We’re in ur history messin with all ur artifacts!

Meghan M. here. In addition to liking cats a lot, I also like history a lot. As a cat obsessed wannabe art historian some of my favorite artifacts are those related to kitties, and there are plenty to choose from. People in the past liked cats a lot too, and immortalized them in everything from precious statues of Bastet (as we’ve discussed on here before) to doodles, like this one I snapped a pic of on a trip to England a few years ago.

Medieval cat graffiti!

Medieval cat graffiti in the cloisters of Salisbury Cathedral

So people been historically cat loving, but cats themselves have been leaving their mark on the histories as well! Literally.

Cat prints in fifteenth-century manuscript

Cat prints in fifteenth-century manuscript

A few months ago this photo taken by phd student Emir O. Filipović in the Dubrovnik State Archives “went viral” and let the whole internet know that yes, cats have -always- been the same (read all about it on his site http://theappendix.net/blog/2013/3/of-cats-and-manuscripts) I think all us cat lovers can feel a profound sense of understanding and connection with this unknown medieval scribe and his cat who just would not keep off his books. Or as Filipović puts it,
The photo of the cat paw prints represents one such situation which forces the historian to take his eyes from the text for a moment, to pause and to recreate in his mind the incident when a cat, presumably owned by the scribe, pounced first on the ink container and then on the book, branding it for the ensuing centuries. You can almost picture the writer shooing the cat in a panicky fashion while trying to remove it from his desk.
Yep, been there. But that scribe got off pretty easy, compared to…

Yep, that's cat pee.

Yep, that’s cat pee.

Another fifteenth century scribe, writing around 1420 in Deventer, left his partially finished manuscript open to a blank page one night. The next morning he found that someone else had left some uh, pungent commentary in the book. So he drew a picture of a cat by the stain and wrote:
Hic non defectus est, sed cattus minxit desuper nocte quadam. Confundatur pessimus cattus qui minxit super librum istum in nocte Daventrie, et consimiliter omnes alii propter illum. Et cavendum valde ne permittantur libri aperti per noctem ubi cattie venire possunt.
[Here is nothing missing, but a cat urinated on this during a certain night. Cursed be the pesty cat that urinated over this book during the night in Deventer and because of it many others [other cats] too. And beware well not to leave open books at night where cats can come.]

Read more about cats peeing on books in the Middle Ages at http://medievalfragments.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/paws-pee-and-mice-cats-among-medieval-manuscripts/

Paw prints and pissing aside, cats were a vital part of scriptorium life, catching mice (which liked to gnaw up the parchment) and keeping the monks company. The scholar and his cat, Pangur Bán , (which is totally the most adorable poem from medieval Ireland) describes a scribe’s friendship with his feline assistant (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pangur_Ban):

I and Pangur Ban my cat,
‘Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
‘Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill-will,
He too plies his simple skill.

‘Tis a merry task to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur’s way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light
.

By the way, the historical Pangur Bán lends his name to a character in the film Secret of Kells.

Which is adorable, and everyone should watch!

Which is adorable, and everyone should watch!

The animated Pangur Bán’s also inspired by this detail from the Chi-Rho page of the Book of Kells.

See, kitties!

See, kitties!

Manuscripts aren’t the only artifacts that show traces of cat mischief. In first-century Roman Britain a brick “lay green, awaiting the kiln, a cat walked across the wet clay and left its footprints before wandering off to do something else. The clay was fired, the prints fixed, and the brick itself presumably became a piece of a building or road.”

Yep, more paw prints.

Yep, more paw prints.


These ancient cat prints went on quite a journey, eventually ending up half way across the world in Canada, where the brick was used to build a wall in the nineteenth-century headquarters of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Fort Vancouver. Check it out: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/02/1-kitty-2-empires-2-000-years-world-history-told-through-a-brick/273320/

Today Gli the cat is continuing the proud tradition of his ancestors by getting all up in ur artifacts 24/7. He lives in Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

"He preaches the gospel of sunny spots and petting."

“He preaches the gospel of sunny spots and petting.”


He has a tumblr and it is absolutely fabulous: http://hagiasophiacat.tumblr.com/
Buzzfeed profiled him too: http://www.buzzfeed.com/summeranne/a-devout-cat-lives-at-the-hagia-sophia-in-istanbul

Even Grumpy Cat has an opinion on feline history. Gaze upon her insightful peer review at http://senseshaper.com/grumpy-cat-responds-to-erik-kwakkels-cat-paw-manuscript/

"Grumpy Cat has already written a paper on what you’re working on."

“Grumpy Cat has already written a paper on what you’re working on.”

I bet you have Grumpy Cat! Cats+History= Awesome!

We Like Cats 2.0

We know its been awhile since we’ve posted, but as of now this blog is officially rebooted for the new year!

