October is in full swing; black cats on Halloween are a typical sight. We know black cats always go hand in hand with Halloween decor, movies, commercials, and symbols, have you ever wondered how and why black cats are associated with the Halloween holiday?
Black cats and Halloween have a long and sometimes sordid history that dates back to ancient times. The modern association evolved over the centuries. Our modern lens shows them now as a primarily harmless duo.
Let’s start with the Ancient Egyptians. They revered cats. Worshipped and seen as supernatural beings, Egyptian people brought cats into their homes for protection and good luck.
An ancient Egyptian god, Basted, resembles a cat. This ancient goddess represented beauty, happiness, and love and offered protection to people. The Egyptian people thought that because of their god-like and supernatural abilities, cats could see into the souls of humans.
Humans would mummify their cats upon death, and sometimes they would have their mummified cats buried with them so they could spend the afterlife together. Cats were placed on pedestals and treated with honor and respect.
The positive association of cats, especially black cats, changed with the rise of Christianity in Medieval Europe. No longer did people believe in multiple gods and goddesses for protection. People labeled others as witches for having different beliefs.
Witches were considered Satan worshippers, who could shapeshift into the form of cats while out doing the misdeeds of the Devil. People believed that a black cat that crossed your path was bad luck because it could be a witch in disguise. This superstition has held firm through the centuries.
Pope Gregory IX was the first person to write about the association between black cats and witches in his papal legislation, Vox in Roma, in 1233. Cats were persecuted to the point that there weren’t enough to control the rodent populations of the times, which allowed the spread of the Bubonic Plague.
Black cats are unlucky is a common thought to this day.
The relationship between black cats and witches followed the Puritans over from Europe. The devil could give witches the power to hurt other people in exchange for their loyalty.
During the Salem witch trials, women accused of being witches often kept the company of cats (and other animals). During the tests and examinations of the accused women, some talked about seeing cats as they finally broke down in exhaustion.
The hysteria around devil worshippers cemented the union between witches and black cats into our symbolism, which eventually grew into a part of our Halloween culture.
These days, most black cats are safe from persecution due to being bad luck or evil spirits. A black cat decoration these days can symbolize protection from the ghosts and goblins of Halloween.
Black cats have come full circle back to the ancient thought of being protectors. They are just as loveable and wonderful as any other type of cat. They have just had a dark cloud over their image due to superstitions and their often unfair history.