The Medicine of the Cat

Starry Song, the shaman who has the gift of perpetuating the wisdom of his ancestors through word and music, seemed to be enjoying himself. Sitting on his rocking chair, he puffed his indefectible pipe with a red stone stummel, while listening to me narrate my amorous misadventures. I was serious and not the least bit pleased with the behaviour of the shaman, who looked at me like a boy who comes home from school full of complaints about the fact that the other children refuse to play his games. I said this to Starry Song, who arched his lips in a slight smile and said, “Yes, that is exactly your behaviour.” I asked him not to mock my pain. I explained that I had been in therapy for over a year to understand why I had never been happy in my emotional relationships. I had been through four marriages and several girlfriends, from which I had been gifted with two daughters. It all began well, with sincere promises of love, but soon it all turned to jealousy, mistrust and quarrels until it ended with the romance breaking up, almost always in a tumultuous way. Then, after some time, I would meet someone else and the story would repeat itself, changing only the characters, scenarios and apparent details. The underlying narrative was strictly the same.

The shaman arched his eyebrows and spoke seriously: “I do not mock you. Feelings are sacred, I would never do this to anyone.” Then he explained, “Although you are a mature man in many aspects of existence, since you are a successful professional and an excellent father, you have not yet managed to understand the language of love. At least love from the conjugal side, when it is strict to the intimacy of a couple. As long as we do not understand the need for a different attitude towards love, we will remain imprisoned in cycles of infinite repetition.” He puffed his pipe again and said: “Affective relationships are the main sources of suffering for humanity because, in most cultures, love has not yet been understood in all its depth. Insensate secular rancidity insists on denying a clearer and more refined look at the essence of love. That is why, as adults, we continue to relate affectively to each other like children who are hurt by the simple fact that our friend wants something different from what we want. We feel wronged, we fight and complain. We hurt ourselves.” He looked at me deeply and concluded, “We will suffer for love as long as we refuse to leave the kindergarten of love.”

I asked him to explain further. I confessed that I needed his help. Starry Song justified himself: “Yes, I will do it with all the necessary joy and serenity, because the subject is very interesting. However, in the next few days the Council of Elders will be held. I will leave early tomorrow morning. On my return, we will talk more about love.” I was surprised. I had come from far away to the mountains of Arizona for a period of study on shamanism. I hadn’t expected to be alone. Although Sedona, the town in which he lived, was quite nice, the purpose of the trip was not sightseeing. I was hoping that Starry Song would invite me to attend the famous meeting where men and women considered wise gathered to deliberate practical and philosophical questions to keep the ancient culture of their people alive. The invitation did not come. As if this wasn’t enough, he asked me to look after Draco, a white cat that lived in his house. I said that I would comply with his request and I had to make an enormous effort not to let my disappointment show, for I was convinced that it was a waste of time to stay there without the shaman.

As I had had several dogs before, and loved them, I thought Draco would be a similar companion to me during Starry Song’s absence. I was wrong. Although docile and domestic, they are totally different species. Habits and behaviours without any similarity. Among several other differences, my dogs made a big party every time I entered the house; they were always by my side and, when they did not, they came at the first call. They were loyal, loving and, mainly, they were always available. Draco, on the other hand, never answered my call, not even looking at me when I opened the door of the house. From time to time, he would cuddle up to me asking for affection. He also used to lie on my head when I went to sleep, as if he wanted to share the pillow with me. At first, I thought it was strange, then I even missed it when he took a while to come to bed. However, he didn’t always come. Another interesting detail in his behaviour was that he would come closer, and sometimes even lie on my lap, every time I picked up a book to read. As if he wanted to share the knowledge with me. He often lay down beside me to watch the football matches. He showed an inexplicable attention, as if he knew the rules or supported some club.

At first. I thought he was cold, ungrateful, curious and calculating, as he only approached me when he wanted to, whatever the reason. Until I received a phone call with news that shook and saddened me a lot. That day, as in many others, Draco had disappeared, but when I sat in the chair, the cat came running as if he was worried about me. As he approached me, he looked at me as if feeling or analysing my pain and curled up on my legs. Soon after he jumped on me. Sensitized by the sudden affection, I pet him for a long time. He nestled into my lap and kept licking my hands. I had the feeling that he wanted to cleanse me of the pain I felt. That gesture made me feel better, although I was unwell for two days. On these days, unlike the others, Draco stayed by my side the whole time, refusing to leave me alone, as if taking care or worried about me. Although the fact that had shaken me was very serious, strangely I had rebalanced my emotions in a much shorter period of time than I usually did. I attributed it to my personal maturation. When he saw me well, the cat returned to his usual absences and neglects. He would appear again or give me a little caress whenever he felt like it. Little by little I got used to Draco’s way of not having him available all the time. On the other hand, when I spent the whole day in the street, he didn’t show himself hurt either, without changing his mood to give or receive affection. If I happened to be busy with something and did not pay attention to him when he approached me looking for affection, the cat also did not seem upset; he seemed to understand my reasons. In a way that I did not know, I began to love him in a different way than I was used to.

