Wichian Mat (Moon Diamond) is one of the auspicious cats from the Tamra Maeo Thai – “Treatise on Cats”. These cats have magical powers if you treat them nicely.
The treatise is a manuscript from the nineteenth century but the lore which they record is very much older. There are several versions of this manuscript. It provides an illustrated discussion on seventeen types of auspicious cat. These are good cats as opposed to cats which bring bad luck. The document tells us that in Thai tradition the image of the cat is generally positive because if the auspicious cat is well treated it brings general prosperity to the cat’s caretaker/guardian.
The treatise was taken seriously and written down by scholars and turned into verse. The documents were preserved in temples and palaces.
The auspicious cats are:
- the solid black
- 12 black and white cats in various types
- the solid brown (Burmese type), described as “copper”
- the solid grey (the Korat)
- the white
- the lightly coloured cat with dark points (the Siamese) – this cat illustrates the page because it interests me the most for the reasons below.
The treatise encouraged the nurturing and breeding of these cats to bring: health to the family, wealth, slaves and retainers, power, success and high rank and the good fortune to keep enemies away. The black and white cat with white ears is good for success in studying.
By treating them well, the book explains that the owner must not ‘hit it, but take care of it with love / Give it fine food, rice and fish’ (in the absence of cat food cats were fed human food and I am not sure it was always the right sort of food for a cat).
After the cat’s death, the owner was told to bury the cat properly and make food offerings to the cat’s spirit.
People who are involved with the Siamese cat might be interested to see the picture of the Wichian Mat, one of the auspicious cats, on this page. It is quite definitely a Siamese or pointed cat and the body type is also quite definitely standard or perhaps nearer semi-cobby using the language of cat breeders.
This is interesting because cat breeders in America and the UK around the middle of the 20th century decided that the true Siamese should be slender in body shape, what called ‘foreign’ or ‘oriental’. So once the Siamese was introduced into Europe, in the very late 1800s, and shortly thereafter into America, about 50 years later breeders set about drastically modifying its head shape and general build.
This alteration was deliberate but it is not related to the original cat. The modification were done because cat breeders preferred the more slender shape. It was and remains a preference, no more, but it got out of hand so that the cat became too slender and the whole thing was enshrined in a breed standard that evolved along the way.