It’s Halloween Time! My favorite time of year. The days are shorter, the nights are colder. It’s gorgeous outside with all the trees changing colors and beginning to drop leaves everywhere. It’s not super hot outside anymore, walking dogs isn’t limited to the mornings, and it’s sweatshirt weather! Plus Halloween is my favorite holiday. Like, ever.
And? The best time to talk about, none other than – CATS! “Unlucky” Black cats to be exact.
Why? Because the world is full of stereotypes and ancient stories disguised as superstitions. Abuse against cats happen more often around this time of year, typically. Specifically to black cats because they are considered “bad luck” or “evil” – and associated with Witches & Halloween, of course.
As far back as 3000 BC cats were actually worshiped, in Egypt. A symbol for poise and grace. The Lion-headed Goddess Mafdet represented justice and execution. Replaced by the cat Goddess, Bast (Bastet) representing motherhood, fertility, and protection. They were mummified and given the same respect and mourning as their human relatives. To injure or kill one was a capital crime, often resulting in death! What changed? Whoever said cats are demons in disguise? Associated with witches? How could one bring you bad luck by just crossing in front of you? And how are you ever supposed to stop it from doing so, anyway? And what do cats have to do with The Black Plague? So many questions… Don’t worry, I’ve got answers. 🙂
The reputation of cats started to take a turn, during the middle ages, in Europe, synonymous with the rise in belief of witches and witchcraft. That was started simply because the little old ladies who fed and cared for the alley cats, were accused of being witches. So began the story of the Witch’s Familiar.
Folklore says that in the 1560’s, in Lincolnshire, a man and his son were walking home one night when a black cat ran across their path. They picked up rocks and sticks, throwing them and hitting the cat until it ran into the home they were crossing. The home belonged to a woman accused of practicing witchcraft. The next morning the men saw the woman emerge from her home; scraped, bruised and limping. They thought it was too much of a coincidence that she should be so injured, and thus explains the theory of Witches turning into Black Cats at night.
From a metaphysical standpoint, however – they are more of an asset and associated with psychic powers. Cats are considered the Guardians of the Otherworld (or Underworld, depending on what text you read), teetering on the edge of both worlds, halfway between here and there. They are stoic, aloof, silent and mysterious. The symbolism of the Cat Animal Totem represents creativity, fresh change, flexibility, adaptability and mystery. Despite their “reputation” they’re still a very popular pet, and more now due to the Internet highlighting these qualities, along with their ninja-like abilities and asshole-tendencies, wrapped in a fuzzy little purring package of cute.
With all these cat owners, and many of them black cats, we still haven’t seen solid evidence of them bringing bad luck. Scientifically speaking. The responsible party for spinning that tale? The Godfathers of superstition. Get this… PIRATES! Yup – Legit Pirates. They had strong beliefs and any seaman will tell you that most of them do. But it was Pirates that believed a black cat walking toward you would bring you bad fortune. However, if that black cat was walking away from you? It meant good fortune.
I was telling my cousin this, and how did she put it “I just have great fortune because Stormie (pictured) walks away from me all the fuckin time” Lol!
As stories go, sometimes they start at the end and go back to the beginning, I like to jump around. Let me break it down:
The Pirates began the superstition of bad luck coming to you, via a black cat.
Little old ladies have been feeding and caring for stray cats for centuries, they also happen to look like witches and fit the stereotype. So they MUST be witches – and cats, their familiars.
A man and his son swear they witnessed the cat, they assaulted, turn into an old woman accused of witchery. So now we’ve got witches turning into cats too.
Add all those up and bring in a major religion wanting to wipe out something they didn’t approve of. What do you get? The Black Plague.
The Catholic church was a very powerful entity in Europe at the time, and they had had enough of the witches. They demanded that all of the witches and their cats be destroyed. The numbers reached the thousands, which put a huge deficit in the amount of vermin-hunters. The rats that overran the streets carried the fleas which brought on the worst of the outbreaks. They didn’t realize it at the time, but over time it’s been pretty obvious that when the cat population was high, the rat population low. And vice versa.
So, now you can see where all these tales have spun from, and they make sense. But it is no reason to believe that cats are bad or evil. In fact, they are beneficial to us – as any cat lover will agree with. So, if you’ve been worried about cats, or felt the need to avoid them? Stop and pet them, they love chin and butt scritches the most. 😉