It’s Friday the 13th! In light of a day that most of us consider to be bad luck, we thought it would be the perfect time to talk about the superstitions surrounding black cats. We’ve all been told at some point or another in our lives not to let a black cat cross our path, but did you know that the folklore about black cats actually varies from culture to culture?
As most of us know, in the West, black cats have historically been seen as bad omens because they were once suspected of being the familiars of witches. In folklore, black cats were believed to be able to change into humans and act as spies for witches and demons. So, when the Europeans settled in America, they brought with them a devout faith and a suspicion of anything associated with the devil. Therefore, anyone caught with a black cat could be punished or even killed since they were associated with evil and magic. Dating back to the Middle Ages, many black cats were killed because of these superstitions which led to an increase of the rat population and the spread of the Black Death. Therefore, most people in Western countries still believe that a black cat crossing one’s path is a symbol of misfortune and death. This superstition is so ingrained in our culture that black cats are the least adopted color cat from shelters. Some shelters even limit the adoptions of black cats around Halloween for fear of them being hurt or used as living decorations and abandoned after the holiday.
Not all cultures, however, view the black cat in such a negative light. The Egyptians, for example, are known for their worship of the goddess Bast, the cat goddess. They believed that they could gain the favor of the goddess by caring for black cats at their house.
And the Egyptians weren’t the only ones partial to the black cat. Sailors and pirates thought that black cats had supernatural powers and preferred their ship cat to be black because it would bring them good luck. Fishermen’s wives were also known to keep black cats at home because they believed that they would protect their husbands while they were at sea.
To this day, the Scottish believe that if a black cat arrives at your home, then you will prosper, and in Japan, unlike the West, black cats are considered to be good luck. As you can see, while some cultures do associate black cats with bad omens, many actually do believe them to be signs of good fortune. So, on this Friday the 13th, let’s be like the Egyptians, the sailors, the Japanese… and celebrate the black cats in our lives.
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