to Her. Her and Osiris' daughter Basted was the Goddess of the cats and the moon.
Mohammed: It is written that once in Damascus the prophet cut off his sleeve rather than disturb his sleeping cat when it was time for prayers
Para: Ancient Finnish household spirits who appear in the shape of a cat, snake,
hare, or frog. They enlarge to amount of food and money with what they stole
Ra: The Egyptian Sun God, Ra, changed himself into a cat to do battle with the
Raiju: A Japanese demon whose name means "thunder animal". It is a demon of lightning
in the shape of a cat, badger or weasel. During thunderstorms it becomes
extremely agitated and leaps from tree to tree. If a tree shows the marks of
lightning, people say that Raiju's claws have scratched it open.
Schweitzer Albert: was seldom seen without a feline companion. Also Churchill, Lincoln, Florence Nightingale, Newton, Mark Twain, Verne, Monet, Renoir Scarlatti, Liszt etc. were cat lovers.
Siam: Siamese god-kings employed a cat for their souls to pass into upon death. It
was believed that the soul rested for the cat's natural life span before
Stravinsky: wrote Lullabies for the Cat
Tjilpa: The ancestral totemic cat-men of Aboriginal Australia.
Tsun-Kyanske: This Burmese Goddess of the Transmutation of Souls, was attended by priests
and their cats, animals were believed to communicate directly with the
Utgard-Loki: According to an old Norse legend king of the giants, had a giant cat
ENGLAND/ AMERICA: A cat has 9 lives. For 3 he plays, for 3 he strays, and for the last 3 he stays. One theory on the origin of this expression is that in ancient times nine was a lucky number because it s the trinity of trinities. As cats seem able to escape injury time and time again, this lucky number seemed suited to the cat. While in most countries the cat is said to have nine lives, in Arab and Turkish proverbs (also in e.g. Switzerland, Holland…) poor puss has a mere seven lucky lives and in Russia, is said to survive nine deaths.
When the cat's away, the mice will play.
Fain would the cat love fish to eat, but she's loath to wet her feet.
It's raining cats and dogs. This phrase probably began at the time when drainage systems were inefficient and stray animals drowned. When finding them on the street, peasants thought they had fallen from the sky.
Cat got your tongue? In ancient times, a criminal's punishment sometimes included having his tongue cut out; the tongue was fed to the King's pets. There is some historical truth to the phrase…
In Medieval England, buyers would bring their tender young pigs to sell in the common marketplace. However, there were some unethical sellers who would try to trick buyers by concealing large cats in the bags instead of suckling pigs. Shrewd shoppers quickly caught on to this tactic, and would demand the sack to be opened in order to inspect the pig. Oops!!! All too often, it was the cat that was let out of the bag!!
BOSNIAN: Women and cats are both black by night
HUNGARY: After a time, even the dog begins to compromise with the cat.
RUSSIA: The man who loves cats will love his wife.
A kind welcome is beloved by a cat
KURDISTAN: The cat who could not reach the meat roast declared he would not eat it, to honour his father.
ARAB: The cat's dreams are all about mice
GHANA: If stretching made money, all cats would be wealthy
Stories / myths:
Of course there are many, many stories, tales and myths about the cat. I tried to make an interesting extract of some of them:
- In mythology, the cat was believed to have a great influence on the weather. Witches who rode on storms took the form of cats. The dog, an attendant of the storm king Odin, was a symbol of wind. Cats came to symbolize down-pouring rain, and dogs to symbolize strong gusts of wind.
- Charles I, King of England, owned a black cat that he felt brought him luck. He was so afraid of losing it that he had it guarded day and night. The day after the cat died, he was arrested.
- In the early 16th century a visitor to an English home would always kiss the family cat to bring good luck.
- Some cats can predict earthquakes (actually, there is some truth in this "folklore").
- Sailors used cats to predict the voyages they were about to embark on. Loudly mewing cats meant that it would be a difficult voyage. A playful cat meant that it would be a voyage with good and gusty winds.
- A cat sleeping with all four paws tucked under means bad weather is coming.
- If you kick a cat, you will develop rheumatism in that leg.
- If you are a farmer and kill a cat, you can expect your cattle to die mysteriously.
- If you drown a cat, you will fall victim to a drowning.
- An American superstition: When moving to a new home, put the cat in through the window, not the door, so that it will not leave.
- In bright contrast to this image of the "evil" black cat, there is a "good" black cat -- the antinomian lucky black cat of the African-American sporting and gambling world. This black cat does double-duty as a representative of the black arts and as a bringer of money-luck.
- In Europe it is said that a cat sleeps on 'negative' energy spots, e.g. where two underground water ways cross. So it is advised to never sleep (and even sit) on a spot where a cat is found frequently... With the exeption of witches, of course... It is also said that cats can take away bad energy from you: sometimes they spring onto your lap and stay with you and take away pain, sorrow, negative spells etc. - sometimes they even lay down onto the affected part...
