Bad Luck, Black Cats

The common black cat suffers an undeservedly bad reputation.

With animal shelters regularly putting out calls to adopt their duskier-coloured cats and describing how they are as friendly and loving as their lighter-coloured comrades – not associated with the occult, not too dark to come out well in selfies – it certainly feels like superstition is still going strong.

We are far removed from the days when cats were worshiped as goddesses.

The Middle Ages might be partly to blame. The average medieval individual had a dim view of the cat. If a cat was seen relaxing on a grave, early Christians believed the devil held the soul of the person buried there. If two cats were fighting next to a dying person or at the grave during a funeral, they were in fact an aspect of an Angel and Devil fighting for the possession of the deceased soul.

Whether as witches’ familiar or as a witch transformed, black cats continued to be associated with bad luck and black magic throughout history.

But this is not the whole story.

In Japan, a black cat crossing your path is considered to invite good luck. Having a black cat at home is supposed to bring in the best suitors for single Japanese ladies looking for love.

In much of Britain and in Scotland, black cats crossing your path are considered a very good thing.

Then again, in Nautical superstition, it was more complicated than that. The wives of sailors would often keep black cats at home as they were said to keep their husbands safe at sea. A ship’s cat was a common sight, as they were such good rodent killers, and because they were thought to be lucky.

Yet, if a cat jumped or was thrown off the ship into the sea, that ship was going to sink.

Either way: look after your black cat, and they will look after you.


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