Like all holidays, Halloween is celebrated in slightly different ways depending on our personal family traditions. However, over time certain symbols have become closely associated with Halloween no matter who you are. One of those symbols is black cats.
Because of their association with Halloween, black cats are also a source of superstition to many. Have you ever wondered how black cats came to be related to Halloween or the origin of the many superstitions around these creatures?
In this article, we’ll talk about the myths and facts surrounding black cats and Halloween as well as how this association has been harmful to them.
Black Cats, Magic, And Witches, Oh My!
As far back as ancient civilizations, cats were associated with magic, sorcery, and the supernatural. In Ancient Egypt, cats were considered symbols of the divine. Greek mythology depicts a cat as the pet and assistant of Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft, magic, and the moon.
Perhaps because of those associations with what the Catholic Church considered pagan religions, a 13th century Pope linked black cats with Satan. Also, around this time, cats–and later specifically black cats–began to be associated with witches and both were persecuted as enemies of the Church.
Early religious settlers spread their beliefs and fears about witches and black cats to a new continent once they began populating America.
How Black Cats Became Linked With Halloween
Halloween evolved from an ancient Celtic celebration called Samhain, the night when the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. Over many centuries, other traditions and religious beliefs were melded into the holiday but it has always been associated with the supernatural.
In America, Halloween celebrations became popular in the late 19th century and included such traditions as dressing up, telling ghost stories, and spooky symbols. Because of their association with witches and the devil, black cats found themselves incorporated into Halloween celebrations and decorations, a tradition that continues to this day.
Common Myths and Superstitions About Black Cats
Depending on the culture you were raised in, you may believe or have heard various superstitions related to black cats. Here are a few common myths and their suspected origins.
It’s Bad Luck For A Black Cat To Cross Your Path
This superstition is probably related to the association between witches and black cats. In the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed that witches and the devil could take the form of black cats. If that were true, the black cat you stumbled across could either be the devil himself or a witch coming to put a curse on you. In either case, encountering a black cat was something to be feared.
While modern-day humans may not hold the same beliefs regarding witches or the devil turning into animals, the superstition that black cats are bad luck continues.
A Black Cat On The Bed Of A Sick Person Means Death
This myth probably also relates to the belief that cats possessed supernatural powers and associations. It didn’t help that the same historical period where black cats became firmly associated with witches and the devil was also when many people were dying from the plague.
Was the sick person going to die whether the black cat took a snooze on their bed? Probably, nonetheless, the superstition was born.
Black Cats Bring Good Luck!
Again, this superstition is dependent on the culture you come from. Some Asian cultures consider black cats good luck. British fishermen believed that caring for a black cat would give them good weather at sea, while their wives thought that having a black cat at home would ensure their husbands’ safe return.
One superstition among theater people is that a black cat in the audience on opening night predicts a successful run for the play.
Are Black Cats In More Danger At Halloween?
This concern is a modern-day myth that persists among animal lovers. Despite a lack of data to back this theory, many people believe that black cats are adopted in large numbers around Halloween to be abused or harmed during devilish rituals.
Some shelters are wary of adopting black cats during October, but it’s not because they worry they’ll wind up as kitty sacrifices. Rather, they hope to avoid people who adopt black cats to serve as living Halloween decorations and then abandon them again as soon as the holiday is over.
The Real Threat To Black Cats
Despite all the myths and imaginary dangers associated with black cats, a real threat to these dark felines does exist.
Every year, more cats than dogs wind up in animal shelters, and, unfortunately, more than half of all homeless animals euthanized each year are cats. It’s already more difficult to get cats adopted than dogs, and black cats are one of the hardest of all to place.
Sadly, lingering superstitions about black cats may play a role in making potential owners leery of adopting them. Again, because of their association with the devil and witches, black cats are often portrayed negatively in pop culture, which could also scare off potential adopters.
Another theory about the difficulty in adopting black cats (and black dogs) is that they don’t photograph as well or look as unique as other colors or patterns.
Whatever the reason, being overlooked in animal shelters is a real predicament for many black cats.
The next time you pull out your Halloween decorations and pick the perfect costume, you’ll know a little more about one of the iconic symbols of the holiday, the black cat. Most importantly, you’ll understand more about the myths and superstitions that exist and how they impact the lives of homeless black cats.
If you or someone you know is looking to adopt a cat, strongly consider making it a black kitty if you find one you feel is a good fit for you. If not, look into donating to your local shelter or even asking about sponsoring a specific black cat until they find a good home.