An Illustration from More English Fairy Tales from the story The King of the Cats.
|Sub grouping||Fairy, witch|
|Similar creatures||Phantom cat|
|Other name(s)||Cat Sidhe, Cath Sith, Cait Sidhe, Fairy Cat|
The Cat Sìth (Scottish Gaelic: [kʰaht̪ ˈʃiː]) or Cat Sidhe (Irish: [kat̪ˠ ˈʃiː], Cat Sí in new orthography) is a fairy creature from Celtic mythology, said to resemble a large black cat with a white spot on its chest. Legend has it that the spectral cat haunts the Scottish Highlands. The legends surrounding this creature are more common in Scottish folklore, but a few occur in Irish. Some common folklore suggested that the Cat Sìth was not a fairy, but a witch that could transform into a cat nine times.
As proposed by British cryptozoologist, Karl Shuker, in his book Mystery Cats of the World (1989), it is possible that the legends of the Cat Sìth were inspired by Kellas cats, which are probably a distinctive hybrid between Scottish wildcats and domestic cats only found in Scotland (the Scottish wildcat is a subspecies of the European wildcat, which is absent from elsewhere in the British Isles). Typical Kellas cats resemble large black wildcats, but with some peculiar features closer to domestic cats, and have probably been present in Scotland for centuries, maybe even some two millennia or more. Others believe that the Cat Sìth was inspired by the Scottish wildcat itself.
The King of the Cats
In the British folk tale The King of the Cats, a man comes home to tell his wife and cat, Old Tom, that he saw nine black cats with white spots on their chests carrying a coffin with a crown on it, and one of the cats tells the man to "Tell Tom Tildrum that Tim Toldrum is dead." The cat then exclaims, "What?! Old Tim dead! Then I'm the King o' the Cats!" Old Tom then climbs up the chimney and is never seen again.
The people of the Scottish Highlands did not trust the Cat Sìth. They believed that it could steal a person's soul before it was claimed by the gods by passing over a corpse before burial; therefore watches called the Feill Fadalach (Late Wake) were performed night and day to keep the Cat Sìth away from a corpse before burial. Methods of "distraction" such as games of leaping and wrestling, catnip, riddles, and music would be employed to keep the Cat Sìth away from the room in which the corpse lay. In addition, there were no fires where the body lay, as it was legend that the Cat Sìth was attracted to the warmth.
On Samhain, it was believed that a Cat Sìth would bless any house that left a saucer of milk out for it to drink, but those houses that did not let out a saucer of milk would be cursed into having all of their cows' milk dry.
Some people believed that the Cat Sìth was a witch that could transform voluntarily into its cat form and back eight times. If one of these witches chose to go back into their cat form for the ninth time, they would remain a cat for the rest of their lives. It is believed by some that this is how the idea of a cat having nine lives originated.
In popular culture
- Caith Sith is a recurring figure in the Final Fantasy series. It appeared as a summoned monster in Final Fantasy VI (called 'Stray' in the original English translation of the SNES version) and as a playable character in Final Fantasy VII in form of a robotic puppet of a black-and-white cat. After going through a major redesign, nine Cait Siths, numbered in Gaelic, appear in Final Fantasy XI's Wings of the Goddess expansion, as time travellers sent by the Goddess Altana to end the Crystal War. In Final Fantasy XIV, Caith Sith appears yet again to aid the player in the storyline around the Shadow of Mhach series of raid dungeons.
- A former server world for Final Fantasy XI (spelled Caitsith, as the word couldn't have the space). Players moved to the server Ragnarok.
- In the Dresden Files novel "Cold Days", Cat Sith is a powerful servant of the Queen of Air and Darkness, Mab.
- In the game Enchanted Folk and the School of Wizardry, Cat Sith is a mysterious blue cat that sets up shop in the Haunted House.
- In the manga Aria, a cat named Cat Sith has been the king of the cat kingdom in Aqua for at least 100 years.
- In the Kamen Rider Series tokusatsu show, Kamen Rider Wizard, a Phantom called Caitsith serves as the monster of episodes 4 and 5.
- A Cait Sith named "Kuro" ("Blackie") is tamed as a familiar, by main character Okumura Rin, in the Blue Exorcist manga and anime.
- The Cait Sith are a race within Alfheim Online in the Sword Art Online light novels and anime.
- Cait Shelter, with as its crest a multiple tailed cat, is the name of a guild in the Fairy Tail manga and anime.
- In the Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game, a series of cards based on mythical creatures called "The Fabled" contains a Cat Sith monster.
- In the video game Folklore, the Cait Sidhe is a species in the Faery Realm.
- In The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa, the character Grimalkin is referred to as a cait sith.
- In the Visual Novel Yume Miru Kusuri, one of the main characters assumes the alternate identity of "Cat Sidhe Nekoko" while under the influence of drugs.
- In the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire, the Cait Sidhe are a sub-race of fae who are ruled by the local King of Cats, Tybalt.
- In the MMORPG Mabinogi, a group of Cat Sith appear for a dungeon boss fight. They take the form of anthropomorphic cats armed with melee weapons.
- Cait Sith appears as an enemy in La-Mulana. Here it appears as an all-white (in the original version) or all-golden (in the remake) cat riding a ball, earning it the nickname Cat-Ball.
- The ending of Diane Duane's A Wizard Abroad mirrors the story of King of the Cats with the exception that the new monarch is female.
- Cat Sith is an archfiend in the videogame Soul Sacrifice.
- Aos Sí
- Celtic mythology in popular culture
- Cù Sìth
- Cath Palug
- Beast of Bodmin
- List of fictional cats
- Phantom cat
- The Black Cat (short story)
- MacGillivray, Deborah. "The Cait Sidhe". Retrieved 14 September 2012.
- Shuker, Karl P.N. (1989). Mystery Cats of the World. Robert Hale Ltd. ISBN 0-7090-3706-6.
- Matthews, John; Caitlín Matthews (2005). The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures. HarperElement. p. 91. ISBN 978-1-4351-1086-1.
- Grimassi, Raven (2000). Encyclopedia of Wicca and Witchcraft. St. Paul: Llewellyn. p. 76. ISBN 1-56718-257-7.
- Jacobs, Joseph (1894). "The King o' the Cats". More English Fairy Tales.