31 Days: Black Cats
Welcome to the second post in News From the Spirit World’s 31 Days of Halloween, a collection of articles on iconic Halloween icons to celebrate the site’s official launch! Today we tackle the Halloween icon that is as misunderstood as it is engrained in our minds as a symbol of magick and darkness, the black cat
by Thomas Spychalski
However, you might be surprised to discover that the Black Cat was a symbol for good luck in Britain, Japan and in Ireland, while to the Scottish a black cat visiting your home would be a sign of prosperity.
Black cats have also taken the brunt of Human unkindness between being labeled a familiar of witches and a servant of Satan.
In fact, it is highly probable that the killing of black cats as witches familiars lead to rapid growth of the Bubonic or Black Plague in it’s hey day.
Most of these animals were owned by poor widowed woman or woman who never married and were kept for companionship. but for hundreds of years cats, and black cats in particular were slaughtered by man in the millions.
Some of violence and bias most likely were based on the words of Pope Gregory IX, who stated that cats were ‘diabolical’.
A cats normal nature to not be reigned in or controlled also lead to tons of suspicion to be placed on our little triangle eared friends by people of a superstitious nature.
Of course we have all heard the saying “never let a black cat cross your path”, a superstition that has a few variations. Some say the cat has to pass directly in front of you while others are just afraid to encounter the sleek creatures of the night at all, from any direction. Gamblers are the most easily spooked by this old wives tale, living as they do in a world of luck, superstition, addiction and chance.
Modernly, the poor creatures have fared no better, with animal shelters claiming that all black cats are usually the last to be adopted and horrible stories about how some sick souls will capture and torture black cats near Halloween, leading pet stores and shelters to not sell or let them be adopted during this period.
The history of the black cat would suggest that a combination of being a nocturnal hunter and being dark, mysterious and hard to see in the dark lead to fear in many of the ancient cultures that thought they were bad luck, such as the Italians in the 16th century, who thought if a black cat were to lay on a sick man’s bed then the man would soon die.
Hindsight of course makes these sorts of claims really silly, as are some of the superstitions listed to be associated with them, such as these highlights from About.com’s Cat Page:
In Yorkshire, England, it may be lucky to own a black cat, but it is unlucky have one cross your path.
A funeral procession meeting up with a black cat is believed to forecast the death of another family member.
If a black cat crosses your path while you’re driving, turn your hat around backwards and mark an X on your windshield to prevent bad luck.
Well, at least I know a person with an X on their windshield and a backwards hat is superstitious without saying a word I guess.
Today there is the Black Cat Adoption month in July, where some shelters give deals on black cats and kittens to avoid seeing them back in the shelter in October or November in a worse state then they left due to abuse.
There is even a Black Cat Appreciation day every August 17th, a day created by Wayne Morris for his sister who passed on that date and adored the black cat that she owned until here death. It sprung up through social media and has stuck.
So although black cats are purrfectly suited to be a part of Halloween’s iconic imagery both by appearance and their checkered history, in reality they are cats that suffer from Human society’s constant judgement of everything by it’s shape or color or if it dares to do things a bit different then the rest.
If you would like to help battle the modern day stigma about black cats as well as society’s set up to help the little guys survive the Halloween season. Check out the links below and get involved!