The black cat has long been associated with all kinds of malevolence throughout the ages. Black cats have paid dearly for these ignorant superstitions; even today black cats are tortured just for being born with a black coat.
Judge Judy once said, “Beauty fades; dumb is forever.” Although this comment was not made in reference to the intolerance and ignorance surrounding black cats, it couldn’t be more appropriate. The idea black cats are unlucky has persisted for centuries. Historically cats were revered in the ancient world, particularly Egypt. But the Middle Ages and the rise of witchcraft gave these poor creatures bad press they never deserved in the first place.
Superstitions concerning the malevolence of black cats have their roots in 14th century Europe. It is believed these myths originated when many witches of the day befriended alley cats as companions, labeling them “familiars.” Somehow, the belief witches could turn themselves into black cats at will became a part of mythology so powerful, it traveled to America where it became an integral element in the Salem Witch Trials.
It is not really known exactly how, or why, the black cat became associated with the devil during the Middle Ages but the belief was so compelling, in a terrible twist of irony, these animals were exterminated during the time of the Black Death pandemic in 1348. This act only exacerbated the deadly scourge, the Black Death’s cause was actually infected rats, which the cats could have helped eliminate.
Folklore concerning feline movements is plentiful in many cultures. In Germany, if the cat moves from right to left, it augurs bad news, but one that moves left to right is a symbol of bright and beautiful news. For a gambler headed out to a game, a black cat crossing his path warns him to go home and return another day. For many pirates, the sight of a black cat walking on and off a ship signified the vessel would sink on its next voyage.
Conversely, in Great Britain, particularly the English Midlands, the belief the positive power of black cats is so strong, kittens are often given to brides as blessing for a happy marriage. The Japanese honor black cats as omens of good luck and believe when owned by a single woman, its presence insures many suitors. In Scotland, the arrival of an inky-colored feline is an omen of prosperity.
In reality, a black cat is just a cat with black fur. They bring their own personality and love to their caretakers, in the same manner as any cat of any other color. Be nice to the black cat as well as all the other kitties in your household. This August 17 marks Black Cat Appreciation Day. Start celebrating early and spread the word!
Were you surprised to learn the black cat is also considered to be an omen of good luck in some cultures? Can you think of some other superstitions about cats?