Author Terry Pratchett said, “In ancient times, cats were worshiped as gods. they haven’t forgotten that. “When you hear this sentence, do you automatically think of ancient Egyptian cat goddesses and cat gods? Probably. Do you think of other cultures when it comes to cat goddesses, cat gods, and cats of worship? Probably not. But don’t worry, I was also guilty of this misunderstanding: for many years I believed that the ancient Egyptians were the only ones who adored, praised and even adored cats. But when I started researching the mythology of the world, I found that cats, deities, and miracles had a lot more to offer than I first thought.
Aside from all the folklore about waving cats, helpful cats, temple protecting cats, prophets being kind to cats, and cats serving as omens and confidants, there are stories of cat goddesses and cat gods we rarely hear of. Here are six stories about cat gods and cat goddesses that you may not know.
1. Freyja’s cat-powered chariot
The Norse goddess Freyja, a deity of love, fertility, war, wealth, fortune-telling and magic, rode a chariot pulled by two giant gray cats given to her by the god Thor. The farmers left offerings for the cats to ensure a good harvest.
2. A Peruvian god who changes shape
Ai-Apaec, a god of pre-Inca civilization known as Mochica, was often depicted as an old man with a wrinkled face, long teeth, and feline whiskers. He is said to have developed from one of the ancient cat gods and can take the form of a tomcat.
3. A guardian of Chinese families
A cat god named Li Shou appears in the Chinese Book of Rites. He was worshiped by farmers because he protected the harvest from being eaten by rats and mice.
4. A Polish protector
In ancient Poland, Ovinnik, who appeared in the form of a black cat, was revered by many peasant families for watching over pets and driving away evil spirits and mischievous fairies. (Like most creatures in Slavic mythology, they were great until they were not appreciated or given what they needed – then they did things like calamity that could have tragic consequences.)
5. A shape-changing Greek goddess
Greek mythology tells how the goddess Hecate took the form of a cat to escape the monster Typhon. Then she extended the special treatment to all cats.
6. Helper of a Celtic goddess
Ceridwen, the Welsh goddess of wisdom and mother of the famous bard Taliesin, was accompanied by white cats who carried out her commands on earth.
More about cat gods
I couldn’t go into all of the stories of gods and goddesses who turned into big cats, otherwise this post would have been about a mile long. Unfortunately, this has ruled out many stories of cat gods from, among others, Indians and other First Nations tribes, and I apologize for that. I would love to do another post on Big Cats and Spiritual Traditions if you are interested because the subject of jaguars, tigers, leopards and other big cats in folk traditions, religious beliefs and creation stories is definitely worth reading.
Tell us: What are your favorite myths and folklore about cat gods and cat goddesses? Please share them in the comments!
Preview: Photography by EgyptianStudio on Thinkstock.
This piece was originally released in 2015.