Tuesday, April 26, 2022


Spring starts with the vernal equinox, but what exactly is it? An equinox is when the sun is positioned directly above the Earth’s equator and the hours of daylight and nighttime are very nearly equal. It happens twice a year, spring and autumn. It’s generally accepted the vernal equinox is March 21 when the sun crosses the equator from south to north, but its iffier than you think. Sometimes it hits on the 20
th and, of course, spring only comes to the Northern Hemisphere. The Southern Hemisphere heads toward winter. Earth thinks it’s oh-so-special but every planet in the solar system has an equinox, which occurs when a planet’s orbit and tilt causes hemispheres to receive the same amount of light.

Although the equinox is thought of as a day, it’s actually only a moment when the Sun passes over the equator. For 2022, the Vernal Equinox happened on Thursday, March 20, 2022, at 11:33 a.m., Eastern Standard Time. This is not to say the first day of spring is set in stone. Bands of rogue climatologists roam the streets arguing the point. For them, meteorological seasons are grouped by months and based on weather and temperature shifts. They’ll argue the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere should be March 1. Don’t get in their way or they’ll slap you.

Spring is associated with an array of rituals marking the end of winter, often dealing with death and rebirth. The idea of a deity who perishes and is brought back to life is an ancient theme, predating the Bible. Easter, supposedly, derives its name from Eostre, the ancient Teutonic goddess of fertility, bringing light and renewal to the world. Eggs were hidden in her honor as part of fertility rites and, as she was also a moon goddess, her celebrations were held at the full moon closest to the Equinox. Eostre was symbolized by a hare, and by the 17th century in Protestant Europe hares were also symbolic of Easter.

Weird stuff about the vernal equinox

It’s the only day you can stand a raw egg on end.

Presumably, because of the Sun’s position in the sky, the gravitational pull on the Earth means that you can stand an egg up on end during the precise moment of the vernal equinox. Nope. The Earth’s gravity remains unchanged and balancing an egg can be done any day of the year, if you’re really, really, really bored.  

Egad! There’s no shadow at noon.

Only if you happen to be standing exactly on the equator.

Being outside during the vernal equinox can drive you bonkers.

The Sun moving across the equator has no effect on emotions. But Seasonal Affective Disorder plays a part in moods and may have a leftover effect before spring truly kicks in. The warmer days can also bring a touch of spring fever and strengthen the desire to get outdoors. Not to mention being cooped up because of Covid made us all a little nuts.

Take a trip to the gateway to hell.

Several myths have certain days in which a portal to hell can open and the devil can enter the earth. One is Halloween, but the other is the vernal equinox.  A cemetery in the town of Stull, Kansas, apparently has one of them. Since the 1970s, people visiting the cemetery on the vernal equinox report hearing disembodied growling, being grabbed by unseen arms, and experiencing amnesia. No reports on the number of liquor sales on that day is available.

So put that garland of flowers in your hair and dance around the maypole before that blooming botanical mess activates your allergies. Spring has sprung.





 

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Shadow of the Eclipse 99 Cent Sale

  

99 Cent Sale March 11-25

Ancient evil prowls the shadow of the eclipse, but the key to saving the present can only be found in the past.

Excitement brews in Crossroads for everyone but lawyer, Callum MacGregor. This year, the town harvest festival coincides with a total eclipse. With a recent breakup, Cal has no desire to attend until a visit from his old law partner, Isaac Bingham, drops a bombshell. Twenty years before Cal’s birth, his grandfather, Phillip Bingham, extracted a promise. Isaac must get Cal to the harvest festival or the world would face unparalleled disaster.

Cal is stunned. How could Phillip know Cal would be born and live in Crossroads? Why this nonsensical warning? The mystery deepens when Isaac tells him he’s not the only one to receive a mysterious summons.

Accountant Meg Adler’s day started badly when her boss fired her for refusing to cook the books, but then a letter arrives from a man named Bingham. It contains a lucrative job offer—details to follow. All she has to do is attend the Crossroads Harvest Festival on opening day and meet his representative to discuss details. Meg is leery, but it’s not the end of the world if this doesn’t pan out. Right?

