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Three Cat Gods to Know

When your cat looks down its nose as you, it has a very good reason to. Cats were worshipped as gods, not only in Egypt, but in other places as well. Here are three cat gods and goddesses from various mythologies and what they did.

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A papyrus-looking picture of a woman with a cat head. She is sitting and wearing one of those Egyptian headdresses.
It’s from Google

Bastet

Egyptian Mythology

Perhaps the most famous cat goddess, Bastet had control of good health and life. She had the head of a cat and the body of a human, but she could turn all cat when she wanted to.

Bastet was a protector: every night she stopped the evil serpent Apep from killing the Sun God, Ra. People offered mummified cats to her in hopes that she would protect them as well. 

In Egypt, due to their connection with Bastet, cats themselves were revered too. They wore gold jewelry and could eat food off of their owners’ plates. Taking a cat out of Egypt or killing one, even accidentally, was punishable by death.

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A watercolor painting of a longhair cat sitting on a rock. They are below a leafy branch.
The painting is called “Xu Beihong’s cat.” I’m not sure if it’s actually Li Shou, but it’s the first thing that came up, and I couldn’t find any others.

Li Shou

Chinese Mythology

The Ancient Chinese did not dress their cats in gold, but they believed that cats ran the world once. Li Shou was the spokescat, who communicated from the cats to the gods. The gods did not like how the cats were running the world, and Li Shou explained that they would rather sleep and play than have all that responsibility. She nominated humans to run the world instead.

Li Shou became a goddess. Her main worshippers were farmers, who made offerings to her for pest control and fertility.

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A picture of a black cat with glowing eyes and a tail on fire. It is sitting behind a bowl of crepes.
By Jelena Matejic Artwork.

Ovinnik

Slavic Mythology

Unlike the previous two gods, Ovinnik was a troublemaker. He was a black cat with fiery red eyes, and if you weren’t careful, he would burn down your crops and eat your animals. 

He was a dangerous entity— unless you gave him offerings.

The Slavs offered him roosters and a type of crepe. If Ovinnik accepted them, he would protect crops and livestock instead of destroying them. Not only that, he would also keep houses safe from other evil spirits.

On New Years, people would ask him about their future. Ovinnik would touch them: if the touch was warm, it meant that good fortune was coming. If it was cold, it was a bad omen.

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These three powerful cats reflected how cats were seen in their society. I wonder, how would a cat god of today act?

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