WTF of the Day

Wikipedia’s entry on cat-burning:

Cat burning was a form of zoosadistic entertainment in 17th century Paris, France. In this form of entertainment, people would gather dozens of cats in a net and hoist them high into the air from a special bundle onto a bonfire. According to Norman Davies[1], the assembled people “shrieked with laughter as the animals, howling with pain, were singed, roasted, and finally carbonized.”[2]

“It was the custom to burn a basket, barrel, or sack full of live cats, which was hung from a tall mast in the midst of the bonfire; sometimes a fox was burned. The people collected the embers and ashes of the fire and took them home, believing that they brought good luck. The French kings often witnessed these spectacles and even lit the bonfire with their own hands. In 1648 Louis XIV, crowned with a wreath of roses and carrying a bunch of roses in his hand, kindled the fire, danced at it and partook of the banquet afterwards in the town hall. But this was the last occasion when a monarch presided at the midsummer bonfire in Paris. At Metz midsummer fires were lighted with great pomp on the esplanade, and a dozen cats, enclosed in wicker cages, were burned alive in them, to the amusement of the people. Similarly at Gap, in the department of the Hautes-Alpes, cats used to be roasted over the midsummer bonfire.”[3]


      1. Actually, Angry Sam, cat burning was a practice before the 1300’s. If you read “A Distant Mirror”, a really great non-fiction history book about set the Black Plague era, there is reference to this as a common practice — and a “cure” by some people — because they thought the Plague was a curse from god, and people thought that cats were familiars to witches, and witches were evil… You get the picture.

    1. If only someone drew a connection between the introduction of video games and the near-elimination of cat burning. Similar to how Pastafarians proved that global warming is caused by the reduction in the worldwide pirate population.

  1. Part of this was religious insanity – cats were considered to be ‘familiars’ that acted as link between the devil & his minions on Earth.

    As noted above it was a big contributing factor to the rise of rat populations the lead to the black death. Millions of additional deaths tied to religion zealotry.

      1. Not to mention that it seems likely that rat fleas were not the primary vector for transmission of the plague during the Black Death (see here for a decent summary of the debate).

    1. Actually I’d been going to remark that the sources look a bit dodgy – I didn’t spend ages looking, but I couldn’t find contemporaneous sources. Most refs seem to be c.20th and their sources only trace back as far as c.19th – and almost all allude primarily to ‘The Golden Bough’, which afaik is as much a work of creative extrapolation as it is an exemplar of serious scholarship.

  2. In Yper (Belgium) we used to throw live cats off of the belfry tower. There’s still a parade, with giant cats, after which the town jester throws cats (of the plush kind) of the tower. This kind of thing which we now regard as animal cruelty was apparently quite widespread during the middle ages.

Comments are closed.