Tag Archives: folklore

A History of Black Cats – the good. the bad. the thoughtfully creative.

Author: Samantha M.

In the wake of The Boston Globe’s fear factor article, we’ve been scouring the interwebs (you know, like Wikipedia) and seeking input from fans, followers and friends all over the globe in search of black cat tales – from anecdotes to legends. Black cats are famous, you know!

the black cat edgar allen poe

From Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Black Cat“, the Marvel Comics character and Coraline to Neil Gaiman’s short story, “The Price” (thank you Beth E. & Ethan S.) and Janet Jackson’s famous-ish song the symbolism of a black cat is found throughout American (and global) culture. As Freeman J. Dyson once stated: “Our thinking is permeated by our historical myths”.

Although some of these stories are spooktacular (great for those of you who do not want to say goodbye to Halloween), others portray the faithful, loving, strong and overall amazing furry friends that cross our paths each day.

Dr. Laurie Nadel & Bogart

Catster recently had a guest post discussing unique challenges and misconceptions that black cats often face. What stood out to us is the story of Dr. Laurie Nadel and Bogart. Laurie explains that she has found that black cats often seem more “empathic and intuitive” than other cats.  “When I had bronchitis a few years ago, Bogart would perch on my chest and put his right front paw where my breathing was tight,” Laurie explained in the post. She goes on to describe her how Bograt became a Reiki healer stating that “since then, he has been an essential part of my Reiki practice….I even have testimonial letters from people thanking my black cat!”

At Black Cat Rescue we hear stories EVERYday about the special energy and connection people sense with their black cat companions. Roxanne R. has four black cats, each of whom has “brought their own magic when I needed them the most”.

Hachikō

Tobias B. shared with us that growing up included the tales of a black cat like Hachikō (ハチ公. Although we do not know the details of this story, one can only the image of remarkable loyalty. 

Freya, the ancient Nordic goddess of love, marriage and prosperity

The mythology varies, but with similar detail. An incredibly beautiful deity who is said to have wept tears of gold, Freya was also a fierce warrior as shared with us by Ethan S. One of the many names by which she was known was the Mistress of the Cats, and it was said that the chariot in which she sat was drawn by a pairs of great cats with fur blacker than the midnight sky.

Feline goddess of ancient Egyptian religion
 
bastet
 
The Egyptian goddess Bast (or Bastet) was known as the cat goddess. Egyptians believed they could gain favor from Bastet by hosting black cats in their home. English monarch Charles I held this belief as well. When his treasured black cat passed, he claimed that his luck was gone and he was arrested the very next day and charged with high treason.
 
Of course you know they’re witches, right?
 
Black cats born in May were said to be strongly associated with witchcraft  and were often drowned + supposedly, it is bad luck to discuss family matters when a black cat is present, lest it be a witch in disguise. (via @ecowitch)
 
witches
 
Symbolising evil omens and harboring the ability to change into human shape to act as a spy or messenger for witches or demons are some of the mostly widely known legends of black cats (in the US). When settlers arrived in the Americas, they had a previously developed and deepening suspicion of anything associated with the devil. Due to the sisterhood of witch and black cat, anyone caught with a black cat was severely punished or even killed. Similar superstitions led people to kill black cats during the Middle Ages, increasing the rat population and the spread of the bubonic plague.  
 
In the town of Kidwelly, in Carmarthenshire…
(Full disclosure, I think this is my personal favorite.)
 
the black cat of Kidwelly
 
Speaking of black cats and the plague…in Southwest Wales, where Angel J. lives, there is a legend about a particular black cat. As the tale goes, when people came to the town, long after it had been ravaged by the Black Plague, the only living creature they found was a single black cat. The black cat is now the traditional mascot of Kidwelly!
 
Crossing your path…
 
If your driving and a black cat crosses in front of you, you should turn your car around or receive bad luck (via @Lilymoon89)
 
The gambling world believes that if (while traveling to a casino) a black cat crosses your road or path, that person should not go to the casino; most players believe that black cats bring bad luck.
 
Most of western and southern Europe considers the black cat as a symbol of bad luck. Crossing paths with a person is an omen of misfortune and death. HOWEVER things are a bit more complicated in Germany. A black cat crossing a person’s path from right—> to left<—, is a bad omen while from left<— to right—>, the cat is granting favorable times.
 
Similarly pirates of the 19th Century believed that if a black cat walks towards someone, that person will have bad luck. HOWEVER if a black cat walks away from someone, that person will have good luck. Unfortunately if a black cat walks onto a ship and then walks off it, the ship is doomed to sink on its next trip. So maybe if you happen upon a furry little black friend, you might consider not shooing away you new acquaintance away too quickly.
 
But for those always seeking good luck!
 
Sailors often sought out black “ship’s cat” to bring good luck and fishermen’s wives would keep black cats at home in the hope that they would be able to use their influence to protect their husbands while at sea. Other good tales of good fortune include (but are not limited too):
 
  • Black cats have the coolest personalities, and in Japan black manekineko (beckoning cats) are a wish for good health. (via @msgeek93)
  • According to Vickie G. to dream of a black cat is lucky.
  • Scottish Lore: A strange black cat on a porch brings prosperity to the owner. (via Vickie G. + many others)
  • Dawn M. also shares that naming your cat(s) 3 times confuses the devil. That’s good luck, right?
  • In Great Britain and in Ireland, black cats are a symbol of good luck.
  • It is believed that a lady who owns a black cat will have many suitors. Booya!

And to all you wonderful adopters…

Cats should never be bought with money. Doing so means they will be bad mousers. (via @ecowitch)

To learn more about black cat symbolism in anarcho-syndicalism, worldwide culture and more Wikipedia is a wealth of knowledge! Please share more of the myths, folklore and personal tales of black cats that you’ve come to know in the comments below…