Phantom Sway

The Apocalyptic Cult of the Crazy Cat Lady

Bizarre es-cat-ology in Tennessee

weirdWe all love our cats, but if someone claiming to be a prophetess tells you that felines are divine beings here to carry you to heaven during the apocalypse, that’s your cue to politely nod, refrain from sudden movements, and slowly back away from the crazy person.

This is really a thing.

Apocalypse Meow: How a Cult That Believes Cats Are Divine Beings Ended Up in Tennessee

The Rev. Sheryl Ruthven and a few dozen followers left Washington state three years ago, hoping to find a place where they could live in peace and quietly wait out the apocalypse.

Along the way, they hoped to rescue as many cats as possible.

Those cats, according to Ruthven’s writings and interviews with former followers, are divine creatures that will carry the 144,000 souls mentioned in the book of Revelation.

What bothers me the most is that when I heard about there being an end-times focused cat cult, my first thought was “Apocalypse Meow” but this article’s author had already selfishly glommed on to that pun. I suppose I could have used something about “es-cat-ology” or the coming “cat-aclysm” but that would just be reaching.

The “Reverend” Sheryl Ruthven sounds like a real piece of work though.

“Our call has always been to help ease suffering, and we are Eva’s Eden … bringing love to the world, one cat at a time,” they wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post.

But a group of former followers says Ruthven’s ministry is a cult of personality, devoted to its prophet, who they say claims to be a Divine Magdalene, a reincarnated messiah figure who will create a new Eden after the apocalypse.

She reportedly weaves together a hodge podge of various incompatible philosophies and theologies then forbids her followers from disagreeing with her. If 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that people like this can be enormously successful in presidential politics.

But where do the cats come in?

For Ruthven, the cat rescue business has both spiritual and personal motivations.

She’d taught her followers to become vegans as part of their focus on being one with Mother Nature. They also began to volunteer at local animal shelters as part of their religious practice.

Mother Nature doesn’t give a crap about the plants. Eat all of them you want, but no meat.

Then Ruthven’s cat, Eva, died, leaving her distraught. She saw the cat’s death as a sign she should start her own cat rescue.

“She died on the Winter Solstice,” Ruthven wrote in describing the founding of Eva’s Eden. “Death had come, now I needed to embrace Life. How does one explain such a love to a world that sees animals only as animals?

As I had studied and taught my people that of Egyptian Alchemy, I grew in reverence for their beliefs of honoring the Felines as vessels that are able to guide us through our passageway of life.”

For Ruthven’s followers, this new ministry meant fostering cats and kittens by the dozens.

At one point, Lamphier had more than 40 cats in her home. So did the Gundersons. In the foster homes, the cats would eat first — even before the kids.

“We had to revere them more than ourselves and our families,” says Rachael Gunderson.

And if the cats weren’t treated with proper reverence, Ruthven would berate her followers.

Cats–much like the Emperors of Rome—certainly consider themselves to be divine. They lie about in Caligula-like fashion demanding to be fed until they vomit while capriciously doling out affection and punishment to their fawning subjects. However, divine beings are seldom fascinated by the crinkly noises made by plastic grocery bags. Nor do divine beings completely lose their shit and nearly destroy half the house because a piece of tape has become stuck to one of their divine paws. To be fair, cats do have the seemingly divine ability to walk on water but the power only manifests itself when they have accidentally jumped into the toilet which tends to diminish their beatific aura.

Also, divine beings are not afraid of cucumbers.


James Lanka

Science fiction nerd, writer, blogger, music lover, artist, native of the east coast.


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