Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cats in Medieval Europe

Cats filled one very important role for humans in the Middle Ages – they caught mice, which would have otherwise been a serious nuisance for people and their food. However, medieval writers even saw this activity in negative tones, often comparing the way cats caught mice with how the devil could catch souls. For example, William Caxton wrote “the devyl playeth ofte with the synnar, lyke as the catte doth with the mous.”

By the twelfth-century this association with the devil became even more ingrained. Around 1180, Walter Map explained in one of his works that during satanic rituals “the Devil descends as a black cat before his devotees. The worshippers put out the light and draw near to the place where they saw their master. They feel after him and when they have found him they kiss him under the tail.”

Heretical religious groups, such as the Cathars and Waldensians, were accused by Catholic churchmen of associating and even worshipping cats. When the Templars were put on trial in the early fourteenth-century, one of the accusations against them was allowing cats to be part of the services and even praying to the cats. Witches too, were said to be able to shape-shift into cats, which led to Pope Innocent VIII declaring in 1484 that “the cat was the devil’s favourite animal and idol of all witches.” (Read more.)


Divine Theatre said...

Ignorance or perhaps lack of empathy? Whatever malady ancient Catholics suffered I am glad they overcame it.
My cats (and dogs) certainly bring ME closer to God!



elena maria vidal said...

Mine does, too. My cat has been known to bring people their rosary.

julygirl said...

My grandaughter leads a one girl crusade to protect cats from bad press. She gets annoyed that cats are so often protrayed as bad and dogs as the good ones.