You’re likely to get very different answers to the question “are black cats bad luck?” depending on who you ask – more specifically, depending on where you are and when you are as well! In the US, black cats are regarded by superstitious types as having a negative connotation, and considered to be a bad omen. But where did this idea came from? Are there any regions (or even eras) where black cats are seen as a sign of good luck? What do Pilgrims who landed in Plymouth Rock, pirates from the 17th century and Egyptians who lived in 3100 before Christ have to do with this? Find everything you’re looking for here!
Black cat superstitions
Are black cats bad luck? Well, they were actually seen as a symbol of luck at first, but then this changed… unluckily for them. From Egypt to the USA, without forgetting Europe, get to know how the black cat superstition started!
Egypt, 3100BC. At the time, the ancient civilization looked at Bastet, one of their goddesses, as a symbol of protection and fierceness. If someone was caught killing a black cat, they would be condemned to death. However, time passed by on the sunclocks of Cairo and Bastet’s image softened, similarly to domesticated cats. Therefore, Egyptians began considering the goddess as a representative of amiability, kindness and affection, but also strength and craftness. According to old papyrus rolls, cats were worshipped and considered sacred. But the cult of Bastet came to an end near 390AC, and subsequently black cats started to be seen as bad luck.
“Are black cats bad luck? Of course!” That’s what you’d hear in Europe during the Middle Ages. Night brought darkness and, due to their nocturnal appearence, black cats started to be associated with witches. Due to this, old women who raised them were frequently killed. This all began in the mid-16th century, thanks to a folklore legend:
A father and son travelled on a moonless night, when a black cat appeared on their way. For some reason, they threw rocks at them, causing the poor animal to take shelter into a witch’s house nearby. The following day, the father and son saw the old woman bruised and limping, which led them to believe that she was the black cat that they’d stoned.
Here are other beliefs European people had at the time:
- Witches turned into black cats at night – and also after dying.
- Black cats were witches’ disciples and talked with them when roaming at night.
- They were also sometimes believed to be family members of witches, helping them with witchcraft.
From England to the US shore: when the first Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock, they were blind Christian devotees and had a tremendous faith in Bible manuscripts. So, they fought every force they suspected could come from Satan, and black cats – or “witches by night” – were no exception. This resulted in a bonfire killing spree, aimed at both black cat raisers and black cats themselves.
Black cat meanings
There are other mystical meanings attributed to black cats: across different regions and countries, among sailors and pirates and even on dreams!
Throughout different world regions and countries
- USA – Halloween comes immediately to mind, of course – it’s very usual to find black cat decorations on this occasion! Some shelters suspend the adoption of black cats on this day, as a way to prevent possible torture during rituals performed by those who still believe in witchcraft, and to avoid cases where black cats are abandoned after being used as Halloween decoration. And mentioning shelters, research about pet adoption conducted by ASPCA concluded that most people choose to overlook black coloured pets. In order to fight this, Black Cat Appreciation Day was implemented on August 17th, and many shelters offer free adoption of black cats on Black Friday.
- Europe – most people see black cats as synonym of bad luck – and even death! – when they appear in front of someone. In contrast to that, specifically in Northern Europe, caring for a black cat is believed to bring good weather and safe sailings on the sea.
- United Kingdom – although they first spread the superstition regarding black cats bringing bad luck in America, the British also have positive associations to them:
- Generally, when a black cat crosses someone’s path, it is seen as a sign of good fortune.
- In England, a black cat offered as a wedding present was considered to be a way of blessing the bride with luck. Also, in the early 17th century, Charles I said his luck was gone after his cat had died. And if you doubt him, well… he did get arrested and charged with high treason the following day!
- In Scotland, if a black cat appears on your doorstep, you may expect prosperity – this is because the Celtic mythology says that the Cat Sìth, which is a fairy, can also turn herself into a black cat.
- France – in Southern France, those who feed and generally treat black cats well should expect to be cosmically rewarded!
- Italy – if you hear a black cat sneezing, you should consider that a good omen.
- Germany – if a black cat crosses your path from your right to your left, you should expect bad luck. However, if they go from the left to the right, you’re in luck: some sort of positive magic is believed to happen!
- Asia – black cats in general mean luck.
- Japan – following the Asian tradition, the Japanese also see black cats as a symbol of good luck. They believe that saying “hello” (“konichiwa”) to them gives them the power to take control of their own luck!
Among Sailors & Pirates
Some sailors still raise black cats on their ship, to bring them luck on their sailing trips. Some fishermen wives also have black cats at home, to keep their husbands protected against sea storms and other maritime threats. ⚓
On the other hand, pirates of the 18th century believed that a black cat walking towards someone was the sign of a curse. Following this thinking, a black cat walking away from someone is a positive omen! ☠️
Dreaming of black cats
There are two different ways of interpreting black cats who appear in your dreams: although dreaming of black cats usually means luck, it can also be seen as a sign that you’re fearing something or you’re not very confident regarding a certain issue.
We don’t believe in superstition at Barking Out Loud… So, are black cats bad luck? To us, every cat, no matter their color, is just an adorable creature! Even during the scary season of Halloween, black cats are simply beautiful. The only spell they cast is the one that conquers your heart… hocus pocus! What are your thoughts about black cats and superstitions?