It was when, after many days, Starry Song returned from his trip. Draco received him as if he had just seen him a few minutes ago. He stood on the table and from there he did not move. He exchanged a brief glance with the shaman, who petted his back. The cat curled up in the shaman’s hand as if returning the caress, and then went back to licking its own body, an activity it engaged in most of the hours. Accustomed to the full and intense affection of dogs, I commented that cats related too coldly. Starry Song disagreed: “Dogs are wonderful animals and teach us a lot about loyalty and protection. I love them. However, each species has its value for the lessons they hold and the energies they share.”

The shaman wanted to know how my experience with Draco had been. I told, in detail, about my time during those days he was travelling. Starry Song listened to the whole account patiently, without interrupting me. In some parts, he sketched a smile, as if satisfied with what had happened. But he did not say a word. Then, without haste, he lit his pipe with a red stone stummel before exposing his reasoning: “Cats are guardians of an important mystery.” I said I didn’t understand. The shaman explained, “Cats are the masters of the art of love. More than any other species, these felines teach us more about affective relationships than a therapist can make us understand.” And he foresaw, “Give a cat to someone who needs to learn how to love. If he or she doesn’t give up the other in the initial weeks, precious lessons will surely be imparted by the cat to the person.” He paused dramatically and joked, “If the person doesn’t learn, don’t blame the cat. Verily, the disciple was not yet ready.” We laughed.

Starry Song continued on the mysteries of the species, “The Cat deconstructs the socio-cultural conditioning of domination that we carry ingrained in the unconscious, which for being unconscious, we neither detect nor admit.”

“The desire to dominate is equal to the desire to possess. We want to possess everything we like. For fear of losing, we feel the wild need to dominate. So, often without realising it, we try to possess the other so as not to lose their love. A misunderstanding from start to finish.”

“To begin with, a cat has no owner. Draco doesn’t belong to me; he lives with me in this house. We love each other within the possibilities and will of each other. This teaches us a lot about respect. Respect for one another, for our conscientious and loving capacity, without demanding anything, especially without assuming the absurd right to mould the other to our interests and desires; a behaviour that is so common and, at the same time, so destructive in affective relationships. When a person tries to dominate a cat, to make it a pet object for his or her needs, the cat runs away. The feline will only not leave if it is locked up, unable to escape. Then it becomes a prisoner. We often create situations of dependence or establish rules as if affective relationships only existed in the form of prisons. The unconscious need for prisons reveals the inability to live in freedom. When the other cannot go away, love does it. Before anything else, love feeds on respect. Love needs freedom to exist.

“Another interesting aspect, if you pay attention, is the fact that Draco approached you almost every time you were reading a book or watching a football match. This is because these are things you love to do and he went to share those moments with you. He would say that he was happy that you felt happy. After all, we are always happy when we do things we love. He cared to share the moments of happiness with you.”

“In contrast, when you received some sad news, Draco quickly reached out and didn’t leave your side until he was sure you were feeling better. One of the mysteries of cats is their power of transmutation. They transform dense energies into subtle ones. In your moments of pain, Draco offered you the best he had. He realized that, at that moment, you needed him and he didn’t shy away from giving himself completely to you until you were well again. He cared for you when you needed it most.”

“Then he would come and go. He went to take care of his things as each one has to take care of their own. To take care of his gifts and live his own dreams, without dependencies or servile obligations. Love breathes freedom and inspires dignity so that it can exude happiness.” He puffed his pipe once more and elaborated, “It’s important to note that Draco wasn’t there to fill your affective needs or existential voids. That is something each one of us must deal on our own. Different situation from sharing with you a moment of pain and helping you in the struggle to overcome it. Helping and sharing does not mean having an obligation. It is necessary to understand the difference. To think that the other is beside you with the obligation of making you happy is an unsustainable burden due to the impossibility of performing the task. Just as no one owns anyone, no one will be able to infinitely sustain anyone’s happiness. Happiness is one of the plenitudes. Like love, freedom, dignity and peace, happiness is an internal achievement. If you do not find the plenitudes within yourself, you will lose them forever. There is no better teacher on how to learn about meeting one’s own shortcomings than cats. They teach spiritual independence and emotional balance, fundamental in the search for the plenitudes.

“No wonder, in the golden age of Egyptian civilization, of great artistic and scientific development, the cat was considered to be sacred. Sacred is everything that does us good or helps us to be better. Note that since time immemorial every witch has had a cat. Precisely to raise the vibrations, whether of people or environments. Get rid of the crude idea that witches and wizards are people related to darkness. We are all sorcerers as we alter the reality of an environment with a gesture or a word. Be it a word of intrigue or a word of harmony. We define at each moment whether we work for the shadows or for the light.”

We remained for a while without saying a word. I needed to allocate those concepts in myself. I broke the silence to ask if the days living with Draco had been my shamanic lessons from that period of study. Starry Song smiled and nodded his head in agreement. I thanked him.

Then he finished, “Although they are domestic animals, cats refuse domination. No one owns a cat; they just live and share their life with one. So, the cat teaches us a lot about the art of love. But that is not all. If you pay attention, you will realise that cats, being the guardians of the mystery of love, conceal in their behaviour another ancient mystery. The art of being free.”

Translated by: Cazmilian Zórdic


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