Anyone who has owned a black cat knows they are furry little deities demanding love attention on their terms only. How did such sweet and endearing little creatures become a bad omen in western folklore?
Cats of every colour were revered as gods in ancient Egypt. Family cats were treated with much love and adoration and were adorned with jewelry, fancy collars and even earrings. When a cat passed away the entire family would go into mourning and hold an extravagant ceremony to send the beloved kitty on its journey to the other side. It sounds to us like the Egyptians knew the true worth of a pussy cat.
Moving forward in time to the middle ages in England cats took on a darker side and began to be associated with witches and witchcraft. Witches were accused of being able to transform into or possess black cats and use them to spy on people and create havoc around villages. Settlers to the United States took these superstitions with them and continued to associated black cats with evil. It became a common belief that if a black cat wandered onto your ship and then left it meant that the vessel was doomed to disaster on its next voyage.
Other folklore associated with Black Cats
Around the 1940’s Americans began to associate black cats with Halloween. It is said to be good luck to have an image of a black cat on your door and it may even scare away evil spirits.
In Italy if a black cat jumps up on the bed of a person who is ill they will pass away from that illness.
In Scotland if a black cat enters a wake or a funeral someone else in the family will die soon.
In Norse mythology the goddess Freya drove a chariot pulled by two black cats.
In ancient Egypt a Roman soldier killed a black cat and was subsequently murdered by a mob of locals.
In Appalachian folklore it is said that if you have a stye on your eye if you rub the tail of a black cat on it it will disappear.
If you find a single white hair on your otherwise fully black cat it is considered good luck.
In some English folklore if a black cat crosses your path it means you will have good luck. Others claim the same event will bring bad luck.
In the UK if a strange black cat appears at your doorstep it will bring you good luck.
In Ireland a black cat with a white tuft on its chest called the Cat Síth will walk across graves in a cemetery and attempt to steal the souls of those buried there.
It seems folklore is a mixed bag on whether black cats are a good omen or a bad one. Our black cats have brought us nothing but love and happiness so we think they must be a good one.