Matagot

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Matagot

Region of origin: Provence, France

The matagot or mandragot is a household spirit or familiar that can take on the form of various animals but is most associated with black cats. There are a flurry of regional variations regarding names,  methods of acquisitions and specific behaviors, but largely they are associated with luck and wealth, bringing coins each day to owners who keep them well fed. It was said they could be found one night a year (specifically believed to be the eve of the feast of St. John on June 23rd in the Béarn region), and could be lured to a crossroads with a plump hen, at which point you could capture it in a sack, though you must return to your home silently and without looking back. If provided for, the cat would leave in the night and fetch the money for its owner; believed to be demonic spirits or fae creatures they were able to slip between realms to reach otherwise inaccessible places. A well-kept matagot is a boon to a household, but when poorly-treated or otherwise injured or malnourished may turn on their masters, attacking them or causing them to be stricken with agonizing pain, and even the behaved ones are thought to come at the cost of your soul, associating owners with witchcraft and sorcerers. The story of Puss In Boots was thought to be inspired by matagots, and the mandrake root takes its name from “mandragot”, believing the figure-shaped plant has some relation to spirit’s magic or may be themselves some early stage of the creature’s growth.

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