There are lots of “easter eggs” hidden in my writing. One of the more obvious ones is Mrs. Fey’s name itself. But a less obvious one is Mrs. Fey’s cat. What’s up with that cat and its weird name, Cotchee?
People love cats. Don’t they?
Well, my mom didn’t. She was, in fact, deathly afraid of them. An incident when she was a little girl visiting family friends was to blame. A cat jumped from the top of a china cabinet onto her head. That would probably put me off, too. Thankfully, when we adopted a stray cat in my childhood, she warmed up to him quickly.
My mother grew up in Glasgow, Scotland during World War II, and her life was pretty chaotic, what with the Nazi bombings and all, so she never had a pet of her own. She also had a lot of superstitions, and although she was a city girl, not a country bumpkin, I think there was something deep within her that recalled her ancestral fears.
You’ve probably heard of Banshees, or in the Gaelic spelling Bansidhe.
The word ‘sidhe’ denotes to something ghostly or from the fairy realm. Literally, the word refers to the ancient burial mounds. Bansidhe are ghostly women that wail and shriek when someone is about to die, wandering around the moors, keening for the dead. Frickin’ spooky!
But you may not have heard of the other types of Sidhe, or Sith. The highlanders fear something known as Cat Sidhe, a spectral cat in Irish and Scottish legend. The word Sith even shows up in Star Wars, which is how we come back around to the cute picture of the kitten with lightsabers at the top of this post, courtesy of StarWarsCats.com.
In some legends, the Cat-sidhe transmogrifies from a human witch to a cat. But the witch can only change back and forth nine times before it’s stuck in the form of a cat forever, which might be the source of the idea of cats having nine lives.
Scottish Wildcats and the Kellas cat
Some think the legends of the cat-sidhe are based on the large wildcat of the Scottish highlands, or the Kellas cat, a mix between the Scottish Wildcat and feral domestic cats.
Many of the Scottish clans incorporate a wild cat into their crests, and some have them in their mottos, like “Touch Not The Cat But (without) a Glove” (Touch Not the Cat is also one of my favorite Mary Stewart books, but that’s a topic for another day!)
With such a ferocious-looking creature, I know I wouldn’t want to touch one either, even with a glove! I know what my own cat can do to my arm—shred it to ribbons. I wouldn’t want to find out with a wildcat.
Cat Sidhe, Cat Sith or Fairy Cat
Cat Sidhe is pronounced cat-she, or more like cawt-she by Gaelic speakers, hence my name for Mrs. Fey’s cat, “Cotchee.” Deirdre never sees it spelled out, so in her head, his name is Cotchee. They are described as being large and black, with a white spot on their chests.
Here is Deirdre’s first encounter with Cotchee at Mrs. Fey’s house.
“The front door stood open. She stepped over some haphazard paver stones and crossed the threshold.
Inside was dark. The floor, walls, and even the ceiling were a stained wood paneling that looked centuries old. The cozy front room had a brick fireplace, a comfy chair, spiral rugs, and the biggest black cat she’d ever seen, sleeping on the back of an old plaid sofa. He roused from his slumber to fix luminous green eyes on her, then promptly put his head back under his paws as she passed.”
And later on in the story:
“Cotchee chose that moment to jump onto the table, but Grandma Fey didn’t scold him. He sat proudly, displaying the large white spot in the center of his chest, amid the velvety black whorls of fur. He was the largest house cat Deirdre had ever seen.”
Of course Deirdre doesn’t believe in the supernatural, so she sees nothing unusual about this cat other than its size, confidence, and perspicacity.
However, if you read to the end, there’s a scene from Apache’s perspective that will let you know Cotchee’s true nature. (no spoilers here)
And the deeper story of Cotchee’s history I’ll save for another book further into the series.
On a side note, apparently Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden character is deathly afraid of the Cat Sith. I haven’t read any of his books, but if you have, leave a comment below and let me know which ones I should read.
I hope you enjoyed this post, and here’s some further reading you can do on the real Scottish Wildcat and the legends of the Cat-Sidhe:
- Mythology and Folklore of the Scottish Wildcat: https://treesforlife.org.uk/into-the-forest/trees-plants-animals/mammals/scottish-wildcat/wildcat-mythology-and-folklore/
- The Cat-sìth on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat-s%C3%ACth
- The Cat Sìth in Celtic Mythology: https://www.scotclans.com/cat-sith-celtic-mythology/