Lore, Legends, & Superstitions of the Black Cat
Black Cat Beginnings
For many years the black cat has been depicted as a symbol of evil, witches, and Halloween. This can be traced back to the early American settlers and early England. However, the black cat seen as a symbol of evil has not always been the case. It is also the furthest thing from the truth.
Early records indicate the black cats existence in ancient Egypt. The black cat was revered and often worshiped in Egypt. Killing a black cat during this time was considered a capital offense and would often result in death. When the Egyptian family cat died, he would often times be mummified and buried within the family tomb. The family would also take time to morn his death.
The Egyptians love for black cats was due to their belief that black cats were associated with the gods. The Egyptian goddess Bast was known as the "cat goddess" and often had black cats as symbols to represent her. She was often depicted as being a goddess with a human body but with the head of a cat.
Early Egyptians also prized black cats and cats alike due to their great ability to eliminate rodents and other unhealthy creatures. The early Egyptians knew that this helped keep them healthy and also helped maintain their food supplies, therefore they kept cats around to help make their lives a little easier.
Bast, the Egyptian Cat Goddess
Bast, or Bastet, is an Egyptian goddess who is the representative of may things, but she is most commonly noted as being a goddess to cats. She is often portrayed as a sophisticated black cat, or a person with the body of a woman and the head of a cat.
Bast was known for protecting homes from fires, as well as protecting them from rodents and snakes, all of which have to do with her cat representation. The ancient Egyptians knew long before the early colonialists that cats were essential in order to maintain food reserves and to stay healthy.
Women in ancient Egypt often wore jewelry depicting cats to represent Bast. The number of cats depicted on the woman's jewelry indicated how many children she desired. Bast was considered a fertility goddess, so wearing cat amulets and other jewelry in honor her was considered good luck for conceiving children.
During excavation at Bast's temple in Per-Bast, over 300,000 mummified and buried cats were uncovered by archaeologists.
Black Cats, Witches, and Devil Worship
The early American settlers (such as Pilgrims) helped spread the fear and myth that has enshrouded the black cat. These early settlers brought with them a strong faith in the Christian Bible, which caused them to seek out and attempt to eliminate anything they perceived as being evil.
Many early Pagans, especially elderly female Pagans, were known for having a cat, especially a black cat. Due to the Pagan belief in the earth and magic, as well as their refusal to convert to Christianity, many of the early Christians perceived them as being devil-worshipers and their pet cats were included in this mix. The early Christians perceived the black cat to be the witch's familiar, and would help her in her evil doings.
Due to the myths spread about black cats, anyone during this time caught with a black cat would often be killed. Many black cats during the Middle Ages were themselves killed as a way to "rid the world" of demons and evil.
What people during the Middle Ages did not realize was that with killing off a large majority of cats, the rat population would increase. Many illnesses, including the Plague, were all attributed to the increase in the rat population. Some would attribute this to the witches getting revenge on those who killed them and their familiars, but anyone with a basic understanding of science would see it for what it truly was.
Symbolisms, Associations, and Random Facts
Symbols Associated with Black Cats
- Pagans & Paganism
- Good Luck (Japan, Britain, and Ireland)
- Bad Luck (America)
Random Black Cat Facts
- Professional gamblers are afraid (or try to avoid) black cats because it is said that if a black cat crosses the path of a gambler, he is doomed to fail.
- Sailors and their wives would often keep black cats around because it was believed that they brought them good luck while out at sea.
- It is considered very good luck if someone gives you a black cat.
- Making a black cat mad, by intentionally hurting it or causing it harm, is considered very bad luck.
- Some people believe that it is bad luck for a black cat to cross your path, while others believe it is good luck to have a black cat cross your path.
- In Italy it is believed that if a black cats sits in the bed of a sick person, death is surely to come.
- In Scotland, if a black cat sits on someone's porch, it is said to bring them great monetary fortune.
- It was once believed that witches could transform into a black cat a total of 9 times. This is likely where the legend of black cats having 9 lives originated from.
- August 17th is "National Black Cat Awareness Day".
Black Cats Today
Today the black cat is still considered by some to be a symbol of evil, superstition, Halloween, and witches. Many pet adoption agencies have to limit the amount of black cats adopted around Halloween due to fear that these cats will be used as decorations or for ill purposes and then be abandoned once the holiday is concluded. There are also higher numbers of reported animal abuse and killings during Halloween, nearly all of which are directed towards black cats.
However, the fear of them once spread by the early settlers has somewhat diminished. Many people today, Pagans and Christians alike, own black cats and consider them a part of the family. Some witches and Wiccans use black cats as their familiars, but this is not a mandatory practice amongst Pagans. They do however perceive black cats, as they do practically any and every animal, to be of equal standing and welcome them into their homes as a part of the family.
Black cats tend to be somewhat more skittish than other cats, leading people to believe that there is something evil or sinister about them. However, this is simply a natural attitude of theirs and has nothing to do with evil practices. It is likely due to evolution and the fear of what people have inflicted on them that causes black cats to be a bit more leery of humans. Despite this, black cats can be very loving creatures when treated with love and kindness.
There is absolutely nothing evil about these adorable animals. The only "evil" black cats you may encounter have more than likely been ill kept and abused. Sadly, black cats are the least adopted coloration of cats. If you are interested in owning a black cat, check your local pet adoption agency and try to get one there. These cats are in desperate need of a good home.
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