Cats in Ancient Egypt: 6 Fascinating Facts

Cats in Ancient Egypt: 6 Fascinating Facts

The internet is rife with cats: cat videos, cat memes, there are even celebrity cats! But if you think that modern folks are cat-crazy you should have been around in Ancient Egypt.  

Cats were highly regarded in Ancient Egypt, which is evidenced by the overwhelming presence of cats in Egyptian art. Egyptians left behind cat statues, mummified cats, and worshiped gods who had cat features.  

Curious to know more? We’ve got 6 illuminating facts about cats in Ancient Egypt.

1. The first known depiction of a domestic cat in Egypt appears on a tomb that dates to 1950 B.C.E. Though cats were common in Egypt, for a long time they were simply valued as helpful eliminators of vermin. It was only overtime that they became house pets and were later seen as sacred.

 2. Cast were not necessarily worshipped as gods, but were thought to have important connections to various feline goddesses. The most notable goddess was Bastet, who was initially depicted as lioness and overtime resembled a short-haired domestic cat. Bastet was worshipped as a divine mother, a protector, and a guardian against evil spirits. By the first millennium B.C.E., she had gained something of a cult following in certain areas.

3. Cats who were cherished as pets were sometimes mummified, possibly in the hopes that they could join their owners in the after life. An analysis of certain cat mummies found that they contained the same embalming materials as those used in humans. Because of this, some researchers believe that, at least for some cats, embalmers took as much time and care in preparing them for the afterlife as they did for humans.    

4. The Roman scholar, Herodotus, recorded in his notes that when a beloved household cat died, Egyptians shaved their eyebrows. This was sign of mourning, a period that was deemed officially over when their eyebrows grew back.

5. While cats were highly revered, evidence also suggests that cats were bred specifically bred for religious sacrifice. Priests raised cats who were then killed, mummified and given as votive offerings to Bastet. Religious pilgrims could pay to have a cat mummified for this very purpose. X-rays of cat mummies reveal that some don’t even contain actual remains; the demand for offerings was so high that there were not enough cats to go around!

6. While Egyptian were not the first ones to domesticated cats, it is believed that their love of the animal greatly contributed to the cat’s popularity. A surge in Egyptian cat breeding helped create the domestic creatures we now know and love.

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The True Meaning of Aloha

The True Meaning of Aloha

Think of Hawaii and what comes to mind? Beaches, ukuleles, and...aloha! Aloha is practically synonymous with Hawaii: tourists on the islands might be tickled to find the word everywhere, from shop signs to advertisements. And even if you haven’t taken a visit to the island, pop culture has guaranteed that you’ve heard the word at least once.

It’s a common belief that aloha is simply a way to say hello or goodbye. But this usage of the word is relatively modern, dating back to the 19th century. If we if learn about the true meaning of aloha, we see that it is more akin to namaste in India or shalom in Judaism.   

Aloha does not have an exact English translation, but some have compared it to the word love. While aloha is not quite as intimate as the Western concept of love, saying aloha is more than mere politeness.

To address someone with aloha is to express genuine warmth, affection, and compassion. In Hawaii, there is the saying that one must “live in the aloha spirit", and to do so is to embody these concepts in your relationships and interactions with others. Living in the aloha spirit means that you embrace individuals with kindness and mutual regard. 

The aloha spirit is such a key part of island culture that it is actually written into Hawaii’s state constitution. If one reads through Hawaii Revised Statutes (State Law): [§5-7.5] Aloha Spirit, you can get a clear sense of what it is. The law not only provides an extensive definition, but also the following breakdown: 

Akahai, meaning kindness to be expressed with tenderness
Lokahi, meaning unity, to be expressed with harmony
Oluolu, meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness
Haahaa, meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty
Anohui, meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance

While the aloha spirit is written into Hawaii’s official law, it’s important to remember that this law is not so much an order as it is a reminder of the concept's significance. This is especially true for public officials who work in the service of the people. The law’s existence encourages them to extend a sense of warmth and love to their daily duties.

Some have said that the aloha spirit and its aura of laid-back warmth is one of the most appealing aspects of visiting Hawaii. But even if you don’t live on the island or plan on taking a trip any time soon, knowing the meaning of the word can make you appreciate it so much more. Aloha!  

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5 Common English Words From Other Languages: Foods

5 Common English Words From Other Languages: Foods

Cultures borrow and exchange ideas, art, and –you guessed it-words! The English language is full of terms that are adapted or borrowed directly from other countries and cultures. Check out the following words and learn their linguistic origins.

This week, we’re looking at the names of foods. We’re guessing you consume at least one of these edibles on a regular basis. Check out where they get their names from!  