Ancient evil prowls the shadow of the eclipse, but the key to saving the present can only be found in the past. In a time-traveling adventure, Cal and Meg enter a mystic maze and journey to Babylon, the Dark Ages, and 1906 San Francisco hot on the trail of two magic artifacts lost in the recesses of time. Can they dodge demonic forces, fulfill a dead man’s mission, and discover a new future with each other?

Excerpt

 “So, Cal,” Meg said. “Why meet here? What does this festival have to do with a job?” She flashed a cheeky grin. “I should warn you I don’t work the carny circuit.”

A job? An uneasy sensation settled in his gut. “I’ve no idea. I thought you knew why we were here.”

“Me?” Meg pulled back her hand and color rose to her cheeks. “What is this? Some kind of sick joke? Who does this Phillip Bingham think he is, anyway?”

Cal gaped at her. “Phillip Bingham contacted you? Not Isaac?”

“I got a letter from him with a vague employment offer from the Lux Foundation along with an invitation to attend the Crossroads Harvest Festival.” She wrinkled her brow. “It was a funny kind of letter on really old paper. The room at the inn was paid for by a man named Isaac Bingham, and I needed a job, so I figured what the hell. The instructions said a person would find me here to discuss the details. I assume that is you.” Her voice tightened in anger. “Is Phillip Bingham the town lunatic?”

“No, but I’m sorry to tell you he’s very much dead.” Cal gave her a recap of his meeting with Isaac.

As Meg listened, her eyes widened in astonishment. “Phillip Bingham died decades ago? How could he know I’d lose my job this week and be desperate enough to jump at this crazy offer?”

Cal ran a hand through his hair. “How did he know either of us would even be born?”

Meg took a wary step back. “I’m not sure I believe you.”

“I’m not sure I believe it myself. Listen, do you want to go somewhere and talk? Try to figure this out? I’ll call Isaac, tell him we found each other, and demand an explanation.”

Meg cocked her head toward the entrance of the corn maze. “Do you hear that? Someone called for help.”

“Probably lost in the maze. George made it extra challenging this year.”

“No, it’s different.” She sucked in a breath. “M-my name—I swear I heard my name.”

A gust of wind rippled the stalks. They bent toward the entrance, fluttery hands beckoning them inside. Cal strained to hear past the whispery rustle of the leaves.

Almost as if they were voices…

“I’ll check it out,” he said. “Maybe someone fell and got hurt. Wait here—”

“Not a chance.” Meg bolted into the maze, and Cal ran after her. They came to the first intersection, and she skidded to a halt. “Which way?”

“Left,” Cal said without hesitation.

They dashed deeper into the field, now left, now right, now straight ahead. With each step, Cal’s path became surer as if something pulled him with an invisible cord.

Meg puffed beside him. “How do you know which way to go?”

“I-I can’t explain it.” With every breath, the air around Cal became hotter and more oppressive, pressing on his shoulders like a stifling blanket. Humidity dropped to nothing. Beads of sweat on his brow evaporated. Cal licked his dry, cracked lips and grimaced at the gritty feel of sand on his tongue.

Sand in a corn maze?

They turned a corner and stumbled into a clearing. In the center was an arbor that arched over a circle of flagstones on the ground. A glowing flame hovered above the stones, suspended in midair. Meg and Cal exchanged dumbfounded looks and stepped forward. The clarion note of a distant horn sounded a soldier’s call to action. A surge of adrenaline flooded Cal’s veins. He hadn’t felt like this since his days on patrol with the Army. Unconsciously, Cal’s hand went to his hip, reaching for the sword. He stared at his empty hand. Sword?

The flame grew larger and brighter, shooting through the arbor into the heavens.

“Cal!” Meg’s voice sounded very far away.

“I’m here!” Cal reached for her, but the flame blinded him, blotting out the maze, blotting out the sun, blotting out the world.

Nothing remained but the roar of the cheering crowd.

