From the Greek ailouros, for cat, it is the art of foretelling future events by the observation of cats, their actions, behavior and/or movements, specially the way they jump and where they land.
A form of Zoomancy, Ailuromancy is also known as Felidomancy.
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Since ancient times the mysterious cat has been associated with witches, the occult, and many superstitions, so it is not surprising that diviners used them to search for clues to the future.
Traditionally there is a connection between a cat and the moon. Many pagan goddesses were similarly linked to the moon. The Roman goddess Diana was able to take the form of a cat, and Bast was the sacred cat-headed goddess of Ancient Egypt. The cat was also considered a bearer of souls of the death. . .
The Egyptians were avid practitioners of this type of divination. One of their methods involved placing inside a recently deceased black cat's mouth a magical tablet, in which the inquirer had written, using a solution of myrrh, the name of the deity who would help bring about a prophetic dream.
One of the oldest and most common method of Ailuromancy uses the behavior of a cat to predict the weather. If it turns its tail to the fire, it foretells a change of weather, particularly rain or hard frost. If the cat lies curled up with its forehead touching the ground, it means that stormy weather is in its way.
Fortunetelling methods using cats evolved to many widespread superstitions around the world: a cat washing its face or ears means rain is coming soon; a cat following you, means money coming your way; if a man dreams of a cat, and the cat scratches him, his sweetheart is a spiteful termagant; if a woman dreams the same, she has a rival.
Both white and black cats can be considered lucky, depending upon their actions and behavior. Part of the fear for black cats comes from the Middle Ages belief that witches could turn themselves into cats. Another believe about cats from this period was that if a cat jumped over a corpse, the unfortunate departed would become a vampire. In the 13th century, Pope Gregory declared that blacks cats belonged to Satan. This was a bad period for these felines. They where hunted and killed by many.
In Teutonic countries a cat, and sometimes a dog, was made to run into a new house before others entered it, as a precaution against possible accidents, but if a strange tortoise-shell colored cat comes into the house, it is considered very unlucky. However, tom-cats of this color are highly prized in Japan, where they are thought to be a effective preventive against shipwreck.
A cat washing one ear three times, expect visitors from the direction in which the cat is looking. If a grooming cat puts its paw around its right ear, it was said to mean that a gentleman will soon come to visit; around the left ear, it meant a lady. If a strange black cat suddenly enters your house, it is a omen of good fortune. However, do not try to chase it away or harm it in any way, because bad luck will then befall you.
If a cat sneezes the day before a wedding, in the USA it means bad luck, but elsewhere it is supposed to mean the marriage will be a happy one. In England, if a cat sneezes thrice, it means a cold will run through the family. If a black cat crosses your path, it is considered bad luck in the USA and some European countries, but a stroke of luck in Great Britain.
If a white cat crosses your path, you are a very lucky individual. Meeting three black cats in succession it is also good luck, as well if a gray cat crosses your path. But if a black cat walks under a ladder, it means the next person who climbs it will have ill luck. Whoever kills a cat will never have good luck.
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Sources: (1) Dunwich, Gerina, A Wiccan's Guide to Prophecy and Divination, Carol Publishing Group; (2) Davies, Thomas W., Magic, Divination, and Demonology among the Hebrews and their Neighbors, Kessinger Publishing; (3) Johnstone, Jane, and Pilkington, Maya (editors), The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Fortune Telling, Sterling; (4) Buckland, Raymond, The Fortune-Telling Book: The Encyclopedia of Divination and Soothsaying, Visible Ink Press.
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