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A far less serious question

Post  spokane89 on Thu May 30, 2013 12:05 am

God/dess of cats? I know Dionysus is God of Predator Cats/"Big Cats" and that in the story of Typhon Artemis became a cat, and she is Goddess of all Wild Beasts, so perhaps domesticated cats fall between the two? Or perhaps all domesticated animals fall under the protection of Athena for showing us how to domesticate animals as per Siculus anyway. Just a little something that popped into my head, thought I'd discuss it with you fine folks Smile
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Re: A far less serious question

Post  Erodius on Thu May 30, 2013 12:17 am

There is no specific 'god of cats.'

But extrapolating from, as you mentioned, the instance of the Typhoeomachy, as well as the consideration of the Egyptian Boubastis as a form of Artemis, I would say that the strongest association would be with Artemis — who likewise has association with domestic dogs.

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-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
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Re: A far less serious question

Post  Callisto on Thu May 30, 2013 1:44 pm

It's funny, my cats took to lounging on a secretary I have after I placed a large plaque of Artemis with a hound on it. cat

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Re: A far less serious question

Post  Pemphredo on Fri May 31, 2013 4:10 am

Housecats had - and probably still have - a similar function to the house snake common to the Greeks and Romans as well to other Europeans ("Unke" in Germany): chasing rats, mice and insects robbing the storeroom. For that reason the household deities Zeus Ktesios and Zeus Meilikhios and Agathos Daimon were probably snake-shaped. So since they have (or had) the same function as house snakes, housecats might be connected to the household deities. In Hellenistic view this is of course a new "invention" or "adaption", so please: this is just some consideration of mine, it is not tradition!

However: In his Deutsche Mythologie(1835) Jacob Grimm mentioned that the household deity (or spirit) might also appear in a cat's shape (GRIMM 1835: 483). For me, the concept of a household deity is universal and one may give it the cultural couleur which one feels related. That might be that of the own country, that might be that of your ancestors (when living in a foreign country yourself) or that might be of a culture you're impressed by and which had a great influence on Western culture like Hellenistic did. Well, as I said, I wouldn't be very traditional, but adapting the household worship of Zeus Ktesios to countries were the concept of a house snake was rather uncommon, one might add to the snake appearance of Zeus Ktesios also that of a cat.... though I admit that I feel a litte insecure by just adding new things to old tradition (even it would be a logical step). Or, just like Athena once als was the protectress of the house before she became the protectress of a whole city, one might give the goddess Artemis, who was equated with the egyptian cat-goddess Boubastis, the new function of 'Artemis Ktesia', daughter to Zeus Ktesios and sister to Athena Ktesia and appearing as a cat... but well... that really would be inventing a new deity. So this starts to become a little blasphemical. Or not?

Well I just was thinking aloud ^^

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Re: A far less serious question

Post  J_Agathokles on Fri May 31, 2013 4:46 am

I think we should consider carefully before attributing new functions/epithets to deities, and see whether the deity is really appropriate for it. For example, I currently worship Apollōn Noumēnios as well as Artemis Noumēnia on the Noumēnia-festivals every month. It's not something ancient - that I am aware of at least - it just sort of popped up somewhere and I looked a bit into it, and decided it could easily make sense to do so. A friend of mine who is a devotee of Apollōns has also blogged about this idea, she too has no idea where it came from, but she analysed this idea, and concluded it could very well be valid. I also discussed it in the Hellenic Polytheistic Community on Facebook, and one member said that different poleis didn't necessarily have the same deity/-ies presiding over the Noumēnia, so it might very well be that some had Artemis as presiding over Noumēnia.

To come back to the subject at hand, I am not sure Artemis Ktēsia is a good combination, on account of her being a free and unbound Goddess who roams the wild. I once read a quote from some ancient writer describing her as only coming into the cities of Mankind to aid women in childbirth, and to then return to the wilderness again. I wish I still had that quote, I can't seem to find it anymore. In any case, serious consideration might be in order before attributing this epithet to Artemis.

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Re: A far less serious question

Post  Pemphredo on Fri May 31, 2013 5:03 am

I think that quote is from Kallimachos' Hymn to Artemis. You are totally right about this aspect. In Athens the temple of Artemis Braurion(?) was outside the city. She's indeed the goddess of the wild and Athena the goddess of the city. An Artemis Ktesia would be the complete opposite of that what Artemis actually is.

