My girlfriend has a black cat named Rory, so this question came out of nowhere but black cats weren’t always the butt of superstitions, feared, or even considered bad luck. In fact, in early Egyptian times, dating back as far as 3000 B.C. cats (including black ones) were the rock stars of the animal world, held in high esteem; to kill one was considered a capital crime. It wasn’t until the middle-ages in Europe that the black cat’s rock star status started to go downhill as they began to be associated with so-called witches. The hysteria of witches practicing black magic had just hit Europe and alley cats were often cared for and fed by the poor lonely old ladies (funny how some things never change) later accused of witchery. Blame black magic. As chatter about nefarious witchcraft began to spread around Europe in the sixteenth century, black cats found themselves tangled up in the hunt, simply because, as I stated before, many presumed witches had taken in alley cats as companions. Somehow, the concept of “companion” turned into “familiar,” and the belief that witches could turn themselves into their (typically black) cat companions became a persistent one, even carrying over to America, where it was an important part of the Salem Witch Trials.
But still, it’s not known exactly how and why cats became associated with bad luck in the Middle Ages, but the belief was so persistent that they were all but exterminated during the Black Death pandemic around 1348. Ironically, killing off the cats only worsened the plague, which was often spread via rodents, which all those dearly departed cats could have helped kill.
Some other cultures have taken it to the next level. The Germans, for example, seem to have lightened up this piece of legend, believing that a cat that crosses from right to left is bad news, while one that moves left to right signals good things ahead.
Even one of my favorite writers, Edgar Allen Poe, wrote, “The Black Cat”, its one of his most memorable stories. The tale centers around a black cat and the subsequent deterioration of a man. The story is often linked with, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, because of the profound psychological elements these two works share. “The Black Cat”, first appeared in The Saturday Evening Post on August 19, 1843. This first-person narrative falls into the realm of Horror/Gothic Literature, and has been examined in association with themes of insanity and alcoholism.
But after doing more research, I discovered that its not all bad for black cats, for instance, in Britain and Ireland, black cats have historically been seen as symbols of good fortune, thought to bring fishermen home safely from sea. In fact, black cats were even known to fetch exorbitantly high prices from fishermen’s wives hoping to buy their husbands a bit of good fortune. In Japanese culture, black cats are also considered lucky, believed to have the power to wore off evil and sickness in children. But what do you guys think?