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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

 

Legendary Felines: The Origin of Birmankind


Yesterday I hunted down a story about how Birman cats came to France. But where did they come from? Here's one to tell your kittens, for it will make them proud to be Birmans.

Humans who are fond of Birmans like to recount the legend of the temple cat Sinh, said to be the first of his line. Long before the birth of Buddha, Sinh lived in a temple on Mount Lugh, which was dedicated to the goddess Tsun Kyan-Kse and housed a pure gold statue of the goddess. This goddess watched over the journey of souls, and upon the death of a priest, she would grant him life in animal form. When the animal passed away, the priest's soul would be released to be reborn.

Sihn and his 99 fellow temple cats guarded their domain and kept the priests company. Originally, all these cats were pure white. The head priest, Mun-Ha, was particularly fond of Sinh. When Mun-Ha was mortally wounded by Siamese raiders, Sihn leaped onto the priest's head. In the presence of the goddess' statue, Sihn's white coat was transformed into the gold-dusted coat we see today in Birmankind, and his formerly golden eyes became azure jewels. Only his paws remained snow white.

For a week, Sihn refused to eat while he harbored the soul of his dead master. Finally, he died, releasing the priest's soul to the goddess. And then all the other 99 cats of the temple were transformed into Birmans, with eyes the color of the clear sky, gold-misted fur, earth-colored face, tail, and legs and snow-white gloves.

When the priests met to choose their new leader, the temple Birmans rushed up and surrounded the youngest of the priests. And so he was blessed by Tsun Kyan-Kse.

Now, in this story Birmans change from pure white to the colors of sky, dawn, earth, and snow. This story must have evolved from the ancient human belief that animals are ambassadors from this world to another. If humans would only listen more to their felines, perhaps their journeys, whether in this world or the next, would be also blessed.

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