- Also think of the fairy tale of the 'puss-n-boots' (the cat with boots) and how the cat, in a very sly way, made his poor lord rich and wealthy (e.g., as Andrea told at the dinner table, the cat provoked the bad,magical lord (energy) of the castle into turning himself into a mouse - and cought it...)
- The following tale is told among some African tribes - it is worthwile to read it: The cat, full of his own importance, decided he would have only the strongest and most powerful of creatures as his friend. When he saw a jackal chase a hare, he adopted him as his friend. Next he turned to a leopard, when he saw it frighten the jackal away. Next he became friendly with a lion and then an elephant. When he saw a man kill the elephant, he was convinced that he had at last discovered the true 'lord of creation', whom no other creature could conquer. He adopted the man as his friend and spent a few days hunting with him, before going to his home with him. As he sat outside the man's hut, he heard angry screams and the 'lord of creation' rushed out under a hail of pots and pans. The cat hurried inside the hut to see this powerful being who could frighten his friend. He saw - a woman - and ever since then the cat has been the friend of a woman.
- A Danish tale describes how a young Danish girl gave a stray cat milk to drink three times, even though she was beaten for doing so. To thank her for her kindness, the cat gave her a beautiful dress and a cloak from his own fur. He then turned himself into a prince and married her.
- According to Manx (Isle of Man) folklore, cats have a king. He lives the life of an ordinary domestic cat during the day, but by night he takes on regal powers and roams about in 'fiery splendour'. Should anyone shut a cat out at night against his will, the king will issue orders for the fairies to let him back in.
- An ancient Irish text tells us the following:
A story is current also, that one night an old woman was sitting up very late spinning, when a knocking came to the door. "Who is there?" she asked. No answer; but still the knocking went on. "'Who is there?" she asked a second the. No answer; and the knocking continued. "Who is there?" she asked the third time, in a very angry passion.
Then there came a small voice--"Ah, Judy, agrah, let me in,--for I am cold and hungry; open the door, Judy, agrah, and let me sit by the fire, for the night is cold out here. Judy, agrah, let me in, let me in!"
The heart of Judy was touched, for she thought it was some small child that had lost its way, and she rose up from her spinning, and went and opened the door--when in walked a large black cat with a white breast, and two white kittens after her.
They all made over to the fire and began to warm and dry themselves, purring all the time very loudly; but Judy said never a word, only went on spinning.
Then the black cat spoke at last--"Judy, agrah, don't stay up so late again, for the fairies wanted to hold a council here tonight, and to have some supper, but you have prevented them; so they were very angry and determined to kill you, and only for myself and my two daughters here you would be dead by this time. So take my advice, don't interfere with the fairy hours again, for the night is theirs, and they hate to look on the face of a mortal when they are out for pleasure or business. So I ran on to tell you, and now give me a drink of milk, for I must be off."
And after the milk was finished the cat stood up, and called her daughters to come away.
"Good-night, Judy, agrah," she said. "You have been very civil to me, and I'll not forget it to you. Good-night, good night."
With that the black cat and the two kittens whisked up the chimney; but Judy looking down saw something glittering on the hearth, and taking it up she found it was a piece of silver, more than she ever could make in a month by her spinning, and she was glad in her heart, and never again sat up so late to interfere with the fairy hours, but the black cat and her daughters came no more again to the house.
In ancient Egypt cats were treated as sacred in honour of Bast. "This cat-headed goddess was regarded as a kindly goddess representing the beneficent powers of the sun protecting the Two Lands, and was sometimes said to personify the moon. Bast also acquired some of the characteristics of Hathor, being known as the goddess of joy, music and dancing. Her cult was celebrated in lighthearted barge processions and in orgiastic ceremonies."
Since the times of ancient Egypt, there have been all kinds of superstitions and strange stories about cats. In parts of Asia, it was assumed that people changed into cats after they died. The Chinese believed that as soon as cats reached a certain age, they could change into other creatures. Also in China, as in Japan, people believed that cats could speak once they reached the age of ten. In medieval Europe, black cats were persecuted and cruelly mistreated because of their so-called relationship with witches. The devil was often portrayed as a black cat. A black cat that crosses your path is said to signify bad luck, although it is equally popular as a sign of good luck! The saying that a cat has nine lives also probably dates from the time magical powers were ascribed to the cat. "I believe this derives as much from the powerful healing capability of the cat. Most likely our ancestors saw cats return from the jaws of death enough to wonder if indeed they had been resurrected. A veterinary orthopedic surgeon intimated the cat's bone healing capacity with the statement that 'if the bones are in the same room they will heal'.