“Need a Little Luck? This cute cat may be the answer.”
Symbolic communication relies on one interpreting a symbol in order to understand the meaning that infers. The meaning of any symbol is determined cultural and within a definite context. One such interesting symbol is that of the Maneki Neko, or Lucky Cat.
If you’ve ever visited a Chinese or Japanese restaurant, Asian supermarket, or any Chinatown shop for that matter, you’ve probably noticed a little cat figurine perched quietly by the cash register. This Fortune Cat, or Maneki Neko, is a lucky cat charm that’s very popular in Japanese and Chinese cultures. A talisman that is believed to attract good luck and fortune for its owners, it’s very common to find one on display in stores, restaurants and other businesses.
The Maneki Neko cat is a lucky charm talisman. The cats first appeared around 1876 and were used to beckon good fortune. They were originally used by merchants in stores to welcome customers. They were often ceramic and sometimes made into piggy banks. Their popularity increased around 1900 and they were used in the home and places of study to bring protection and good luck. To Westerners, it may seem as if the cat is waving rather than beckoning. This is due to the difference in gestures and body language between Westerners and the Japanese. The Japanese beckoning gesture is made by holding up the hand, palm down, and repeatedly folding the fingers down and back, thus the cat’s appearance. Some cats made specifically for some Western markets will have the cat’s paw facing upwards, in a beckoning gesture that is more familiar to most Westerners, although not symbolically correct.
If the cat’s left paw is raised it invites and welcomes customers and people. If the right paw is raised it invites money or good fortune. If both paws are raised it does both of these things, as well as provide overall protection for the home or business in which it is placed.
Color variations also have meaning. The following chart represents various meanings for differently colored Maneki Neko Cats:
Green Education or Studies
Orange Safe Travels
Black Wards off Evil
Red Protection from Illness
White Purity and Happiness
Gold Extreme Wealth
Blue Wisdom Career Success
The cats may also appear with accessories. For example a cat wearing a bib and a bell can bring wealth and an abundance of material items.
Cherry blossoms represent life and orbs, seen around the eyes and on the top of the head on this cat, represent wisdom.
Lucky Cats can also be found holding gourds, prayer tablets, daikon radishes and ingots. These items also represent wealth and good luck.
Regardless of the name, legend, raised paw, color, or item in its paw, with a Fortune Cat perched by your side, you are probably one lucky human!