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April


April is the fourth month of the year, according to the Gregorian calendar. The Romans called the month Aprilis. The Roman name may come from a word meaning to open, or it may come from Aphrodite, the Greek name for the goddess of love. It was called Eostre (Easter) month by the Anglo-Saxons. April was the second month in an early Roman calendar, but it became the fourth when the ancient Romans started using January as the first month.

In the Temperate Zone of the Northern Hemisphere, the appearance of the outdoor world usually changes more in April than in any other month of the year. Ice and snow disappear, grass grows green, and leaves appear on bushes and trees. Small animals that hibernate are usually out of their burrows by this time. Birds fly northward or settle down to raise families. Butterflies and bees gather nectar from the first flowers. In the Southern Hemisphere, people enjoy mild autumn days. In many areas, April is high season for tornadoes.

Playing tricks on the first day of April is a custom among European peoples. In France the victim of such practical jokes is called an April fish; in Scotland, a gowk or cuckoo; and in English-speaking countries, an April fool.

Activities - April is mainly a sowing time on many northern farms. In some parts of the world, April is a harvest time for grain. The professional baseball season begins in the United States. Amateurs in many other sports are lured out of doors with the first warm days. Householders begin their spring cleaning and start work on their gardens and lawns.

Special days - On the first day of April, children and grown-ups play jokes on one another. Arbor Day is a day for planting trees, observed on various April days. Easter nearly always falls in April, and brings with it other Christian celebrations such as Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday. The Jewish religious festival of Pesah (Passover) often comes early in April.

The Chinese celebrate the Pure and Bright Festival in early April. People in England and Canada celebrate St. George's Day to honour the patron saint of England.

April symbols - The special flowers for April are the sweet pea and the daisy. The birthstone for April is the diamond.

April: from aperire, Latin for "to open" (buds).

April Quotations

April showers bring May flowers...
and if we have April showers
then we will have "Showers of Blessings..."

Unknown


Spring bursts today, for Christ is risen
and all the earth's at play...
Winter is past, Sweet Spring is come
at last, is come at last.

Christina Rossetti


April cold with dropping rain
willows and lilacs brings again,
the whistle of returning birds
and trumpet-blowing of the herds.

Ralph Waldo Emerson


The first of April, some do say
is set apart for All Fools' Day;
But why the people call it so
nor I, nor they themselves, do know.

From Poor Robin's Almanac (1760)


When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim
has put a spirit of youth in everything.

William Shakespeare




True Stories About Dogs & Cats - By Eliza Lee Follen

"I must say something in favor of the much-abused cat. Doubtless she would be a much better member of society, if she were better treated, if she had a better example set before her."

"Sportsmen are very angry because she catches birds, and because she is sly. They will themselves lie down in the grass so that the birds may not see them, and be as sly as the very slyest old puss, and yet they cannot forgive her for watching noiselessly for birds. Has not she as good a right as any sportsman to a little game? She takes only what she wants to eat. She does not kill them in order to boast to another cat of how many she has bagged."

"They say she must be bad, for she kills singing birds. Do not sportsmen kill larks and thrushes? Were you once to see a lark rising up into the blue sky higher and higher, and hear him singing as he rises louder and louder, as if he saw heaven opening, and wanted to tell you how beautiful it was, and call you up there; and then to think of killing and eating him, you would say, What cat can be so unfeeling as a man? Who, with any music in his soul, could do so? Yet men do eat larks for dinner, and then scold at the poor cat who treats herself with only one perhaps. Why should she not be a little dainty? Men, women, and boys and girls are often cruel and unreasonable, not merely cats. The cat is as good as she knows how to be."

"So you are, pussy," said Harry, taking up his pet cat in his lap, and stroking her. "You never do any harm, but catch the mice in our mother's barn. But you are a little sly, and, if you should catch birds, right or wrong, I'm afraid I should box your ears. You must learn to do without birds for your dinner."




