We’ve all seen this kitty in stores, restaurants, and homes. Most of us know this whimsical feline symbolizes luck, but did you know type of luck is determined by which paw is raised and the cat’s color?
The Japanese legend of Maneki Neko, or Beckoning Cat, has been around for centuries. There are a few stories about Maneki Neko, but the most popular one involves a priest, a wealthy man, and a cat named Tam who saved the day.
There once was a very poor priest who lived in a temple with his cat, Tam. The priest often spoke aloud of his desire for prosperity and wished the cat could find a way to bring money to the temple. One day a wealthy feudal lord was passing by the temple when it started to rain. To shield himself, he sought shelter under a nearby tree. Tam poked his head outside the temple and raised a paw at the man, beckoning him to come inside. Curious about the cat, the lord walked toward the temple. As he stood in front of the cat, lightening struck the tree under which he’d been standing. The lord immediately thought the cat was the incarnation of the Goddess of Mercy and generously endowed the temple with monetary fortune.
Today, people use a Maneki Neko as a symbol of welcome and attraction. The translation of the symbols on his scroll is “may you have luck.” A left raised paw attracts and welcomes guests, customers, and general good luck, while a right raised paw specifically attracts and welcomes wealth. As you will see in the video below, the color of the cat adds yet another component to the intention of the fortuitous feline. Although the cat appears to be waving (some statues even have mechanical arms that move), he is actually simulating a Japanese beckoning motion, which looks like a wave to the western world.