Black Cat Myths & Superstitions

July 3, 2006

In western history, black cats have often been looked upon as a symbol of bad omens. One of the prevalent black cat superstition alive in our the western culture today is if a black cat crosses your path, it is considered bad luck. Interesting, in most other cultures, the black cat is a prized possession & owning one, is said to bring the owner good luck.

The origin of the black cat & good luck is said to have begun in Ancient Egypt with the sacred black cat of BAST. BAST is a official deity of Egypt in the 22nd dynasty. During her reign, Egyptians courted her favours, by keeping black cats into their houses, believing that she would become part of the cat in spirit & grace their home with riches & prosperity.

Charles I of England (1600 – 1649) owned a black cat. He loved the cat so much so that he had guards protecting the cat 24 hours a day, until one day the cat fell in & died. Charles I was heard to proclaim – “alas my luck is gone.” True enough, he was arrested the next day & charged with high treason. He was later put to his death.

In Sumatra, during a long drought, a black cat is found and thrown into the river. The village folk would line the bank, forcing the cat to swim until almost exhausted. Once the cat is exhausted they allow the cat to get out of the water. The women of the village then chase the black cat while throwing water on the cat and themselves. This is supposed to bring rain. Although this tradition might bring good luck to the village, pity the poor cat that has the bad luck of being chosen for this!

In the Yorkshires, a black cat was said to bring the fishermen home safely from the seas. During the most prominent part of the fishing industry in this village, black kittens were often catnapped and sold to the highest bidder (usually the wives of the fishermen) by racketeers trying to cash in on the popular superstition.

In parts of Europe, if a black cat crosses your path, you are considered to have good fortune. If a black cat walks into your house or home, you are truly blessed. But in the United States, the term Black Cat was used by the fishermen and sailors of Michigan’s Lake Superior for a boat that was believed to have a spell cast upon it and therefore, never will carry a full crew.

The attitude towards black cats is said to change sometime around the pilgrims arriving at Plymouth Rock. The pilgrims were devout Christians & they were deeply suspicious of anything deemed of the devil. Comprised of Englanders & Europeans, these pilgrims viewed black cat as a companion or a familiar to witches. Anyone caught with a black cat would be severely punished or even killed. They viewed the black cat as part demon and part sorcery.

When the Christians gained a foothold in America they also propelled this myth forward, during a time when witches were coming into fruition in America. Sharing a sisterhood with witches in England, and rumored to use black cats as an integral part of their craft. Black cats were suddenly cast into a bad light many black cats were sought after and killed. If a farmer believed his land had a spell cast upon it, the only way to break that spell was to shoot a black cat with a silver bullet.

Ask anyone what comes to mind when black cat is mentioned and cat lovers will inevitably say: mysterious, alluring, beautiful, playful, elegant and gorgeous. But non-cat owners would come up with: bad luck, witches familiar, evil, demonic, mean, spooky and Halloween… So you can see the superstition lives on even today.

Here’s more superstitions from all around the world. Some are good & some, not necessarily so:

  • A black seen from behind fortells a bad omen – Unknown
  • A strange black cat on your porch brings prosperity – Scottish
  • A black cat crossing one’s path by moonlight means death in an epidemic – Irish
  • A black cats carry demons – Unknown
  • If a black cat walks towards you, it brings good fortune, but if it walks away, it take the good fortune with it.
  • It is believed that if a black lived in the house, the young las would have plenty of suitors (woohoo!) – English
  • It is believed that if you find one white hair on a black cat, Lady Luck will smile upon you (double woohoo! Dawa has 4, the last time I counted!) – French
  • While it is lucky to own a black cat, it is extremely unlucky to come across one accidentally – English
  • It is considered bad luck to pass a black cat at 9pm
  • It is thought that a reincarnated soul may be ‘liberated’ by throwing a black cat into a fire – Indian
  • Women could change their soul into a black cat & that any harm brought to the cat would be suffered by the women – Bengali
  • It is thought that black cats were reincarnated being able to divine the future – Celtic
  • It is believed that if a black cat jumped on the bed of a sick person it meant death is near – German
  • It is thought that black cats were thought to carry the souls of the dead to the other world – Finnish
  • It is thought that the presence of a black cat foretold of poverty – Chinese

4 Responses to “Black Cat Myths & Superstitions”

  1. vegancat said

    These superstitious attitude towards the external appearance of cats and for that matter, any other living beings, is conditioned (aka brainwashed) by our cultural upbringing. It remains for us to “look” at others with our heart and not with our eyes that that tend to judge. This reminds me of an old movie called “A Patch of Blue” starring a very young Sydney Poiter. A blind white girl fell in love with him because he treated her with compassion. When she regained her eyesight and saw that he was black, she wished she had not “seen”.

  2. M said

    I love that movie a Patch of Blue. It made me cry.

    My sister is a great lover of black cats and has had a few.

    My cat Bonita is black with white markings. I didn’t talk about her at work or post pictures when I first got her because there are ignorant religious people at work who believe that the occult is real and out to get them. Some people are soooo ignorant.

    Thank you for the interesting information about black cats.

  3. Charl Joubert said

    Geez thats pretty cool!

    I’m going to use a black cat as my next experiment. I’m sure I could find one at a pet shop or the SPCA. Or hey! I’ll get a mass black cat crossing organised. Let a ton of them cross my path at once.

    Love the blog by the way.

  4. Anonymous said

    i only have had black cats,they are so smart,& new one i just adopted is a 2 yr old BLACK momma cat,who is a lovebug if u were to ask me

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