Cat Sith, or Cat Sidhe, a legendary cat creature, alternatively described as a fairy or a witch, depending on the source.
Both versions are pronounced "caught shee" and translate into English as "fairy cat".
Celtic mythology describes Cat Sith as a fairy creature, said to resemble a large black cat with a white spot on its chest, and legend has the spectral cat haunting the Scottish Highlands. Such legends are said to be more common in Scottish folklore, but also occur in Irish.
Those in the Scottish Highlands did not trust Cat Sėth, believing the creature could steal a person's soul by passing over a corpse before burial, before the soul was claimed by the gods. This led to watches called "Feill Fadalach" or Late Wake being kept night and day to keep Cat Sith away from a corpse before burial. Distractions such as games of leaping and wrestling, catnip, riddles, and music were employed to keep Cat Sėth diverted and away from the room where the corpse lay. No fires where allowed near to where the body lay, as legend held that Cat Sėth was attracted to the heat.
Some tales suggests that Cat Sėth was not a fairy, but a witch, according to The Gaelic Otherworld by John Gregorson Campbell.
Witches were said to be able to take the form of a cat nine times (which may be the origination of the saying that cats have nine lives), and while they were able to return to their human form after the first eight transformations, if they used the ninth and last, then they would remain in the form of a cat forever.
Still more superstitions came from the Highlands, where it was said a cat would run much faster than normal if it feared being swallowed by the ground, and that if cat was taken on a boat, the craft gained instant protection from drowning by witches.
On Samhain, a Gaelic festival celebrated on 31 October (Halloween), it was believed that Cat Sėth would bless any house that left a saucer of milk out for it to drink, and those houses that did not would be cursed, and their cows would become dry, and not provide any milk.
Taghairm, which translates to "giving supper to the devil", was a cruel and evil practice last observed in May of 1824 when recorded by the London Literary Gazette.
It was believed that a demonic Cat Sith named Big Ears would appear and grant wishes to those who took part in the ceremony which required four days and nights of successively burning cats alive, by roasting live animal on a spit.
It may be that Cat Sith is a legend based in truth, and results from the existence of a variety of the Scottish wild cat known as the Kellas Cat.
The Scottish wild cat looks very much like a large domestic tabby cat, but has a number of distinguishing features, and is not domestic, being known for being incredible hunters and ferociously territorial.
A genetic variation produces the Kellas Cat, a Scottish wild cat with black fur.
The Scottish wild cat is a highly endangered species, with only a small number of pure bred examples remaining in the wild.
- The Highland myth of the soul-stealing black cat - The Scotsman Retrieved January 27, 2017.
- Cats in Celtic Folklore - Playful Kitty Retrieved January 27, 2017.
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