The King of Cats

"I tell you, cats are the queer articles. They seem to be different to every other class of animals. In the old days there were some foreign peoples who worshipped them, and it is not to be greatly wondered at, when you think of the intelligence of cats."

Excerpt from an old British tale.




Geometry

Never a mouse
chases ever a tail,
never a mouse ever sees
that always a cat
catches always a mouse,
cats being kittens
who once chased their tails.
Toss a pebble into a stream,
never a circle catches a circle;
shoot a dawn-ball
into the sky,
never a moonbeam
catches a sun;
drop the same thought
on the floor:
Only a kitten catches a tail,
the tail being straight,
the kitten a circle.
Yet never a mouse
chases ever a tail,
never a mouse ever sees
that always some death
catches always his mouse,
deaths being kittens
who once chased their tails.

Alfred Kreymborg




A Letter From the Front

I was out early to-day, spying about,
from the top of a haystack - such a lovely morning,
and when I mounted again to canter back,
I saw across a field in the broad sunlight.
A young Gunner Subaltern, stalking along
with a rook-rifle held at the read, and - would you believe it?
A domestic cat, soberly marching beside him.

So I laughed, and felt quite well disposed to the youngster,
and shouted out "the top of the morning" to him,
and wished him "Good sport!" - and then I remembered!
My rank, and his, and what I ought to be doing:
And I rode nearer, and added, "I can only suppose
you have not seen the Commander-in-Chief's order
forbidding English officers to annoy their Allies
By hunting and shooting."

But he stood and saluted and said earnestly, "I beg your pardon, Sir,
I was only going out to shoot a sparrow to feed my cat with."

So there was the whole picture,
the lovely early morning, the occasional shell
screeching and scattering past us, the empty landscape,
empty, except for the young Gunner saluting,
and the cat, anxiously watching his every movement.

I may be wrong, or I may have told it badly,
but it struck me as being extremely ludicrous.
Sir Henry Newbolt




Did You Know?

A rumour has persisted since Hardy's death that it is not the author's heart that was buried beside Emma. The story goes that Hardy's housekeeper placed his heart on the kitchen table, where it was promptly devoured by her cat. Apparently a pig's heart was used to replace Hardy's own. Truth? Fiction? We will probably never know!

A witch's cat came to be called a grimalkin. The Scottish goddess of witches was called Mither o' the Mawkins, a mawkin or malkin being either a cat or a hare. Originally a gremalkin was a gray cat. Later the term came to refer to the "pussies" or "catkins" on a pussy willow, as well as to the witch's cat.

Bastet, the cat goddess, had the power to heal. There is a scarab engraved with a cat inscribed "Bastet, the Nurse." The cat and the snake share their respective attributes; the latter has always been used as a symbol of healing. In spite of the fact that in certain context, the snake is a healer, it also represents its opposite: the disease. When Bastet or her feline representative is found striking a snake, the snake expresses all that is poisonous, terrifying and revolting.

The cat is a natural hunter. The Egyptian name Bast means "tearer" or "renderer;" the Indo-European root ghad, from which the Greek, Latin, Russian, Arabic, German and French words for cat derive, means "to grasp" or "to catch." In the Jewish Talmud, the cat is called "pouncer."

An old legend, one of many such legends, accounts for the traditional enmity between cat and mouse. At the beginning of the world, the sun and moon created all the animals. First, the sun created the lion which was majestic and full of fire like himself. The moon, seeing that the gods were lost in admiration of the lion, determined not to be outdone, produced the cat. Not only did the gods laugh at the obvious inferiority of the moon's creature, but the sun became very indignant that the moon dared to compete with him at all - he created the mouse as a symbol of his contempt. The moon, angered by the mockery of her efforts, created an eternal hatred between cat and mouse as a final effort to avenge herself on the sun.

The Hindu word for cat means "the cleanser." The cat is famous for its cleanliness, and the luminous cat moon is the cleanser of the night, since she rids it of the shadowy gray mice clouds.

