The Mood of a Cat

Cats generally are content to do whatever they are doing at the time, whether that is stalking, eating, or simply sitting and going to sleep. They do not feel guilty that they are not doing something else instead. This is the frame of mind in which the witch should enter the circle; for if he or she feels the sort of conflict that cats do not feel, part of the witch’s spirit will be continually moving across the circle to someplace else, and this will disrupt and weaken it. It is because cats feel content to be where they are and to do what they are doing in the moment that they can cross the boundary of a circle (as can small children) without disrupting it.

In order to have the mood of a cat in circle, the witch must cultivate that mood at different times outside the circle. This is one important reason why cats were often kept as familiars of witches, and cats appear to know that they have something to teach us, and look after us strange, uncomfortable animals. A witch keeping a cat as a familiar would shapeshift into a cat at times, when going on nocturnal journeys or traveling to the True Sabbat in the Summerland. Some witches kept hares or horses as familiars, and some kept dogs, of course; but we hear of cats fulfilling this office quite often.

The witches’ rune found by medieval troubadours which begins “Bagahi laca bacahé” is of unknown meaning, but parts of it suggest meanings, especially the last stanza, which runs “Lagozatha cabyolas, samahac et famyolas, Harrahya!” It seems fairly certain that cabyolas means cabaler, that is, covener. Samahac is opaque; perhaps it means ‘guest.’ Famyolas, however, is almost certainly famulus or familiar. Harrahya is our hurray or hurrah, but at the time of this chant it may have retained its original Mongolian meaning of ‘gathering.’ For when shamans and their tribe wish to raise personal power or ‘windhorse’ (hiimori), they will extend their arms forward, palms up, and make clockwise circles with them while chanting ‘hurrahya.’ In so doing they raise power together, gathering it from the other world. It is conceivable that the khan’s armies performed this rite also before battle, and their European enemies may have adopted the practice as a taunt or perhaps a morale-booster. This is all pure speculation, naturally, but it is perhaps suggestive of something witches can do together.

Witches often meditate when first entering a circle, and if they are in the regular habit of doing so, it will help them to get into a cat’s mood for the circle rite. Witchcraft does not prescribe specific methods of meditation, but recommends witches do it or some form of preparation ‘after their ways.’ Just sitting for a short period of time, say fifteen minutes, in the early morning or late at night (or any time when one is unlikely to be interrupted) can slow down the nerves and allow one to feel content to do just this one thing. Once in circle, one should not feel rushed or think about what one will be doing later. Catholics have a joke among themselves about the last words of their Mass: “The Mass is ended; thanks be to God.” The joke is obvious without having to be explained, but if many Catholics feel that way about their greatest sacrament it is unfortunate, for being in a hurry to get something over with is definitely counterproductive to magic or piety.

After the cone of power has been raised and energy grounded, witches sit quietly and pass around water or wine or ale, and bread or cake. This part of the rite helps to quiet the general mood, and to encourage a feeling of fellowship and leisure among the coveners.

Remember that ‘Sabbat’ means ‘rest,’ and ‘Esbat’ means ‘frolic.’ Neither rite is supposed to feel like work. So leave your work ethic outside.