Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cats and Christmas...they go waaay back

"Madonna of the Cat" 1523 by Guilio Romano
(cat beside Mary's foot)
Ever look closely at the markings on a tabby cat's forehead? In nearly every case, you will find a capital letter "M" prominently displayed above their lovely feline eyes. Legend has it, this distinctive marking stands for "Madonna" or "Mary," as in Mary, the Madonna, the mother of Jesus. Here's the story, just in time for Christmas. I guarantee you'll never look at a tabby cat, again, without seeing the "M" and remembering the tale.

"Madonna with the Cat" 15th century, Leonardo Da Vinci
On the night Jesus was born in a Bethlehem stable, Mary-- like most new mothers-- found herself with a fretful baby unable to settle him down to sleep. Among the animals sharing the space was a little tabby cat that, seeing Mary's distress, lept into the manger and snuggled up beside the baby. Purring softly, the cat lulled Jesus to sleep thus earning Mary's maternal and eternal gratitude. To thank the kitty and memorialize such kindness, she placed her mark, an "M," on the cat's forehead. To this day, every tabby cat bears the Madonna's initial.

"Hide and Seek" photo by K L Wood
There is another legend that a mother cat, nestled below the manger in which Jesus was placed, gave birth to a litter of kittens just as Mary, herself, gave birth.

Cats and Christmas. Who knew?

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! And a very Merry Christmas to all!


Photo of Tabby Legend ornament created by K L Wood

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Santa's Evil Twin...Krampus

"Greetings from Krampus!" 1900s Greeting Card
In North America children look forward to the coming of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and his wonderful toys for "good little girls and boys." But what of the not-so-good children? Traditionally they are left bereft of gifts, with only a lump of coal in their Christmas stockings. Kind of sad, that. But it's nothing compared to the attention those children receive in Austria and other Alpine countries from a dark being who accompanies Saint Nicholas on his rounds on December 5th, the eve of the St. Nicholas Festival.

A truly horrific-looking creature--horned, cloven-hooved, wildly hairy, with a long pointed tongue lolling from his mouth-- this is Krampus. He usually carries a bundle of switches with which to strike ill-behaved children. In modern renditions, he just rattles the bundle in a menacing way but the threat of physical punishment for those more naughty than nice is loud and clear. He often carries a big sack, or even a wash tub, on his back for collecting wicked kiddies to carry back to his abode. We won't even talk about what he might do when he gets them home, but...they never come back...
"St. Nicholas and Krampus" 1896, Austrian newspaper illustration

So children, if you've made the naughty list this year, you can count your lucky stars you live in the USA.  A lump of coal left by Santa is a lot better than a lump on the head doled out by Krampus but, just to be on the safe side, it doesn't hurt to be extra nice these last few days before Christmas!

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! (And remember, "he knows if you've been bad or good...")