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An engraving from 1763 depicting a "weretiger"

Werecats (also written in a hyphenated form as were-cats) are creatures of folklore, fantasy fiction, horror fiction, and occultism that are generally described as ailuranthropes or shapeshifters similar to werewolves that, instead of a wolf, turn into a creature that is based on some species of feline.[1][2][3][4] The species involved can be a domestic cat,[5] a tiger,[6] a lion,[7] a leopard,[8] a lynx, or any other type, including some that are purely fantastical felines.[9] Typically, an individual werecat can only transform to one unique feline, not to a number of different species, and each individual type of werecat may be known by a more species-specific term such as "weretiger". [10] The word "werecat" was not coined until the late 19th century, so it was not directly used in legends from earlier eras, only by later folklorists' commentary.

Contents

Folklore

Werecat folklore is found on all continents except Antarctica and Oceania and is generally based on wild felines native to the area.

Europe

European folklore usually depicts werecats who transform into domestic cats. Some European werecats became giant domestic cats[9] or panthers. They are generally labeled witches, even though they may have the sole magical ability of self-transformation.[11] During the witch trials, the official Church doctrine stated that all shapeshifters, including werewolves, were witches.[12]

Africa

African legends describe people who turn into lions or leopards. In the case of leopards, this is often because the creature is really a leopard god or goddess masquerading as a human. When these gods mate with humans, offspring can be produced, and these children sometimes grow up to be shapeshifters; those who do not transform may instead have other powers. In reference to werecats who turn into lions, the ability is often associated with royalty. Such a being may have been a king or queen in a former life, or may be destined for leadership in this life. This quality can be seen in the lions of Tsavo, which were reputed to be kings in lion shape, attempting to repel the invading Europeans by stopping their railroad.

Asia

Mainland Asian werecats usually become tigers.[10] In India, the weretiger is often a dangerous sorcerer, portrayed as a menace to livestock, who might at any time turn to man-eating. Chinese legends often describe weretigers as the victims of either a hereditary curse or a vindictive ghost. Ancient teachings held that every race except the Han Chinese were really animals in disguise, so that there was nothing extraordinary about some of these false humans reverting to their true natures. Alternately, the ghosts of people who had been killed by tigers could become malevolent supernatural beings, devoting all their energy to making sure that tigers killed more humans. Some of these ghosts were responsible for transforming ordinary humans into man-eating weretigers. Also, in Japanese folklore there are creatures called bakeneko that are similar to kitsune (fox spirits) and tanuki (raccoon dogs). In Thailand the tiger that eats many humans may become a weretiger.They also have other types of weretiger in thailand such as magicians who have great power can change his form to other animal like Tiger or even Lion but in Thailand the story of the werecrocodile is more famous than other werebeast, such as in the Story of Gai-thong the hero who defeated Chalawan the Giant was a Crocodile with Diamond-fangs, he is invulnerable and can use some magic.

In both Indonesia and Malaysia there is another kind of weretiger.[13] The power of transformation is regarded as due to inheritance, to the use of spells, to fasting and willpower, to the use of charms, etc. Save when it is hungry or has just cause for revenge, it is not hostile to man; in fact, it is said to take its animal form only at night and to guard the plantations from wild pigs, exactly as the balams (magicians) of Yucatán were said to guard the maize fields in animal form. Variants of this belief assert that the shapeshifter does not recognize his friends unless they call him by name, or that he goes out as a mendicant and transforms himself to take vengeance on those who refuse him alms. Somewhat similar is the belief of the Khonds; for them the tiger is friendly, and he reserves his wrath for their enemies. A man is said to take the form of a tiger in order to wreak a just vengeance. [13]

The Americas

The foremost were-animal in pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures was the were-jaguar. It was associated with the veneration of the jaguar, with priests and shamans among the various peoples who followed this tradition donning the skins of jaguars to "become" a were-jaguar. Among the Aztecs, an entire class of specialized warriors who dressed in jaguar skins were called "jaguar warriors". Depictions of the jaguar and the were-jaguar are among the most common motifs among the artifacts of the ancient Mesoamerican civilizations.

Archeologists have found a jar in Guatemala, attributed to the Maya of the Late Classic Era (600-900 AD), which depicts a musical instrument that has been reproduced and played. This instrument is astonishing in at least two respects. First, it is the only stringed instrument known in the Americas prior to the introduction of European musical instruments. Second, when played, it produces a sound virtually identical to a jaguar's growl.[1].

In modern South America, there are also urban legends about jaguar shapeshifters lurking along highways in tales similar to the modern vanishing hitchhiker, and of their being assassins secretly employed by the government or organized crime. This same rumor also states that these werecats hate dog bones, but love catnip. The homless in South America are told not to carry catnip for any reason.

In the U.S., urban legends tell of encounters with feline bipeds; beings similar to the Bigfoot having cat heads, tails, and paws. Feline bipeds are sometimes classified as part of cryptozoology, but more often they are interpreted as werecats.[14]

Occultism and theology

Assertions that werecats truly exist and have an origin in supernatural or religious realities have been common for centuries, with these beliefs often being hard to entirely separate from folklore. In the nineteenth century, occultist J.C. Street asserted that material cat and dog transformations could be produced by manipulating the "ethereal fluid" that human bodies are supposedly floating in.[15] The Catholic witch-hunting manual, the Malleus Maleficarum, asserted that witches can turn into cats, but that their transformations are illusions created by demons.[16] New Age author John Perkins asserted that every person has the ability to shapeshift into "jaguars, bushes, or any other form" by using mental power.[17] Occultist Rosalyn Greene claims that werecats called "cat shifters" exist as part of a "shifter subculture" or underground New Age religion based on lycanthropy and related beliefs.[18]

In popular culture

Werecats are not featured as often as werewolves in popular culture.[citation needed]

The 1942 Val Lewton film "Cat People" and its 1982 remake both feature female shape changers, respectively Simone Simon and Nastassja Kinski in highly sexual roles.

