I wrote about cat magic for Kings River Life this week – and we included a giveaway! You’ve got to click through to enter, but here’s a teaser:
Sometimes, the lack of a reaction tells you more than any startled gasp ever could. That’s what I’m realizing now that my A Cat on the Case, the third Witch Cat of Cambridge cozy mystery, makes its way to readers. The big shock? Cat people aren’t surprised by the idea that cats have magical powers. It’s as if they already knew.
Granted, the magic that the three cats in my books can perform has its limits. Harriet, the eldest of the three littermates and a big orange puffball of a feline, can “summon” objects out of the air. Laurel, the middle sister who takes after Siamese ancestors, influences humans with the power of suggestion. And Clara, the baby and the one most devoted to their human, Becca, can both “shade” herself into invisibility and pass through solid objects, like doors. (She secretly suspects that this might have to do with her calico spots, but I’m not telling.) And while some critics have scoffed at these powers, cat people by and large have accepted them without question.
This might not exactly be the case of “the dog that didn’t bark” which famously alerted Sherlock Holmes in “Silver Blaze”, but, to this writer, it’s just as telling. We humans have long viewed our feline companions as magical – or at least possessing powers beyond those of catching vermin or warming our laps on a cold night.
Some of this we all know. Cats, for example, are the most frequently cited “familiars” – or magical helpers – of witches in our folklore. And spooky stories from Edgar Allen Poe on down have told of “cat queens” who inherit mystical realms or possess psychic powers. When I was researching my nonfiction book The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats, I found that this linkage goes back millennia. The ancient Egyptians, for example, attributed divine powers to both women and cats; the cat-headed goddess Bastet (or Bast) had responsibilities that included controlling the flooding of the Nile as well as the brewing of beer, while the Norse goddess Freya scooped up fallen warriors in a chariot pulled by flying cats. The Hindu goddess Durga is linked to cats as well – specifically big cats, as she rides a lion into battle, while in South America, the divinity Tezcatlipoca often takes the form of a jaguar.
The sources of this global phenomenon are more elusive. Some of it may be as simple as cats’ innate grace. With their flexible bodies and excellent night vision, our feline companions often seem able to defy death, slipping away into darkness and reappearing again. The fact that they helped our ancestors survive, by protecting our harvests, gave them an added boost, as did their fertility and the apparent ease with which they birth multiple litters (all the more reason to spay or neuter your pet now!).
Of course, cats’ magic could also be in the way they draw us in, mesmerizing us with their beauty and playfulness. Could our favorite housecats be capable of more? Could they, in fact, be helping us live our lives – and solve our cases? Having been lucky enough to make the acquaintance of Clara, Laurel, and Harriet, I wouldn’t be surprised.