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The cat...has a girl's nose, a rabbit's head,
The tail of a serpent's poison, a viper's claws,
And cloudberries for feet-as for the remainder of its body,
It comes forth from the race of wolves.

From the Magic Songs of the Finns.

In the epic poem known as "The Kalevala" (composed by Elias L´┐Żnnrot and first published in 1835, though based on traditional folktales), you will find this curious anecdote...It seems that a witch decided to one day invite herself into a house that happened to be filled with people. Upon entering this house the witch began to dance around while muttering bizarre incantations, much to the chagrin of all who were present. All at once, the people found themseves transported onto a sleigh drawn by a giant magical cat. This mysterious cat pulled the sleigh at fantastic speeds until it finally came to "Pohjola", a place where evil resides in everlasting night, located deep within the hinterlands of Finland. Why? How come? What did those people ever do to the witch? How did a cat get mixed up in all this, anyhow? And why decide to ask such questions NOW? Actually, the Finns believed that cats led the souls of the departed through the obstacles of hell onto the glories of heaven. This motif of "cat-as-guide-to-the-beyond" is rather common. In Egypt there is the story of Bast the cat goddess bringing souls to the underworld. Babylonians believed that the souls of priests were whisked to paradise by the agency of a benevolent cat. So perhaps the Finnish folktale of the witch and the cat-sleigh isn't so odd after all. The Finns were a nomadic people-several diverse tribes, really, originating from the Ural Mountains. They were all linked by a common language which the various Finnish tribes had transformed into individualized dialects. After wandering about Western Russia and Northeastern Europe, they were eventually pushed into the Baltic region. Settling in what is now thought of as the Northern portions of Sweden and Norway, as well as Finland, they mixed with the surrounding cultures, marrying into the Scandinavian clans. Since the Scandinavians were for the most part a tall people, fair of complexion, and the Finns (a branch of the Mongolian people, kindred to the Siberians), were shorter and darker, this fusion of ethnic groups produced a very distinct, culturally heterogeneous people. About the only place you'll find authentic Finns today are in the Northern region of Lapland. Since the Finns were influenced by nearly every culture with which they happened to make contact, very little is known of their original myths. The two most important sources relating the Finnish mythology are "The Magic Songs" (a body of folklore rendered in rhythmic verse), and "The Kalevala" which has already been mentioned.

AHTO (AH-toe; Male): Like Poseidon and Neptune, Ahto was the god of the seas. All the denizens of the deep attended to his commands including the fierce sea serpent, Tursa. As with the names of his Greek and Roman counterparts, Ahto is an ideal name for a bath loving cat drawn to water.

AKKA (AH-kah; Female): Goddess of plentiful harvests and Queen of the gods (she was the wife of the chief god Jumala), Akka was considered both the feminine aspect of god as well as the ruler of female sexuality. It is said that she was an equal contributor to the creation of the world-her husband brought souls into existence, but Akka molded bodies of flesh and blood to act as vessels to hold the soul. Obviously a name for a fertile cat or for the dominant female in your pride of house cats.

JUMALA (joo-MAH-lah; Male): The Supreme god, ruler of the sky and thunder. Along with his wife Akka, Jumala created the world and the beings that inhabit it. Since he had jurisdiction over all matters involving the sky, he was in charge of stirring the clouds to produce life giving rain. One interesting aspect of Jumala was that he held the oak tree to be sacred-a characteristic he shares with Zeus, Supreme sky god of the Greeks. From this we might speculate that Finnish and Greek cultures may have been in contact, or at the very least that the nomadic Finns had heard the Greek myths and borrowed elements they believed useful. Or we might consider that these two cultures observed an identical principle in nature that connected divine supremacy, the mysteries of the sky (including thunder), and the mighty oak. Another possibility relates to Carl Jung's concept of the "Collective Unconscious" which postulates that human beings all possess the same sort of psyche, of which the unconscious is an important component. To Jung, this was the same as saying that human beings all possess the same sort of internal organs, eyes, blood, etc.Since it is believed that the unconscious is the center where various associations are made, it follows that it may be the source of symbols, dreams, and myth. Jung theorized that parallel mythological symbolism contained within the legends of diverse and separated cultures should be expected since the human mind is bound to make similar associations between certain objects, experiences, and ideas. This, he believed, accounts for the often identical symbolism shared by the cultures of the world (taking into consideration of course variations on common themes due to the different environmental conditions experienced by these many cultures.) Who knows? Anyway, this name should go to a commanding feline. That was easy, wasn't it?

