Monday, October 20, 2014

Demon Cats!

Hello! With the Halloween season fast approaching, I'm happy to share some demon-cat-related goodness with you. First, however, I must apologize if academia is keeping me too busy to regularly update my blog with new researched blog posts. Luckily, I'm not so busy as to not have time to keep track of my favourite podcasts and, as luck would have it, share with you this recent cat-oriented talk. In this week's edition of MonsterTalk (one of my favourite podcasts), guest speaker Dr. Paul Koudounaris talks about the history of possessed cats in folklore and history. Spooooky! Click below to download the episode!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

36 Facts About Cats

I'm a huge fan of John Green and his historical videos. Hence why I could not resist posting his latest video from Mental Floss regarding cats. Enjoy!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dream Cat

Engraving, 1557. Source.
As some of you might have guessed, my field of research is colonial French America. However, one cannot truly study New France without paying attention to native populations. I've stumbled across this little reference as I was reading Bruce Trigger's Natives and Newcomers
Father Joseph had given a cat to a great chief as a very rare gift, for they do not possess these animals. It happened that a sick woman dreamed that if this cat had been given to her she would soon be cured. The chief was informed of this and immediately sent her his cat, although he was very fond of it and his daughter even more so; and when the latter saw herself bereft of the animal, which she loved passionately, she fell sick and died of regret, being unable to vanquish and overcome her affection, although she did not wish to fail in succouring and helping her neighbour.
-Gabriel Sagard, (George Wrong, ed.). The long journey to the country of the Hurons. Volume 25. Toronto, Champlain Society, 1939, p. 118.
This is the first time I've accidentally come across a reference to the reaction of Natives upon seing a common house cat for the first time. This little gem is fascinating: it highlights the then prevailing tradition that should someone in a village dream of an object (or in this case, a pet) belonging to someone else, they were automatically entitled to said thing. Personal property in native culture was not as defined and as rigidly observed as it was in Europe. This "open ownership" was at odds with the values of the first white settlers (especially when the dream object belonged to one of them!). 
However, I do wonder if Sagard was exaggerating when he wrote that the chief's daughter died of chagrin... Could it be she simply passed away from one of the prevailing diseases already decimating native populations? Besides, one would think that she would still be allowed to see the cat on occasion...  
I sure hope I will come across more references to cats owned by natives. My guess is that like other european commodities, cats and dogs became more commonplace in villages through the years. However, since period descriptions of natives by missionaries and settlers deal mostly with what was to them strange and exotic, mundane everyday life is usually ignored. I would imagine that pets might thus be unaccounted for despite their presence.
Maybe an archaeologist reading my blog could tell me if any domestic cat remains have been found on native sites of the XVII and XVIII centuries?

For anyone who understands French, Marie-José des Rivières and Louise Laliberté wrote an interesting article regarding cats in New France, including Natives' reactions. Click here for the Cap-aux-Diamants text. Ditto for L’histoire des chats racontée par l’archéologie by Évelyne Cossette in the same magazine.

Wild american cat by Louis Nicolas, circa 1670.
Source: Codex canadensis

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Medieval Kitty Paws (again)

Well, looks like Erik Kwakkel dug up another little moment of kitty mischief frozen in time. Check out his latest post here! (P.S. I've tweaked the exposure of the picture above to try to bring out the paw prints)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

"Rocket-Cat" Blasts Out of Obscurity

This recent story reminds me of an old morbid joke I heard as a kid. To this day, I still feel ashamed laughing at it: 
How do you make a dog meow? You freeze it overnight and come morning, you run it through an electric saw - Meeeeeeaaaaoooooooowwww.
Now how do you get a cat to bark? You douse it with gas and light a match - Woooooof!
Now that I've gotten this black humor out of the way, you might be interested in reading up about the infamous "Medieval rocket-cat" that's been going around the internet lately... turns out that 1) Yes, this is a real picture, and 2) No, the cat was not part of some sort of medieval space program. Check out the facts, courtesy of the Appendix Blog here.

Animation: Joseph Gagné

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Cats in Colonial French America

Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, 1728.
For anyone who understands French, I highly suggest this interview with historian Jean Provencher talking about cats in New France! From Dessine-moi un dimanche on Radio-Canada

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Harry Pointer's Cats

Here is a link to a interesting site regarding Harry Pointer's Brighton Cats :