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Fortune Cats are lucky charms that are believed to attract good luck and prosperity to its owners. This is the reason why they are so abundant in any kind of business.
The Japanese name is Maneki Neko which translates as Beckoning Cat. The raised paw means they're waving positive things to its owners. Other names re Lucky Cat, Welcome Cat or Money Cat.
These cats originated during the Edo period in Japan (17th to 19th century). The period was characterized by economic growth, strict social order, isolationist foreign policies and popular enjoyment of arts and culture. There are a few legend explaining the origin of the Maneki Neko:
A geisha had a cat. One day, the cat was running around and owner of the brothel thought the cat was possessed, so he sliced off its head with a sword. The flying cat head landed on a snake about to strike and saved the geisha. The geisha was so saddened by the loss of her pet that one of her customers made a statue of the cat to cheer her up.
A rich man took shelter from a rainstorm under a tree close to a temple. He noticed a cat that seemed to be beckoning to him, so he followed it inside the temple. A lightning struck the tree he had been standing under. Because the cat had saved his life, the man was so grateful, he became a benefactor of the temple and made donations. When he passed away, a statue of the cat was made in is honor.
There are different meanings attached to the features of each Manike Neko. If the left paw is raised it attracts new clients. If the right paw is raised, this invites good fortune and money. You can also find Fortune Cats with both paws raised. Depending on the color of the cat you can get different kinds of good luck:
- The most common one is Calico: it attracts good fortune in general
- Golden Fortune Cats attract wealth and prosperity
- Green cats are meant to attract good health
- White cats are good for happiness, purity and positive things
- Red cats work for sex and relationships
- Black cats protect against evil spirits