Cats are some of the oldest animals that have existed, even during the Viking age. This is one of the animals that the Vikings were fond of. The Vikings domesticated cats and used them to minimize the rodent population in their homes, farms, and ships.
Just like the Vikings loved protecting their territories, so did their cats. We will discuss all you need to know regarding Viking cats, including what they symbolized and how the Vikings tamed them. Enjoy
Cats in Norse mythology
The North Germanic people had a lot of myths that they believed in. They even came up with myths surrounding their furry friend, the cat. During the Viking age, different tales related to the cat existed. The Vikings believed in different gods such as Thor and Freyja. They linked cats to their gods.
Thor was the god of storms, while Freyja was the Norse goddess of love. According to the Scandinavian tales, Thor gifted Freyja two cats. Freyja, the Norse goddess, drove a certain chariot that two cats pulled. These cats were colored, and they were known as the gib cats. We will talk about Freyja’s cats more later.
Apart from this tale, the Vikings also believed that a bride must have fed her cat well if a couple married when the weather was fine. There was also another famous folk tale of a man who assisted a poor guy. The cat managed to trick a troll and won a castle that was full of gold and silver.
The cat persuaded the poor man to chop off its head. When he did, the cat became a princess. The two got married and resided in the castle. There was also another myth of a Midgard serpent that disguised itself as a cat. Thor tried to lift the cat but could only lift a paw.
Cats were common in the Middle East. Egypt was one of the countries where most cats came from. The Vikings got most of their cats from this country. They transported cats from Egypt though this was not allowed. Modern cats are believed to have descended from a cat subspecies called Felis Silvestris Lybica, which still exists in the Middle East.
The Vikings had a major role in the spread of these animals to other parts of the world. According to a certain study, the remains of numerous cats were discovered in various sites in Eurasia. These cats were believed to have lived between the 17th and 18 centuries when humans were transitioning from hunting to farming.
The Vikings started migrating from the Middle East 8,000 years ago. Thanks to the invention of boats, the Vikings managed to acquire cats during the second migration that began in 1700 BCE. It is believed that cats got to Scandinavia around 200 B.C.E.
The first cats that began showing up in Scandinavia settled in urban areas. After this, they started spreading to the rural areas and offered assistance to the Norse people. The Vikings valued cats and brought them with them in their ships since they helped control rodents.
The Vikings viewed cats as unpredictable animals. Though this was their favorite pet, they sometimes used the cat’s skin to make clothes. When the Vikings migrated to Greenland, they sailed with their cats.
Biegel and Trjegul
We mentioned that the Norse goddess Freyja had a chariot and two cats. The Norse people believed that Freyja was the goddess of luck and fertility. According to these people, the goddess also had magic power, and they also associated her with death and war.
Two male cats, referred to as Bygul and Trjegul, pulled Freyja’s chariot. The Norse goddess chose cats over other animals since cats symbolized fertility and femininity. A certain Russian tale suggested that Freyja got the two cats as a present from Thor.
Though Bygul and Trjegul were male cats, they symbolized the combination of both male and female sexuality. Since Freyja was associated with death, she led the Valkyries to pick the fallen warriors after a battle. She took some of the fallen warriors to Folkvang and the other half to the Norse god called Odin that was associated with war and wisdom.
Thor got the two cats from a cat that was called Bayun. The male cat was a single father trying to raise Bygul and Trjegul alone after their mother took off. When Thor encountered the cat, he thought of taking the kittens to Freyja.
When cat Bayun was freed from the responsibility of raising the kittens, he transformed into a bird. Freyja raised the two kittens until they were old enough to pull her chariot.
How were cats tamed by the Vikings?
Unlike with dogs, the Vikings did not initially domesticate cats. Rather than caging them, the Vikings tamed their cats by developing a mutual relationship with them. When Vikings started farming, rodents like rats and mice destroyed their crops. These rodents started attracting cats in search of food.
As cats fed on the rats, they helped the Vikings protect their crops. The Vikings started forming a bond with cats, and soon enough, they became best friends. Unlike dogs which were more aggressive, the calm nature of cats made them less of a burden to the Vikings.
The interaction between the Vikings and cats is believed to have played a role in the increase in the size of these animals. Since cats no longer struggled to hunt for food when they lived with Vikings, they grew larger.
Though the Vikings loved cats, they skinned them for their fur when they got old. They later used the cat’s fur to keep warm or sold them. Though the Vikings loved cats, they began farming these animals for their fur.
The cat behaves as if it was left in charge of all the other animals that exist on earth. This was a beloved animal to the Vikings. The Vikings have been living with cats for a long time and even migrated with them.