Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Magic of Cats: Guest post by Clea Simon

Happy Caturday! Today we have a wonderful 'cat' post from mystery Author Clea Simon!

The Magic of Cats

It took me 26 books, but I’m finally back where I started – exploring the magic of cats. Because, yes, my new cozy An Incantation of Cats, draws on the premise I established last year, with A Spell of Murder, that is, that my human protagonist might want to be a witch but it is really her three felines that have the supernatural powers. But as I launch Incantation into the world (and dig in to start book three in the “Witch Cats of Cambridge” series, tentatively titled A Felony of Felines), I find myself once more exploring the lore and legends that have surrounded cats for millennia.

Long ago, and in another world, I was a journalist. I wrote nonfiction books on serious subjects, like mental health and family dysfunction. But when a friend – a non-cat person, I should note – suggested I turn my research and writing chops toward felines, the idea immediately clicked. Yes, I wanted to write about cats. At that point, I had cohabited with Cyrus, an elegant long-haired gray gentleman, for several years, and I knew that many of my friends and colleagues had similar close relationships with their pets. But being a journalist, I wanted to dig a bit. And so I did, researching the various roles felines have played as gods and goddesses (from the Middle East’s Inanna and Bastet to the Americas, where the Olmecs worshipped a half-jaguar deity). I also found numerous incidents of felines being power adjacent – partnering with deities (usually women) in mystical ways. The Norse goddess Freya, for example, rides a chariot drawn by black cats, a precursor to our more modern concept of the witch and her (flying) familiar.

As I did my research, the rationale for such linkages became clear. Cats, with their excellent night vision, were believed to be capable of seeing in the dark, while their flexibility made them appear to be able to shape shift and fly, if not actually confound death. Their fecundity and apparent ease producing litters of multiple kittens made them exemplars for childbirth. Add in their beauty and sensuality – that fur, that grace – and it’s no wonder that cats became linked with the magics, the mysteries, of women. Birth, death, the ability to see beyond this world … well, the resulting book, The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Death kind of wrote itself.

In that book, I wove real-life stories, including that of me and Cyrus, in with the mythology. But while acknowledging the symbolism, I kept the present-day accounts grounded in the everyday. We love these beasts as they are, I wanted to say. And that’s fine. But in the years since, I’ve found myself observing my cats – Musetta, after Cyrus, and now Thisbe – with growing wonder. How did she just appear like that? Could he have really known how I was feeling?

Once I started to ask myself what other powers do these truly wonderful animals might have, I was hooked – and I came up with three cats – “weird sisters” – who each have their own supernatural power. And, to me, this makes perfect sense. I’ve either become more fanciful, or … could it be? Maybe that’s the secret of cat magic. Once they draw you in, they refuse to let you go.

Clea Simon is the author of An Incantation of Cats and 25 other mysteries, most involving cats. A former journalist, she lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, with her husband Jon and their marvelous tortie Thisbe. She can be reached at  

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