Other Religions Paganism and Wicca Cat Magic, Legends, and Folklore Share Flipboard Email Print Many cats feel at home in a magical space. Miles Bocianski / EyeEm / Getty Images Paganism and Wicca Wicca Traditions Basics Rituals and Ceremonies Sabbats and Holidays Wicca Gods Herbalism Wicca Resources for Parents By Patti Wigington Paganism Expert B.A., History, Ohio University Patti Wigington is a pagan author, educator, and licensed clergy. She is the author of Daily Spellbook for the Good Witch, Wicca Practical Magic and The Daily Spell Journal. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Patti Wigington Updated May 31, 2018 Ever have the privilege of living with a cat? If you have, you know that they have a certain degree of unique magical energy. It’s not just our modern domesticated felines, though–people have seen cats as magical creatures for a long time. Let’s look at some of the magic, legends, and folklore associated with cats throughout the ages. Touch Not the Cat In many societies and cultures, it was believed that a surefire way to bring misfortune into your life was to deliberately harm a cat. An old sailors’ tale cautions against throwing the ship’s cat overboard–the superstition said that this would practically guarantee stormy seas, rough wind, and possibly even a sinking, or at the very least, drownings. Of course, keeping cats on board had a practical purpose, as well–it kept the rat population down to a manageable level. In some mountain communities, it is believed that if a farmer killed a cat, his cattle or livestock would sicken and die. In other areas, there’s a legend that cat-killing will bring about weak or dying crops. In ancient Egypt, cats were regarded as sacred because of their association with the goddesses Bast and Sekhmet. To kill a cat was grounds for harsh punishment, according to the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus, who wrote, "Whoever kills a cat in Egypt is condemned to death, whether he committed this crime deliberately or not. The people gather and kill him.” There's an old legend that cats will try to "steal a baby's breath," smothering it in its sleep. In fact, in 1791, a jury in Plymouth, England found a cat guilty of homicide in just these circumstances. Some experts believe that this is the result of the cat lying on top of the child after smelling milk on its breath. In a slightly similar folktale, there's an Icelandic cat called the Jólakötturinn who eats lazy children around the Yuletide season. In both France and Wales, there’s a legend that if a girl steps on a cat’s tail, she’ll be unlucky in love. If she’s engaged, it will get called off, and if she’s seeking a husband, she won’t find him for at least a year following her cat-tail-stepping transgression. Lucky Cats In Japan, the maneki-neko is a cat figurine who brings good luck into your home. Typically made of ceramic, the maneki-neko is also called the Beckoning Cat or Happy Cat. His upraised paw is a sign of welcome. It is believed that the raised paw draws money and fortune to your home, and the paw held next to the body helps keep it there. Maneki-neko is often found in feng shui. England’s King Charles once had a cat that he loved very much. According to legend, he assigned keepers to maintain the cat’s safety and comfort around the clock. However, once the cat fell ill and died, Charles’ luck ran out, and he was either arrested or died himself the day after his cat passed away, depending upon which version of the story you hear. In Renaissance-era Great Britain, there was a custom that if you were a guest in a home, you should kiss the family cat upon your arrival to ensure a harmonious visit. Of course, if you’ve had a cat you know that a guest who fails to make nice with your feline could end up having a miserable stay. There’s a story in rural parts of Italy that if a cat sneezes, everyone who hears it will be blessed with good fortune. Cats and Metaphysics Cats are believed to be able to predict the weather–if a cat spends the entire day looking out a window, it could mean rain is on the way. In Colonial America, if your cat spent the day with her back to the fire, then it indicated a cold snap was coming in. Sailors often used the behavior of ships’ cats to foretell weather events–sneezes meant a thunderstorm was imminent, and a cat who groomed its fur against the grain was predicting hail or snow. Some people believe that cats can predict death. In Ireland, there’s a tale that a black cat crossing your path in the moonlight meant you’d fall victim to an epidemic or plague. Parts of Eastern Europe tell a folktale of a cat yowling in the night to warn of coming doom. In many Neopagan traditions, practitioners report that cats frequently pass through magically designated areas, such as circles which have been cast, and seem to make themselves contentedly at home within the space. In fact, they often seem curious about magical activities, and cats will often lay themselves down in the middle of an altar or workspace, sometimes even falling asleep on top of a Book of Shadows. Black Cats There are a number of legends and myths surrounding black cats in particular. The Norse goddess Freyja drove a chariot pulled by a pair of black cats, and when a Roman solder killed a black cat in Egypt he was killed by an angry mob of locals. Sixteenth-century Italians believed that if a black cat jumped on the bed of an ill person, the person would soon die. In Colonial America, Scottish immigrants believed that a black cat entering a wake was bad luck, and could indicated the death of a family member. Appalachian folklore said that if you had a stye on the eyelid, rubbing the tail of a black cat on it would make the stye go away. If you find a single white hair on your otherwise-black cat, it's a good omen. In England's border countries and southern Scotland, a strange black cat on the front porch brings good fortune.