The Maneki Neko legend has many forms. One of the most popular says that cats lived near a monastery but were not allowed inside. One day, the monks went to gather food, leaving one monk to guard the temple. As he came outside, he saw a small cat sitting across the road. He called to it but the cat would not come. Instead it raised a paw and beckoned to the monk to come to him. The monk hesitated but went. As he reached the cat, the temple came crashing down. His life was saved due to the waving cat. After that, cats were not only welcomed into the monastery but treasured and considered good luck.
Other variations say the monk was meditating under a tree and saved from being struck by lightning, the cat saved a princess from a snake’s bite or a nobleman from being attacked along the road.
Modern day usage is more practical. Shopkeepers use the ceramic statues of the Maneki Neko cats to attract customers. The cats are shown wearing a coin around the neck to attract prosperity. The cats are also used to bring good health and happiness by wearing a small replica on a chain or placing a statue in the entryway of the home. The upraised paw is facing forward as Japanese people raise their hands and curl the fingers down to beckon, prompting Westerners to call it the Waving Cat. Newer statues have the back of the paw shown instead to retain the beckoning name.
Whichever version of the legend appeals to you, cats are a source of happiness and good fortune, beckoning, waving or just sitting on your lap.
Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!