Black cats have been the unfortunate subjects of an age-old superstition that they bring misfortune. This reputation means that we often see Halloween decorations in the shape of black cats and some people are still wary about crossing paths with one. When you meet a black cat, though, you may ponder the question “how on Earth can these sweet cats be associated with bad luck?”.
In this post, we take a trip back in time, explore the origins of the old folk tale that black cats bring bad luck, and hopefully change your mind about black cats if you feel uneasy about them!
Black Cats Bring Bad Luck: Origins
In ancient times, cats, regardless of color, had it pretty good! In ancient Egypt, cats were considered divine symbols, which is why their image can be seen in so many pieces of ancient Egyptian art.
To the ancient Egyptians, cats were the carriers of magical, even God-like qualities, and this made them significant in both the day-to-day lives of ancient Egyptians and in the afterlife. In addition, they were held in high esteem for their pest control capabilities.
In ancient Greece, cats also enjoyed the status of being associated with the goddess Hectate, who was the goddess of sorcery. These associations with magic and sorcery may well have been the catalysts for opinions on cats changing for the worse when Christianity arrived in Europe.
When Christianity began to become more widespread, cats’ reputation as being symbols of good fortune changed to one of being associated with paganism and sorcery—and of evil.
Pope Gregory IX Declares Black Cats Evil
In the 13th century, things went from bad to worse for black cats in particular. Pope Gregory IX issued a document entitled “Vox in Rama”, which accused black cats of being allied with Satan. The same document claimed that Satan himself was part-cat and would sometimes fully amalgamate into one when partaking in satanic rituals.
As you can imagine, this invoked a great deal of fear and superstition and resulted in the killing of many black cats. Because of the link between Satan and witchcraft, this also paved the way for witch-hunts to become a thing later down the line.
Black Cats and Witch-Hunts
Today, it is understood that traditional ideas about witchcraft being an evil way of life had no basis in truth. It was rather based on a deep affinity for nature, which meant animals, too. This is why those who lived such a lifestyle often kept cats as pets.
In its struggle for power, people with such inclinations were viewed as a threat to the world the powers at the time were trying to shape. Thus, people were taught to fear those who kept cats as pets.
When suspicions surrounding witches became more and more intense, black cat ownership alone was enough for a person to be considered a witch and more often than not led to their execution. As a result of such persecution, black cats began to disappear across Europe. It wasn’t until later centuries that fears about black cats began to die down.
Black Cats in the 21st Century
For many people today, all the superstitions and suspicions surrounding black cats are merely the stuff of legends and have no impact on their love for their gorgeous, shiny furbabies. Some even prefer to believe in the other side of the argument—that black cats are, in fact, lucky and bring great fortune to our lives!
Unfortunately, though, some people still regard black cats with suspicion to this day, and black cats make up the largest population of cats waiting for rehoming at adoption centers as a result. If you, like many others, have a penchant for beautiful ebony cats and are considering adopting one, you’ll likely have no trouble finding one in a shelter.
What Other Superstitions Surround Black Cats?
The ways in which black cats have aroused suspicion throughout history have manifested differently in different times and cultures. Here are some examples:
- Sailors feared black cats stowing away on their ships as there was once a superstition that this would cause a future sinking.
- By contrast, some sailors—particularly in England—believed that a well-treated black cat would bring about the perfect weather for traveling by sea.
- In Japan, a black cat crossing your path is a sign of good luck.
- According to a Scottish superstition, a black cat showing up at your door means your fortunes are going to rise.
- A superstition in the south of France is that if you take good care of a black cat, they will bring you good luck in return.
- Having a black cat in the audience on the first night of a play was once said to result in that play going smoothly.
Black cats being considered unlucky stemmed from religious fervor in the 13th century. As a result, throughout history, black cats have been abused, feared, and even killed—it’s clear now that black cats have long been on the receiving end of misfortune rather than being the ones bringing it to others!
If you had any superstitions about black cats, we hope that we’ve been able to put your mind at ease! There’s nothing scary about black cats. Like all cats, they have unique personalities that are in no way determined by their color or breed and make wonderful companions for loving cat parents.
Featured Image Credit: Pixabay