Wednesday, October 20, 2021

#420 • Black Cat Superstitions

Click here to purchase this painting #420

I've been thinking about our Halloween traditions in this country. Halloween is when all rational thinking is thrown to the wind, when we become our own worst fears fed by horror films we dare ourselves to watch only on Halloween night. 

Why witches, ghosts, black cats, crows, ravens and pumpkins I asked myself as I painted along? I was suddenly struck by how much it reminded me of the bunny and egg thing on Easter. The ghost I get because of the Christian celebration of Old Souls/Saints Day on November 1, but the rest of it is puzzling. 

So I decided to research starting with the history and superstitions surrounding black cats to try to make some sense out of it all. I've written about this before, but have forgotten most of it except for the one about a black cat being a witch in disguise. I kind of like that one and want to hold onto it as truth... during Halloween anyway. The bad luck and good luck stuff is not as much related to HAlloween, but good to know!

Earliest Association with witches
According to Greek mythology, Zeus’s wife Hera once transformed her servant, Galinthias, into a black cat as punishment for impeding the birth of Hercules. Galinthias went on to become an assistant to Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft.

Black cats are witches
This story began when a black cat was seen running into a house thought to be inhabited by a witch during the Middle Ages and became equated with black magic. Roaming nocturnal black cats were thought to be witches in disguise, witches' pets, or animal-shaped demons sent by witches to spy on humans. From the early 13th century in Europe through the 17th-century Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts, black cats were killed along with those who were considered witches. Black cats have since evolved into icons of anything related to witchcraft.

A black cat is also associated with bad luck and death.
This fear of black cats appears to stem from medieval times, when an animal with dark feathers or fur, including crows and ravens, signaled death. In 16th-century Italy, it was believed that death was imminent if a black cat laid on someone's sickbed. It’s considered bad luck if a black cat crosses your path, and good luck if a white cat crosses your path. Another family member is bound to die if you spot a black cat during a funeral procession. And it's a bad omen if you see a black cat walking away from you. Fortunately, all these ideas are just superstition.

Black cats are also believed to bring good luck
In ancient Egypt, black cats were held in the highest esteem because they resembled Bastet, the cat-headed Egyptian goddess of home, fertility, and protection from disease. Black cats are considered good luck in other parts of the globe, as well.

  • In Asia and the U.K., you're going to be lucky in life if you own a black cat.
  • In Japan, you'll have luck in finding love if you spot a black cat.
  • In parts of England, a bride will have luck in her marriage if she receives a black cat as a gift.
  • In Europe, sailors will have a safe journey if they bring along a black cat on the ship.
  • In Scotland, you'll have coming prosperity if a black cat appears at your doorway or on your porch.
  • In France, something magical is about to happen if you see a black cat.
  • In other cultures around the world, it’s a sign of good luck if you dream about a black cat, see one walking towards you, or if you happen to find a stray white hair on its gleaming ebony fur.

Black Cat Superstitions • 8" x 8" acrylic framed to 12" x 12" • $250


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