Nine Lives of a Cat

In: Film and Music

Submitted By Tfount
Words 650
Pages 3
The proverbial curiosity doesn't usually kill cats. The inquisitive feline has a knack of dodging death by a whisker. Cats are intrepid explorers and fearless acrobats. After all, a creature with nine lives can afford to take risks. According to Brewer's Dictionary Of Phrase & Fable, a cat is said to have nine lives because it is "more tenacious of life than many animals."

The clumsy biped is understandably impressed by the feline arts of stealth, poise and athletic prowess. But why nine? Nine, a trinity of trinities, is a mystical number often invoked in religion and folklore. The cat was once revered in Egypt, and this is probably where its nine lives began. The priesthood in On - known to the Greeks as Heliopolis and now a suburb of Cairo - worshipped Atum-Ra, a sun god who gave life to the gods of air, moisture, earth and sky, who, in turn, produced Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys. These gods are collectively known as the Ennead, or the Nine. Atum-Ra, who took the form of a cat for visits to the underworld, embodied nine lives in one creator. A hymn from the fourth century BC says, "O sacred cat! Your mouth is the mouth of the god Atum, the lord of life who has saved you from all taint."

Vestiges of this ancient, cat-worshipping religion lingered in Europe until at least the middle ages. The cat was no longer divine but was still regarded as magical and otherworldly. The ailuromorphic gods are long forgotten, but the cat's resilience still inspires fascination, which is why the myth of the cat's nine lives has endured for so long.

Medieval Europe was a tough place to be a cat, and they were sometimes thrown from high towers. The origin of these rituals is obscure but the cats often survived the ordeal and seemed to walk away unscathed, much to the amazement of spectators.

Legend has it that Baldwin III, Count of Ypres, threw some cats from a tower in…...

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