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The Maneki Neko, or “beckoning cat”, is more than just a cute figurine you might spot at the entrance of stores and restaurants. This iconic feline has been waving its paw at us for centuries, symbolizing good luck, prosperity, and positive vibes.
Often painted in vibrant colors and clutching a koban coin, the Maneki Neko is deeply rooted in folklore and cultural symbolism. While many recognize its cheerful gesture and coin inscribed with the phrase “sen-man ryo”, translating to “10 million gold pieces”, not everyone knows the rich tales behind this cat. Let’s explore the world of Maneki Neko, the meanings it holds, and how it’s used in jewelry.
Origin and History of Maneki Neko
The Maneki Neko has its roots in Japan. Originating in the Edo period, between the 17th and 19th centuries, this feline figure has become a symbol of luck. While several stories surround its origin, there’s one that stands out.
The story begins with a poor temple priest and his cat living in Tokyo. Struggling to make ends meet, the priest was shocked when one day his cat seemed to wave at a passing samurai. Intrigued, the samurai approached the temple, and as he did, a tree was struck by lightning where he’d been standing a few seconds earlier. The samurai believed that the cat’s gesture was what saved him, and in gratitude, he became the temple’s benefactor, bringing it out of his financial troubles.
As the story spread, the “beckoning cat” gained fame as a charm, believed to bring prosperity and good fortune. Business owners began placing Maneki Neko statues at entrances to attract customers and wealth. Today, the Maneki Neko remains a popular figure in Japan and beyond, a nod to its storied past and the promise of good fortune.
What Does Maneki Neko Symbolize?
The Maneki Neko’s iconic gesture, a raised paw, is believed to attract positive energies, wealth, and success. Interestingly, the specific meaning of the Maneki Neko can change based on its appearance.
A cat with its left paw raised is thought to draw in money and financial success, while one with its right paw raised offers protection and wards off evil. Additionally, the color of the cat has its own significance.
For instance, white represents purity, while black protects against negative energies. Gold cats promise wealth, and green ones ensure safety. The calico or tri-colored cats are the luckiest.
Regardless of its variations, the central theme remains the same: the Maneki Neko serves as a charm for good luck, protection, and a bright future. It’s a symbol embraced not just in Japan but worldwide, celebrated for its rich history and the promise of good tidings.
Maneki Neko Jewelry
Maneki Neko, with its charming appearance and symbolic promise of good luck, has found its way into the world of jewelry.
Often incorporated as a motif in various pieces, the “beckoning cat” serves both as a fashionable accessory and a token of fortune. Maneki Neko pendants are commonly featured on necklaces, sometimes adorned with gemstones. Earrings, either as studs or dangling types, showcase the cat’s silhouette or a more detailed representation.
Rings and bracelets may also incorporate the lucky cat, sometimes accompanied by other lucky symbols.
Wearing Maneki Neko jewelry not only makes a style statement but is also a way for wearers to carry a touch of luck and protection with them wherever they go.
Variations of the Maneki Neko Story
There are several legends and stories associated with the origin of the Maneki Neko. While the essence is consistent—that of the beckoning cat bringing luck and prosperity—the details of these stories can vary. The most popular tale is that of the priest and the cat, but let’s take a look at some others:
1. The Geisha and Her Cat
Once, there was a geisha who had a pet cat she adored. One evening, while the geisha was performing, her cat started to tug at her kimono. The establishment’s owner thought its behavior was unusual and panicked, thinking the cat was possessed.
Without thinking twice, he cut off the cat’s head. The severed cat’s head landed on a venomous snake that had been sneaking up on the geisha, killing it instantly and then it became clear that the cat was only trying to protect its owner from the snake.
Heartbroken by the tragic loss, the geisha mourned her beloved pet. Seeing her grief, a sympathetic guest gifted her a statue resembling her cat with one paw raised, known as Maneki Neko, to comfort her and honor the cat’s bravery.
2. The Old Woman’s Cat
In a small village, there lived an elderly woman with a cat. She was struggling with extreme poverty and though she loved her cat dearly, she found herself unable to keep her pet, so she had to sell the cat.
One night, the cat appeared to her in a dream and said, ‘Make a clay statue that looks like me.’ When the woman woke up, she felt hopeful and crafted a clay figurine that resembled her cat. The charming figurine, with its raised paw, caught the eye of many, and people began to show interest in it.
As the figurines, known as Maneki Neko, became increasingly popular, the woman began to make a good income from it. Not only did the creation honor her cat’s memory, but it also brought prosperity back into her life.
Maneki Neko jewelry blends style with centuries-old symbolism, offering wearers a touch of charm and good fortune. Whether you’re looking for a trendy accessory or a lucky charm, a piece adorned with the beckoning cat is sure to add a unique sparkle to your collection. If you enjoyed this article, check out some of our other articles on symbolism in jewelry.
If you enjoyed this article, check out some of our other articles on symbolism in jewelry.