October 30, 2011

Black Cats: Good Luck, Bad Luck




     Joe is an argument for keeping cats indoors—at least, at this spooky time of year that is filled with superstitions.

     He is a gorgeous animal. His soft, shiny black fur coat is as pleasant as his personality.

      He is my daughter’s cat.


     Black, it seems to me, is a schizophrenic color.

     On the one hand, if I want to appear elegant, powerful, mysterious, or formal—or all three—I can slip into a little black dress or suit to attain that appearance.

     On the other hand, if I want to appear evil, grieving, fearful, the use of black will send that message.

     Black, in either circumstance, presents a strong front.


     Actually, black is not a color. It is the absence of all color. As such, it is a dark hole from which anything can emerge or be hidden in. It is an empty vessel that provides a sense of potential and possibility and at the same time it produces a fear of the unknown.

     Put some black in your life when you want:

  • to become inconspicuous
  • to open the door to mystery
  • to prepare for the unknown
  • a restful emptiness*

     Just as black is schizophrenic humankind’s attitude towards black cats through the ages is schizophrenic. They have been protected —the penalty for killing a cat 4,000 years ago in Egypt was death**—and feared: it was blasphemous to have a relationship with a cat. They were associated with witchcraft and considered such diabolical associates of the devil and that they were burned alive.


     The positive view of the black cat arose in Ancient Egypt with the sacred goddess BAST; the Egypt goddess was the official deity of Egypt for many years. Many courted her favors, by procuring black cats into their households; believing that BAST would become part of that cat in spirit, and grace the home with riches and prosperity. Egyptian women believed that the ideal beauty was that of a cat. They used make-up to emulate the feline aspect of the elongated eyes to give them a mysterious cat-like look. In those times, a person, who killed a cat, even accidentally, was put to death. And when a cat died, the owners used to shave off their eyebrows as a sign of mourning.**


     How did this viewpoint change?

.    Pope Gregory IX denounced black cats as Satanic in his 1233 Papal Bull ‘Vox in Rama’ and this launched the extermination of many cats, and subsequently thousands of cats were burned alive in the cause of searching out the devil. Tales of these witches’ cats turning into mice, dogs, bats and all sorts of creatures flourished during the Middle Ages. 

     Another explanation (though highly questionable) of why black cats are often associated with witches and the Devil is this. The “blackberry” cats are often born at the end of the blackberry season, which according to legend is the time of the year in which Satan was thrown out of heaven, landing on a blackberry bush which he then defiled with his urine and spittle.***

     In the era of the witchcraft trials…the ‘witches’ involved…included a variety of people.  While our concept of the witch is as an old woman, the ‘witches’ which were put to trial included men, young women and horribly enough, children, though the vast majority can be said to have been adult women.

The traditional black cat accompanying the witch derives from the tradition that a witch would be given a ‘familiar’, that is an animal helper from the Devil, to help her in her magical workings.  Most of these familiars would have a name (just like ordinary pets) but the very natural fact of giving a loved pet a name and occasionally talking to such a pet was already an implication that one is involved in ‘witchcraft’.*** 

The myth of black cats bringing bad luck is perpetuated by the 19th century pirates and even a 1969 baseball game.

     The pirates believed that if a black cat walked toward you, you would have bad luck. If a black cat walked onto your ship and then walked off it the ship was doomed to sink on your next trip.

     It was in 1969 that a black cat burst out onto the field during a critical baseball game between the Cubs and the New York Mets, ruining the Cubs playoff chances. The cat made a beeline for the Cubs’ dugout where it seemed to stare down all of the players. The Cubs not only lost that game, but much of the rest of the season.****

     Joe has crossed my path many times. Although I cannot say that his crossing my path has brought me good luck, I also cannot say that his actions have brought me bad luck.

     Animal shelters, including the shelter in my region, claim black cats—and even black dogs—are often overlooked by persons seeking to adopt a pet. Officials at shelters across the country sing a common refrain — black dogs and cats take longer to adopt than animals of other colors. The phenomenon even has a name — Black Dog or Black Cat Syndrome…The reasons vary — from superstitions to the difficulty in photographing a black animal for such things as adoption websites — but the results are the same.

A black lab...

     …the human eye is drawn to lighter colors — when shopping for clothes and when looking for dogs and cats…Their eye just naturally is drawn to the brown dog or the yellow dog or the gray dog…*****

     Whatever the reason behind Black Cat Syndrome shouldn’t stop people from adopting these adorable animals. Just don’t let them outside at this, their most vulnerable, season.

A furry black cat










The “Meow” Chorus: A cat symphony on a Greyhound Bus


Honey’s Coming Home! Our cat must recuperate

Honey went home—She’s romping in animal heaven


1 Comment »

  1. ! WOW… !!!!!!!!!!!

    You did a lot of research …Carolyn!

    Quite interesting !


    Comment by Joan — October 31, 2011 @ 11:35 am | Reply

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