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The Magic of Cats, by Andrew Anderson

The Magic of Cats, by Andrew Anderson
Moon Books, 1803410663, 120 pages, May 2023

Just when you think you know everything about cats, Andrew Anderson comes along and opens your eyes to a whole new world–a world of stark contrasts between the cat of the night–with his lunar connection and the cat of the day with her built in solar panels. Both of whom are similar in so many ways but love to remind us of their differences. 

The Magic of Cats takes us way back, all the way to the Chinese creation myth that cats were sent by the gods to protect and look after humans, a task which they ultimately failed at, and instead became our silent, judging companions. 

As a lover of cats and a human who has been fortunate enough to be given the honor of living with a cat, I instantly knew I had to read this book. My cat, who I refer to as my familiar, is a definitive cat of the night. She’s like a little ninja, becoming a shadow when needed. Stalking her prey with her murder mittens, then flouncing back home ready for belly rubs, head bumps, and snoot boops.

We try our best to turn these kitties into snuggly, fluffy balls of floof, and although they tolerate it to an extent, they’re inevitably the rulers of any roost, as Andrew makes quite clear. Cats have prowled this earth for millenia, with us mere humans at their beck and call, and that’s not about to change any time soon.

I’d like to take this opportunity to offer a trigger warning, although Andrew doesn’t dwell on the harmful behaviour that cats have endured from humans in the past, he doest cover it. He doesn’t go into great detail, but if you’d prefer to not read about it, maybe skip past pages 32 and 33.

Anderson has split the book into two sections, each with their own chapters: “The Cat of the Night” and “The Cat of the Day”.

The witches among you will most likely be familiar with the cat of the night. They are sneaky and slinky and receive their energies from the moon. These are the cats who humans have sadly feared at times, when actually they should be celebrating their feline ways. If the Chinese creation myth is to be believed, then the cats of the world will be all seeing and all knowing, something which I’m surprised wasn’t taken into account in the historical treatment of cats.

And then on the other hand we have the cat of the day. The one who worships and soaks up the sun, he’s cunning and clever and knows exactly how to win your heart.

It is apparent, aside from Anderson telling us in his introduction, that he adores cats. They are and always have been a huge part of his world.

So much so that he was inspired to write the poem “The Cat of the Night and The Cat of the Day (A story for kittens of all ages)”. This narrative poem is a beautiful representation of how sacred we view cats to be (and with good reason). Anderson’s poem is accompanied by the gorgeous illustrations created by artist, Hannah Willow, and the beauty that she brings out of his words is ‘purr-fect.’

Cats are ever present throughout our history, whether feared or revered. We live and love alongside our feline friends. Never really knowing what they’re thinking, but hoping that deep down they feel something for us. And from reading The Magic of Cats, Anderson gives me the confidence that on some level they do.

Nevertheless, whether it’s reciprocated or not, we always invite them into our lives, as we’re all fully aware of that precious feeling we get when, just for a fleeting moment, a cat makes us believe that we are noticed in its world.

Then you realize all the cat wants is your chicken sandwich, and he or she may allow you to give them a head scritch, but only for precisely 4.5 seconds. Because you, measly human, are not worthy of anything else. 

The Magic of Cats is a wonderful way to find a deeper connection to your furry freeloading roommate. And also, to dip into the history of cats of the world, how they’re represented in religion and where they feature in myth and legend.

Anderson has encapsulated these magnificent creatures in his powerful poem, of which he says:

 “…imagines a story told by a mother cat to her kittens, explaining how the world was created and why we alternate between periods of light and dark.”1 

It really cements the connection we can have with our cats, the magic we can share. We all have two sides to us, and I believe we can all find shared similarities in the cat of the night and the cat of the day when we look inside.

Artio and Artaois, by Andrew Anderson

Pagan Portals – Artio and Artaois: A Journey Toward the Celtic Bear Gods, by Andrew Anderson
Moon Books, 1789044626, 120 pages, July 2021

When I picked up Pagan Portals – Artio and Artaois: A Journey Toward the Celtic Bear Gods by Andrew Anderson, I really had no idea what the book would be like. This was my first time reading a book from the Pagan Portals series, so I didn’t know what I’d find inside. Mythology, spirituality, anthropology, history? It turns out this new book in this series hits all of those at once!