Lemon

Pucker up! This sour fruit originally gets its name from Arabic via Europe. Lemon comes from the French word, limon, which in turn comes from the Arabic word for citrus fruit, līmūn. Thinking about the origins, this may explain why lemon doesn’t phonetically stray too far from another familiar fruit, limes. 

Potato

Be it fried, mashed, or baked, who doesn’t love a potato? While we might associate potatoes with Ireland, the word for potato comes from the Spanish word, patata, which in turn is derived from the Taino word, batata. Batatas referred to the sweet potatoes that were native to the Caribbean islands and that Christopher Columbus brought back to Europe. However, for quite some time, the word potato was used to refer to both sweet potatoes and white potatoes (white potatoes being discovered later in the 1500s by Spanish explorers). Eventually, potato referred specifically and predominantly to white potatoes, since this crop grew much more abundantly in the British Isles than did the sweet potato 

Tea

The word for one of the world’s most popular hot beverages also comes from its country of origin: China! Tea was known by many names throughout Chinese history, but it is thought that the word tea comes from the city of Amoy, where Fujian dialects referred to the beverage as . Amoy served as a major port city, and through interactions with traders from all over the world, eventually became tea.   

Ketchup

Our favorite topper for fries comes from China. But the tomato sauce we love actually started out as fish sauce, which was called ke-tchup in Chinese Hokkien dialect. In the 17th century, the sauce made its way over to Europe via sailors who had taken a liking to its flavors. Folks began modifying the original recipe with a variety of local ingredients, and ketchup eventually came to refer to any sort of spicy sauce being served with a meal. It wasn’t until the 19th century that tomato became a key ingredient.  

Punch

Punch is one the most popular go-to beverages for parties, meetings, and holiday gatherings. Punch is said to derive from the Sanskrit word, pañc, which means five. This might seem surprising until you learn that punch was considered the world’s first cocktail and consisted of five key ingredients (alcohol, sugar, lime, spices, and water). Punch was brought over to Europe by English sailors traveling from India. The first recorded use of the word punch appears in British documents from 1632.

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Sky High: A Bengali Folktale

Bengali Folktail

 

Years ago, the sky was very close to earth – so close you could stand on a stool and touch it. On the horizon, where the sky seemed to meet the earth, was a little village. An old woman, gnarled and bent, lived there in her thatched, straw hut.

No one knew how old she was but she must have been ancient, for she had no family or friends left and lived alone. All day, she pottered around cleaning, scrubbing, dusting or sweeping inside and outside her hut.

One summer, the air was so dry that dust enveloped the village. Trees, rooftops, people’s noses, eyes and throats were filmed with dust. People couldn’t stop coughing, choking and sneezing. The sky too was victim to this; even the slightest breeze would raise dust and cause it to cough violently.


This did not deter the old lady. She just kept sweeping, unmindful of the dust that rose into the air in vast clouds of brown.


The hapless sky began to choke from the dust she raised. Dust tickling its nose and throat soon led to sneezes – large, loud ones that shook the earth with thunder. People ran indoors, fearful for their safety. Except the old woman who simply went on sweeping.


“ACHHOOO! Oh, this is unbearable!” exclaimed the sky. Its eyes began to water; the drops fell as rain onto the dry land below. One fat raindrop fell on the ground that the old woman had just swept.


Straightening up, the crone glared at the offender and scrubbed off the raindrop. But more and more drops followed until her doorstep was wet and slushy.


Oh the nerve of that sky! Enraged, the old woman screamed at it, cursing and threatening. But the helpless sky couldn’t stop, its eyes clogged with all the dust from her sweeping.


Maddened by this disobedience, the woman lifted her broom and smacked it on the sky. Another THWACK! And another, and another.


The poor sky couldn’t tolerate the curses, the dust and above all, the whacks from the broom. Sniffing, coughing, tears coursing down, the sky upped and flew higher and higher, beyond the reach of that awful broom, swearing never to descend. And that’s how the sky became so high!

 

Adapted from: http://www.longlongtimeago.com/llta_folktales_whyskyhigh_page03.html

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Thoughts of the Week: Proverbs on Gratitude

 

Current research on gratitude is proving what many cultures have known all along: gratitude is physically and emotionally good for us. Science has shown that people who have gratitude benefit from everything from high self esteem to improved sleep. And even while gratitude can't solve all our problems, it sure helps us feel better about where we are in life.

Proverbs are considered proverbs for a reason: their wisdom is witty, succinct, and timeless, no matter the subject at hand! Here are are three proverbs on gratitude that don’t need scientific backing to feel true.


Luck and gratitude are subjective. So long as we feel lucky, then we are lucky! There is no one to tell us otherwise. Others may have money, fame, fortune: but if they don’t have gratitude then what's the point?   

