Nekomata - Twin-Tailed cats. - (JP:猫又, ねこまた) - [yokai]
•About this Yokai: Nekomata are probably the most malicious example of a Bakeneko, a cat which has transformed into a yokai upon reaching a certain age, this yokai developed in the 17th century when large numbers of feral cats were roaming edo. -Certain Stories of bakeneko likely date back to ancient China where they are instead known as "Senri." A cat with two tails was thought to be particuarly powerful. Nekomata are defined by their flaming forked tails split straight down the centre, these tails act as a torch for magical necrotic flames. These cats are often said to raise the dead by dancing around coffins. - [This bit of lore often crosses over with another cat yokai: the Kasha.] -
in the case of the nekomata the cat has transformed out of a deep seeded hatred for humanity, it is pure evil and malicious. Its said that the older and more abused a cat was prior to its transformation, the more powerful the Nekomata would be, as such these cats where often cast out by their owners to live alone in the mountains.
Like Bakeneko, Nekomata often assume human appearances, they are said to be able to speak human languages fluently and walk upright on their hindpaws. - they usually appearing as older women who behave badly in public and bringing gloom and malevolence wherever they travel - There are many folktales & plays where in Nekomata drinking their masters blood and assuming their form.
[scene from the pkay "Okazaki Muryoji" Image source.]
Because of these superstitions, fears and folk beliefs, kittens tails where sometimes lopped off based on the assumption that if the tails could not fork, the cat would not become nekomata. There are many places where people would decide in advance if how many years they would keep their cats as pets or if their tails would be allowed to be kept long. Other fears such as the dead resurrecting at a funeral, or that seven generations would be cursed as a result of killing a cat, from these beleifs is thought that the legend of the nekomata was born.
Real world cats with two tails or tails that appear to split are most likely caused by matted fur or "Feline Cutaneous Asthenia" causing droopy skin.
[Bakeneko & Nekomata as included in Toriyama sekiens, Gazu Hyakki Yagyo 1776.]
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