The Black Cat: Superstitions Abounding

Blog content by Aaron Klawetter

Hallowe’en is my favorite holiday. I like it even more than if Christmas and Thanksgiving were rolled into one. What other day of the year are you actually sanctioned to become a superhero or pirate? Ghouls and fairies walk side-by-side with cartoon characters and princesses. And what’s more, you get rewarded for it with candy by the pillowcaseful!  And why? Because you had the courage to step outside yourself for a few hours and take a walk in fantasy.
There is, however, one denizen of All Hallows’ Eve who wears his costume year-round. No, I’m not talking about that kid who works at Hot Topic. I’m talking about my favorite symbol of Hallowe’en: the Black Cat. I hear some of you saying, “But aren’t black cats symbols of bad luck?” and “Don’t let one cross your path!”
ImageDear reader, don’t believe the hype. While the mystique surrounding cats—and black cats especially—is ancient, and the superstitions manifold, I say our furry friends have been victims of some nasty press. Cats have been blamed for untimely deaths due to epidemics, or for being the servants and familiars of warty old witches. They’re even thought to be the confidants of Old Hob himself.
These unfounded rumors became so prevalent during the 14th Century in Europe that it was common for Catholic priests to call for the killing of cats whenever they were sighted. This feline pogrom was so successful that it is believed to have had a hugely exacerbating influence on the perpetuation of the bubonic plague that swept across Europe, killing a quarter of the human population. With so few cats to keep the rodents in check… well, you get the picture. Disturbing as these rumors were in the dark ages of yore, there are still some among us holding on to such malodorous feelings today.
Thankfully, not all the superstitions surrounding black cats have to do with bad luck. Many beliefs hold them in high esteem: To find a single white hair on an otherwise perfectly black cat, and pluck it out without the cat in turn scratching you, is said to be luck of an unusually good sort. A black cat in the audience on the opening night of a play portends success. At one point in England, black cats were considered such good luck for sailors that few could actually afford them.
As one of the central symbols of Hallowe’en—the green-eyed black cat with arched back and bottlebrush tail perched atop a grinning jack-o’-lantern—it seems the black cat has been imbued with all the power of bad luck and the promise of fantastical fun.  Let us put aside the bad press and instead make our own stories and connections. Consider:
You might make a donation to your local shelter or feed a stray.
If you have the means, you might adopt a cat. Black cats are often the last cats left in shelters due to bad press and insensitive fashionistas. C’mon! Black goes with everything!
Stop and pet a cat if you can. There have been many studies indicating that the simple act of petting a cat can relieve both psychological and physical stress as well as lower blood pressure.
You might do any, or all, of these things at any point in the year. However, on Hallowe’en, if you should happen to be graced by the presence of ebon feline felicity, don’t forget to tip your hat. A curtsey or a courtly bow might be in order.

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