Black cats have played a major role for centuries in folklore, superstition, and mythology. Black cats in the middle ages were believed to be witches' familiars, and some people even believed them to be witches incarnate. Many of these old superstitions about black cats exist to this day.
Explore the mythology and lore about black cats, witches, and other beliefs that carry on in the 21st century, especially around Halloween.
Depending on one's area of the world (and the century one lived in), black cats portend either good or bad luck. Here are some examples, a couple of them quite involved, with some tongue-in-cheek asides.
- In Asia and the U.K., a black cat is considered lucky.
- In Yorkshire, England, it may be lucky to own a black cat, but it is unlucky to have one cross your path.
- To dream of a black cat is lucky.
- On the other paw, seeing a black cat in your dream indicates that you are experiencing some fear in using your psychic abilities and believing in your intuition. I wonder who makes up these things?
- A funeral procession meeting up with a black cat is believed to forecast the death of another family member.
- In 16th-century Italy, people believed that if someone was sick he would die if a black cat lay on his bed.
- In North America, it's considered bad luck if a black cat crosses your path and good luck if a white cat crosses your path. In the U.K., switch the colors, I guess unless you live in Yorkshire.
- Finding a white hair on a black cat brings good luck. Don't pluck it though, or your luck may turn bad.
- A strange black cat on a porch brings prosperity to the owner. (Scottish Lore)
- A black cat seen from behind portends a bad omen. (And a black cat seen from the front is a GOOD omen?)
- Ahhh...an explanation here: If a black cat walks towards you, it brings good fortune, but if it walks away, it takes the good luck with it.
- If a black cat crosses your path while you're driving, turn your hat around backward and mark an X on your windshield to prevent bad luck. Oh my, what if you aren't wearing a hat? Or you're not carrying a felt-tip pen or lipstick? Please, don't try this one at home! (Or while you're driving.)
Black Cats and Witches
Black cats have long been associated with witches and witchcraft to the extent that during October, the Month of Halloween, black cats and witches are favorite icons used for costumes, home decor, and party themes. This trend is so embedded in modern society that we've forgotten that the modern holiday we celebrate as Halloween has ancient beginnings as well as names:
The religious year of Pagans starts and ends with Samhain, which is also the beginning of the Celtic new year," according to Patti Wigington, Pagan/Wiccan Expert. Samhaim is also a time for honoring ancestors who came before, Patti explains.
- All Hallows' Eve
Catholics celebrate the first of November as The Solemnity of All Saints. October 31st is thereby designated as All Hallows' Eve (since the Saints celebrated on November 1st are considered hallowed.
Despite these religious beginnings of Halloween, old beliefs about black cats and witches still play a large part in this holiday.
- Black Cats as Witches' Familiars
It was largely in the Middle Ages that the black cat became affiliated with evil. Because cats are nocturnal and roam at night, they were believed to be supernatural servants of witches, or even witches themselves, according to Glenda Moore.
- Folklore has it that if a witch becomes human, her black cat will no longer reside in her house.
- Some believe that black cats are witches in disguise, or witches reborn.
- Others believe black cats are witches familiars (beings that aid witches in performing their craft). Not all familiars were black cats though; some were cats of other colors, dogs, pigs, or other animals.
- For several centuries "witches" were rounded up, tried, and killed by burning or other violent methods; often their familiars were killed along with them.
Regardless of these superstitions, black cats have their own large group of loyal followers, people who love to be surrounded by these glossy black vessels of love.
If you fall into that category, you'll enjoy our Black Cats Picture Gallery.