In She-Ra: Princess of Power the villainess Catra can change into a panther.

Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle series includes several characters who are werecats. The first one the protagonist meets, Solembum, appears first in Eragon. The novel describes werecats not as shapeshifting humans, but as a separate magical species.

In Michael Jackson's 1982 music video Thriller, Jackson turns into a werecat.

In the 1998 animated film Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, Lena Dupree, Simone Lenoit and Jacques (the film's antagonist) were werecats. They were referred to as "cat creatures" several times. Other occurrences of "cat creatures" have appeared on What's New, Scooby Doo? and The Scooby-Doo Show.

The children's novel, Sebastian Darke: Prince of Pirates, features an enchantress named Leonora, who can turn herself into a panther at will. She is recognisable in this form by the colour of her pelt; tawny, like her eyes when she is in human form.

In the online roleplaying game, World of Warcraft, druids can transform into panther or lion like forms, depending on their chosen race. The protagonist of Rachel Vincent's Shifters series is a female werecat: she is a member of a Pride led by her father.

In the Harry Potter series of novels, Minerva McGonnagal is able to transform into a cat, due to her being an Animagus.

In Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series of novels, there are several characters who are werecats of varying types including leopard, lion, and tiger.

In the video game Breath of Fire 3, one of the main characters, Rei, is a weretiger.

The game Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen features weretigers as hidden characters who can be recruited.

In the book, On the Edge, by Ilona Andrews, the heroine's brother is a werecat. He can turn into a Lynx at will. Also, in Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels books, the leader of the Pack is a werecat. He can change into a Lion.

In Beast Wars season 3, Cheetor was accidentally mutated into a feral Transmetal II werecat, transforming into his new beast mode uncontrollably, until he learned to control it and transform at will.

The Torchwood short story Mrs Acres by David Llewellyn (appearing in the Torchwood Magazine 2009 yearbook) featured the character of Colin Acres, a shapeshifting alien which alternated between human form and that of a large, cat-like creature.

In the video game Bayonetta, the main character has the ability to transform into a black panther at will, granting her cheetah-like speed.

The short story "Lusus Naturae" by Margaret Atwood centers on a young woman whose parents fake her death to hide the fact that she is a werecat.

In the manga/anime Bleach the character Yoruichi Shihoin can transform into a cat at will.

In the book series Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind which centers around Richard Rahl and his life as the seeker of the truth there is a werecat.

Footnotes

  1. ^ Bleiler, Everett (1983). The Guide to Supernatural Fiction. Kent State University Press. p. 272. 
  2. ^ Stine, R. L. (1996). Night of the Werecat. Aladdin. 
  3. ^ Galenorn, Yasmine (2006). Witchling. Berkley. p. 12. 
  4. ^ Greene, Rosalyn (2000). The Magic of Shapeshifting. Weiser. pp. 8–9. 
  5. ^ Galenorn, Yasmine (2006). Witchling. Berkley. p. 33. 
  6. ^ Monster Manual: Core Rulebook III. Wizards of the Coast. 2003. pp. 165–166. 
  7. ^ Feehan, Christine (2002). Lair of the Lion. Leisure Books. 
  8. ^ Worland, Rick (2006). The Horror Film: An Introduction. Blackwell Publishing. pp. 73, 176–178, 184. 
  9. ^ a b Greene, Rosalyn (2000). The Magic of Shapeshifting. Weiser. p. 9. 
  10. ^ a b Summers, Montague (1966). The Werewolf. University Books. p. 21. 
  11. ^ Hamel, Frank (1969). Human Animals. New Hyde Park: University Books. pp. 7, 103–109. 
  12. ^ Summers, Montague; Heinrich Kramer, James Sprenger (2000). The Malleus Maleficarum of Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger. Book Tree. pp. 61–65. 
  13. ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica. 1910-1911. 
  14. ^ Steiger, Brad (2001). Out of the Dark. Kensington Books. pp. 154–160. 
  15. ^ Hamel, Frank (1969). Human Animals. New Hyde Park: University Books. p. 292. 
  16. ^ Summers, Montague; Heinrich Kramer, James Sprenger (2000). The Malleus Maleficarum of Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger. Book Tree. pp. 127–128. 
  17. ^ Perkins, John (1997). Shape Shifting. Rochester, Vermont: Destiny Books. p. 3. 
  18. ^ Greene, Rosalyn (2000). The Magic of Shapeshifting. Weiser. pp. 53–89, 125, 149. 

References

  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
  • Borges, Jorge. (1969). The book of imaginary beings. New York: E. P. Dutton. ISBN 0-670-89180-0
  • Greene, Rosalyn. (2000). The magic of shapeshifting. York Beach: Weiser. ISBN 1-57863-171-8
  • Hall, Jamie. (2003). Half human, half animal: Tales of werewolves and related creatures. Bloomington: 1st Books. ISBN 1-4107-5809-5
  • Hamel, Frank. (1969). Human animals: Werewolves & other transformations. New Hyde Park: University Books. ISBN 0-8216-0092-3
  • Steiger, Brad. (2001). Out of the dark. New York: Kensington Books. ISBN 1-57566-896-3
  • Saunders, Nicholas J. (1991). The cult of the cat. London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-81036-2

See also








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