Woo hoo indeed!

Woo hoo indeed!

Stateside, We Like Cats is still the domain of the wonderful Sarah H., Dora, and Sebastian!

Dora and Sebastian take their WLC duties very seriously.

Dora and Sebastian take their WLC duties very seriously.

Other americats Macha and Grey are now living with my brother and an old friend of mine respectively. Hopefully we’ll be able to get some guest correspodence from them some time!

Still a great team, even if now they have to plot with each other via secret cat telegraph.

Still a great team, even if now they have to plot with each other via secret cat telegraph.

In July the WLC Scandinavian office welcomed two kittens! Vergil and Dante are brothers-from-another-mother both fostered in the same home by some of the wonderful people associated with Eskilstuna’s Livbojen för Hemlösa Katter! When me (Meghan M.) and Oskar first adopted them they looked like this…

Tiny Dante, tiny Vergil!

Tiny Dante, tiny Vergil!

Now they’re seven months old.

They've gotten a bit bigger.

They’ve gotten a bit bigger.

Dante is a sleek and slender domestic shorthair expert in parkour and making adorable (and usually kinda stoned looking) sleepy faces. Vergil is a spirited (ie. lovingly aggressive) skogkatt whose warbling war cries can be heard echoing throughout the apartment as he chases everything from Dante to his own magnificently fluffy tail. Together the two adorable terrors make life endlessly entertaining for everyone involved!

Sadly, in addition to gaining the boys, we also lost a member of our feline family since the last post of WLC 1.0. In early October 2012 our katt Shanti came down with severe respiratory trouble and though she held out bravely for many days did not recover. She was one of the sweetest, cleverest and most beautiful cats I’ve ever met or been privileged to be owned by.

All hail Queen Smileycat!

All hail Queen Smileycat!

Once she got used to them, she was not only a great friend to me and Oskar, but also treated Vergil and Dante like her own furry children, even grooming them thoroughly -and often against their will- on a regular basis (and man did they need it)! We all miss her very very much and like to think she’s now happily watching over her naughty sons from the golden hall of the goddess Freyja, where Norse mythology holds that all cats go to lounge and play in their tenth life.

<3

Some of WLC 2.0s coming posts for this year will hopefully catch up on what else all of us have been up to since the interwebs heard from us last, as well as broadcasting the current exploits of our transatlantic cats and their people!
Including a high chance of this.

So, in short…we are back! We still like cats! We still like them A LOT!

This is our katt.

The Swedish office of welikecats is proud to present today’s guest blogger, OskarM, introducing the newest member of our international cat syndicate…

[Oskar] This is what was posted to the shelter we adopted Shanti (a sanskrit word for “peace”; very apt considering her shy and loving nature) from (Livbojen för Hemlösa Katter – or, roughly translated; “the Lifesaver for Homeless Cats”) – who in turn had rescued her from a very abusive home – in order to update them on how she was doing. Except in swedish, now presented in english for your international edification.

Greetings from Shanti and her new mommy and daddy!

Here things are progressing fast forward. The first day in her new home Shanti was understandably shy and cautious; she stayed in her carrier for a while, then she found a little hideyhole in a niche between a bookshelf and the couch, and after a few hours there it was onwards to underneath the bed where she stayed for the rest of the day.

“I have found this corner and made it mine, because it is safe.”


After that each day has brought with it more exploring, cuddling and playing, and social contact-seeking. It’s a constant joy to see how fast our little girl is getting settled in, bolder and more content with her surroundings.

“Mmm, catnip! Playplayplay. Hey! What are you looking at, human?”


She answers when you call her name, and (sometimes – she is after all still a *cat*) comes when you call her. Sometimes she likes to be petted so much that she practically headbutts your hand in her eagerness. And that it is actually more comfortable to lay on the bed than under it, a smart cat-gal figured out right quick!

“Bed is full.”


We’ve also observed that Shanti is a rather carefully regulated young lady, with her very own schedule. The day is for sleeping mostly, most often in her favorite “bed”; an open drawer full of sweaters in the walk-in closet. Sometime between 7 and 9 PM it’s time to wake up and come out, and then it is time for cuddling, playing, exploring (and some more napping, but out in the open) and of course eating & drinking and going to the litterbox as well! And then sometime well into the early morning hours when mommy and daddy are being boring and asleep, then it’s time to prowl into the closet and find one of Meghan’s nice soft sweaters to go to sleep on top of.

“Drawer is full.”

And that’s all from me for this time, folks!

Midsommar!

