Superstition – a word most of us are probably familiar with, conjures up images of broken mirrors, walking beneath ladders, and…black cats. Superstitions are often rooted in the belief that unknown and supernatural forces are at work when things like seeing the number 13 pop up. While some of us go about our days without giving them much thought, there are those of us who are firm superstitious believers. But is there really any truth to them?
Black cat superstitions have been around for centuries and stem from a time when there was mass paranoia and a lack of understanding of the world. To give some superstitious peace of mind, it’s important to see why and where these superstitions came from. It may even surprise you to hear that not all the superstitions surrounding black cats are bad.
In the early ages of human civilization, cats were seen as sources of good. In Ancient Egypt especially, cats were considered special for their excellent hunting skills and companionship. They were so important, in fact, that many Ancient Egyptians wanted to have them with them in the afterlife. In Japanese and Celtic folklore, the black cat is also associated with good luck.
It wasn’t until the Middle Ages, specifically in Great Britain and Germanic regions, that black cats were seen as unlucky.
The Bubonic plague became rampant across Europe and Asia which led to the death of millions of people. Without having any knowledge of where the plague came from, people continued to look towards symbols of evil as the source, putting black cats at the center. Black cats were killed relentlessly and as a result, the plague worsened. This was largely because fleas that lived on rats were the reason behind the plague. Without more cats around to control the rat population, the disease spread rapidly.
Later, cats became linked with witches as people began to fear them as sources of supernatural evil. As time went on, this association was narrowed down to black cats specifically. Fearing that a black cat was just a witch in disguise, it became the unfortunate commonplace to try and exterminate them. After many years, witch hunts were abolished in the United States and later in England, due to years of unfounded accusations.
Despite the world moving on from the things that originally started the superstitions surrounding black cats, the superstitions remained intact and believed by many. Today, black cats are still the least adopted color of cats in shelters. Some believe this is largely in part due to superstitions that remain around them, so we took some time to debunk them for anyone who is still on the fence.
This superstition comes from the Middle Ages when the fear of witches escalated. Black cats were particularly seen as being witches or even the devil in disguise, but just like witches were just people, black cats are just cats. This superstition even brings you good luck if you are in Japan, where a black cat crossing your path is a good omen. The reality, however, is that the cat is just on the move!
Another superstition that means two different things depending on where you’re at in the world. In some cultures, it’s the opposite, where a cat walking towards you brings good luck, but walking away from you is bad luck. The only ‘good’ or ‘bad’ luck in this situation is whether you get to make a new cat friend or not! Some cats are more social than others, and no amount of ‘pspspsps’-ing and promises of head scratchies can change that, sadly.
OK – maybe we are a little bias with this one. Originating in Scotland, many people believed that a black cat coming to your doorway meant good luck and great financial success. So, even though the latter is unlikely, and you won’t find yourself any luckier than if you hadn’t had a black cat at your door, can we still consider it good luck just to be graced with the presence of a cat?
Overall, whether a black cat is bringing good luck or bad luck just depends on which folklore you are looking at.
Did we mention that October 27 is National Black Cat Day? If you’ve been thinking about adopting a cat this year, consider bringing home a black cat (or two) by visiting your local animal shelter.
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