In The Highlands, it was believed it was unlucky for a cat to pass over a corpse, for they feared it was a Cait Sidhe coming to steal the soul before it was claimed by the Gods. They thought the soul lingered close by the body, so it must be watched day and night until the burial. These watches were called 'Feill Fadalach' or "Late Wake'. All sorts of tricks were employed to keep the Cait Sidhe away. There were games of leaping and wrestling (meant to keep them distracted since they loved to watch such events), and putting catnip all over the house (in every room but where the body rested) to lure them away. Riddles were asked, but never answered as they knew the Cait Sidhe would stop to puzzle the replies, and music kenned as 'coronach' or 'laments' was played because the cats would stop to dance. All fires in the room where the body was were put out, since the warmth would draw any cat and a Cait Sidhe might slip in amongst them. On Samhaine (All Hallow's E've) "a saucer of milk was set out on the steps for them, for they would pass blessings on those houses for the gifts. If you failed to place out the offering, they would curse your cows causing their milk to dry.
Cait Sidhe were witches able to take the form of a cat nine
times (likely where the cat with nine lives stems from). They
could return to their human form on every change, but the last.
If they elected to use the last transformation, they would remain
a cat forever.
In my family, lore has been written for over 7 Centuries that we descending from one woman, Anne, which is why every female in our family has the name in some form. Anne, daughter of Anne, was a Cait Sidhe and she married Evian, ogha (grandson) of Thane Fhitich (Raven). Together they fought Norse invaders. She discovered her husband surrounded by the Danes, and seeing his death near, she transformed into a Cait Sidhe and frightened them away, saving Evian. Unfortunately, she had done so eight times before and was condemned to remain in cat form.
The Auld Ones were so touched by her deep love and sacrifice for her husband, that they granted her the power to come to him in human form on the seven nights of the full moon, and on Lughnasadh (August 1st) she was permitted to remain in that form for the whole day, the only time she walked in sunlight.
Since the MacGillivray's Clan Motto is Touch not this Cat...Bot
a Glove, it makes one ponder.
© Copyright 2000
All Rights Reserved
Back to Scot Lore