Shortly after arriving ‘i Sverige’ I (Meghan M.) took part in a strange ritual. A seasonal celebration of intense swedishness…Midsommar! Midsommar (or Midsummer if you prefer to be anglicized about it) is the yearly celebration of the summer solstice. As wikipedia mentions (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midsummer), Midsummer celebrations have taken place all over Europe since time immemorial. Midsummer is especially important in Scandinavian countries-in Sweden the only holiday that’s more celebrated than Midsummer is Christmas- because as you can imagine in places where its pretty much dark for months in winter the brightest and longest day of the year is waaay exciting. This year Oskar and I engaged in the solstice revelries at a historic former iron working village.

An important part of celebrating Midsommar is DRINKING! The most traditional drink is snaps, but we didn’t have any (well, at least not then, we drank snaps later at his dad Sven’s) so we just downed a bunch of red wine and beer while eating cheese and lolling on a blanket next to a picturesque stream on the village green because that’s what you do in Europe.

Revelry

Lots of people wear traditional Swedish folk dress on Midsommar.

Fiber arts yay!

And traditional Midsommar flower wreaths.

As we finished up our picnic a not so solemn procession came in to view…

Note the Swedish clarinet players

It was the people carrying the centerpiece of all Swedish Midsommar gatherings, the Midsommar pole! Midsommar poles (midsommarstång) are giant maypoles decorated with flower garlands and wooden figures. Midsommar is a time to celebrate the fertility and abundance of the world, and the pole penetrating the ground symbolizes the earth being made fertile. In fact, one of the most traditional designs for midsommarstång includes two circles hanging from a cross bar at the top of the pole…

In case the phallic overtones would be too subtle otherwise?

Not suprisingly Midsommar is also a traditionally favored time for getting it on and making little swedes.

A little Swede

The Midsommar pole at this village is rather unusual, instead of the balls it has seven elaborately woven baskets made of leaves and blossons which are carried in and fitted over the wooden trunk.After the baskets were in place, the complicated process of raising the pole began. The Swedes aren’t having any fancy ass modern equipment in the middle of their age old seasonal ceremonies, so raising the Midsommar pole is done entirely by hand.

Up…

Or rather hand and sticks to be more precise. The pole is raised by a combination of really tall Swedes holding it up and careful levering upwards by using other wooden poles as braces.

Up up

There were a couple guys who had pointed wooden pikes who start each push upwards by moving and stabbing the pike into a new part of the pole, after which the other wooden supports are shifted. Its all very impressively teamwork-y!

Up up up

This Midsommar pole also had a pretty sweet Swedish weather vane thing on top.

When the pole finally drops into the hole dug for it and is fully erected, everybody cheers!

Yay!

The band strikes up the Swedish folk songs, everybody joins hands, and its time to dance around!

Around and around!

A highlight of the festivities is always the Frog Dance, where you sing about little frogs and how funny they are because they don’t have any tales or noses awakaka awakaka awakakakakakaka while moving in a circle and doing the appropriate hand motions!

Små grodorna!

Like this!

Ahhh, Gud välsigne Sverige!

Swedish Midsommar is helvete-a fun and the European office of welikecats would like to extend an invitation for everybody to come over and experience it for yourselves! In preparation, I recommend this handy youtube video (in English for us poor not Swedes)!

Because Ancient Egyptians Like Cats (a lot) Too

Beloved Bastet, mistress of happiness and bounty, twin of the Sun God, slay the evil that afflicts our minds as you slay the serpent Apep. With your graceful stealth anticipate the moves of all who perpetrate cruelties and stay their hands against the children of light. Grant us the joy of song and dance, and ever watch over us in the lonely places in which we must walk – Ancient Egyptian Prayer to the Goddess Bastet

 

 

I touched a penguin. Touched like five.

I touched penguins! Gus and I went to the Newport Aquarium, and they have this “penguin encounter” for which you can pay extra. Totally worth it. I got to touch penguins. They felt very smooth. I also got to get my picture taken with penguins. I will include this for your viewing pleasure.

 

 

And I made a video of the penguins! It’s not exactly riveting, but it is my closest video of up close penguin action. Oh, it seems like I have to host videos somewhere off-site. I guess I’ll get a YouTube account at some point, but for now you’ll just have to imagine how awesome they were. I was sitting in the corner, and one of them spent the whole time leaning on my leg. It was AMAZING! She also pulled on my pants leg a little.

 

In other Kentucky news, Gus and I went to Brewfest with some of my City Girl friends, but we also ran into Cassie and Owen! By the time we had spent all our tickets we were the teensiest bit drunk, and Owen tested his theory that the most ridiculous poses look best on camera. Since trying to look good results in double chins and such, he thought that maybe a strange position would photograph well. I leave the verdict to you.

I think he looks very pretty.

 

Oh, and I’m on the final bit of my Boys and Girls Club interview, the drug test! And unless Gus has been feeding me drugs in my sleep, I should pass. This means that I’ll soon be wrangling children and hoping they don’t smell my fear! Wish me luck!