No one seems to know why the cat is specially associated with fiddles. It may be something to do with the fact that the strings of violins are made of so-called "catgut" - a tough cord made from the intestines of animals, usually sheep and never from cats. No satisfactory explanation has been given as to why violin strings have acquired this name. The word may possibly be a corruption of "kit-gut" - kit being an old word for small fiddle.




Quote of the month:

"God is really another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant, and the cat. He just goes on trying other things." - Pablo Picasso




Black Cat

A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place
your sight can knock on, echoing; but here
within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze
will be absorbed and utterly disappear:
Just as a raving madman, when nothing else
can ease him, charges into his dark night
howling, pounds on the padded wall, and feels
the rage being taken in and pacified.
She seems to hide all looks that have ever fallen
into her, so that, like an audience,
she can look them over, menacing and sullen,
and curl to sleep with them. But all at once
as if awakened, she turns her face to yours;
and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny,
inside the golden amber of her eyeballs
suspended, like a prehistoric fly.

Rainer Maria Rilke




The Bridge

Cats are, of course, not all white or black, nor are they wholly good or evil. Perhaps because the cat is closely associated with powers of both light and darkness, it has sometimes been thought of as forming a bridge between the two.

Many bridges are reputed to have been built by the Devil. The name Devil's Bridge is attached to structures found in England, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Spain. Sometimes, as in the case of the Pont de Valentre at Cahors in France, the Devil was entirely responsible for the construction. At other times, he intervened when human engineers, who had started building a bridge, came to the end of their resources.

There was a snag in accepting the Devil's help: for he demanded, as the price of his work, the soul of the first creature to cross the newly built bridge. A trick commonly played on the Devil was to send across a black cat, so that he received, in exchange for the bridge he'd built, not a Christian soul but something already possessed. A black and white drawing reflecting this belief shows the Celtic bishop, St. Cado, holding a crosier and clad in episcopal robes, meeting Satan on a bridge and handing over to him a black cat.

Although the Devil seems to have resigned himself to this compromise, a story is told of a case where he lost his temper. At Beaugency, a town on the River Loire, Satan was so furious when he found he had been fobbed off with a cat, that he tried to kick down the new bridge. He failed. As he carried off the cat, it tore at his hands and face with its claws. When the Devil could no longer endure the pain, he let the cat go and it took refuge near Sologne. As a result, the locality came to be knowns as Chaffin (Chatfin), and the inhabitants of Beaugency were called cats.




Queen Cat

Cats are very fertile animals, and queens are exceptionally highly sexed. When in season, the female rolls about on her back and yowls for hours until all the toms in the neighborhood have formed a circle around her. She will then satisfy each of them in turn.

Bastet became associated with all the mother goddesses - those personifications of female productivity. She was identified with Isis as Mother Nature and parent of all living creatures of the earth, sea, and air; at Thebes, she was worshipped as the World Mother, Mut, whose temple was approached through a magnificent avenue of sphinxes. Some texts inscribed on the walls of the temple of Bubastis refer to Bastet as mother of some of the pharaohs. When the temple was first built, in the sixth dynasty, it was written of the reigning pharoah that his mother, Bastet, has nourished him. Mut was queen of the gods and Egyptian queens wore her symbol, a vulture, on their crowns to represent their royal motherhood. Where Bastet was worshipped as Mut, her cat head was replaced by that of a vulture.

Although Bastet was worshipped as the feminine principle of nature, later periods of Egyptian history celebrated her as a goddess of fertility and generative power. The cat goddess was the female counterpart of Prah, the sun god and ancient "giver of life" whose rays produced fecundity in nature.




The Cat & The Moon

The life of the cat has been likened to that of the moon and in some cases, even identified with it. Demetrius Phalarius, a Greek poet, claimed that the cat's sympathy with the moon was such that the size of its body increased and decreased according to the waxing and waning of the lunar orb; that the cat had peculiar reproductory habits, producing litters consisting of first one, then two, then three kittens until it reached a litter of seven. The total number of its young corresponded to the twenty eight degrees of light which appear during the moon's revolution, the cat then stopped having kittens.

