Witches stereotypically love cats. Which is why I launched a competition to win an audiobook of Seidr: The Gate is Open with a photograph of my black cat and a ‘caption me’ request.
But when did cats start being associated with witches?
A little flick through my research notes suggested a few examples of cats being linked with witches and the devil after the black death.
To find out why I took a little stroll through google and realised the medieval cats and witches combinations predated the black death.
But before I go into this further, let me announce the winning caption!
Gillfaery came up with the delightful “Hail Khonsu” combining two of the Avalonia Books kitties. Congratulations Gillfaery!
So back to cats and witches…
Myths link black cats and dogs with being of the devil. The cat, in particular, during the black death was linked with Satan and therefore with the rise of the infection.
Possibly, the cat being not beholden to humans but also not afraid of them would have been one of the few animals’ humans would have seen wandering around and lurking in the shadows. Therefore, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to associate it with evil and in some way causing the infection. In some ways, maybe they were correct, and the humble cat did carry the rat fleas from home to home.
Cats were also named as familiars
Again, their ability to lurk about in the shadows and wander from home to home without human company made it easy for them to be labelled as otherworldly and uncontrolled. A cat could easily be doing the bidding of your witchy neighbour by spying on you.
The links with different ‘witch’ goddesses however aren’t quite so definitive
Popular pagan culture links cats with various goddesses. Bast is self-explanatory.
The links to Freyja are slightly less rounded. Freyja, being associated with Seidr, can go into the ‘witch goddess’ box. But what of her link with cats? Two cats were said to pull her chariot, but this is the only primary source which associates Freyja with cats. It’s also not clear whether these would have been domesticated kitties or the Lynxes of the forest. The Seer Thorbjorg wore catskin gloves but again, it’s unclear how domesticated these ‘cats’ were. There’s also nothing to say what this represented.
Hekate has also been said to be associated with both witches and cats, but again the interpretation of the word ‘witch’ and ‘cat’ is heavily debated. It’s more likely Hekate was associated with lions and that her witch links refer to a specific group of followers.
But let’s face it, cats have a lot in common with witches
Unlike excitable dogs, they are hard to train. They choose to gift you their time and aren’t so tame. Just like witches, they seem to have a sixth sense for who is and isn’t safe. The cat is overly suspicious, it doesn’t trust instantly.
There’s something otherworldly and elegant about the cat.
However, it can be said cats are the ultimate lesson in consent.
Cats simply won’t put up with being touched against their will and can and do withdraw consent in the middle of petting sessions. Often with a sharp tooth or swift claw.
Witches also are clear on their boundaries and self-protection.
So why do cats love witches?
Because we’re super snuggly, forget that we’ve already fed them, and understand consent!