Did you know that today, August 17, 2019, is national Black Cat Appreciation Day? More on that in a moment. But first, I want to let you know that there is purpose and many good memories behind what I am writing here now:
This article is dedicated to an extraordinary being, Mia (2001-2019),
who taught me that cats are far more than their stereotypes.
Adventurous, wise, loyal, spirited – that’s what Mia immediately invokes within me.
She is missed.
There are several types of cats, big cats, small cats, and domesticated house cats. This article will focus on a few of them, and in particular, one I have dreamt with for years. Cougar, Mountain Lion, Puma, Panther – one mammal, many names! They are native to the Americas, therefore occupying a wide range of territories, from deserts to swamps to mountains. Furthermore, they literally have the largest range of any terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere, aside from humans, of course. I live in a Northern California forest alongside this animal, although, I have been dreaming of these particular types of cats even when I previously resided in a highly populated city within the San Francisco Bay Area.
According to some animal facts provided by the San Diego Zoo, scientists classify these (Cougar, Mountain Lion, Puma, Panther) as small cats, because they purr like smaller cats do, rather than roar. These types of cans also squeak, yowl, hiss, mew, spit, and growl. Sounds like some house cats I have known! However, their slender body and calm demeanor are more like that of a cheetah; both cats would rather flee than fight, and both rarely confront humans.
Two nights ago, and to my surprise, Cheetah (a cat native to the other side of the planet) appeared in my dream. While not yet appearing to be fully grown, the facial patterning was remarkable. I gazed at his face and into his eyes. Near the end of the dream, we curled up together and went to sleep.
Within the big cat world, cheetahs are the sprinters, moving at incredible speeds. They can cover up to 22 feet in just one stride, thanks to their incredible flexible spines. Cheetahs are a nice mix of social and solitary. They are not as social as lions, but not as solitary as Pumas/Mountain Lions. One unique quality is that they do not have retractable claws like other big and small cats do. Unlike those cats, lions are quite social, living in prides, and are very good communicators – they talk to each other in many ways, one way is by their roar. A cub practices roaring early on, but it isn’t until it becomes about a year old that it can produce a serious roar.
Both big and small cats appear in the Tarot. Various tarot card decks depict these cats. I’ve seen a couple depictions of big cats within the major arcana in the Rider-Waite-Smith and Thoth decks. Major Arcana card VIII, Strength, in the RWS collection includes a lion. As for the Thoth deck, card XI, Lust, depicts what appears to be a chimera of sorts – a lion body with serpent tail. It’s a beast with seven heads. A nude woman lunges on the beast’s back. Also in the Thoth’s minor arcana, the Princess (aka Page) of Wands depicts a stunning fiery image. A woman pulls a tiger by the tale as she goes flying through flames, or so it appears. Wands are associated with action, doing, creative energy, and the element of fire. Now there is a Cat tarot deck featuring cute-looking housecats, but that’s a whole different story – ha! I do not own that deck. According to Peruvian shaman, don Oscar Miro-Quesada, if puma has come into your life, the sun or element of fire may also be powerful medicine to you. I do not know of a tarot deck that specifically includes our cat known by many names (that is, Cougar, Mountain Lion, Puma, Panther), aside from number 17 of the Medicine Card deck. Do you?
Cats are powerful and sleak, said to have excellent hunting prowness, insight and a keen awareness. In some metaphysical and spiritual circles, cats are also said to have an ability to see beyond ordinary perception – it’s their special power, their medicine. They have a long history associated with folk magic and women’s traditional ways. As the European Dark Age gave way to the roughly 700 year Inquisition period, cats were allegedly tortured and burned at the stake. Sometimes this practice took place alongside their owners who were accused of practicing those traditional ways. Often, these were poor country folk. Even though the inquisition faded away almost 200 years ago, there are still myths surrounding cats and women.
Cats of all types appear in people’s dreams offering comfort, console, reminders, and even instruction. In addition to my wild cat dreams, housecats often appear in the dreams of their owners. Bonnie and her cat Jessie still meet in dreams, even though Jessie died in 2012. Jessie was a tuxedo cat, meaning that the cat’s coat was mostly black with some white patterning on the front part of the body. Bonnie told me that Jessie often comes into her dreams. Mia has appeared in her mom’s (the owner’s) dreams throughout the years – even after she crossed over.
Even today, due to the myths, fears, and stereotypes, black cats are less likely to be adopted than cats of another color or patterning. So today, on Black Cat Appreciation Day, consider adopting a cat, black or not, in Mia’s honor. And seriously, go ahead…let a black cat cross your path!