This Monday is our national cat holiday:
This day, as is often the case with holidays, is a secularization of an ancient, sacred celebration:
Cats were -and still are- regarded as magickal creatures throughout the ages. The Egyptians revered the cat as an aspect of the goddess, Bast, and they mummified cats with all the ritual, pomp and circumstance that befitted such regal animals. Cats are depicted as drawing the heavenly chariots of various gods and goddesses in other cultural myths as well.
Possibly because of their decidedly nocturnal habits, felines have become associated with the night, stealth and mystery . . .
During the Inquisitions or "Burning Times' of the witchcraft trials and persecutions, cats were often tortured and killed along with the accused "witches." It was thought that witches could change into (shape-shift) cats or that cats could be possessed by evil spirits. The howl of a cat on the prowl has undoubtedly frightened more than one nocturnal traveler on a darkened footpath and the fact that cats seem to delight in sneaking up on folks hasn't helped their public relations image one bit either.
OK, so I'm mixing things up a bit. Here is some history about Samhain:
Hallowe'en has its origins in the British Isles. While the modern tradition of trick or treat developed in the U. S., it too is based on folk customs brought to this country with Irish immigrants after 1840. Since ancient times in Ireland, Scotland, and England, October 31st has been celebrated as a feast for the dead, and also the day that marks the new year. Mexico observes a Day of the Dead on this day, as do other world cultures. In Scotland, the Gaelic word "Samhain" (pronounced "SAW-win" or "SAW-vane") means literally "summer's end."
Other names for this holiday include: All Hallows Eve ("hallow" means "sanctify"); Hallowtide; Hallowmass; Hallows; The Day of the Dead; All Soul's Night; All Saints' Day (both on November 1st).
For early Europeans, this time of the year marked the beginning of the cold, lean months to come; the flocks were brought in from the fields to live in sheds until spring. Some animals were slaughtered, and the meat preserved to provide food for winter. The last gathering of crops was known as "Harvest Home, " celebrated with fairs and festivals.
In addition to its agriculture significance, the ancient Celts also saw Samhain as a very spiritual time. Because October 31 lies exactly between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice, it is theorized that ancient peoples, with their reliance on astrology, thought it was a very potent time for magic and communion with spirits. The "veil between the worlds" of the living and the dead was said to be at its thinnest on this day; so the dead were invited to return to feast with their loved ones; welcomed in from the cold, much as the animals were brought inside. Ancient customs range from placing food out for dead ancestors, to performing rituals for communicating with those who had passed over.
The postcard at the top of this post is from VintagePostcards.com, which has a great variety of Halloween cat cards:
While you wait for Monday treats, here is some feline Halloween entertainment:
Don't forget that tomorrow The Halloween Edition of The Carnival of the Cats will be here at Watermark. Send in your entry via the Carnival Submission Form (my preference) or email to submissions (at) carnivalofthecats.com.
- Seasonal Scary Cats
- Happy Samhain
- Carnival of the Cats #136 - Halloween 2006 Edition
- Carnival of the Cats #84 - Halloween 2005 Edition
- Halloween [Cat] Quizzes