This week, we’re taking a look at something that combines two of my favorite things: soul-sucking monsters and kitties!
The cat sith (or cait sidhe if you’re in Ireland) is a type of fairy in Celtic mythology and folklore. While there are stories about the creature in Britain and Ireland, its most closely associated with the Scottish Highlands. With its name basically translating to “fairy cat,” you can probably guess that it’s a fairy that takes the form of a cat. Specifically, it takes the form of a large black cat with a white spot on its chest. As I mentioned in my post about the Dullahan, Celtic fairies are not to be fucked with, and the cat sith is no exception.
While cat sith are usually referred to as fairies, they’re sometimes depicted as witches that can take the form of a cat up to nine times. If the witch transforms the ninth time, then they’re stuck and can’t transform back into a human. This is actually believed to where the whole “cats have nine lives” thing comes from.
So, what do cat sith do? Well, according to the folklore, they steal the souls of the recently departed before they can go to the afterlife. This leads us to the tradition of the Feil Fadalach, or “late wake”. At these wakes, people would play games in order to distract any cat sith that might be lurking, and also spread catnip in every room except the one containing the corpse in order to lure it away. They also avoided lighting fires, for fear that the warmth would attract a cat sith. Which makes sense, considering that a main goal for cats is to be near warm things.
They’re not all bad, though. Leaving a saucer of milk out for a cat sith on Samhain night can actually lead to the creature leaving the inhabitants gifts or blessings. Of course, failing to do this can also cause the cat sith to curse your cows so they stop giving milk, so there’s that too.
Another thing associated with cat sith is a ritual called Taghaim. The goal of this ritual is to summon Big Ears, a cat sith that grants wishes to the summoner. This is accomplished by burning the bodies of cats over 4 days and nights.
What’s interesting about this creature is that the folklore may actually have some basis in fact. Many people believe the origin of the cat sith may be the Kellas cat, which is thought to be the result of a Scottish wildcat mating with a domestic cat. They can have different markings, but most have the distinctive black coat with the white spot on the chest associated with the cat sith. Though there are no records of Kellas cats stealing people’s souls.
As for popular culture, cat sith have appeared in several Final Fantasy games, generally localized as “cait sith.” A few games in the series have them appear as enemies, with the creature appearing as a summon in Final Fantasy VI. Of course, if you’ve played Final Fantasy VII you’re probably familiar with Cait Sith as a party member:
They’ve also appeared as characters in some urban fantasy settings, such as Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series.
So, that’s the cat sith. And with that, I shall leave you with my own fairy cat, who goes by the mystical name of Wesley.
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