As I walked into my garden, I couldn’t help but notice a sleek black cat crossing through my lawn. Like many, I grew up hearing the superstition that black cats are bad luck. I wondered, though, is there any truth to this? Are black cats bad luck?
To satisfy my curiosity, I delved into the history of this belief and what it means for black cats today. I discovered a fascinating blend of folklore, cultural differences, and even a hint of science!
In some cultures, black cats are considered omens of good fortune and prosperity; in others, they’re feared as harbingers of doom. So you could say black cats are a sign of bad luck, sometimes.
History of Black Cats and Superstitions
As with most superstitions, myths and tales – things started way back in history. So that seems like a great place to begin:
I discovered that black cats were revered and considered sacred in ancient Egypt. They were believed to bring good luck and were associated with the goddess Bastet, goddess of protection, love, and fertility.
In fact, harming a cat was considered a severe crime in ancient Egyptian society.
However, during the Middle Ages, my research shows that the perception of black cats changed drastically in Europe. Pope Gregory IX, in the 13th century, issued a papal bull called “Vox in Ram,” which contributed to the association of black cats with witchcraft.
People came to believe that witches could transform themselves into these animals and were witches’ familiars. It was a widespread belief that black cats were bad luck and connected to evil forces.
Salem Witch Trials
In the 17th century, during the notorious Salem Witch Trials, black cats played a significant role in the accusations of witchcraft.
Many people were arrested and executed for allegedly practising witchcraft, with the presence of a black cat being considered incriminating evidence.
Are There Situations Where a Black Cat is Particularly Unlucky?
Yes, there are many variations to the superstition. In some folklore, if a black cat crosses your path from right to left, it’s considered bad luck. In others, it’s the direction of the cat’s walk, whether it’s coming towards you or moving away, that determines the luck.
Black Cats in Different Cultures
If you’ve heard the myth that black cats bring bad luck then you might assume this is the case globally… But is that true?
In Asian cultures, black cats are generally considered either neutral or bringers of good fortune.
In Japan specifically, they have a different perception of black cats compared to other parts of Asia which I’ve covered below.
In Japan, black cats are symbols of good luck. Single women especially appreciate them for their ability to ward off malevolent spirits.
As a result, many Japanese households have adopted black cats to attract positive energy and keep their homes safe. Japanese sailors also used to take black cats aboard their ships as mousers and sources of good fortune.
The attitude towards black cats in Europe has varied throughout history. Historically, they were associated with witchcraft in the 16th century.
As a result, black cats were often seen as evil or carriers of bad luck in countries like France and Germany. Not all European countries have this negative perception.
In Scotland, black cats are regarded as symbols of prosperity. The folklore states that if a black cat appears on your doorstep, you can expect luck and good things to come soon.
Fishermen, in particular, used to see black cats as a good omen for a fruitful fishing trip when they saw one on the shore before departure.
In Great Britain, the general view of black cats is positive. These felines are viewed as good luck charms and are often associated with sailors who would have black cats onboard their ships for similar reasons to their Japanese counterparts.
Even today, many British people consider a black cat crossing their path to be a sign of good luck.
The United States has a mixed view of black cats. The stigma towards them is still prevalent due to their association with Halloween, witches, and superstition.
This unfortunate association has led to fewer adoptions and a higher euthanasia rate for black cats in shelters during Halloween.
However, there is an ongoing effort to change this perspective. Black Cat Appreciation Day, celebrated on August 17th, is an opportunity to raise awareness about the plight of these lovely animals and encourage more adoptions.
Debunking Black Cat Myths and Superstitions
So… Superstitions are often baseless. But, is this the case for black cats and their ability to bring bad luck?
Black Cats and Bad Luck
In many cultures and legends, black cats are believed to bring bad luck. However, there’s no scientific evidence to support this superstition.
It’s important to remember that luck is a subjective concept and isn’t directly influenced by an animal’s appearance. Black cats, like any other cat, can bring joy and companionship to their owners.
During the Middle Ages, black cats were often associated with witches and devilish activity. This connection originated from the belief that witches could transform into black cats to roam freely and incite mischief.
In reality, black cats are just as capable of being loving and playful pets as any other coloured cat.
Witchcraft still plays a significant role in some black cat superstitions. Witches in certain folktales were believed to have black cats as their “familiars” – animals that assisted them in their magical workings.
This association contributed to the negative image of black cats in some parts of the world.
However, in modern times, witchcraft is widely seen as a spiritual practice rather than a sinister force.
The connection between witches and black cats has also evolved, with many people considering black cats a symbol of witchcraft’s mystique and beauty rather than anything malicious.
Halloween is when the myths surrounding black cats are often brought back to life. The ubiquity of black cat imagery in Halloween decorations and costumes perpetuates their association with witches and other spooky symbols.
Black cats, in actuality, have no inherent connection to Halloween.
This association likely emerged from the pilgrims who brought superstitions to the New World. They viewed black cats as devilish creatures and thought they were in league with witches.
This belief might have fuelled the association between black cats and Halloween, as it was a time when people believed the veil between our world and the supernatural world was at its thinnest.
Although black cats still suffer from these negative misconceptions, it’s important to remember that they’re simply animals like any other cat.
They don’t possess any supernatural or devilish qualities. By debunking these myths and superstitions, we can help change the perception of black cats and give them the love and appreciation they truly deserve.