A Yowling Cat

The cat we live with seldom vocalizes and when he does he makes but a weak, pathetic, sound. But not all cats are so quiet. Even in antiquity some could yowl.
Here is the first omen on tablet 45 of Šumma ālu.
DIŠ SA.A ina É NA ib-ki É BI SAG.PA.LAGAB (niššata) TUK-ši
If a cat yowls in a man’s house, that house will have grief.
Note that aside from meaning grief and the like, nissatu can also be a wailing song (CAD N2, 274). It is even equated with bikitu (a noun related to the verb, bakû, in the protasis) in a couple of lexical texts. There is almost certainly some kind of word play going on here.

2 thoughts on “A Yowling Cat”

  1. Aydin – It’s hard to tell. The verb I glossed with yowls can mean to shed tears, to cry in distress, to mourn, to moan, to howl and to wail. It is used with children and adults as well as animals ranging from cats (including wildcats) and dogs to horses and cows. I chose ‘yowls’ because I tend to associate that English word with cats. I would have likely used ‘howl’ in a similar omen dealing with dogs. Yes, there is a very similar omen (actually more than one) invoking the ‘howl’ of a dog.

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