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The History of Halloween: Black Cats

I hope you’ve enjoyed my History of Halloween Series so far! We touched on jack o’ lanterns first, then broomsticks. Today, we’re discussing the Samhain superstitions behind black cats. This post was originally featured on AncientSuperstitions.com and was penned by a Hispanic mystic and psychic. Now obviously black cats in and of themselves are not bad. I’m rather partial to them myself! We must understand that God created all creatures to be good and kind. And while the Occult has seemed to lay claim to certain of them, others being snakes and owls as well as toads and frogs. But this does not mean that they are evil in and of themselves. That said, you’ll want to look into their history to understand their intertwining with the dark celebration of Halloween. Read on.

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Olaf, Fido, Rascal, and Jinxy live inside a cat shelter waiting for a new family to pick them up and take them to a real home, to then snuggle, sleep, scratch some furniture, eat, and sleep some more. These are not the only things they share in common, these funny kittens attract people’s attention with their beautiful black coats.

Being associated with the darkness of night does not help their image because the color black has always been associated with evil due to our ancestor’s fear of the night. And the risk of attracting more attention during Halloween is great.

Why is it a risk? Because, for years, there have been reports of satanic rites using the innocent animals for sacrifice or spells, hence ending the life of our little four-legged black fellows. Meanwhile, and cruel too, there are high statistics of people adopting black cats just days before Halloween, to give them back to the shelters claiming “sorry, but the kitten didn’t adapt”.

But to my good surprise, I found this year that an Idaho shelter is taking what I call a “twelve steps back” to avoid the happening of these traumas to their black cats; an example the others shelters should follow around the globe. How? – Idaho’s Kootenai Humane Society in Coeur d’Alene is prohibiting black cat adoptions from October 29 to Nov. 2, fearing the animals could be mistreated in Halloween pranks–or worse, sacrificed in some satanic ritual.

According to a recent report from the Associated Press, there are organizations that feel this is not a healthy practice for the black cats, stating that it does more to hurt animals than protect them.

“Black cats already suffer a stigma because of their color,” said Gail Buchwald, vice president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter adoptions in New York City. “Why penalize them any more by limiting the times when they can be adopted?”

Black cats tend to be adopted less often than other felines, Buchwald said. He’s got a point, cause there is also the veil of urban legends around Halloween festivities and black cats. But anyhow, and citing cat friend Franny Syufy, “it is best to keep all cats indoors during the month of October, regardless of their color, but especially if they happen to be black.”

Some Black Cats Superstition & Myths:

  • If a black cat crosses your path, you will have bad luck.
  • If a black cat crosses your path, you will have GOOD luck. (England & Australia)
  • In Japan the Maneki Neko (Beckoning Cat) is considered a symbol of good luck.
  • In Russia, their Russian Blue breed of cats are supposed to be good luck as well.
  • In Latvian tradition, black cats embody the spirit of Rungis, a god of harvests, which is good luck for farmers to have around.
  • King Charles I of England owned a black cat and the day it died he was arrested. An old sailor’s legend said that meeting cats in the shipyard meant an unpleasant voyage of storms or other bad luck.
  • In Babylonian folklore a curled up cat on the hearth is seen as similar to evil serpent.
  • Thought to have nine lives, so aligned with the symbolism of nine, a lucky number.
  • Some believe black cats are witches in disguise.
  • During the witch-burning era of the 17th century, witches’ cats were put into baskets and burned alongside the witches.
  • Many believe black cats are witches familiars. (Beings that aid witches in performing their craft.)
  • A cat on a grave meant that the buried person’s soul was in the possession of the Devil, and if two cats were fighting on a grave, this signified the Devil and the defunct person’s Guardian Angel fighting for his/her soul.
  • Fisherman’s wives kept black cats while their husbands went away to sea. They believed that the black cats would prevent danger from occurring to their husbands.
  • Some believe that black cats carried demons.
  • Some believe that black cats have special powers and abilities.
  • To meet a black cat at midnight is to meet Satan.
  • The Celts believed that cats were magically humans once. To kill a cat brings complete misfortune, while to tread upon its tail is also considered unfortunate, but in a less degree.
  • If a black cat suddenly abandons the house of its masters, there will be a great disaster in that house soon.
  • Seeing a black cat in your dream could represent bad luck or a warning of something unfavorable that may take place in your life.
  • The Egyptian goddess Bast was both lion-headed and cat-headed and attended by cats and therefore cats were sacred and revered in Egypt.
  • Killing a cat in Egypt was a heinous crime, punishable by death.
  • When a household cat died mourning rites were performed for it.
  • Cats were often found in temples and were ritually fed; stray cats were treated with honor and fed, and the household cat was allowed to share the family’s food.
  • Cat amulets were produced and elaborate cat-sized sarcophagi crafted for cats who had died, who were often embalmed as humans were.

For the full History of Halloween Series and more on the holiday, see here!

Also, see a segment of a former witch, Carol Kornacki, talk about the symbolism of the black cat among other Halloween symbols.