Welcome to the Cat Nights!

George Orwell 1984 cover

It’s August and that means Cat Nights if you’re Irish – or follow Irish lore at all. Now being August and pretty damn close to mid-August, Cat Nights are associated with summer rather than our Southern Hemisphere winter.

It’s the story behind it that matters more than the season though. See, we believe that cats have nine lives. Not dogs, not birds, not camels and not mice. No, cats. Specifically cats have nine lives. Now, why would cats have nine lives? Because, witches naturally! Keeping up with Irish logic yet?

Here’s the plain language explanation. The Irish believed witches had the power to change themselves into cats at will. So, come the evening a witch would slip into something more feline and “own the night”. There is a trick to it though (isn’t there always?).

Cats specifically have nine lives because the witches in question could turn themselves feline and back eight times – the ninth meant they would remain a cat – and all this happens by August 17. This is why we have the belief that cats have nine lives, not because they are lucky, but rather that a witch could change herself into a cat a total of nine times, with the last being a permanent change.

This got me to thinking about people. People change back and forth between the various versions of themselves based on where they are and who they are with. It eventually gets to the point though where they become what they are and there’s no turning back. Now, for the witches becoming a cat permanently could be either a punishment or a really convenient escape from an unpalatable reality.

The same is true of people, they might find themselves in a position where they have changed one time too many – and are forced to remain that way without the option of going back to who they were. It begs the rather deep question of working out how to decide who exactly is the real you, and how you can remain true to yourself despite the circumstances.

While the opportunity to change at will might be tempting and, in some cases, even desirable it has to be considered if the change is worth it. If changing runs the risk of remaining what you have changed into, is this an improvement on your current circumstance or an unwelcome and unwanted diversion.

Sometimes change is easy, and it helps to get things done. More often though finding a way to stand strong and be yourself is a rather more desirable result.

On a final note, when George Orwell wrote 1984 and saw it published for the first time back in 1949, he was describing a dystopian future in which the state extended control of its citizens to absurd levels, society lived in fear and everyone toed the party line or faced dire consequences. It painted an entirely bleak picture of the future and it appears to be one we are hell-bent on emulating. I sometimes wonder if 1984 was not Orwell’s last completed work because the vision of the future robbed him of a desire to create something that might be destroyed by later generations. You can avoid reading the book by listening to the audiobook version on YouTube at https://youtu.be/scqLliarGpM.

Author: Morné Condon

Automotive journalist in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, following new models, old cars, car clubs and motorsport. My interests are not restricted to the automotive environment, although this is where I am mostly to be found.

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