KALMA (KAHL-mah; Female): A black cat name. Kalma was the goddess of death (in fact her name translates into something like "carcass aroma". If you don't happen to have a black cat, give this name to a smelly cat. If you don't happen to have a smelly cat, don't bother getting one.

KIPU-TYTTO (KIH-poo TYE-toe; Female): An interesting and catchy name, but an extremely nasty goddess. Kipu-Tytto was the deity in charge of disease and sickness. To worsen her overall character, she made her home in hell (a place the Finns called ""Tuonela".) If you can get past her attributes, this name has a fine and unique ring to it that would make any cat proud.

KUU (KOO; Female): What could be simpler than the name Kuu? There's not much to say about her, other than that she was the moon goddess. This is the perfect name for your cat if you have trouble with words of more than one syllable, or if you have a problem remembering names.

LOUHI (LOW-hee; Female): No, not "Louie". Here's another case where we've got a nice name but a rotten deity. Louhi was the goddess of evil and black magic. Her powers were so fearsome that she was reputed to be able to imprison both the sun and the moon. Still, she was not without friends and supporters. Her home was something of a sorcerer's home away from home where they would party all night long, belting out their ghastly songs of terror and hopelessness. So, armed with this information, it's up to you whether or not to name your cat Louhi. Just remember, "Love the name, but hate the goddess."

LUONNOTAR (loo-AHN-OH-tar; Female): Although her name sounds like it fell out of a 1950's science fiction movie, she was in all actuality the Daughter of Nature, also known as the Virgin Daughter of the Air. She lived in the heavens as a single girl, but she was sexually frustrated. She was sick of being a virgin, especially since she was young, good looking, and horny as hell. This sexual tension must have clouded her reasoning because one day, in an act of utter desperation, she dove into the sea intending to give the waters her virginity. While floating upon the water, the sea took her up on her offer and made love to her right then and there. Rather disappointed by the sea's surprising lack of "staying power", she was nevertheless relieved. But then it dawned on her-land hadn't been formed yet. What a predicament. Realizing she was helpless, Luonnotar resigned herself to her fate. For 700 years she floated on that water. Then, after seven centuries of nothing happening at all, a duck decides to land on her belly, lay some eggs, then fly off. The sun was very hot that day, so she was a bit fidgety and uncomfortable. Then, while shifting her floating position, the eggs broke open and fell from her belly, into the sea. That's when things started happening. The eggshells became land and Luonnotar was at last rescued from her ordeal at sea. Once on dry land she figured she'd make some improvements, so she dug ravines, altered the coastline, and piled up some mountains. For some reason it wasn't until now, 700 years after the fact, that she became pregnant as a result of her coupling with the ocean. Never one to do things the easy way, her pregnancy went on for 30 years. The child she carried was understandably tired of waiting, so he came out on his own, fully grown as a mighty hero named Vainamoinen. The moral of this tale? I'm not sure. I'm also not sure how any of this can tie into cat behavior. Oh well, do your best.

NAAKI (nah-AH-kee; Male): Not much to say here so I'll make it brief. Naaki, water spirit. Said to be a dangerous shape shifter with a predilection toward drowning people. Somehow related to the tides as he walks the shoreline both in the morning and at night. Assistant to the sea god, Ahto. Good all purpose name for any cat. Gotta go...

