Sunday, 28 April 2013

A Kitten Story

A mother cat was dozing one spring morning.  Warmed by the sunshine, her fur softly ruffled in the breeze.  Her days-old baby kittens were playfully tumbling over one another.  Buzzing insects with little wings fluttered over their heads, taunting them towards the river bank.  The kittens pawed playfully, and rolled down the embankment.  Mother cat heard a soft meowing, and bounded to the bank of the river.  Her little ones were sopping wet in the cold rushing water.  A willow tree dipped her long slender branches into the water, and the kittens grabbed on eagerly to pull themselves out.  From that day forward, and every spring thereafter, the willow branches would sprout their little furry catkins at the places where the kittens had once clung for dear life.  

The Ukrainian tradition of pussy willows goes back to before Ukraine's Christian Baptism in 988.  The custom of pouring water is an ancient spring rite of cleansing, purification and fertility. After the hopeless cold of winter, the window of time where the dust of the past is washed away with living water calls for a renewal of promise. For Ukrainians it is a celebration of the first baptismal sprinkling of water! It is an end to the fast and a milestone in the human journey. Being switched with pussy willow branches is a gentle reminder of both the internal and external cleaning ahead. 

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