 

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Saturday, February 26, 2022

The Ten Most Important Commandments for Writers (to Ignore)

 Ten Commandments for Writers (to Ignore)

1. Thou shalt write every day, according to a strict schedule, at the exact same time, and in the exact same place.

Oh please. I have a life. It’s great to set aside time to write, but other stuff has to get done, too. Don’t be so glued to a schedule, there’s no room for spontaneous fun.

 2. Thou shalt master one genre and stick to it forever.

Why? Maybe this one genre isn’t really for you. Maybe you’re better at something else. Maybe you’d be happier writing something else. Maybe you simply like more than one genre. Of course, if you’re a Baptist minister who wants to try a hand at male-on-male erotica…well, that’s what pen names are for.

 3. Thou shalt stick to one age group and never try to write for another.

Again, why? Go ahead. I will applaud your endeavors and there is no such thing as the writing police to haul you away to literary prison.

 4. Thou shalt write what you know.

I don’t know anything, but I do know how to use a web browser. It’s called research. If it’s done well, the book reads correctly and people think you’re much smarter than you are. (A definite plus in life.)

 5. Thou shalt neglect other parts of your life.

Sheesh. Do you really want to spend years alone, huddled in an unheated attic, eventually succumbing to an upper respiratory disease because no one bothered to look in on you? Not me.

 6. Thou shalt suffer for your art.

I don’t suffer for anything. All writers hit a roadblock once in a while. We write through it or put the project away and come back later. If every word is a constant agony, don’t write. Yeah, you heard me. This is not failure. This is life. Sometimes plans work, sometimes they don’t, but life is always too short to be miserable. Find what makes you happy. Of course, if being miserable makes you happy, keep plugging away at that unfinished novel.

7. Thou must edit, edit, and edit again.

Editing is important, but there comes a time when looking at that manuscript makes your stomach heave. Then it’s time to give it to someone else to read. Unless penning a journal, what good is writing if no one ever reads it? Get it out there. Get critical feedback. Excessive self-editing is useless, but editing with a purpose, knowing where to cut, and what needs to be clarified is essential.

8. Thou shalt read all you can in your genre and ignore everything else.

Nope. Every once in a while, read something in another genre, one you ordinarily wouldn’t pick. There’s plenty of good stuff out there and choosing something different may jumpstart braincells and give unexpected inspiration.

9. Thou shalt travel for inspiration

If you can travel, terrific. If not, one word. Internet. I can’t afford to go globetrotting. Heck, in this day of Covid, I’d be happy to sit at the corner bistro again without feeling as if I’m surrounded by a curtain of germs. Until that time, the internet is loaded with pictures, maps, and excellent travel writing, both current and historical.

10. Thou shalt not have a prologue or epilogue

Why not? Prologues and epilogues can be fun ways add a little extra detail to a story without interrupting the flow. The key word is little. Prologue and epilogues should be short. If not, stop kidding yourself. They’re chapters.

There you have it. Ten pearls of wisdom. Use them or lose them without guilt.






Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Weird Plague Treatments or Put Down that Chicken

 Weird Plague Treatments or Put Down that Chicken

Well, it’s been over a year. Our good friend Covid is like that one annoying relative that shows to ruin every get-together and won’t go away. Our ancestors survived bouts of the Black Death with their homemade treatments. I say it’s time to reach back in history and start trying them again.

Helpful Animals or What is Mom Doing with that Chicken?

Snakes often got the blame for the plague, their evil vapors fouling the air, but they could make amends. According to Medieval medicine, one evil attracts another, so pieces of an “evil” snake placed on the patient would draw out the evil sickness. Low and behold, they were cured. Or died of blood poisoning. 

Squeamish about snakes? How about leeches? They were used to suck out the “bad” blood that caused the disease and leave the good blood in the body. Or not, and the patient died. Then there’s also chopped up pigeons. Rub bloody parts all over and stand back while the cure takes hold or the neighbors call the cops.

