According to oral tradition in southern France, a matagot is a cat who can bring evil or riches to its owner. If you stumble across a matagot, offer it a chicken to lure it to your home. Carry it home without ever looking back. Then give the cat the first bite of every meal and keep it well-fed and happy. In return, the cat will bring you riches. Failure to meet these requirements will have the opposite effect and if you should kill the cat or let it die of neglect—well, pack your bags and follow the shepherd’s advice—Get the flock out of there.
Written stories about matagots are hard to find, but I think the story of Puss ‘N Boots fits the bill.
We have a miller’s son who inherits a cat. Said cat, seeing an opportunity for advancement, takes the boy in hand and through a series of magical events which involve bribery and coercion, impresses a king, kills an ogre, and gets the miller’s son married to the princess. For the full version—Here ya go.
This familiar version was published by Charles Perrault in 1697 but he got it from an Italian folk tale published in 1534 as “The Delightful Nights” by Gianfrancesco Straparola (1480-1557).
And for a glitzed up version with neat pictures :
All this talk of cats got me in the mood to look at magic cats in other cultures.
- Egyptians worshipped cats (something my cat reminds me of every day in aggrieved tones).
- Black cats were denounced by Pope Gregory the IX as Satanic. This resulted in the burning of many cats ( and their witches) which in turn resulted in the proliferation of rats which spread the bubonic plague like—the plague. So up yours Pope G.
- In some parts of England and Scotland, a strange black cat on your porch brings good luck.
- The ship’s cat told sailors of imminent thunderstorms by sneezing and of hail or snow by constant grooming.
- Celts believed cats guarded the gates to the netherworld, magical creatures who could move between the veils with ease.
- In Scotland the Cait Sith or Cait Sidhe in Ireland (pronounced caught shee in both cases) is a fairy cat. It is large and black with just a bit of white on its chest. Like the Matogot it could bring blessings or destruction. On the night of Samhain, a saucer of milk left on your doorstep invited the Cait Sidhe to leave blessings as a thank you. No saucer of milk; no treat. In fact, he was likely to put a curse on your cows- The feline version of trick or treat..
So many cats and so little time. Be sure to Like/Comment and follow Sorchia on FB.