Cats have a certain notoriety that has been brought about by wives tales, myths, and by their own nature. They are a symbol of curiosity, independence. Not to mention that cats are said to have nine lives, so they are also heavily linked to spirituality and rebirth. Cat tattoos tend to express these traits, and how they connect to their wearer.
Black Cat Tattoos – Black Cat tattoo designs are usually associated as a symbol of the Occult, Witches and Pagan religions. During the terrible times of the Medieval Inquisitions carried out by the Roman Catholic Church, individuals who were thought to be heretics or witches were actively sought out.
Black Cats were thought to be ‘familars’, or companions of witches and that was often enough reason for a woman to be accused of being a witch. In a period that has been called the ‘Dark Ages’ for good reason, black cats were seen as demons in disguise and creatures under the power of Satan. It did not help the case for cats, that despite their abilities to keep vermin in control, this was also the period of the Crusades and in the Middle East and Egypt cats were revered.
Another popular type of cat tattoos are designs with the portraits of domestic cats. Cat owners sometimes make tattoo designs from the photos of their pets. Such tattoos are separated by their originality and individuality, because such tattoo is always unique and individual.
On the whole, all cat tattoo designs symbolize freedom, individuality and wishes of their owners. The more precise meaning such designs usually depends on the style and attitude of the owner.
To the ancients, cats symbolized both the sun (considered to be daughter of Ra, the sun god) and the moon (because of the shape of their eyes). Most revered was the goddess Bast (or Bastet), whose name means “the devouring lady.” The goddess is portrayed with the body of a woman and the head of a cat. (For those planning such a cat tattoo design, keep in mind that Bast’s sacred color was green…may wish to include that in the design.) Keep in mind, there are still active Bast worshippers out there today.
It wasn’t just the Egyptians, however, who had cat fancy. Because of their graceful, fluid, and aloof nature, cats were often associated with the night, and with mystery. Norse legends say that the goddess Freya was transported in a chariot pulled by cats. It was these stories that lead to the belief that cats were somehow magical, and they became the animal most commonly associated with witches.
The black cat, in particular, became the symbol of witchcraft and evil – and eventually the animal of choice for Halloween decorations. From Norse mythology, we get the superstition that a black cat crossing your path is a symbol of bad luck (in fact, the original version was that it was really Satan keeping an eye on you).
Women accused of being witches were often ‘tested’, or physically tortured to extract a ‘confession’ out of them. These tests including being bound and thrown into a pool of water, in which case, if the woman drowned, she was innocent, and if she floated she was clearly a witch in which case she would be burned alive at the stake.
In China and Japan cats were the most popular domestic animals. In Thailand cats live in the temples and are sacred, as well as in India.
In Europe cats were honored and hated depending from the countries and times. In Norse Europe cats were associated with the Freya goddess, who ruled a chariot with two cats. But in Middle Ages cats were proclaimed evil and were associated with bad luck, especially black cats. For sailors, on the contrary, cats always symbolized good luck, they were honored and though to be crew members.
The Black Cat as a tattoo design may symbolize a belief in feminism, independence from male domination, or an admiration for Pagan or Wiccan spiritual beliefs.
In Egypt, cats are highly revered, and many Egyptian gods share a link with them. The goddess Bast is best known for her association with cats, and can be depicted in tattoo art as a stately female figure with the head of a cat. This figure can be placed spread before the sun, or battling a serpent before the sun god. Other examples that can easily be used in cat tattoos are the Norse goddess Freya, who was pulled by a magnificent chariot that was driven by two large, gray cats (a gift from Thor), and that of the maneki neko (or ‘beckoning cat’), which — depending on its color — is said to bring a variety of luck. A white maneki neko means success, a black one health, gold will bring riches, etc. Their paws also carry meaning; a raised right paw is an invitation to wealth and fortune, left is a welcoming sign, and both paws is a sign of protection to all things domestic.