My favorite treatment is the Vicary Method, named after an ancient doctor named Thomas Vicary. I can’t understand why it hasn’t made the rounds. He was a doctor, for heaven’s sake. He must have known what he was doing. Of course, back then being a doctor didn’t require a medical degree, basic knowledge of sanitation, or even common sense. The Vicary Method should really have been called, “What the Hell are you Doing with that Chicken?” The noble doctor would pluck feathers from a chicken’s rump, and then tie the chicken to the patient, so the rump touched an open sore. He believed chickens breathed through their bottoms, so the semi-plucked chicken would draw the plague from the patient. The idea of transmitting a bacterial infection never crossed his mind. If the patient died, so be it. If chicken died first, he’d simply slap on another.

Out of Chicken Butts? Try Vegetables or Emeralds.

For the vegetarians among you or those low on chicken butts there other cures guaranteed 100% effective by our Medieval ancestors. Rub onions on your skin or a eat a combination of mustard, mint sauce, apple sauce and horseradish to balance wet, dry, hot and cold humors in the body. It will definitely effect a cure, if it doesn’t cause the runs first. Have a delicate digestion? Down a delicious crushed emerald. No emeralds lying around? Other tasty suggestions were drinking vinegar, arsenic, mercury or even ten-year-old treacle. Why it had to be ten-years-old is beyond me, but what’s the point of waiting for it to age? The arsenic and mercury would put you six feet under immediately.

Treatments that May be Worse than the Disease.

Clean urine had healing properties, according to ancient medical texts. So, they advised suffers to dive right into a urine bath. Poop mixed with lily root and tree sap was guaranteed to chase away the plague and anyone else with a sense of smell.

For a last resort use flagellation. People whipped themselves to purge their bodies of the sins that brought the plague in the first place. Other believed the hell with that. The best way to chase away the plague was in wild abandon so sickness couldn’t catch you; pillage, loot and then party until the cows come home. I’m with them.






Sunday, December 26, 2021

Fruitcake: The Worst Dessert Ever

 


December 27 is National Fruitcake Day where we sit around and sing the praise of the fruitcake. That takes all of about 10 seconds because it’s the worst dessert ever with the subtle piquant flavor of burnt popcorn and mud. Some of you may like fruitcake and I’m so sorry you were born without taste buds. Perhaps science will find a cure some day and you will finally understand why the rest of us gape at you in horror as you shovel the stuff in without gagging.

As a child, every year we were gifted with a fruitcake from an aged relative. She is to be forgiven since she grew up during the Depression when people were so poor, they only ate discarded clothing. By comparison, fruitcake was a small step up. The only way to make it palatable was to douse it in the strongest alcohol available. It didn’t improve the taste, but after one slice you didn’t care.

Fruitcake has a long, inglorious history. The ancient Romans made a mishmash of barley, pomegranate seeds, nuts, and raisins into a sort of energy bar; It was shaped into a cake and called a “satura.” Because it was easy to tote around and lasted for so long without going bad, Roman soldiers brought it to the battlefields as a snack. It was also used as a weapon against the Visigoths. Unfortunately, they had fruitcake of their own, so the battle was a draw.

During the Middle Ages dried fruits became more widely available and were mixed with bread doughs. To prevent spoilage alcohol was added to kill bacteria and taste buds. The preservative process caused these breads to last through a long cold winter. In Elizabethan times, fruitcakes often contained meat, fruit juices, sugar, preserved fruits and enough wine and sherry to choke a horse. After a while, the meat was eliminated. Why bother when you had that much wine and sherry?  More fruit took its place. Cooks began soaking fruits in sugar and drying them. Around this time, nuts were also added and then all of that slop was added to a heavy cake batter. It became known as "plum pudding” or “Blimey, what is this mess?”

In England, fruitcake is traditional at British weddings. It was customary for unmarried wedding guests to put a slice of fruitcake under their pillow at night so they could dream about the person they would eventually marry. (Eating it caused nightmares.) Fruitcake was also served to English Christmas carolers, which may be a reason it became so popular for the holidays. It was banned in the 18th century when it was mistakenly thought to be the cause of a cholera epidemic, although some of us still have doubts.

