Suppose that you are heading for an important business meeting, and suddenly, a black cat walks across your path. If you are like most people, you would be thinking, “Oh no, my day is ruined!” You would most likely say this in your mind whenever you see a black cat, as it is instilled in many people’s minds that the animal brings unfortunate events to people who come across one. Funny enough, the cat would have reached wherever it had been going, and it didn’t even know why you hate on him or her.Superstitions prevail in almost every corner of the world, and most of these superstitions are connected to animals and their colors. The black cat is an unfortunate victim of these superstitious practices, as they are universally considered to be bad luck.
Cats in Ancient Egypt
On the other hand, it hasn’t been very long since black cats fell out of favor with people, considering the rich history of companionship between the felines and humans. As far back as 3000 BC, in the heyday of the Egyptian civilization, all cats, including the one with black fur, were regarded with high esteem. Rather than being just mere pets, the cat was respected and even worshipped by the people. The feline’s connection to religion stems from the depiction of Egyptian gods that shows them owning cats or having physical features similar to those found in cats. During that period, it was considered an unjustifiable crime to kill cats, and those who do this heinous act are punished severely.
Cats were revered so much in Ancient Egypt that many of them received the coveted honor of mummification after their death like the humans, although a few historians argue that cats were often killed and buried beside their Egyptian pharaoh owners, even if these felines are healthy. It is also speculated that most cats in Ancient Egypt were buried in their own tomb, as evidenced by an excavation done in 1888, wherein they found a tomb that housed thousands of mummified cats.
Black Cat’s Bad Luck
If cats were revered by humans in ancient times, when did we begin to turn against our feline friends? The notion that cats bring bad luck is believed to have started several centuries ago, specifically in the Middle Ages, when people began to harbor ill-feeling towards cats.
The belief was brought to Plymouth Rock in North America when the Pilgrims arrived at the land. Many old women, especially those who were living alone and are detached or secluded from the rest of society, were accused of practicing black magic because their lives are not really seen by the townsfolk. Having no explanation as to why some people in the town are getting sick with severe diseases, most would often blame it on the supposed black magic that was caster by the old women as punishment. Since many of them had cats as companions, these animals were hated and feared by people as well. Since black cats were fairly common back then, and they are often chosen by lonely women as pets, they took the brunt of the hatred against their species.
Besides the Pilgrims’ belief, a lot of stories began to spread about cats in other parts of the world. In Scotland, people believed in a fairy called Cat sith, who is said to possess the appearance of a giant black cat and also an ability to steal a deceased person’s soul before the gods could take it away. Relatives of the dead person would guard the body until the time of burial to protect it from the fairy.
By the 16th century, another belief also began to circulate, and this focused on a legend that witches could take on the appearance of black cats. People feared the black cat even more when a folktale of an unlucky father and son became popular. According to the story, the father and son were traveling in the night when a mysterious black cat crossed their path. The son started to throw stones at it, and the act eventually injured the cat. It scuttled away to the home of a woman who is suspected of being a witch. The day after the incident, the father and son came across the woman and saw that she was limping, which further solidified the belief that witches can turn into black cats.
During the Salem Witch trials, the fear for black cats further prevailed in the society. The belief evolves throughout the years, and although people still say that they bring bad luck, the notion that they can transform into a human was gone after many researchers proved that witches are not real. However, despite numerous proofs that show black cats are not associated with unfortunate events, most people, especially the older ones, are still maintaining their stance on the unluckiness of these felines with black fur.
However, there are still several places in the world where black cats are held with respect. The Japanese believe that they are good luck, and it is said that single women who own a black cat would have many suitors. In the English Midlands, black cats are typically given as wedding gifts in the hope of bringing good fortune to the newlywed. For sailors, black cats are brought on their ship as a member of the crew because it does not only bring good luck, but it is also effective in reducing the population of rodents in the sea vessels. When the ship’s cats are retired, they would often live the rest of their lives with the wives of fishermen, who believed that taking care of their husband’s cat would protect him against the dangers of the sea.