Black cats and Halloween really go together. This time of year, images of black cats are everywhere. A sleek black cat silhouette sits in the light of a full moon. Glowing eyes peek out from behind a window or on top of a fence. Or sitting in pumpkins or on a witches broom. How did the black cat become such a symbol of Halloween? Why are black cats considered bad luck? Is there any truth to all the myths and mysteries surrounding black cats, or are they just a misunderstood Halloween mascot?
My sister has had several black cats over the years, and in my humble opinion, they’re the best. They are not bad luck as far as I can tell—though the dog might tell a different story. They are not a witch’s familiar (an animal helper with magical skills)—my sister’s not a witch, well, at least I don’t think she is. (Although… why does she pick black cats? And just where does she go every full moon?! … hmm…) I digress. In my experience, there was nothing particularly scary, spooky, or magical about them at all.
Enigma was a black cat. He was definitely not scary unless, of course, he decided to ambush you and attack your toes. Now that I think about it, he did seem to appear out of nowhere all the time. He was as sweet and snuggly as they come, especially with me, his favorite “Aunt.”
Tux is a tuxedo cat, so he has a little white on him. He’s just as sweet and snuggly as Enigma was, though perhaps a little more mischievous.
In ancient Egypt, cats were worshiped as gods. The goddess Bastet was half cat and half women. Egyptians believed that cats were magical and brought good luck to houses that cared for one. When a cat died, they were mummified, and owners would shave off their own eyebrows as a sign of mourning!
In Celtic mythology, Cat Sith is a fairy that takes the form of a black cat. The tradition was, if you left a saucer of milk out on Samhain or Halloween, the fairy would bless you.
It wasn’t until the Middle Ages when cats became associated with witches. It was thought that a witch could change into a black cat. It seemed that many who were accused of being witches did indeed have a cat, so by association, people believed that they must be magical, spooky, and scary.
Humans are superstitious by nature, and in many cultures, including here in the United States, black cats are thought to bring bad luck. But in many other cultures, including in Asia and the United Kingdom, they are actually symbols of good luck. Sailors thought having a black cat aboard their ship would not only keep the mice away, but it would bring good luck and fortune while they sailed the seas.
There is no shortage of famous black cats in pop culture. Salem from Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Binx from the movie Hocus Pocus both helped their witches and looked adorable doing it! The Simpson’s black cat Snowball is always good for a laugh! In one of my favorite books, Coraline by Neil Gaiman, Coraline’s wise black cat helps her journey back and forth from the real world to the other.
Black cats saw an increase in adoptions after the success of Marvel’s Black Panther movie. No doubt, many new pets were and will be named T’Challa in honor of the late Chadwick Boseman, who played him.
Good or bad, black cats certainly make a worthy addition to Halloween lore. So snuggle up with your favorite cat. Brew some potions… umm… or maybe just some tea, and enjoy one of the books below.