Cats and Demons in Cuzco
Cuzco holds many sayings and stories. It is a rich land of folklore. For example, even raising pets leads to stories and comments as people ask how they can live a good life filled with good fortune that avoids problems and scarcity.
People love to raise animals here. Outside the city, or on its edges, people have large corrals where they can raise animals such as chickens, pigs, guinea pigs, turkeys, cows, and sheep. Inside the city it is more difficult and people are limited to pets, such as dogs and cats, and they talk about them.
They say that the dog is man’s best friend because it is always faithful to its owners and never abandons its home. On the other hand they say that cats are not so faithful.
They say they have seven lives and do not die. They also say that inside each cat you will find “the demon”. This idea of demons is very complex, existing as it does between Christian tradition and that of our ancestors in the Andes. While for Christians the demon is seen as evil, the opposite of God, in Peru it is often a Word for our ancestor’s Gods and spirits. They can be both good and bad: they can bring you good fortune and take it away, since they are associated with the world within from which life, fortune, and death come.
In Cuzco you will sometimes see demons dance in our streets. We have a popular dance we call Saqra where the dancers wear demonic masks. In nearby Paucartambo, during its main festival, the demons gather on rooftops and hang on balconies to even try to tempt the Virgin Mary.
Not only do we have these representations of demons among us, it is said cats have demons and live among us. As a result, some years ago, they say, the person who wanted to have a cat as a pet had to follow some rules. They had to cut off the tips of the cats’ ears. Then they had to pray over then and make the sign of the cross several times.
They say that some people in the city did not pay attention to these rules, or they did not believe that cats had demons. They just kept cats as pets and did not take any precautions.
As a result, the families that had these un-transformed cats suffered lots of problems. Inside their homes there were lots of arguments. For example they would often fight about food.
The husband when he came home would find hair in the food his wife served him. So the couple would begin to fight.
No one imagined that the hairs that appeared in the food were placed there by the cat, their pet. But this changed one day when the husband came home early and entered the kitchen. There he clearly saw his pet taking the lid off the pot and introducing a lot of hairs into the cooked food.
That was all it took for the husband to realize that the cause of so many fights among the couple was the cat. As a result, he grabbed it and tied it in a bag to toss it in the river, expelling it in that way from the house.
People also say that cats talk; every night they are said to hold meetings on the roof tops of the homes. They say that in these meetings there is a leader to whom all the other cats tell their tales of the bad things that they did during the day in their different homes.
It is also said that when there are several cats within the home, they let you know when a family member is about to die. Among themselves they perform a ceremony. One of the cats plays the part of the sick person, and the others lift it up and carry it throughout the home.
People also say that a Black cat is more demonic than the others.
They also narrate how these animals make people fall in love with them, especially women who have them as pets. They have a strong affection for these animals. They say the cat is always faithful to its female owner and will take care of her until the day of her death.
There are many other things about these animals that few people know and that some do not believe in while others, in Cuzco, have a lot of respect for the sayings.