Black Cat Superstition – Are they Lucky or Unlucky?

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Bad luck or good luck? What does it mean when I see a black cat crossing my path? What causes black cats to become omens? Welcome to the fascinating world of superstition about black cats. In this article, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the pitch-black world of felines, and learning one and for all the nature of this auspicious creature.

The History of Black Cat Superstition

Many believe that our history of wariness towards cats, black or otherwise stems from prehistoric times. In the days of early man, cats weren’t the friendly tabby to tomcat we love today. Instead, they were large and deadly with large fangs, such as those of the Sabretooth Tiger. Cats wouldn’t become domesticated for many thousands of years!

Ancient Greece

The first examples of superstition surrounding black cats are seen in Ancient Greek myth. Hera, Zeus’s wife, was responsible for turning her servant Galinthias into a black cat as a way of punishing them for hindering Hercules’ birth. When Galinthias then aligned themselves with Hecate the Greek goddess of witchcraft, the connection between black cats and witchery began.

Ancient Egypt

Unlike in other cultures, the Ancient Egyptians keenly admired black felines. During this time period, any person found injuring or killing a cat could find themselves facing under capital punishment.

Medieval Europe

It’s in Medieval Europe, particularly Spain, where the black cat’s reputation as a harbinger of ill will took hold. Due to the ongoing connection with Goddess Hecate, during the Medieval era, black cats are frequently viewed as witches taking an animal form, or the manifestation of a witches familiar. This lead to people persecuting and purging black cats from their towns.

Common Examples of Black Cat Superstition

Almost every culture from around the world has their own was of interpreting black cat superstitions. Some are good omens, and others a bad. Let’s look at some of the most common and pervasive beliefs.

Superstition #1: Black Cats are Witches in Animal Form

As we previously touched upon, in Medieval times it was actively believed that a black cat was, in fact, a witch disguising herself. If the cat was seen following a female, then the cat could easily be thought of as a familiar, and the woman in question may face persecution as a witch.

black cat superstition about witches

During the night time, the nocturnal nature of cats was particularly disturbing. It’s in the 400 years between the 13th and 17th centuries that the heaviest persecution of black cats happened, as killing black cats alongside suspected human witches happened often. Hunting cats during Halloween was also a common occurrence.

Superstition #2: It is an Omen When a Black Cat is Crossing your Path

This is the most enduring and still widely believed superstition surrounding black cats. It’s thought the origins of this omen started as a 16th-century urban legend.

black cat crossing road

A father and son noticed a black cat walking across their path and started pelting the creature with stones, wanting to scare it away, fearing that it was a witch. They spot the cat running into a house of a woman under suspicion of witchcraft. Upon confronting the woman the next day, they saw that she was limping, and remembered that their stones had struck the cat in the leg. This event only further connected black cats and witches together.

A black cat crossing your path is a positive and negative superstition – depending on where you’re living. The Japanese and British see a black cat crossing your path as a good thing. In Germany, however, the same occurrence is a bad omen. The Turkish will begin holding a part of their hair when seeing a black cat before them, as this is a way of reversing the bad fortune!

Superstition #3: Black Cats are a Powerful Omen on Ships

Naval personnel believe black cats are either good or bad omens. Small boats with a ship’s cat commonly select a black cat over other kinds for the good luck it would bring. Fishermen’s wives liked inviting black cats into their home also to ensure the protection of their loved ones at sea. Many such folks would prefer dogs over cats.

However when a black cat is noticed wandering onto a ship and then off again then the ship is likely doomed to sink the next time it sets sail. 18th-century pirates were of the belief that a black cat walking towards someone would possess bad luck, whereas a black cat walking away from the individual meant good things were coming.

Are Black Cats Unlucky?

Associating black cats with death, bad omens, and bad luck is common. This once again comes from medieval times. Italians believe that a black cat laying on a person’s sickbed will bring death. In America a black cat crossing your path is unlucky, and seeing a black cat during a funeral will signal the coming death of another family member.

Are Black Cats Lucky?

Seeing that many cultures have a disparaging view of black cats may have you feeling that on the whole, these felines are unlucky. In many areas, in fact, black cats are sources of great luck and prosperity, for example:

  • Ireland: A black cat on your porch is good luck
  • Japan: Black cats are symbols of prosperity
  • Egypt: A black cat symbolizes health and fertility
  • UK: Owning a black cat is lucky
  • England: A bride will be lucky if she receives a black cat as a wedding gift
  • Scotland: You will be lucky if a black cat is seen in your doorway
  • France: Magic awaits you if you see a black cat

cute black cat

Superstition and Nothing More

At the end of the day, superstition is very subjective. One thing is certain however, a black cat makes just as good a companion like a cat of any other color. With soft fur, big expressive eyes, and constant company, I personally see nothing but good coming from owning a black cat.

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