This is a re-post of an article we did last year around Halloween. As owners of black rescue cats, we felt it appropriate to examine the age old question: are black cats lucky or unlucky? This question has perplexed scholars and lay folk alike and those who study the cultures and folklore superstitions of differing traditions.
In Britain and Ireland the answer is a definite ‘lucky’. The black cat is seen as an extremely lucky omen and is welcomed as a sign of good luck to come. In other countries and cultures the opposite belief is held and the black cat can be seen as incredibly unlucky.
In ancient times cats were animals to be revered and in Ancient Egypt the humble cat was worshiped as a sacred animal. The Romans also held the cat in high regard and introduced cats as pets throughout Europe. But as Christianity spread throughout Europe and pagans, wise women and adherents to other belief systems were persecuted; the black cat also saw a downturn in its luck.
Vulnerable women became the easy target for religious fanatics who wanted a scapegoat to explain the woes of the world. During the Middle Ages they were accused of witchcraft and were the victims of torture, hanging, burning at the stake and drowning.
These same women often kept cats as companions. Cats, and in particularly black cats, (deemed the color of evil) were seen as “Witch’s Familiars” or partners in crime to the accused Witch, and the poor animal suffered similar fates to those of their mistresses. In Witch trials, ownership of a cat was taken as evidence of witchcraft and was all the proof needed to condemn both the woman and the cat to a terrible fate.
But the humble cat redeemed itself as controller of vermin during the Great Plague that swept throughout Europe. The cat, and in particular the black cat, came to be seen as a very lucky omen.
Good luck superstitions surrounding the black cat sprung up. To have a black cat as a ship’s cat ensured the safety of the sailors on board. Similarly, wives of fishermen who kept black cats were assured the safe return of their husbands, despite often perilous sea conditions. Newly weds were often given a black cat to bring them luck for their future together.
Today the symbol of a black cat is often connected with the feast of Halloween and to the Wicca religion. To those who celebrate these traditions, black cats are considered extremely good luck. The luckiest black cat is said to be female, completely jet black with black whiskers and green eyes.
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Following are some of the most common historical Black Cat Superstitions & Myths:
- If a black cat crosses your path, you will have bad luck
- If a black cat crosses your path, you will have GOOD luck (England & Australia)
- In Japan the Maneki Neko (Beckoning Cat) is considered a symbol of good luck
- In Russia, their Russian Blue breed of cats are supposed to be good luck as well
- In Latvian tradition, black cats embody the spirit of Rungis, a god of harvests, which is good luck for farmers to have around
- King Charles I of England owned a black cat and the day it died he was arrested. An old sailor’s legend said that meeting cats in the shipyard meant an unpleasant voyage of storms or other bad luck
- In Babylonian folklore a curled up cat on the hearth is seen as similar to evil serpent
- Thought to have nine lives, so aligned with the symbolism of nine, a lucky number
- Some believe black cats are witches in disguise
- During the witch-burning era of the 17th century, witches’ cats were put into baskets and burned alongside the witches
- Many believe black cats are witches familiars. (Beings that aid witches in performing their craft.)
- A cat on a grave meant that the buried person’s soul was in the possession of the Devil, and if two cats were fighting on a grave, this signified the Devil and the defunct person’s Guardian Angel fighting for his/her soul
- Fisherman’s wives kept black cats while their husbands went away to sea. They believed that the black cats would prevent danger from occurring to their husbands
- Some believe that black cats carried demons
- Some believe that black cats have special powers and abilities
- To meet a black cat at midnight is to meet Satan
- The Celts believed that cats were magically humans once. To kill a cat brings complete misfortune, while to tread upon its tail is also considerate unfortunate, but in a less degree
- If a black cat suddenly abandons the house of its masters, there will be a great disaster in that house soon
- Seeing a black cat in your dream could represents bad luck or a warming of something unfavorable may take place in your life
- The Egyptian goddess Bast was both lion-headed and cat-headed and attended by cats and therefore cats were sacred and revered in Egypt
- Killing a cat in Egypt was a heinous crime, punishable by death
- When a household cat died mourning rites were performed for it
- Cats were often found in temples and were ritually fed; stray cats were treated with honor and fed, and the household cat was allowed to share the family’s food
- Cat amulets were produced and elaborate cat-sized sarcophagi crafted for cats who had died, who were often embalmed as humans were
The video below was put together by the creative cat lovers at Furball Fables to help promote black cat adoption. By promoting awareness we both hope that shelters and black cat rescue sites will share this short video to re-educate and encourage humans to love black cats! Here’s proof – after the video was shown to a group of 25 students, three of these students went out and adopted black cats.
What do you believe? One thing is certain, in shelters across North America, black cats still suffer these old and outdated stigmas because of their color, and are the least popular cats to be adopted – hence in many shelters there is an alarming surplus of black cats over all other feline types. With education and greater awareness maybe we can all help to change this.
Finally, be sure to check out our post on the Photographer Who Champions Black Cat Adoptions
If you’ve read the post this far, please keep reading. We’re looking to raise funds for Milo’s Sanctuary & Special Needs Cat Rescue They are an amazing organization that foster cats in their homes and have a Lifetime Care Program for cats that cannot be re-homed. Incredible people with a truly compassionate mission! We are selling holiday ladies watches and will be donating $5 for every watch sold to go directly to this worthy cause.
Please show your support and help a disabled or abused cat. ORDER YOUR CAT FASHION WATCH
Thanks for your support!