Cathars and Cat Worship

The following is an excerpt from Baphomet: The Temple Mystery Unveiled by Tracy R. Twyman and Alexander Rivera.

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The descriptions of many of these groups’ secret rites are quite clearly similar to what the Templars were accused of. For instance, in some of their confessions, Templar knights told of worshipping Baphomet in the form of a black cat, and kissing its anus instead of that of a goat. Likewise, according to Walter Mapes, as quoted by Thomas Wright, speaking of the Patarini of Milan:

Some apostates from this heresy, he tells us, had related that, at the first watch of night, they met in their synagogues, closed carefully the doors and windows, and waited in silence, until a black cat of extraordinary bigness descended among them by a rope, and that, as soon as they saw this strange animal, they put out the lights, and muttering through their teeth instead of singing their hymns, felt their way to this object of worship, and kissed it, according to their feelings of humility or pride, some on the feet, some under the tail, and others on the genitals, after which each seized upon the nearest person of a different sex, and had carnal intercourse as long as he was able.

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Waldensian heretics performing the Osculum Inflame (Obscene Kiss) on a cat, from Jean Tinctor, Traittié du crisme de vauderie, from Sermo contra sectam vaudensium (Sermon Against the Waldensians), 1465.

This connection with the figure of the cat is explored further by Wright, who conjectures that the Cathars were actually named after the animal. Noting that “the name of the . . . sect is often spelt Gazai, Gazeri, Gacari, and Chazari,” he relates:

It was suggested by Henschenius that this name was derived from the German Katze or Ketze, a cat, in allusion to the common report that they assembled at night like cats, or ghosts; or that the cat may have been an allusion to the belief that in their secret meetings they worshipped that animal.

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A Cathar group in Germany called the Stedingers were accused of worshipping the Devil in the form of a cat by Pope Gregory IX himself in the famous bull Vox in Rama of 1232. It is believed that this papal pronouncement led to the widespread bloody persecution of black cats throughout Christian Europe as “incarnations of Satan.” Some even claim that this led to a proliferation of rats and thus, outbreaks of plague. Thomas Wright, paraphrasing the bull, gives us the juicy details:

As the novice proceeded, he encountered a man who was extraordinarily pale, with large black eyes, and whose body was so wasted that his flesh seemed to be all gone, leaving nothing but the skin hanging on his bones. The novice kissed this personage, and found him as cold as ice; and after this all traces of the Catholic faith vanished from his heart. Then they all sat down to a banquet; and when this was over, there stepped out of a statue which stood in their place of meeting, a black cat, as large as a moderate sized dog, which advanced backwards to them, with its tail turned up. The novice first, then the master, and then all the others, in their turns, kissed the cat under the tail, and then returned to their places, where they remained in silence, with their heads inclined towards the cat. Then the master suddenly pronounced the words “Spare us!” which he addressed to the next in order; and the third answered, “We know it, lord;” and a fourth added, “We ought to obey.” At the close of this ceremony the lights were extinguished, and each man took the first woman who came to hand, and had carnal intercourse with her. When this was over, the candles were again lighted, and the performers resumed their places. Then out of a dark corner of the room came a man, the upper part of whom, above the loins, was bright and radiant as the sun, and illuminated the whole room, while his lower parts were rough and hairy like a cat. The master then tore off a bit of the garment of the novice, and said to the shining personage, “Master, this is given to me, and I give it again to thee.” The master replied, “Thou hast served me well, and thou wilt serve me more and better; what thou hast given me I give unto thy keeping.” When he had said this, the shining man vanished, and the meeting broke up.

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