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Cats: Angels or Demons

The content below is from Episode 107 of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast

RECOMMENDATION SEGMENT

  • I recommend you watch the animated show called Stone Quackers.
    • Set in the fictional island city of Cheeseburger Island, the series revolves around the surreal misadventures of two ducks, Whit and Clay (respectively voiced by Whitmer Thomas and Clay Tatum), along with their friends Barf (voiced by Ben Jones) and Dottie (voiced by Heather Lawless), and the incompetent Officer Barry (voiced by John C. Reilly), and neighborhood kid Bug (voiced by Budd Diaz).
    • It is a gem of a show that only have like 12 episodes. I cracked up many times during the 3 days it took me to binge it on Hulu.
    • Among other things, John C Reilly as Officer Barry had me tearing up from laughter.

NOW FOR THE MAIN EVENT

  • I work from home and minus a few drawbacks, it is DEFINITELY much better than driving in to work every day. It saves me about 2 hours of time each day.
    • Another notable benefit to working from home is I get to spend my entire work day with my pets:
      • Rorschach a 7 year old, 18 pound, black Schipperke dog.
      • And Beerus, a 1 year old, chunky farm cat.
  • It is really nice to spend time with them and make sure they are getting attention all day. However, my cat only knows the meaning of personal space if it pertains to his own.
    • The little bugger jumps up on my work desk all day long and begs for attention. And when I’m working I can’t have a cat in between me and the keyboard.
    • But when I finally do brush Beerus off my desk I feel terrible.
  • Well it seems humans have been infatuated with cats for thousands of years. You’ve probably heard that cats were worshipped by the ancient Egyptians.
    • Well that’s what this week’s episode is about: Who worshipped cats, which cultures. How were cats worshipped. When and where were they worshipped. And what makes cats so damn special?
  • When and where were cats first domesticated?
    • An archeological dig in 1983 on the island of Cyprus (located in the Mediterranean Sea) revealed a jawbone of a cat dating back 8,000 years ago. Scientist concluded it was very likely it belonged to a domesticated cat, because who wants a demon hellspawn of a pissed off wild cat on your boat ride to the island?
    • Then in 2004 archeologist found a cat burried with a human. This made scientist reassess the date humans domesticated cats. They pushed the estimate back some 1,500 years, which brought the estimated year of domestication to 7,500 BCE.
    • But then in 2007 a study of the house cats genes was published stating all house cats today can trace their lineage back to the Middle Eastern wildcat, Felis sylvestris… get it? “Sylvestris”… like sylvester the cat from the Looney Tunes.
    • So now the current thought is that cats were first domesticated by humans some 12,000 years ago.
Sylvester, the American feline deity. Starting in 1930 Americans would sit in their homes and stare at a broadcasted image of Sylvester along with other animated deities, a tradition that is still practiced to this day.
  • That might sound like quite the jump in time estimation just based on a genetic study, but the theory makes sense. The researchers suggested that cats would have been domesticated around the same time humans began to cultivating crops.
    • Dogs were domesticated much earlier because dogs are great hunting companions. So the thought is that they were domesticated when humans were all hunting and gathering as nomads. But once we started to settle down and use agricutlure to feed ourselves, cats became useful.
    • Where there are large storage areas of grain and crop products there are rodents. Rodents are a main food source for cats.
    • The running thought now is that cats domesticated themselves. When we humans started storing our food from farming, the food stores attracted the mice, and the mice attracted the cats. Instead of getting rid of the cats, early humans kept them around because they kept the mice away.
    • Humans favored more docile and friendly cats and those were the ones that stuck around and evolved into the modern house cat.
      • as I wrote that last line, Beerus the cat jumped up on my desk, started purring and rubbing his face on my chin… yeah, I can see how we used to worship these little guys
Bastet
  • The most famouse culture to have worshipped cats was the Ancient Egyptians
    • Cats were thought to embody the Egyptian goddess of love Bastet and whenever Bastet is seen in Ancient Egyptians art she has the head of a cat.
