It is believed that the life giving rays of the sun rest in the cat’s eyes at night for safe keeping. ~ Egyptian superstition
Originally, the black cat represented good luck. This began in Egypt with Bast, the official deity of Egypt in the 22nd Dynasty. It was believed that by bringing a black cat into the household Bast would become part of the cat in spirit and bless the home with riches and prosperity.
A strange black cat on a porch is considered to bring prosperity. ~ Scottish superstition
In the 1600’s, Charles I of England owned a black cat. He was so attached to the it that he kept it under constant guard. When the cat fell ill and died, Charles proclaimed, “Alas, my luck is gone.” The next day he was arrested and charged with high treason. Ultimately he was put to death.
"Whenever the cat of the house is black, the lasses of lovers will have no lack." ~ English Proverb
In the Yorkshires, a black cat was believed to bring fishermen home safely from the seas. During the height of the fishing industry in this village, black kittens were often catnapped and sold to the highest bidder. In other parts of Europe, if a black cat crosses your path, you are considered to have good fortune. If a black cat walks into your house or home, you are truly blessed.
While dreaming of white cats is considered lucky, seeing one in the night is bad luck. ~ American superstition
Many people believe that a black cat brings good fortune and also, that anyone who finds the one perfect, pure white hair in an all-black cat and plucks it out without being scratched, will find great wealth and good luck in love.
A black cat in the audience on opening night portends a successful play.
In the English Midlands, a black cat as a wedding present is thought to bring good luck to the bride.
Any one who hears a cat sneezing is considered to be blessed with good luck. ~ Italian superstition
Fear of cats, particularly black cats, first arose in Europe during the Middle Ages, mainly in England. The cat characterizes independence, willfulness, and stealth. Alley cats were often fed by poor, lonely old ladies, and when witch hysteria struck Europe, many of these homeless women were accused of practicing black magic. Their cat companions (especially black ones) were deemed guilty of witchery by association.
Netherlands: Cats were considered to be evil and weren't allowed in a room where private conversations were taking place. It was believed that they could spread the gossip around.
The Pilgrims brought with them not only a devout faith in the Bible, but also a deep fear of anything considered to come from the devil. They were a very suspicious people. Black cats were viewed as a witch’s familiar. A black cat was considered to be part demon and part sorcery. Anyone caught with a black cat would be severely punished or even killed.
A black cat crossing one's path by moonlight means death in an epidemic. However, killing a cat brings 17 years of bad luck.
As the Christians gained a foothold in America, they perpetuated the belief that black cats were an integral part of witchcraft. Black cats were often sought after and killed. If a farmer believed his land had a spell cast on it, the only way to break that spell was to shoot a black cat with a silver bullet.
All Hallows Eve is believed to be the time when an opening is created to the Otherworld and the black cat is considered the catalyst for that driving force.
The belief that a black cat crossing your path is unlucky depends largely upon what country you’re in. In Japan it is believed to be good luck. So the next time a black cat crosses your path, just say “Konichiwa” and turn your luck around.
If you have a favourite superstition you’d like to find out more about, send me an e-mail at carolrward(at)gmail(dot)com.