Legend of Two Tailed Cat August 28, 2014
Today we’re going to have a bit of folklore reading regarding the two tailed cat also known as nekomata. Some of the well known folklore started in the Kokon Chomonjū from the Kamakura period, in the story called Kankyō Hōin (観教法印), an old cat raised in a precipitous mountain villa held in its mouth a secret treasure, a protective sword, and ran away, and people chased after it, but it disguised its appearance right then, and it left behind that the pet cat became a monster, but in the aforementioned “Tsurezuregusa,” this is also a nekomata, and it talks about how other than the nekomata that conceal themselves in the mountains, there are also the pet cats that grow old, transform, and eat and abduct people.
In the Edo period and afterwards, it has become generally thought that cats raised domestically would turn into nekomata as they grow old, and the aforementioned nekomata of the mountains have come to be interpreted as cats that have run away and came to live in the mountains. Because of that, a folk belief emerged in each area of Japan that cats are not to be raised for many months and years.
In the “Ansai Zuihitsu (安斎随筆)” by the court ceremonial Sadatake Ise, the statement “a cat that is several years of age will come to have two tails, and become the yōkai called nekomata” can be seen. Also, the mid-Edo period scholar Arai Hakuseki stated, “old cats become ‘nekomata’ and bewilder people,” and indicating it was common sense at that time to think that cats become nekomata, and even the Kawaraban of the Edo period reported on this strange phenomenon.
In the book Yamato Kaiiki (大和怪異記, engl. “Mysterious stories from Japan”), written by an unknown author in 1708, a story speaks about a haunted house of a rich samurai. The inhabitants of this house witness several poltergeist-activities and the samurai invites countless shamans, priests and evokers in attempt to make the happenings come to an end. But none of them is able to find the source of the terror. One day one of the most loyal servants observes his master’s very old cat carrying a shikigami with the imprinted name of the samurai in its mouth. Immediately the servant fires a sacred arrow, hitting the cat in its head. When the cat is lying dead on the floor, all inhabitants can see that the cat has two tails and therefore had become a nekomata. With the death of the demon-cat the poltergeist-activities end. Similar eerie stories about encounters with nekomata appear in books such as Taihei Hyakumonogatari (太平百物語, engl. “Collection of 100 fairy tales”), written by Yusuke (祐佐, or Yūsa) in 1723 and in the book Rōō Chabanashi (老媼茶話, “Tea-time gossip of old ladies”), written by Misaka Daiyata (三坂大彌) in 1742.
It is generally said that the “mata” (又) of “nekomata” comes from how they have two tails, but from the view of folkloristics, this is seen as questionable, and since they transform as they grow older, the theory that it is the “mata” meaning “repetition,” or as previously stated, since they were once thought to be a beast in the mountains, there is the theory that it comes from “mata” (爰) meaning monkeys, with the meaning that they are like monkeys that can freely come and go between trees in the mountains at will. There is also the theory that it comes from the way in which cats that grow old shed the skin off their backs and hang downwards, making it seem like they have two tails.
Cats are often associated with death in Japan, and this particular spirit is often blamed. Far darker and malevolent than most bakeneko, the nekomata is said to have powers of necromancy, and upon raising the dead, will control them with ritualistic dances – gesturing with paw and tail. These yōkai are associated with strange fires and other unexplainable occurrences. The older, and the more badly treated a cat has been before its transformation, the more power the nekomata is said to have. To gain revenge against those who have wronged it, the spirit may haunt humans with visitations from their dead relatives. Like bakeneko, some tales state how these demons have taken on human appearance – but have usually appeared as older women, behaving badly in public and bringing gloom and malevolence wherever they travelled. Sometimes the tails of kittens were cut off as a precaution as it was thought that if their tails could not fork, they could not become nekomata
From this discernment and strange characteristics, nekomata have been considered devilish ones from time immemorial. Due to fears and folk beliefs such as the dead resurrecting at a funeral, or that seven generations would be cursed as a result of killing a cat, it is thought that the legend of the nekomata was born. Also, in folk beliefs cats and the dead are related. As carnivores, cats have a sharp sense of detecting the smell of rotting, and so it was believed that they had a trait of approaching corpses; with this folk belief sometimes the kasha, a yōkai that steals the corpses of the dead, are seen to be the same as the nekomata.
Also in Japan there are cat yōkai called the bakeneko, but since nekomata are certainly the yōkai of transformed cats, sometimes nekomata are confused with bakeneko.
As in Anime Ninja, our Matatabi, the two tailed beast, is a nekomata. He also have the playful trait that nekomata usually have. Also Matatabi is known to able to use fire type jutsu as well, a strong fire jutsu that enough to give the rebel ninjas trouble. As our summoned beast, Matatabi gives even more stats boost than Shukaku, the one tailed beast.