Variations on the fruitcake sprung up in other countries. Italy's dense panforte dates back to 13th century Sienna; Germany's stollen, a tapered loaf coated with melted butter and powdered sugar has been a Dresden delicacy since the 1400s with its own annual festival. The Caribbean has black cake, a boozy descendant of Britain’s plum pudding where the fruit is soaked in rum for months, or even as long as a year. The tradition of making fruitcakes for special occasions such as weddings and holidays gained in popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was a grand indulgence due to the cost of the materials, but how it came to be a Christmas punishment is a mystery.

Getting rid of fruitcake without actually eating it.

While December 27 is National Fruitcake Day, a little more than a week later, on January 7, comes Fruitcake Toss Day. Before the pandemic, one town in Colorado had an ingenious solution to unwanted fruitcake. Manitou Springs held a contest to see who could throw their fruitcakes the farthest and with the greatest accuracy. People built catapults, slingshots, or just hurled the cakes by hand. Lest you mourn food going to waste remember this is fruitcake, banned by the Geneva Convention as a weapon of mass destruction. Also, competitors were required to bring an edible donation to the local food bank. Anything except fruitcake. Let’s hope the tradition continues. That fruitcake won’t toss itself. So get out there tomorrow and hurl your fruitcake across the street to the neighbor’s yard and then run like hell so they don’t spot you and hurl it back.




 

Friday, November 19, 2021

 


The Naughty List

FREE on Amazon

November 19, 20, 21, 22, 23


This isn't a typical Yuletide tale.



Murder, mystical artifacts, an invisible demon with anger management issues, and an overbearing cupid—not what Rosalie Thatcher wished for on her Christmas list.

The holidays had always been a magical time for Rosalie, but not this year. Her new manager at Penrose’s Department Store is determined to make this season the most profitable in history, even if it sucks the life from every employee. Enforcing arbitrary rules and forcing Rosalie into the stupid elf hat was the worst until she meets a real E.L.F. (Elemental Life Form) named David and gets lassoed into a desperate hunt for the stolen Naughty and Nice List.  Now Rosalie and David must dodge a murderous invisible demon and recover the missing artifact before hellhounds track them down. The couple race against time for without the guidance of the Naughty and Nice List the world will tumble into chaos.


Excerpt

Stephanie rounded the corner. She plopped a large cardboard box down on the counter. “I’ve decided on more festive attire for the staff to increase holiday spirit and, thereby, increase customer spending.” She pulled off the cover. Rosalie’s mouth dropped open. “What the hell is that?”

“An elf hat, of course. It’s festive.”

“It’s butt ugly.”

Stephanie glowered. “No one asked your opinion, Rosalie. No one cares about your opinion. Attitudes such as yours prove me right. You need more holiday spirit.” She shoved the hat in her face. “Everyone wears one. Put it on.”

Fashioned out of bright green felt, the cone-shaped hat had Penrose’s written in glittery gold paint smack dab in the middle. On the pointy top dangled a pompom the size of her fist that jingled annoyingly with the slightest movement. The rim, trimmed with bushy fake white fur, did nothing to offset the huge elf ears stitched in as giant flaps on either side. Rosalie begrudgingly slipped on the hat. Immediately, her head began to sweat. The ears itched like crazy.

Stephanie beamed. “Perfect. I told all the assistant managers to stop by Customer Service and pick up hats for their departments.” She turned on her heel.

“You forgot yours,” Rosalie snidely called out. Of course, Stephanie ignored her.

****

David sunk wearily into a chair in the break room, cradling a disposable cup in his hands. He appropriated the stale coffee from the pot someone forgot to empty out and clean. He barely noticed the bitter taste. Ten minute break…ten minutes was all he needed. The caffeine would keep him on his feet another couple of hours. He rubbed his eyes, willing away the crushing fatigue. Night after night David wandered Penrose’s four floors in a fruitless search, pulling open boxes, checking under counters. Although the nagging pull continued to graze his senses, The Book was nowhere to be found. He’d come no closer to pinning down the location than when he arrived. The mystical connection now appreciably slackened under his mental touch. David’s stomach knotted up in fear. Soon the link would disappear forever. Something alluded him—some special storage area, some door he hadn’t opened. Why couldn’t he find The Book?

