A to Z Blogging Challenge / April A to Z Challenge / Blog Challenge / Books / Impartials and Immortals / Night of the Hunter / Writing

#AtoZ: C is for Cat Bàs

Fearsome lookin' critter, ain't he?

Fearsome lookin’ critter, ain’t he?

Oh come on, you didn’t actually think my C post would be a cop-out like a plain ol’ kitty cat, did you? I promise the Cat Bàs, a creature from the setting my IMPARTIALS & IMMORTALS characters live in, is not your average kitty. It’s not even the neighbourhood’s resident antisocial stray cat.

It’s much worse.

Those of you with any Gaelic might be a bit worried, and you’d have reason to be. “Cat Bàs,” literally translated from Scottish Gaelic, means “Death Cat.” (Unless my research and such has failed, in which case please do provide me with the correct translation!)

Like most of my fictional creepy-crawlies, the Cat Bàs has a foundation in Celtic mythology and a plausible grasp on reality. I took that foundation and ran with it, laughing like a loon the entire time.

In myth, the cat sìth (also cait sìdhe or cait sì; pronounced cat shee) is a ghost cat found in Scottish myth, said to haunt the Highlands, and supposedly with the power to steal souls before burial. It’s also said that the cat sì was a witch who could turn into a cat nine times, remaining a feline for all her life on the ninth occurrence–if this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a theory on the origins of the notion that cats have nine lives.

The Kellas cat, the real-world toehold of this myth, is what I’ve got pictured above. For a long time sightings of it contributed to the myth, until a specimen was killed in 1984. It’s a hybrid of the Scottish wildcat and feral housecats, and tends toward the former in size. They hunt in pairs, are ferocious when cornered, and as you can see, make for a nice creepy image.

And then you have my version.

In the I&I books, the Cat Bàs is a very large cat with the same basic appearance as the Kellas cat. It belongs to the Unseelie or dark Court, and when hunting (yes, in pairs), they’ve been known to make a low, purring chant in Gaelic that translates to “Death waiting.” It gets its name from the survival rate of its victims.

A Cat Bàs’ teeth and claws hold a hallucinogenic venom and heavy-duty sedative. Many of its victims go into a deep sleep known as the Cadal Marbh or Sleep of the Dead, and simply don’t wake up. Those who do enter the Fiabhras Marbh or Dead Fever, in which they perceive that everyone around them is dead and a ghost, trying to claim their souls even if it means killing him/her themselves. They grow paranoid and suspicious of all attempts to help them, and in most cases, if the high fever doesn’t cause the body to shut down, dehydration and starvation finishes off the victim.

Not a pretty way to die, and not fun to live with as the caregiver, either. That said, so far in the I&I novels, four characters have been specifically attacked. Three survive, but I’m not telling you who they are. If you want a hint of which book the Cat Bàs appears in, I suggest you check my tags on this post. For now, I do hope you’re sufficiently creeped out to have a few goosebumps. See you tomorrow, and watch out for those cats…. You just never know… 🙂

Murphy

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4 thoughts on “#AtoZ: C is for Cat Bàs

    • I’m glad you think so! The Cat Bàs is one of those creations where I look back and realize first that I had a lot of fun with them, and second that my mind is a seriously messed up place.

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