Friday, May 3, 2013

Van Kedisi and "spirit of place"

Lulu and Lucy

I've had a lot of synchronicities for several years around Turkey, and last year  I was given two kittens, both white and each with odd eyes, one blue and one yellow.  Lulu and Lucy became my Muses, sometimes following me around the house talking to me in a mysterious cat language.  Then a well travelled friend of mine,  said  "Oh, Van Kedisi!".   Lulu and Lucy were Van Cats!
  And it turns out that's rather special - for  many people in the ancient land of Turkey or Anatolia,  they are very much the "spirit of place".

Lake Van (Turkish: Van Gölü, Armenian: Վանա լիճ Vana lich or Vana Lij, Kurdish: Gola Wanê ) is the largest lake in Turkey, located in the far east of the country in Van district. It seems that Van cats have a very ancient lineage indeed, as does the region, and are very much loved by Turks, Armenians, and Kurds, so much so that there are all kinds of legends about them, they are mascots for teams, there is a Van Kedisi research center in the capital of the Lake Van region, and even the government protects them. 

Not far from Lake Van is the excavation of Gobekli Tepe, a Neolithic site that is 12,000 years old, which I've been fascinated with.  Göbekli Tepe  means, literally, "Belly" or "Navel Mountain", and is composed of some 22 megalithic stone circles (only two have been excavated) which were intentionally buried 8,000 years ago, located 2500 feet above sea level at the top of a mountain ridge in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey. Artist and scholar Lydia Ruhle writes:
"Gobekli Tepe means "navel mountain" in Turkish.  It is on top of a hill that is the highest point on the windswept Urfa Plain, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. This is the area where emmer wheat was domesticated and hunter gatherer cultures settled into agricultural communities. As early as 12,000 years ago, humans spent much time and effort to cut stone and create circular structures with twelve foot tall pillars with carvings of animals, vultures, snakes holding up a roof..........In 2006, I created a Goddess Icon Banner of  (a Sheela-na-gig image from the site) and named her Gobekli Tepe. She has been flying around the world ever since. My banner description states:

"Gobekli Tepe is a Neolithic Sheela-na-gig incised into stone on the floor of a rock cut temple which appeared to have ritual purposes.Two standing pillars with lions sculpted in relief protect one of the earliest known Sheelas. Gobekli Tepe, which means navel mountain, is in eastern Turkey near the source of the Euphrates River. Emmer wheat was domesticated in the area. All life comes from and returns to the mother".
 "Navel mountain and navel of the world" indeed.  I wrote  an article about Gobekli Tepe .........and I felt blessed to be given two magical cats, with such ancient origins, from that ancient part of the world where agriculture began, the "belly of the Goddess". 

File:Akhtamar Island on Lake Van with the Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross.jpg
Akdamar Island and the Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Mount Süphan  is in background.
It's interesting to look for information about Van cats on the internet, and learn of all the peoples who claim them.....almost like living "numina", they truly belong to a Place, and are loved because they are magical, living embodiments of that Place by the peoples who call it home or homeland.  Perhaps for me too, my magical "muses" give me a bit of a sense of belonging to the Homeland of the Goddess, that place of ancient origins;  when I see their topaz and sky blue eyes looking at me, I  remember. 

And Lake wonderful it would be to go there and see the Van Kedisi, along with everything else. 

Apparently Van Kedisi are related to, and sometimes confused with, "Turkish Angora" (or Ankara) cats.  A great site with lots of information about Van cats was Turkish Angora Cat (from which I also borrowed some of the photographs here).

It's been really interesting  to see how passionate different groups in the area are about the cats.  For example, from the Turkish Angora Cat website:

"About 2 years ago, a disagreement between municipalities of Van and Ankara occurred. And it still continues.  Ankara city proudly displayed their logo with odd-eyes “a smiling Turkish Angora’’. This was very insulting for Van municipality and Van cat lovers, as every folk knows that odd eyed cat is a Van, not Angora! Certainly, a problem arose because both of cities see ‘’their’’ cats in very identical ways. Maybe white odd-eyed cat has deep roots in Turkish culture in general? Although both Van and Angora are thought to be odd-eyed white cats, Van municipality feels that Ankara city has no right to claim different eyes for ‘’their’’ Angoras."  
What Lucy thinks about it all.......


Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

How fitting that these two cats ended up with you! What a fabulous history they come from.

Valerianna said...

I didn't see the video yet, but I've loved Turkish Van cats for a while. Lived in Greece, just a mile from Turkey, and traveled in Turkey a few times. I've heard that Van cats like to swim, and saw a few do so. There's a breed here, too, the Ragdoll, long haired white with black markings that has one blue one green-yellow, too. Wonder if they are related?

Sheila Joshi said...

Greetings, Lauren!

I found your blog through Elizabeth Hoover de Galvez’ “Sychronicity” blog. I am a cat-lover and enjoyed the Van cats, and your writing is fascinating and flowing. But I have to particularly thank you for pointing me to Lydia Ruyle and the Sheela-na-gig, neither of which I knew about. It is a synchronicity, because I’m researching a blog post which includes some sacred history of fish and one of the roots of the vesica piscis is the female vulva.

I have not been able to find an image on the Internet of the Sheela-na-gig at Gobekli Tepe. If anyone has any luck, I would very much appreciate getting the link.

Best wishes, Sheila

Lauren Raine said...

Hi Sheila,

Here is a book written by a colleague of Marija Gimbutas who gave a presentation at a conference I attended on very ancient images of sacred display (sheila na gig) - her talk and book I found fascinating, and the link below will take you to a rendering of the image at Gobekli Tepe. As she points out, the "M" shaped crouching figure is very common, probably related to birth, or connection of the genitals with the earth.

A perfect example of a vesica piscis is the popular image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, found throughout Mexico, by the way.

Lauren Raine said...


and then of course there are the world-wide "yoni" stones, and the silver Vesica Piscis that holds a stone probably once sacred to an Arabic Moon Goddess, found inside the Kaaba at Mecca.

( One of the worlds great ironies.........

Unknown said...

Dear Lauren,

I am a member from the Turkish Angora website. I am surprised to see our page used as source for this Van cat post.

We are sorry, we may disappoint you. But our article makes a point there is no white odd-eyed cat breed called Van Kedisi. All random-bred cats from Turkey are rep0resantatives of one natural cat breed- they are Anatolian cats. Why I say this? We have some DNA evidence to back up this...

It is illogical to believe that odd-eyed white cat breed exists restricted in one particular city... In the same way like The Angora cat is from Ankara... These are unproven beliefs, based on nothing.

Your cats are special and they don't need the label ''Van Kedisi''. The idea of Van Kedisi is very racist and devalues other the same cats with different colours of fur...
Our Association is against racism of Anatolian cats. I hope you understand what I mean.

Keep up a good work
Kind Regards

Sheila Joshi said...

Lauren – Thanks so much! That housing for the black stone at the Kaabah is really too much! And I will never look at a mandorla / vesica piscis *around* a Christian figure the same way ever again! :)

That was a great blog post on Half the Sky and Yonis. I love Nicholas Kristof and his continual journalistic witnessing efforts.

The Goddess *is* returning. More women elected in 2012 than ever. Next…Hilary….

Thanks very much for all the resources!