      • Bastet was the daughter of the sun god Ra and moon goddess Isis. In earlier depictions Bastet is shows with the head of a fierce lion or lioness. Then later on she is shown with the head of a domestic cat. She starts to be portrayed as a mother with a bunch of god kittens. She is a protector of her family.
    • Cats were kept as companions to ward off pests in Ancient Egypt and historians believe this contributed to their portrayal of deities.
    • Many paintings found in Egyptians tombs show cats hunting birds, playing, or simply lounging under chairs.
      • A tomb was a continuation of ones life after death so naturally they had depictions of family members and their cats so they could take them with them after they died.
    • Other tomb paintings show cats holding daggers and fighting Apopis. Apopis was a snake deity that threatened Ra (the sun god) during night in the underworld.
    • But cats weren’t just the subject of paintings in tombs. Some cats were mummified and buried along with humans.
      • The thought was that the person could use the cats body as a vessel after death.
    • If you were charged and found guilty of killing a cat in Ancient Egypt it often meant you were subject to execution.
      • The one notable exception to this for mummification.
  • These next fun facts are from a website called Ranker.com. I’m not sure how reliable they are, just as a disclaimer.
    • When a beloved cat died, the family showed the amount of respect they would if a human member had died. They would even shave their eyebrows to show their loss and when their eyebrows grew back, they had finished mourning.
    • In 525 BCE during the Battle of Pelusium, Cambyses II of Persia was up against the military might of the Egyptians lead by Pharaoh Psametik III. Cambyses II wanted to eventually conquer Egypt.
      • Cambyses II used the unconventional tactic of ordering his men to capture as many cats as they could within the immediate area and release them upon the battlefield. When the Egyptian forces arrived at Pelusium they refused to fight for fear of hurting the sacred cats. The Egyptian forces surrendered to the Persians.
    • Archeologist recovered court records from the year 450 BCE that said it was illegal to export cats outside the empire. So instead of illegal drug smugglers you had illegal kitty smugglers. And apparently small bands of warriors were tasked with retreiving any stolen cats.
Cat in an Ancient Roman Mosaic
  • Ancient Rome had a positive view of cats
    • The Romans saw cats as a symbol of liberty. They didn’t hold any religious significance, but were revered all the same.
Li Shou
  • Many Ancient Asian cultures valued cats for their ability to protect scrolls from rodent damage.
    • The Chinese god Li Shou protected crops from being devoured by rodents. There is also a delightful story from Chinese myth about how cats (lead by Li Shou) were tasked by the creator gods to run the world. But they decided they’d rather nap in sunbeams and chase butterflies instead so they gave the job to humans lol.
      • It is adorable and I suggest you click the link I put on the blog and read it.
Ovinnik
  • The Polish people had their own feline deity.
    • Ovinnik was the name of a being from Slavic myth that protected farms. It was sometimes portrayed as a cat, protected crops and livestock, and burned down the crop stores of farms that committed evil.
    • The Ovinnik was also seen as a malevolent creature that demanded sacrifices of roosters.
  • But not all cultures valued cats
    • I’m sure there are plenty of cultures that did or still feel relatively indifferent to the little fuzzballs, but midieval Europe down-right hated them.
    • Where ancient Egyptians saw cats as vessels for the gods, Christian Europe saw them as vessels for satan or witchcraft.
    • Europeans killed cats by the thousands because they associated them with evil. The irony is that in their effort to ward off evil, they got rid of the main predator for rodents… which made the rodent population skyrocket, which brought upon the deadliest plague in human history.
    • It wasn’t until the 1600s that Europeans started to see cats in a more rational light.
Medieval cat, stealing family jewels. Rijksmuseum, 1555… I couldn’t NOT include this pic
  • And what about now?
    • According to Bloomberg’s The Magazine Trying to Bring the Web’s Cat Obsession Offline (which came out in 2015), cats drive almost 15 percent of all Web traffic.
    • We still love cats. They still are an integral part of our society. They still help humans by killing every small living thing in their vicinity.
      • They still keep farms free of rodents and they still make us feel less alone in this world with their smug and adorable demeanors.
    • And now I’m going to go snuggle my cat Beerus because his just so damn cute!

THANKS FOR LISTENING WHO’D A THUNKERS!

CREDIT:

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