In frustration, David drained the last of the coffee. He flung the cup to the wastebasket, overshot, and hit the corkboard on the wall. A clipboard crashed to the floor. He stifled a curse. Bending down to pick it up, his eyes strayed over the top sheet. “Motivation Memo from Stephanie Crowder to all Employees,” he read. “Below are daily reports from Sneaky Shoppers.” Oh brother, Stephanie is a real piece of work. She has her own secret police. He snorted in amusement scanning the list of ridiculous infractions.

“Now, now, Rosalie Thatcher of Customer Service,” he muttered. “Two transgressions—you’ll never get off the Naughty List with that attitude. Imagine, not remembering to say have a special holly jolly holly-day at Penrose’s. I see you were also caught without an elf hat.”

Elf hat?

His lips twitched in an involuntary grin. His dad would appreciate the joke. As David replaced the clipboard, he suddenly remembered Rosalie. She was the girl he followed to the security office. The picture of the young brunette with a friendly natural smile popped into his mind. A smile like that couldn’t be faked. She liked people. She liked her job. He wondered how she felt about Penrose’s now.

David experienced a rush of guilt. All around the atmosphere had changed. He was super-sensitive to the yuletide. Magic in the air, holiday spirit, whatever—there was always something indefinably optimistic about this time of year. Even as a kid, before he understood family responsibilities, he sensed the truth. As easily as he now sensed the diminished effect of The Book. Whatever goodwill the season stirred up rapidly faded. Hard-working people like Rosalie paid the price of his stupid mistake.

The young man slipped out of the break room. He had enough time left to make one quick circuit of the first floor before staff trickled in. He worked from the front of Penrose’s to the back corner, ending up at Customer Service. For an instant, his spirits rose. A large box stashed underneath the counter wasn’t there the last time he checked. He ripped off the top, pawing through the contents. Fingering the garish green material, David didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The oversize ears stuck out like a genetic experiment gone horribly wrong. The lining felt like steel wool. Had the holiday spirit been reduced to this?

A wave of despair enveloped him. “I’m so sorry, Rosalie.” On impulse, David reached into his pocket. He pulled out a gold-wrapped chocolate bar saved for later, swiped from a stash hidden in the store manager’s office. David scribbled on a sticky pad and pressed the note to the wrapper. He slipped the candy under the counter just before a sudden murmur of voices broke the silence. The staff had arrived. He ducked behind a rack of clothing in the back as a girl walked up to the counter, an elf hat tucked under her arm.

“Ears, Rosalie.”

She halted in mid-stride. A sharply dressed twentysomething in a skin tight pencil skirt swooped down on her. To get a better view, David carefully eased back the clothes hanging in front of his face. He saw Rosalie’s fingers clenched around the hat. He chuckled to himself. She’s pissed, but hides her aggravation well. Sadhri would definitely approve of her self-control.

“Stephanie,” Rosalie stated calmly, “the hats are extremely uncomfortable. Everyone hates them.”

“Nonsense, they’re fine.”

“If you simply try one on you’ll see—”

“I don’t have to. I know they’re fine. The hats put people in the holiday spirit and cheerful people spend more money.” Stephanie examined her perfect French manicure. “So close to Christmas is an awful time to be out of work.” Rosalie jammed the hat on her head without another word. “Excellent,” cooed Stephanie. “Keep that attitude up and your name will stop appearing on the Motivation Memo.” Without another word, she flounced off.

David knew he should dash-away. Every moment in the open was risky, but he couldn’t take his eyes off Rosalie in the idiotic hat. What would she do?

The young woman leaned against the counter glaring after Stephanie. She bobbled her head back and forth and spouted in a falsetto sing-song:

“I’m a special elf from Penrose’s

I wear the special hat

You are not a special elf

You’re a dirty rat

You don’t belong at Penrose’s

You don’t know how to play

Wiggle your tight ass out of here

Damn you, go away.”

David snorted. Rosalie stiffened and turned around.