But you pointed a good thing out with that making sense-thing. Since cats have more or less the same function as house snakes, it would be make sence to regard them under protection of the household deities. Giving Zeus Ktesios also the appearance of a cat... well... I don't know if I would dear to break with that tradition, but it would make sense. It wouldn't be an arbitrary appearance, though I have to admit that there exists one big different between the house snakes and house cats (and I'm not talking about laying eggs :p). House cats are pets who are in the house by the will of the inhabitants. Snakes, just like spiders, came or come in the house because of the mice and insects. They are not really "pets". It's possible that cats started their alliance with us humans on a similar way, but know that alliance developed to a more familiar relationship. ... So what am I telling here know? Next to the snake-shape also a cat- and even a spider-shape would make sense for the household deity... yes, of course, it would make sense... but I rather wouldn't break with the traditional snake but that is something what everyone should decide by him or her self. But since they are similar in function to the house snakes, I would seriously consider housecats and even spiders as being under special protection of the household deity.
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Re: A far less serious question

Post  Erodius on Fri May 31, 2013 9:48 am

I disagree. I don't think spiders or cats are equivalents of the snake of the Agathodaemon.

The Daemon is an extension of Zefs, whose primordial form, at least in Orphic religion, was that of a snake. The serpent is also the creature that draws the vehicle of Dimitra, by whose power we enjoy the abundance of the Good Daemon, and serpents as well drew the car of Triptolemus who revealed the teachings of Dimitra and her Mysteries. The snake is also a form of Bacchus, with whom, in Orphism, the Good Daemon has a somewhat analogous dominion, and is an attribute of various other divinities.

There is more to it than the house snake simply being associated with the house and with keeping out pests. That is certainly a mundane association, but there are also other, less immediately obvious associations and reasonings, hidden for a reason, that are not to be diluted.

Finally, I thought the question was regarding the association of cats, not to the question of their being or not being an embodiment of a divinity — something with which I would highly disagree. scratch

I would seriously consider housecats and even spiders as being under special protection of the household deity.

That would be the case for anything at all in the house.

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: A far less serious question

Post  Pemphredo on Fri May 31, 2013 5:53 pm

Erodius wrote:
There is more to it than the house snake simply being associated with the house and with keeping out pests. That is certainly a mundane association, but there are also other, less immediately obvious associations and reasonings, hidden for a reason, that are not to be diluted.

You're surely right about everything you said about the Orphic snake associations. But I disagree to this. Not everything in relgion should be complicated or spiritual. I'm sure the association of the snake with a household deity was merely based on keeping out pest. That might be simple, pragmatic and materialistic... but believe me: keeping out pests was for the people as necesaary as salvation. Some things shouldn't be made too completed. But as I said: that's only my opinion.

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Re: A far less serious question

Post  Erodius on Fri May 31, 2013 6:26 pm

I'm sure the association of the snake with a household deity was merely based on keeping out pest. That might be simple, pragmatic and materialistic... but believe me: keeping out pests was for the people as necesaary as salvation. Some things shouldn't be made too complicated. But as I said: that's only my opinion.


Actually, I really don't think the association has much to do with keeping out pests at all. For one thing, snakes do not each much, nor do they eat particularly often. If you had issues with mice in your pantry, a snake might kill one of them every week or two, but that's about it. The snake is a symbol of prosperity and abundance in both Greek and Roman culture, due to its associations with the respective divinities overseeing those things.

As far as why those associations are there in the first place (associations that do not outwardly make much immediate sense), scholars and comparative mythologists have debated it for eons, but I would say, coming from the Orphic tradition, that they are vestiges/manifestations of Mysteria, in the religion of the public.

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: A far less serious question

Post  Pemphredo on Fri May 31, 2013 6:44 pm

Erodius wrote:
Actually, I really don't think the association has much to do with keeping out pests at all. For one thing, snakes do not each much, nor do they eat particularly often. If you had issues with mice in your pantry, a snake might kill one of them every week or two, but that's about it. The snake is a symbol of prosperity and abundance in both Greek and Roman culture, due to its associations with the respective divinities overseeing those things.