TUONI (too-OH-nee; Male): It's quite appropriate that this guy has such an Italian sounding name since he happens to be the god of the Underworld, or "Tuonela" as the Finns called it. Tuoni lived in his realm along with his wife, Tuonetar, and their horrible daughters, Kalma, Kipu-Tytto, Loviatar, and Vammatar. For being such a dark and nasty place, this Underworld kingdom was nevertheless shielded by a river which was the home of the beautiful Swan of Tuonela (well known to fans of the great Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius.) And no one could say that Tuoni and family were inhospitable-when the great hero, Vainamoinen, dropped by for a social call he was offered only the finest of beers. Unfortunately in Tuonela this meant that the beer should be filled with toads, worms, and other creepy-crawly things. Vainamoinen didn't want anything to do with the foul brew, but he didn't want to insult his host either (especially since Tuoni had raised a giant net of iron to prevent the hero's departure.) Doing what any self-respecting hero-god would do under similar conditions, Vainamoinen politely turned himself into a snake and then courteously slithered himself the hell out of there. Like the names of his daughters, you might want to use "Tuoni" for a black cat. If you're against perpetuating feline stereotypes, you could just disregard the obvious "lord-of-death/black cat" connection by giving this name to a large pasta-loving "wise-guy" cat known for controlling his territory and "family" with the muscle of a Mafia Don-but only if you don't mind perpetuating Italian stereotypes (a good trick considering this is a Finnish name.)

VAINAMOINEN (vain-ah-MOY-nehn; Male): This guy almost didn't make it to the list. Just look at his name. It has all the poetic ring of something Jerry Lewis might scream out ("Oh Vaina-MOIIII-nen Laydeee...") But since he's already been mentioned twice in this section, and since he is the big-cheese-hero-god of the epic Finnish poem "The Kalevala", how could we not include him? His story begins with his mom, Luonnotar, and the 30 year pregnancy she endured carrying him. Many of his deeds involved a benign use of magical powers during the course of his quest for the perfect wife. He was said to have been just and mighty, always battling the forces of evil, and always thwarting the aims of dark magic. He cultivated the soil, brought fire to humanity, and invented a stringed musical instrument that produced enchanting melodies. The tale of how he brought fire to mankind is rather interesting, if only because it contains a pike, a salmon and a trout which we sorely need if we're going to squeeze a cat connection out of this one. (Fish...get it?) The story says that one day, while the sky god Jumala was cleaning his fingernails with his sword, he dislodged what turned out to be the very first flame. Jumala gave this new curiosity to Ilma, the air goddess, for safekeeping. But the air goddess let it slip from her hands, and fire fell down to earth where it was swallowed by a trout. Not long after that, the trout was eaten by a salmon which was in turn eaten by a pike. Then, Vainamoinen comes along feeling a bit hungry for fish. (Can you see what's coming?) He catches the pike and cuts it open, only to discover the salmon which he also cuts open, wherein he finds the trout. Determined to see this matter resolved, Vainamoinen cuts open the trout expecting to see a guppy or something, but instead he frees the flame which promptly ignites the wilderness into a massive inferno. Eventually the hero learns how to tame the fire which he then secures in a jug. This he gives to humanity, complete with a user-friendly instruction booklet printed in four languages including Chinese which is immediately thrown away. Should you, for whatever reason, decide on this name for your cat, even after considering all the other names in this book, make sure you use that high-pitched Jerry Lewis voice when calling him.

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A History of the Cat

The Ancient Middle East

African Cat Names

Celtic Cat Names

Egyptian Cat Names

Greek Cat Names

Haitian Cat Names

Indian Cat Names

Japanese Cat Names

Meso-American Cat Names

Middle Eastern Cat Names

Nordic Cat Names

North American Cat Names

Roman Cat Names

Slavic Cat Names

South American Cat Names

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