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How did the 'Pussy Willow' get its name?

Pussy Willow Poem

A poetic version of the legend

Pussy Willow and Cat

From Moggies.co.uk (with thanks)

According to an old Polish legend, many springtimes ago a mother cat was crying at the bank of the river in which her kittens were drowning. The willows at the river's edge longed to help her, so they swept their long graceful branches into the waters to rescue the tiny kittens who had fallen into the river while chasing butterflies. The kittens gripped on tightly to their branches and were safely brought to shore. Each springtime since, goes the legend, the willow branches sprout tiny fur-like buds at their tips where the tiny kittens once clung.

Another version goes:

A farmer, annoyed that his barn cat had just given birth to another litter of kittens, decided that his farm had enough mouths to feed. He put the newborn babies in a feed sack, went down to the riverbank and threw the kittens in the water to be rid of them. In the turbulence of the fast moving river, the tie on the sack became loosened which set the kittens adrift. On the riverbank witnessing this horrible sight, the distressed mother cat wept loud and pitifully.

A cluster of willow bushes, along the riverbank downstream, heard her cries and in sympathy held out their branches like mooring lines. This enabled the desperately floundering kittens to grab hold as they drifted by. Now in mythology, when the life we are assigned on earth is doomed but because the spirit is eternal, myth dictates that the spirit can live on but must be in another earthly form. Because the kittens were destined to die, but their spirits were saved, they then became part of the willows which had saved them. Ever since then, in Spring, the willow-without-a-flower decks itself out in gentle velvet buds that feel to the fingers like the silky coat of a small cat. These buds are known today as catkins and remarkably, in every country, these soft willow trees are named after cats.

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Page updated : 25th March 2016