TIL during the Nativity of John the Baptist (June 24) crowds would make bonfires around which they would dance and throw in objects they considered to have magical powers in order to bring good luck. A favorite item was cats, in particular Parisians liked to incinerate cats by the sackful.

Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat-burning

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  1. “The torture of animals, especially cats, was a popular amusement throughout early modern Europe. You have only to look at Hogarth’s Stages of Cruelty to see its importance, and once you start looking you see people torturing animals everywhere. Cat killings provided a common theme in literature, from *Don Quixote* in early seventeenth-century Spain to *Germinal* in late nineteenth-century France. Far from being a sadistic fantasy on the part of a few halfcrazed authors, the literary versions of cruelty to animals expressed a deep current of popular culture, as Mikhail Bakhtin has shown in his study of Rabelais. All sorts of ethnographic reports confirm that view. On the *dimanche des brandons* in Semur, for example, children used to attach cats to poles and roast them over bonfires. In the *jeu du chat* at the Fete-Dieu in Aix-en-Provence, they threw cats high in the air and smashed them on the ground. They used expressions like “patient as a cat whose claws are being pulled out” or “patient as a cat whose paws are being grilled.” The English were just as cruel. During the Reformation in London, a Protestant crowd shaved a cat to look like a priest, dressed it in mock vestments, and hanged it on the gallows at Cheapside. It would be possible to string out many other examples, but the point should be clear: there was nothing unusual about the ritual killing of cats.”

    *The Great Cat Massacre* by Robert Darnton

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