 

 

There is so much we don’t control, and much of what happens to us is out of our hands. We may wish for more in life, but that doesn’t mean we will get more. Instead, let us embrace what is already here: whether it’s a loving family, a place to call home, or even something small like a good cup of coffee. 

 

 

We can’t wait for gratitude to show up. We have to put in the effort to generate it within. Start small! Begin a gratitude journal and start counting your blessings. The more blessings you accumulate, the more life will suddenly feel brighter and better.   

 



 

 

 

 

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Aztec Gods

Aztec Gods

They may not be common household names, but the gods of Aztec mythology are a colorful lot, giving us an insight into a complex and great civilization. The Aztecs' polytheistic religion included several figures, many of which were adapted and incorporated from previous Mesoamerican civilizations. Here are some of the major deities. 

Huitzilopochtli

The patron deity of the Aztecs, Huitzilopochtli guided them from their homeland Aztlan to their final destination in the Mexico Valley. Huitzilopochtli represented the sun that battles daily against darkness to keep the human race alive. To sustain him, nothing less than sacrificial blood would do. Victims were ritually slain over four days at the inaugural of his temple at Tenochtitlan, the city which lies beneath modern Mexico. He is a warrior-leader with the motifs of a hummingbird and serpent tail woven into his iconography.

Tlaloc

So deeply did the Aztecs fear the god of rain and fertility – he could destroy humanity with floods or droughts – that they offered him their children’s lives. He was a frightening figure with bulging eyes and fangs, clad in red with a headdress of green feathers. Tlaloc ruled over Tlalocan, a green heaven and final abode of those died from water-related causes like drowning, lightning or waterborne ailments.

Quetzalcoatl

The god of culture, arts and learning. Inventor of science, lord of healing, corn and all that is good. Quetzalcoatl is typically associated with a plumed snake. The feathers belong to the beautiful Quetzal bird, native to Mexico, whose name means “most cherished”. The god is said to emerge from the feathered snake – a sight as beautiful as Venus rising in the east. When Hernan Cortes, the Spanish conquistador marched into their land, the Aztecs took him to be an incarnation of Quetzalcoatl who, it was prophesied, would one day return from the east to reclaim his land.

Tezcatlipoca

Quetzalcoatl’s equal and his mirror opposite, Tezcatlipoca presides over darkness. He is the god of temptation, the dark arts, war and beauty. He promotes discord, but also punishes evildoers with poverty and disease. Tezcatlipoca presides over human destiny; Aztec parents attributed the looks of their newborn to his whims. Associated with the jaguar, Tezcatlipoca typically has a blue eye mask and an obsidian mirror instead of a right foot. Sometimes, he wears a deer hoof, proof of his swiftness

*Picture above: Aztec Wall Calendar, 10 Inches

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Sterling Silver Triskelion Celtic Pendant. Available at https://www.culturalelements.com/products/sterling-silver-celtic-triskele-pendant

Celtic Cultural Icons

Triskelion

The Triskelion, which resembles a stick figure sprinting forward, derives its name from the Greek term for “three-legged”. Appropriately, it stands for progress, action and competition. The three prongs have acquired various meanings through different periods of history, some of which are Body/Mind/Spirit, Father/Mother/Child, Father/Son/Holy Ghost and Creation/Preservation/Destruction. From these dual components of motion and the various triadic representations, it is surmised that the Triskelion symbolizes moving ahead to reach an understanding of something.

Celtic Divinities

Celtic deities, like those from other ancient cultures, represented a higher power and immortality, yet possessed human characteristics. They were often depicted on tapestry, jewelry and carvings on buildings.

Cernunnos (“Horned One”) sports a stag’s antlers on his head, the animal being a Celtic symbol of sexuality and fertility. Typically, Cernunnos was invoked for a plentiful harvest and on wedding nights. He was a shape-shifter and could assume the forms of a snake or a wolf as well.

Epona was the Earth goddess depicted as seated upon a horse, another fertility symbol. Pregnant women prayed to her for a safe delivery and farmers for a good crop. She also presided over the transitions of seasons.

Taranis the Thunder God was believed to pierce the sky when he’d had too much Celtic mead to drink. Mead being a must-have during weddings and victory celebrations, Taranis was perceived as a jolly and fun-loving deity. When angered however, he smote wrongdoers with lightning bolts. He is depicted on a chariot, the galloping of his horses’ hooves producing the sound of thunder and streaks of lightning in the sky.

