Why Witches Love Cats

Witches Love Cats

The European traditions of Halloween actually go back over five thousand years or more, including the well-known fact that witches love cats.

Back then, autumn was a special time of year because of the harvest. Pre-historic humans were nomadic and would gather only for special occasions. Harvest festivals were a time of trade, wisdom sharing, spirituality, and gratitude to the earth. They often took place at a temple or sacred site in nature. The earliest organized religions were related to this sacred time of the year.

The Earth Goddess and Her Lions

Pre-historic harvest festivals usually included making an offering to divine mother earth. Some cultures viewed this earth goddess as having two lions on her side, including the goddesses Artemis, Lilith and Kybele. In Egypt, tame cats were highly valued and also associated with goddess.

The priestesses of these goddesses were considered to have a special divine connection. They used astronomy to predict the natural rhythms of planting and harvesting in relation to the calendar. They seemed very powerful because they often predicted floods, eclipses and other events that most people could not explain. Not surprisingly, people also looked to them to predict the future, perform healing services and much more.


In order to connect with the divine wisdom of the goddesses, the priestesses would often use shamanic tools in addition to sciences like astrology and botany. Some of them known as Sybils (after the goddess Kybele) used drumming and ecstatic dance. Others entered a trance through venom from snakes or spiders, volcanic fumes, alcohol or hallucinogenic plants. They would then share their messages and advice with those seeking their help.

Temples were often the primary site for alcohol production and alchemy. Priestesses stored large quantities of grain for this purpose, as the did the alewives of later times. Again we find the cat, always present, to protect the grains used for the sacred brews.

And the broomstick?

In Medieval Europe, the role of the priestess had changed. Those women who continued to worship mother earth, the moon and nature were known as witches. Often in secret, they continued to use hallucinogenic plants to connect with the divine.

However, some of the plants that the witches were using were too dangerous to eat or drink. To be safe, they would apply an extract of these plants onto their broomstick and then “ride” the broomstick. The magic ointment would get into their blood through their skin, allowing them to “fly” safely.

Halloween and storybook images of witches are not usually priestess-like. They are no longer portrayed as healers, community leaders and scientists. As readers, we are expected to see only the scary side of these women and forget their sacred history.

Yet the symbolism is still there. We can see her broomstick, the sacred tool of her shamanic flight under the moon. We see the toads, spiders and snakes that she used to create her trance.

And of course, we see the cats. Slightly smaller than the lions of the great mother goddess of ancient times, these house cats still represent her and all her power. And her herstory.

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