Birman Legend

“… the reincarnation
of souls and a deep respect
and love for priests is the
basis for the legend of the
Sacred Cats of Burma…”

“Once upon a time, before the days of Buddha, the Khmer people built beautiful temples to honour their gods – principally the god Song-Hyo and the goddess Tsun-Kyan-Kse. One of these temples was the temple of Loa-Tsun where a golden figure of the goddess, with sapphire eyes, was kept – and also 100 pure white cats. One of these was Sinh, the companion of an old priest, Mun-Ha, whose golden beard was said to have been braided by Song-Hyo himself.

One night Thai raiders attacked the temple, killing Mun-Ha as he knelt before the figure of the goddess. Immediately the cat Sinh jumped on the body of its master and faced the goddess. The priest’s soul entered the cat, and as it did so the white hair of its body became golden (like the goddess, or like the old priest’s beard, according to different versions of the story) and its eyes became sapphire-blue like those of the goddess. Its legs turned brown, except where the feet rested on its master – there they remained white. The transformation inspired the other priests to drive the raiders off but, seven days later, Sinh also died carrying with it into paradise the soul of Mun-Ha. The next morning all the other white cats of the temple had undergone the same transformation as Sinh. From then on the priests guarded their sacred golden cats, believed them to have custody of the souls of the priests.

The original Birmans of France are said to have been a gift from the priests of a new temple of Lao-Tsun in the mountains of Tibet. Two cats were reputedly sent to France, one – a male – dying in transit. The female, already pregnant, is said to have survived to become the founder of the pedigree Birman breed of Europe.

It is intriguing when, that in 1960, a pair of ‘Tibetan Temple’ kittens were given to a North American cat lover, they had colouring identical to the Birman and were accompanied by the same legend – even down to the 100 temple cats.

Whatever its true origin the Birman is a fascinating variety which became very successful in France until World War Two decimated the feline population. After the war the breed was again reduced to two individuals and it was a long time before it could fully recover. Birmans were first taken to England from France in the early 1960’s and were accepted for championship competitions in 1966.”

“… the legend also has
it that when a priest dies
his soul was transmigrated
into the body of a cat and
upon the cat’s death the
priest’s soul’s transition into
heaven has been accomplished …”