We've written before about a wizard who supposedly shapeshifted into a cat and this idea appears again in the Ernest Walker Marwick papers:
Two young men on the isle of Sanday were taken ill with a very infectious fever. The locals were too afraid of falling ill to tend to them and it was said that Recchel Tulloch brought them food in the guise of a cat.
Unfortunately for Recchel, she broke her leg soon after this and was confined to bed. At this time, a cat had been caught in a rabbit trap on the Backaskaill links!!! It also broke its leg!!! The only conclusion to be reached is that they were one and the same!
The Marwick papers also tell how cats were the Macbeth of the seas... you never mentioned or even alluded to a cat whilst on the ocean as it was a terrible omen. This is why some Shetland boys decided to smuggle a cat on board their father's fishing boat; secreting the poor thing within the sail.
|Ernest Walker Marwick's notes, Orkney Archive reference D31/6/8|
When the material unfurled to reveal the unlucky moggy, their father turned straight back to dry land, ordered a new boat and did not fish until it was ready.
One of the lovelier Orcadian tales is that of 'Finfolkaheem' - home of the Fin men as told by Walter Traill Dennison:
'The sand of that country was gold dust, its palaces, built of coral and crystal and adorned with pearls and precious stones, shone like stars in the weird light of that magic land; all furniture and utensils were silver and gold; the halls were hung with gorgeous curtains, the colours of which were like the aurora borealis in most brilliant coruscations.'
Sanday man Arthur Deerness was apparently dragged down to this magical submarine land and enchanted by a mermaid named Auga. He forgot all about his family, home and fiancé Clara Peace.
Clara was distraught at his appearance and the local speywife, Marion of Grindalay determined to help her. Locking herself away for the night, Marion emerged in the morning looking spent yet cheerful.
Meanwhile, Arthur's first night in Finfolkaheem had been full of rich foods, fine wines and the bed of Auga. The only irritation had been a black cat which stole some food, spilt his wine and came between him and his mermaid bride in their matrimonial bed. The cat later appeared whilst the couple sat together and, grabbing Arthur's finger, traced a cross on Auga's brow.
The enchantment was instantly broken and Arthur found himself on the rocks at Hamaness, the exact spot he'd disappeared from, free to return to Clara's waiting arms.
So black cats can save the day too...
Information taken from Orkney Archive references D31/6/8, D31/2/4 and
Walter Traill Dennison's Orkney Folklore and Traditions.