What is Cathartes? A Guide to Bitcoin Ordinals.

March 9, 2023

In conclusion


Bitcoin ordinals have become the hottest show in NFTs. But every project is just a copy of an Ethereum NFT project. What’s the point of that?

Cathartes is a brand new art project that will live on Bitcoin with art generated by the community and fully owned by the creators. 

Bitcoin Ordinals

Before we discuss Cathartes, it’s essential to understand the underlying technology. As a refresh, a satoshi is the smallest denomination of bitcoin. The Satoshi to bitcoin ratio is 100 million Satoshis to one bitcoin. A satoshi is similar to a Wei in the Ethereum ecosystem.

Casey Rodarmor, a bitcoin developer, proposed the idea of assigning each Satshoi an ordinal number. This ordinal number can then link to other information such as images, text, videos and even games. In essence, this turns Satoshi’s from fungible to non-fungible. However, instead of NFTs, Casey proposed to call them “digital artefacts” and the metadata (aka the other inscribed information) would be called “inscriptions”. 

Why wasn’t this done before now? Ordinals make use of two very important updates to the Bitcoin protocol that didn’t come into effect until 2021. 

The first update, called SegWit, allows up to 3MB of witness data to be stored outside of the 1MB block limit at the protocol level.

The second update, called taproot, improves the smart contract functionality of bitcoin. It allows transactions with complex conditions to appear as standard transactions. 

Why is this different from Ethereum NFTs? For many Ethereum NFTs, the image itself is not stored on the chain. In fact, most are stored on a centralized server. What you own is a token that is a claim to the artwork. But it is separate from the artwork itself.

With ordinals, the metadata is included within the transaction itself. There is a limit of 4MB but the metadata is fully on the chain.

Leonidas outlines the pitch for why Ordinals have value:


This is the selling point. The goal of bitcoin is to be a digital store of value. Why wouldn’t you want to store all of your most valued assets on the most secure blockchain?

Introducing Cathartes

Cathartes is a community-generated artwork project that is based on the emotions of its creators. And, the project is 100% community owned.

How it works

Step 1: Creators (individuals who mint the NFT) will assess their emotions via an art generator by the Cathartes team... Your answers will be based on your feelings towards ordinal theory. Each emotion will be scored from 0% to 100% based on how strong that emotion is.

For example, let’s assume Casey Rodarmer is playing with an algorithm and Emotion 6 (red color) is ‘passion’. Based on what we know about Casey, we can guess he would answer 100% for how passionate he is about ordinal theory (as the creator of it).

Step 2: Once you are done with the art generator, an algorithm will generate the “reflection of your mind and aspirations on-chain”.

Have you ever wondered what your mind looked like in the form of art? Well, wonder no longer!

Each piece of art is determined based on the creator's answers. Once you mint you’ll receive a ‘Reflection’ NFT. This will be in the form of an ERC-721 token. 

But wait, I thought you said these were on Bitcoin? Don’t worry, we’ll get to that.

Step 3: Each individual artwork is a ‘Reflection’ and the entire collection is ‘Cathartes’. As more and more creators mint their Reflections, the Cathartes art will expand in real time. Cathartes will become a collective reflection of all co-creators.

Step 4: After all Reflections have been minted, Cathartes is complete. Carthates will then be inscribed as an Ordinal to the bitcoin blockchain and placed in a Vault on Ethereum via the Emblem Vault protocol.

The vault is a non-custodial, smart contract wallet. It is trustless, permissionless, and decentralized.

So who owns Cathartes? The co-creators of it. The Vault that holds Cathartes (inscribed to Bitcoin) will be fractionalized into Cath (1 Reflection = 1 Cath). Reflection holders will be airdropped Cath.

Okay, that’s a lot of information. Let’s summarize 

  • Creators will mint Reflections, which is art created based on the emotions of its creators
  • All Reflection NFTs will be combined to create Cathartes
  • Cathartes is inscribed to bitcoin and placed in a Vault
  • The Vault is fractionalized into Cath and airdropped to Reflection holders

Why would you fractionalize Cathartes? Let’s talk about it.

Step 5: As a holder of Cath, you’re the co-owner of Cathartes. That comes with certain benefits: you can flex your Cath as a PFP, show it off in a gallery or even list it for sale. Cath is an NFT (ERC-1155) that will remain on Ethereum.

However, the most fascinating benefit comes in the form of a potential buyout. If a collector wants to acquire Cathartes, they must first own Cath (it is a precondition to creating a buyout proposal).   

And if somebody decides to buy the Cathartes in full, the holders of Cath will receive ETH in return. 

So, Cath effectively serves as the governance and ownership token over Cathartes.

Bridging to BTC

If you’re thinking, “This all sounds great, but lots of stuff so far has happened on Ethereum. I thought the whole purpose of this was that it’s on bitcoin.” 

Well, you’re right. Ethereum plays a big role in the project, but there’s a reason. 

The Ordinal movement is very early. In fact, Casey launched the Ordinals protocol in January 2023. Because of this, the infrastructure isn’t built out yet to smoothly mint and transact with NFTs on bitcoin. Even more so when we think about on-chain art generation algorithm developed by Cathartes. That will change as more developers build solutions but in the meantime, the easiest and most secure option is to mint on Ethereum and bridge to bitcoin. 

This decision was made in the interest of the community. The Cathartes team is minimizing any risks that currently exist within the bitcoin ecosystem user experience. 

Cathartes basically offers the best best of the two worlds - the immutable and permissionless Ordinals paired with cutting-edge Ethereum smart contact tooling. The ambition is to onboard a new wave of users from the Ethereum ecosystem to ordinal space, although in a guided manner.

How does the bridge work? Reflection holders will be able to burn their NFT on Ethereum to receive their Reflection inscribed on Bitcoin. 

You will simply need a Bitcoin wallet and some ETH for gas fees.

Mission of Cathartes

The Cathartes team has 4 primary goals with this project:

  1. Create an art piece about all of us
  2. Create an artistic co-creation experience
  3. Build a guided, safe path to Ordinals
  4. Push the boundaries of collective ownership

There has been no lack of opinions and feelings about the Ordinals movement. Bitcoin purists are furious that the bitcoin block space is being used for anything other than financial transactions. While others argue the purpose of the bitcoin protocol is to be uncensored and permissionless. Even if that means block space is being used to store images.

No matter your feelings on the topic, Cathartes offers us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to forever document our emotions about this movement in the form of art. 


Art has proven to be one of the killer use cases for NFTs. Art collectors have flocked to the blockchain to collect pieces from their favorite artists. However, that opportunity has not existed on Bitcoin. Until now.

Cathartes will be one of the first innovative art projects to exist solely on bitcoin. Think of the art piece that will signify this exact moment in the history of ordinals. And more importantly, the art piece will be created and owned by the community.

Cathartes Links:

Website - https://www.cathartesnft.com/

Twitter - https://twitter.com/CathartesNFT 

Discord - https://discord.gg/cathartes

Premint - https://t.co/cXSdr6eq8K  

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