“Who’s there?” she called

END OF EXCERPT

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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Bad Kitty. Why are Cats Evil?

  

Bad Kitty

 

Halloween is in a few days, but I’ve been seeing black cat decorations for over a month. They’re ubiquitous with Halloween as witches’ familiars, but what’s the deal with cats? How did something so cute and fuzzy get such a sketchy reputation. It wasn’t always the case.

 Cats in myth

Cats have been part of humans’ lives for a long time. The earliest mythological symbolism of animal deities occurred as long ago as Upper Paleolithic, or Old Stone Age, a period extending from 35,000 to 8300 BC. The oldest known animal-shaped sculpture is a lion-headed, human-bodied figurine known as Löwenmensch, found in Hohlenstein Stadel cave in Germany. The statue dates from about 32,000 BC and was carved from mammoth ivory using a flint stone knife. In these early religions, lion-headed figurines have been found that are believed to have played a prominent role in spiritualism and not associated with evil shenanigans. Ancient legends from Thailand, Burma, and other Asian countries, have cats transporting the souls of monks or royalty to heaven after death.

In Egypt, Bast or Bastet first appeared as a fierce lioness in the third millennium BCE, but after the domestication of the cat around 1500 BCE quickly morphed into a benign cat goddess, taking care of the family, house, and home. The Egyptian word for cat was ‘miu’ which sound like the noise a cat makes and I think is absolutely adorable. Cats shown on tomb walls and funerary stelae often depict them as beloved pets, seated by their owners’ chairs. According to Herodotus, when a cat died by a natural death, those who dwelled in the house shaved their eyebrows, which is just plain weird. Some cats were even mummified and afforded special burials with elaborately carved sarcophagi inscribed with their name. Even in the afterlife, an Egyptian wanted his or her kitty near.

One reasons why cats have a mystical connection may be because they are the only wild animal that domesticated themselves. As humans moved from the lives of hunter-gatherers to farm-based existence, cooperation with humans proved to be a mutually beneficial partnership. Cats got a reliable source of prey hunting vermin that fed on grain and humans got effortless pest control.

So why the bad rap?

Blame the Christians. They wanted to do away with anything that smacked of pagan worship so cat gods were out, even if they were helpful. As Christianity spread from the Middle East, so did myths surrounding cats. By the time the Middle Ages rolled around, cats got the reputation of sinister beasts with powers similar to witches and warlocks, obviously in cahoots with Satan. It was believed a cat’s bite was poisonous, as was its flesh, and a person who inhaled a cat’s breath would be infected with tuberculosis. Also, they could make beer go sour if you ticked them off. Yeah, that’s weird, too.

Cats can also make you sneeze. Cat allergens are twice as common as dog allergens. In the 14th century, bubonic plague swept the European continent. In some regions, it killed sixty percent of the population. Since there was no understanding of sickness, any great evil was assumed to be the work of the devil, and the belief spread the plague was brought on by his feline minions. Thousands were killed, but cats got their revenge since the real culprit was fleas that feasted on rats and without cats to curb the rat population, the disease ravaged human populations.

Modern Creepy Cats

Since the Middle Ages, the cat’s reputation continued to improve until Hollywood got their paws on it to keep the spooky reputation alive. Cats serve as the primary source of terror in more than thirty films, from 1934’s The Black Cat to the 2019 adaptation of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. There’s even a subgenre in movies known as the Lewton Bus, Cat Scare, or the Spring-Loaded Cat. This is where a cat jumps out of nowhere scaring the bejesus out of a poor schlub. It’s so common that it’s now a horror parody. (Check out “It’s Just a Cat” on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dp_8h-AbQ98 )

So What’s the Deal with Cats?

They can be kind of scary. They’re fierce hunters, a bit standoffish, see in the dark, their eyes glow and they’re not obsequious like dogs. They won’t slobber all over you in paroxysms of delight when you walk in the door. You might get a little ankle rub, but all they’re really doing is marking you as their territory with the scent glands in their cheeks. They own you and they know it. Be nice or they’ll kill you in your sleep.