Haha, well I'm not gonna argue about this. I'm just tired of a whole day analysing causative constructions, so forgive me for being lazy this evening Embarassed .

Well, don't forget there were many snakes for one household. I couldn't imagine that this protective aspect of snakes (of which they themselves were totally unaware I guess) wouldn't be one of the reasons for them to become associated with the household deities. I just couldn't believe that that assosiation would be so arbitrary.

But I still say that that's just my opinion. I really like to hear yours, even if you don't agree, but I'm not gonna argue about that.
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Re: A far less serious question

Post  Erodius on Fri May 31, 2013 7:08 pm

Well, don't forget there were many snakes for one household. I couldn't imagine that this protective aspect of snakes (of which they themselves were totally unaware I guess) wouldn't be one of the reasons for them to become associated with the household deities. I just couldn't believe that that assosiation would be so arbitrary.

Oh, I am not saying that the knowledge of the snakes' keeping mice out of the larder was not a reason for the linkage, not at all — certainly, this must have crossed people's minds — but rather, my argument is that this particular relation is a peripheral and terrene one, whereas the source is Mysterial; not arbitrary at all.

Religious practices are like amphorae — they carry Wine in a shell of Clay.

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: A far less serious question

Post  Pemphredo on Fri May 31, 2013 7:14 pm

Then we do agree ^^


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Re: A far less serious question

Post  Callisto on Mon Jun 03, 2013 6:44 pm

I'm late in throwing in my two-coppers but cats really didn't play much of a role in the Greek household. Aside from snakes, the mousers of choice were weasels and ferrets. There isn't much if any in the way of found cat remains in domestic excavations and they were rarely depicted in art or story. Bast was a sun goddess before becoming associated with Artemis, with Horus as her brother (who was equated with Apollo). I don't think Artemis' connection with cats has anything to do beyond she being the goddess of the hunt and animals in general and of course the paralleling of Greek and Egyptian gods.

Btw, there's a paper on weasels' use in ancient Greek households on [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.].


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Re: A far less serious question

Post  Erodius on Mon Jun 03, 2013 7:08 pm

You took the words out of my mouth — sort of. I was going to mention something about cats' not being much of a feature in the Classical household in the first place, but decided not to for whatever reason I had at the time. Wink

Actually, this is still the case today in many cultures. 'Pets' are mostly a Western cultural construct, and the now common idea of keeping cats/dogs/other animals actually within the house is something that has only become common in about the last 100 or so years. Before that, in most cases, dogs and cats were simply considered part of the general 'livestock'. My own grandmother used to tell me stories of how when she was a girl growing up on a farm in upstate New York in the 30s they had a few cats that they kept around the barn to keep the mice in check. When they would have kittens, my grandmother would sneak them into the house to play with them, and when her mother found out she would be mortified and disgusted and demand that my grandmother 'put the animals back out in the barn where they belong'.

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: A far less serious question

Post  Pemphredo on Tue Jun 04, 2013 12:23 pm

Uhm, you truly are right about this Callisto, but to defend myself (if that actually would be necessary?) I didn't say that cats played a role in Greek household cult. I only said that cats had/have a similar role like snakes in protecting the household (store) from rats, mice and insects, and that along to Grimm the house spirit (of Middle European traditions) might as well appear as a cat. And since I'm no Greek myself, I'll think it's no bad thing to honour the local genii and deities as well as those, which I wish to honour next to them. I guess most people would distinguish between a Lar Familiaris and a Brownie, Goblin, Heinzelmann or whatever name is given to the household spirit. I acknowledge that there are surely differences between them, but the concept is the same: protector of the house and the family.
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Re: A far less serious question

Post  Callisto on Tue Jun 04, 2013 6:50 pm

No, there's no need to defend yourself. I stated that there isn't a lot indicating cats played much of a part in the Greek household (as in being mousers), not whether they were a part of the household cult. The article I linked to discussed the role of weasels and ferrets as mousers. (Though no they would not have been part of the cult nor on par with snakes.)

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Re: A far less serious question

Post  Pemphredo on Wed Jun 05, 2013 7:18 pm

Thanks for the link, it's quite fascinating!
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