The Beckoning Cat
High Paw for the Raised Paw
Have you ever wondered what those fat little cats with an upraised paw are doing? I must admit they intrigued me.
This is the Beckoning or Japanese Fortune cat, the Maneki Neko, a popular symbol of good luck and an invitation to prosperity and success in business.
You see her typically with a bib, collar and bell, with one paw raised and often holding a coin or fish in the other paw.
Maneki Neko, just like cats in the real world, come in all variations of colour. Popular shades are white, representing purity, black, to ward off evil, and red, pink or gold. Whatever the colour, the chubby little Neko is said to bring you good fortune in some shape or form.
Neko Legend for Children
The Legend of the Goutokuji Temple
Who was the first Beckoning Cat?
Once upon a time, as all good stories start, a cat sat in the door of the Gotoku-ji temple, looking out at a thunderstorm. As all cats do, she began to groom herself, washing her face with an upraised paw.
Outside, under a tree, was a.Feudal Lord waiting for the storm to pass. The little cat raised her paw to him in the traditional Japanese beckoning gesture.
Cold and wet, the man quickly approached the cat and entered the temple. Moments later, the tree he had been using as shelter was struck by lightning and caught fire. The tree broke with a loud crash and flaming pieces of its shattered trunk fell precisely where the Feudal Lord had been standing. His life had been saved by the beckoning cat!
From then on, the Maneki Neko was considered to be an incarnation of the Goddess of Mercy.
The Beckoning Gesture
Cultural Differences in Body Language
It looks to me as if the Maneki Neko is waving at me, not beckoning to me. This is because body language is differently recognised by Europeans and the Japanese.
The Japanese beckon by holding up the hand, palm out, and repeatedly folding the fingers down and back up, while Europeans hold up their hand backwards and move the wrist to call someone over.
These days Maneki Neko are made specifically for Western markets, and will have the cat's paw facing backwards in a beckoning gesture more familiar to Westerners.
Commerce can take care of cultural differences, and the little Neko is about prosperity after all.
Left Paw or Right Paw? - Does the paw matter?
Generally speaking, it's thought that the left paw beckons for people (customers) while the right attracts money or good fortune.
It's been suggested that a left paw raised is best for drinking establishments, the right paw for other stores. Those who hold their liquor well are called hidari-kiki in Japan, meaning "left-handed". Does that sound like a connection?
Many Japanese business people wouldn't dream of having a restaurant, tavern, or shop without a Beckoning Cat.
Get your own collectible lucky cat
A perfect little lucky cat - and how can you resist those gorgeous eyes?
The Cat's Collar
Not to protect Wildlife
If you look at a Neko you'll see some sort of decoration around the neck. This can be a bandana or a scarf but the most common attire is a collar, bell and decorative bib.
Red collars made from a red flower, the hichirimen, were once popular for real cats of wealthy households, while small bells were attached for decoration and to keep track of the cat's whereabouts. The Neko follows the fashion of long ago.
Why not try it yourself?
Try a Beckoning Cat for your office or in your house .
At the front door of your office, a Neko is said to attract new patrons. At home, put your Neko anywhere to attract good luck. Who knows, it might work!
More on the Beckoning Cat
More Feline Fortune
- The Cat Familiar
A Familiar is said to be a sort of shape-shifting minor demon with magic powers. The stereotypical Familiar in Western culture is the black cat.
- Cats and Magic
I can tell you exactly what the magical qualities of cats really are. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to grasp the concept
- The Magic of Number Nine
Cats, as you know, have nine lives. Have you ever wondered why? I certainly have. What is the meaning of Life and Why do I have Nine?
- Tarot for Cats
© 2009 Vladimir