Anderson invites the reader to ride along on his intriguing journey to discover the identity and importance of this pair of Celtic bear deities. This pilgrimage begins as an investigation of a protective ursine spirit guarding his home and ends with the conclusion that this divine duo may be some of the eldest deities worshipped by mankind!

Anderson’s journey begins with a synchronicity: seeing Artio’s name and image in a social media post. This became significant soon after, when Anderson sent out a general plea for a higher power to help protect his home. He saw a vision of a great, spectral she-bear (later identified as Artio) standing guard above his house. Spurred by this spectacular manifestation, Anderson felt an immediate connection to this deity and decided to begin a pilgrimage of discovery to learn more about Her.

Initial research revealed precious little about the she-bear goddess, but Anderson followed the bear’s historical pawprints into mainland Europe: from Luxembourg to Germany to Switzerland. In Bern, Anderson found the most compelling piece of evidence: a sculpture dedicated to Artio amid a town with a long – and still-standing tradition of venerating bears. It was here where Anderson really begins to put the pieces together, using keen observation and insight to bring this investigation to life for the reader. His evocative description of Artio’s sculpture and meditation on the bear’s presence and energy drew me right in, as if personally introducing me to the goddess.

Anderson does brilliant work of incorporating research from other scholars into his discussion, but also uses their ideas as launching points for his own, perceptive insights about Artio. Regarding the sculpture in Bern – which includes not only the bear, but a tree and a woman holding a basket of fruit as well – he disagrees with many scholars that the tree is merely a symbol of the bear’s forest habitat. Anderson argues instead the tree has a deeper significance: there is a connection between it and the she-bear as symbols of rebirth. He writes:

“The tree is very stylized, not identifiable as any particular genus of tree and seems to have a somewhat phallic acorn pointing over the bear’s back. . . taken together, the bear, the human, the fruit and the tree present a powerful image of rebirth and plenty, a dedication to an extremely powerful protective mother. . .”1

One of the most surprising and fascinating sections of the book comes from mythological connections that Anderson investigates, particularly with regard to Artaois, Artio’s masculine counterpart. Continuing to trace the history of bear imagery into the United Kingdom, Anderson’s research suggests that past rulers associated themselves with bears in order to stylize themselves after the legendary King Arthur. Indeed, the characterization of Artaois seems to share many similarities with the great king: a protector of his people, a mighty warrior, and a craftsman. Even the linguistic connection between ‘Arthur’ and ‘artos,’ the Welsh root for “bear,” makes one think it’s quite likely that the spirit of Arthur has its root in the divine nature of the bear god.

I absolutely love this weaving of the spiritual and mythic worlds that Anderson presents. Although the question is left open as to how much the worship of Artaois influenced the tales of King Arthur – and Anderson thinks we should definitely not just conflate the two – the question itself invited me into the realm of archetypal thinking. I found myself engaged with questions of how our ancestors might have migrated over time from worshipping these ursine gods to idealizing a human figure, as both represent the positive qualities we desire from the masculine side of a great ruler.

These thoughts flowed right into the next chapter of the book, where Anderson takes what he has learned about Artio and Artaois and begins to search many other cultures of the world for the significance of bears. I was shocked to learn that bear worship – or, at the very least, sacred respect for these creatures – is among the most ancient forms of human reverence. Artio, the she-bear, may indeed be one of the most primordial representations of the Great Mother!

In the final chapters of the book, Anderson finds that even bears in popular media: such as the film, Brave, and the video game, Smite. I loved his inclusion of the contemporary media portrayal of bears, as it is very enticing for me to now go and look at these sources with fresh eyes, paying attention to how they capture the spirit of these ancient bear deities. And for those interested in taking up a spiritual practice focused on bears, Anderson provides several suggestions for creating your own rituals – including the ancient rite of the Bear Feast!

I highly recommend Artio and Artaois to anyone wishing to learn more about bears – not only the animals themselves, but also the relationship that humankind has had to these creatures throughout our history and beyond. It’s also important to note that bear populations have vastly declined in recent centuries, especially due to habitat destruction for human expansion. Throughout the book, Anderson firmly encourages the reader to consider our connection with these magnificent creatures so that we might help to restore them to a place of high honor and treat them with the reverence that our ancestors had once offered.