Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Maneki-neko, the Japanese Lucky Cat

Maneki-neko at Tesco (other supermarkets are available,
but there's only one Maneki-neko lucky cat!)
For many a long year, I have been inordinately fond of Maneki-neko, the Japanese lucky cat. I am reminded of this because I saw them for sale in my local Tesco. Indeed were it not for the fact that they were £4.00 and thus officially a rip off, I might have been tempted to buy one.

Of course they are on sale for the Chinese New Year, and so far so nationally disorientating, because every fool knows that Maneki-neko is a Japanese lucky cat - and not Chinese at all! Still, I'm sure in its feline wonderfulness it doesn't matter at all.

Solar powered Maneki-neko so that you are never without luck
A lucky cat is a lucky cat after all.

We in the west can have a bit of a problem with Maneki-neko. We think that the cat is waving to us, because its paw is turned outwards, but actually it is beckoning to us to come closer. What we think is waving is Asian beckoning. Funny little cat!

Maneki-neko is supposed to bring luck, health or wealth, or indeed any manner of good things. We like Maneki-neko.

Too many Maneki-nekos together can start to look a bit spooky

And the little cat is not a god, never thought to be one, so no problem for yours truly buying one from a supermarket. Not like buying a statue of Buddha holding a bird-bath, or the Book of Common Prayer. No nothing to cause scandal there.

In fact I once preached about the importance of Maneki-neko. By name... from the pulpit. I even held up a picture of the sweet little cat formed muppet, just in case anyone in my congregation didn't recognise him.

"I want a statue of Maneli-neko this big"
My homily was on these lines, that you should never trust a religion that cannot incorporate a Japanese lucky cat. Maneki-neko appeals to the superstitious side of us that tries to cope with a world which we cannot control. We do now know what is going to happen to us in the next five minutes, or the next five hours or the next five years. And so human beings have always had charms, amulets, good luck to try to give us some comfort.

Of course our faith should be strong enough for us not to need such things. We should stand forth life strong people relying only on God. But our faith is not always strong, we are not always so stable, not so educated, not so catechised. We are week, and a good and holy church, a good and holy mother knows when to avert her eyes at our weakness, as long as it is only weakness and nothing more.

So I do not worry when I cannot pass a statue of St Peter seated without rubbing his toes (for luck?? Damned right for luck, wrapped up with a slice of devotion and a side garnish of intercessory prayer) or immediately put lost things next to St Anthony (after all where are you going to find them again?). And let me tell you, my statue of the Infant of Prague has never been without a fiver blue-tacked underneath it (and five Euros - I used to live in France after all), because then you'll never be without.

Where's the cash? Get a fiver under him - quick!
My faith knows my weakness and patiently surrounds them with things that point to God. Our holy Mother know that we will never stray too far, and that sometimes our human weakness is a bit too strong. But she allows it. She takes everything to herself and tries to turn it to good - and there is not much which is too far gone.

And so if your faith is so serious, so rigid, so unbending that it would not allow Maneki-neko, or the equivalent of a Japanese lucky cat, or the tickled toes of St Peter, or a fiver under the Child of Prague, then I think it is a rubbish religion.

Who wouldn't trust a living embodiment of Maneki-neko?

And what's more, I wouldn't trust it.

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