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CINDY DAY: Old Irish cat ‘tale’

I thought this would be the perfect time for you to me our cat “Dougal Archie.” He was a rescue from North Sydney. He’s a big cat – in many ways and rules the home. At times, he does seem to have a penchant for sorcery…perhaps an “August 17” past did him in.
I thought this would be the perfect time for you to me our cat “Dougal Archie.” He was a rescue from North Sydney. He’s a big cat – in many ways and rules the home. At times, he does seem to have a penchant for sorcery…perhaps an “August 17” past did him in. - Contributed

We’re just coming out of the Dog Days of Summer and hopefully our next “Three Dog Night” won’t be for a while; in the meantime, it the cat’s turn.

Have you ever heard the term “Cat Nights?” I hadn’t either until I got talking to a fellow reveller at the George Street Festival in St John’s last week. Fred was his name and while we stood on the street chatting about the weather, a cat walked right in front of us. I commented on how I was glad the cat wasn’t black. His comment was much more interesting. He said “I wonder what number it’s at? I asked him to explain.

In a nutshell (because Fred was quite a storyteller) the term goes back to an old Irish legend concerning witches. It was believed that a witch could turn herself into a cat eight times, but on the ninth time, she couldn’t regain her human form. He explained that his grandfather used to say Aug. 17 was the date of no return! He believed it’s from this bit of folklore that the saying “a cat has nine lives” originated. The August heat can make cats uncomfortable, causing them to yowl and this could have prompted the speculation about witches on the prowl in the first place.

This was fascinating; I had to keep searching for more. I didn’t find a lot, but this poem surfaced. It was written by V. Neumann and sums things up quite nicely!

Cat Nights

By old Irish lore
on the 17th of August
more cats are among us
than ever before.

It is said that witches
can turn into a cat.
But no more than eight switches
as a matter of fact.

On the ninth switch
they cannot regain
their life as a witch.
A cat they must remain.

So if in mid-August
you should hear the cats yowl
amongst sounds of the locust
when cats are on the prowl

Then you will know
as lore was told over time
that cats will show
lives as many as nine.

If you know more about this old Irish tale, drop me a line at weathermail@weatherbyday.ca.



Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network.

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