Celtic Knot

The complex and aesthetically appealing Celtic knot has intrigued symbologists for years. It is also referred to as the “endless knot”, since it seems to have no beginning or end. This quality of infinity is reminiscent of the endless cycle of life, death and rebirth. Those who believed it had mystic attributes used it as a charm to ward off sickness or obstacles that blocked the smooth course of life. The knots, in their varied representations, are often used as motifs for jewelry, apparel and items of home décor. In former times, gifts would be decorated with these mystic knots and offered with wishes for good luck or long life. Many knots are associated with folk legends.

Celtic Animals

The Celts frequently used animal symbols in their clothing, jewelry, carvings and tapestries. Similar to other ancient cultures, Celtic animal symbols had specific human virtues and attributes. In worship, they would invoke the spirit of a particular animal whose qualities they desired to emulate. However, much of the information available on these symbols is conjectural in nature since historical records of Celtic culture are sketchy.

The Bull was deeply revered as a symbol of willpower, virility and wealth. It also stood for obstinacy and an uncompromising nature. As a major food source for the Celts, it represented wealth. 

The Cat was believed to be the gatekeeper to the spirit world, a symbolism that originated with the ancient Egyptians and crossed over to Ireland with the Romans. The Celts believed that invoking the cat could gift a person with insight into esoteric truths. 

The mythic Griffin, half-lion and half-eagle symbolizes duality, a mix of positive and negative attributes. Its ‘good’ qualities include justice, kindness, strength and nobility – it was frequently seen on ancient tombs, as a protector of the dead. When invoked for selfish causes, the griffin wreaks vengeance and unleashes negative forces like violence and gluttony. Considering its extreme powers, due respect would be offered when invoking the spirit of this magnificent animal.

*Pictured above: Sterling Silver Celtic Triskelion Pendant

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The Great River Dragons- A Chinese Folktale

The Great River Dragons- A Chinese Folktale

Eons ago, no lakes or rivers flowed upon earth. There was only the great Eastern Sea, within which lived four dragons: Yellow Dragon, Black Dragon, Pearl Dragon and Long Dragon.

One day, the foursome soared into the skies and were indulging in a game of hide-and-seek among the clouds when they spotted activity below on earth. Several people were arranging cakes and fruits and lighting incense sticks.

One silver-haired old woman knelt in prayer, her eyes raised heavenwards.

“Dear God in heaven, please send us rain. We have no food for our children.”

The dragons were shocked and sad. Long Dragon spoke.

“We must help these starving people. Let’s inform the Jade Emperor.”

The Jade Emperor, who reigned over all realms was displeased when the dragons rushed into his palace with no decorum whatsoever.

“Why are you here instead of your home in the sea?”

Long Dragon spoke first.

“Your Majesty, earth is in a crisis – there is no rain and the crops have withered. People are starving. I beg you, please send down the rain.”

The Jade Emperor, who had been enjoying some celestial music, was in no mood to work; to get rid of the dragons, he pretended to agree.

“I will send some rain tomorrow. Now leave.”

Ten days went by but there was no rain. On earth, people survived on bark and grass roots. The dragons realized that the Jade Emperor cared little about human suffering. They decided to do something themselves for the starving people on earth. But what could they do? Gazing upon the limitless ocean, Long Dragon came up with an idea.

“Look at our home, the sea – there is so much water in it. What if we scoop and spray it across the sky? The scattered drops will fall down like rain upon the fields below.”

The others nodded excitedly. Even the thought of the Jade Emperor’s disapproval could not contain their enthusiasm.

Filling their enormous mouths with water, the four magnificent creatures began spraying water drops across the vast canvas of the sky. Back and forth they went until plump, black clouds blotted out the sun. Soon, sheets of water cascaded down upon the parched land.

The villagers went wild with joy. In time, wilted stalks of wheat and sorghum revived and stood straight. All was well on earth. But the dragons were in trouble, for the sea god reported their activities to the Jade Emperor.

Pique and rage flitted across the Great One’s features. How dare these creatures create rain without his permission! Soon the four disobedient ones were arrested. There would be no mercy for them.

The Jade Emperor summoned the Mountain God.

“Get four huge mountains and place them upon the dragons, so that they can never escape,” he roared.

The Mountain God obeyed, imprisoning the dragons forever. But the four bravehearts were now more resolute than ever to serve the people on earth. Using their celestial powers, they became rivers that flowed through great mountain ranges and valleys from west to east, before joining the sea. The Black Dragon became Heilongjian up north, the Yellow River became central China’s Huanghe River , the Long Dragon transformed into the Changjiang (or Yangtze), while the Pearl Dragon is the Zhujiang in the far south.

Source: http://worldoftales.com/Asian_folktales/Asian_Folktale_6.html

Picture above: Sterling Silver Dragon Earrings with Garnet Gemstone

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