The black cat sits coiled, looking out the window into the crumbling courtyard with the mounds of black trash bags. The pigeons jerk their heads curiously, murmuring from invisible corners. She makes strange barking sounds when they flutter. Besides her time on guard she is quiet and cleans herself and wanders gently from one side of the apartment to the other. I am often surprised at how small my apartment looks from the outside when it has been my refuge, as well as a source of great stress for more than three years - a long time in New York City - as I slipped from my early-mid twenties into my late-mid twenties and my ceiling fell in and my sink cracked and everything aged. This wild-eyed street cat spent a year and a half watching me before we would curl next to me in bed. She gently winds her tail around my leg to let me know she trusts me.
When I venture to the courtyard where that same trash mound is to look in from the outside, I see the black cat sitting tall in the window with glowing eyes. Does she recognize me? Does she have thoughts and feelings about the pigeons or the trash mound that remind her of her life before me, in wooded New Jersey? Cats are not like any other animal. She is an alien, experiencing the world in many multicolored flickers and an orchestra of squeaks. My cat is my spirit animal, yet she bewilders me.
Women and cats have been represented side by side for thousands of years, one echoing complexities of the other in femininity and sexuality. Pussy is a playful reference to female genitalia invoking an erotic and youthful place. The cat seems to embody all aspects of woman's stereotypical sexual nature.
The black cat is featureless. Her blackness consuming all contours of her body, leaving her a yellow eyed shadow. Her very existence is mysterious, for she walks around as an absence. The black hole is an all consuming, all creating space that remains the gift and curse of the woman. Vaginae Monstera. The deep, black beyond that brings fear into the bravest of hearts. It's a story that's been told many times. The roses that shrouded the castle, the dense forest, the underworld, that a brave man will enter to save the one they love. Space itself: the last frontier. In the very body of the black cat lies the fearful and creative enigma of women.
The cat is also symbolized as a sinister and resentful creature. In East Asian cultures, thirteen animals held a race, the outcome of which determined the years of the lunar zodiac. The story goes that the cat and the mouse were close friends. As they ran, the mouse was mounted on the cat's back. But as the great river approached, the frenzied mouse jumped onto the back of the ox who cleared him across the water. The move kicked the cat out of the race, leaving twelve still on course. The mouse jumped off on the opposite shore and won the race. The mouse is now the first animal in the twelve year Chinese Zodiac. This extinct thirteenth year is significant by this betrayal of the cat. Like Lillith, the woman who is not spoken of in favor of the plot of a hero. If each year holds a certain quality. The thirteenth year is the silent season, representing in it's supernatural qualities the void that defines us. A woman has thirteen cycles in a year, the moon has thirteen phases. Yet in all of our calendars there are twelve months and twelve year cycles.
The black cat was revered as the goddess of fertility and sexuality in ancient Egyptian culture, embodied in the Goddess Bastet. Many ancient Egyptian reliefs portrayed women with cats under their seats to represent their age and readiness for children. In Western culture the cat is the emblem of the Victorian feminine: graceful, elevated, clean, and petty. The cat is always unknowable, the companion of the woman who doesn't fit, or playfully referred to as a 'cougar,' which animalizes an older woman's sexual urges, taking her out of her own control because she doesn't mold into the relationship norm.
A black cat will cross your path and beware of the curse cast over you. She is the mirror of the resentful and lonely; the companion of the witch. The witch, or cat lady is the older woman with no partner who separates herself from normative society. Despite her youth she has given it all away in the bodies of these cats. The cat is horrifically viable. Like the witch, the cat might have done some deal with a dark magic to gain the nine lives when we only have one.
My little black cat takes on my every anxiety, love, and desire in quiet accordance. It took many years to have her warm to me, and even then she keeps a distance. I look for her to understand my own feelings of isolation and desire. Her liberation would mean my own. Her happiness would be my own. How important it is to be able to see yourself in another being: the complicated archetype.