At Kirk Braddan in the Isle of Man there is a runic cross built into the wall near the south porch of the parish church. This is a wheel cross, about four feet in diameter, and between each section is carved an animal. Of the four quadrants, three contain cats - one lean, one plumper and the third positively fat - while the fourth displays a shrew mouse. The common number of teeth in rodents is twenty six, the shrew mouse having twenty-eight teeth, again coinciding with the days of the moon's revolution. This animal is fond of burying itself out of sight as the moon does at the end of its last quarter; and is not in fact blind, as believed by the Egyptians. The animals obviously represent the stages of the moon, and the cross is almost certainly a relic of moon and cat worship.

On the upper arm of the cross, two cats supporting a human face between them are depicted. Plutarch states that the human countenance between two cat-like figures upon a stone is designed to designate that the changes of the moon are regulated by wisdom and understanding.

Sometimes the cat's eyes were identified with the moon, changing as they do from crescent to round. Topsell described how they shine more fully at the full, and more dimly in the changing and wain. He explained that not only is the cat more active after sunset, but the dilation and contraction of its pupils are the waxing and waning of the moon.

It appears that the images of the cat and the moon have been so confused that many people have been unable to distinguish between them.




Rodilard The Cat

La Fontaine describes the antics of a cat called Rodilard, who was the scourge and terror of all mice and rats. One day, Rodilard was feeling very hungry, so he devised a means of procuring a real feast. He hung himself upside down beside a wall... resisting gravitation's laws... but, although he appeared to be hanged, in fact he held a hidden cord in his claws. The mice, believing that Rodilard had at last received his due for all the crimes he had mercilessly committed, thronged round him in the highest of spirits; then ran off to spread the good news to the rats. Rats and mice by the dozens soon appeared and wandered blissfully around hunting for food, exploiting to the full their false security. Their joy was short lived, for suddenly Rodilard pulled the cord, sprang to the floor and was soon gorging himself on the victims of his stratagem.

But this was not the end of his tricks, for it annoyed Rodilard that a number of mice had escaped into their holes. He found some meal and covered the whole of his body with it, then squatted in an open tub and held his purring and his breath, till out came the vermin to their death.




Nine Lives

Nine is a mystical number, composed as it is of a trinity of trinities, and from the earliest times it has been regarded as specially significant. The River Styx encompassed the Greek hell in nine circles; in Teutonic mythology there were nine worlds over which Odin gave power to Freya, the goddess of love. According to an Egyptian system of astronomy, there were nine spheres and the Egyptian pantheon consisted of three companies of nine gods. The Greek Apollo (brother of the moon goddess, Artemis, with whom Bastet was identified) created the lunar year which consisted of nine months; and in Christian myth the fateful hour of Christ's death was the ninth.

It is said if one takes even one of a cat's nine lives, it will haunt and work its vengeance against that one. In Europe and Africa, to kill or even maltreat a cat was believed to bring bad luck. In India, where Parsees respected the cat as an uncanny animal, the destruction of one was treated as a serious crime. But only in Egypt was cat murder punished by the death penalty, and Herodotus has described how a Roman soldier who killed a cat was promptly lynched by a crowd of outraged Egyptians.




Recommended book: Cats Kittens - Complete Guide

Concise description of each breed's origin, appearance and character, with symbols providing at-a-glance information on grooming and space requirements.

Contains more than 180 cats from the world's favourite breeds.

Author: Edited by Lydia Darbyshire

Hardback - 224 pages.

ISBN: 0-86288-349-0

Published by: Quantum Books - Greenwich Editions
10 Blenheim Court, Brewery Road, London, United Kingdom. N7 9NT




And finally...

Quote: "For a man to truly understand rejection, he must first be ignored by a cat." - Unknown

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