October is Black Cat Awareness Month and so we’re talking about where some of the most popular black cat myths came from including them being bad luck, bad omens, or connected to dark magic and witches. We looked back at the Middle Ages, Greek Mythology, and more to get to the bottom of why black cats are often viewed negatively.
This video is part of the Pet Voices PRESENTS series. CLICK HERE to see all the series videos.
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 0:01
Black cats. In pop culture, a lot of times, they are connected to witches, dark and black magic, and even bad luck. So, we wanted to know why?
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 0:11
When we did the research and we were looking into this, we found some interesting things.
First of all, witches going all the way back to the Salem Witch Trials and the medieval times when they were considered to be doing the work of Satan. And that’s where we believe the witch factor came in. All of a sudden, we took what the medieval times made of witches and turned it into wearing big hats and using caldrons. And everything was dark and black. And so, now black cats are associated with them too.
And witches mean bad luck. So, black cats also mean bad luck. At least that’s kind of where we started. We learned a lot, though.
POPES AND CATS
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 0:52
Yes, we did. And we wanted to dive even further back then the Salem Witch Trials and really look at the medieval times. And see if that’s where it started.
And Chloe, I know in your research, you came across a Pope who made a statement, who we think may have changed how black cats are perceived even still today.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 1:15
Yes, all the way back to the year of 1233. It was Pope Gregory the 11th. And he basically came out with this statement saying that Satan could take the form of a black cat when he walked on Earth. You can find the link to the full story about that here.
But he was basically telling the world at that time that cats were Satan. And since cats had already been associated with a lot of different other folklore that we’ll get to from further back. It was sort of perpetuating this idea that cats were evil. And thus, a lot of them were killed because of that statement.
CATS IN GREEK AND NORSE MYTHOLOGY
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 1:52
And I went even further back into Greek mythology, which I think is pretty cool anyway. But even connected to Zeus and his wife, Hera, is a story about black cats.
Apparently one of their servants, I’m not going to pronounce this right, but Galinthias, played a prank and actually, tried to impede something that Hera was doing that involved the birth of Heracles. I’m a little foggy on the exact details. But obviously, Hera wasn’t very pleased with this servant, so she actually turned Galinthias into a black cat.
And then later on, Galinthias, the black cat, actually went on to work with and become the assistant of Hecate, who is the Goddess of Witchcraft and death. So, even going back to Greek mythology, before the medieval times, there’s a connection of black cats to witchcraft and even death.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 2:48
And you had to define this for me because I didn’t know what it was. In Norse mythology, which is Scandinavian, there’s a goddess, Freya, who rode a chariot. And it was pulled by what were considered magical cats. And she was in charge of death and afterlife. And so, because of her having black cats pulling in the chariot, and I guess she was also known for practicing witchcraft as part of her being in control of death.
So, right there, already, we’re talking about cats and witchcraft being tied together. And I don’t even know how far ago that was. It just seems like the roots of this, probably go further back than we can actually put a date to.
BLACK CAT MYTHS ROOTED IN HISTORY
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 3:33
Right. Because even in Celtic folklore, when you talk about Ireland and Scotland, there are connections there as well to witchcraft and cats. And so, it’s very interesting that it is so rooted in this ancient culture. But it isn’t this one thing that caused us to associate cats, specifically black cats, and witches.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 3:52
And it went on because… we started telling you about Pope Gregory the 11th, but a century after that, after he made that claim, there was Pope Innocent the 7th. He actually sentenced cats in his declaration as a representation of evil. So, he reinforced it again and that was a century later. So, it keeps coming up and thus, all the history and myths just continue to be told.
So here we are in 2020, still talking about myths around black cats. And that they’re evil and cause bad luck. And it goes so, so far back.
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 4:31
And even with pop culture. We were talking about Cinderella. That has a cat named Lucifer. And Lucifer is generally associated with Satan. So, it’s reinforced.
And even Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, whether you look at the older version or the newer version, there are tons of representations of black cats being connected to witches, death, and mystery. And a lot of times they have a level of negativity on them. Not always, though.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 5:01
I think that’s why there’s still all these ideas that black cats are bad luck. Because just going so far back like we just did, there’s just this root in it of, “Oh, they must be evil. They must be witches. “For a long time, going back to the Salem Witch Trials, people believe if you saw a black cat, it was either a witch, like a witch reincarnated. Or it was a witch’s cat basically doing the witch’s bidding around town.
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 5:29
Right. A familiar, I think they are called.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 5:33
Yeah. That’s actually how this started. We were like, ”Okay, so why is that?” You see a black cat, why is it associated with witches? Why is it considered bad luck? Why is there such a negative connotation put on black cats, who we think are quite beautiful?
And I think it goes all the way back to that. It’s just this perpetuated thing that has started centuries and centuries ago that finds its way into our lives. And I think in general, people kind of are superstitious. We have superstitions and that one, for some reason, won’t die.
ARE CATS BAD LUCK?
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 6:04
Right. I’ll be honest though. I love me some Halloween. I do love that black cats are associated with it, because to me it’s something that’s positive. They’re mysterious. They’re different. They’re cool, but that isn’t how a lot of people perceive them.
However, when we were doing our research on bad luck, because that’s what we grew up with, that’s what we associated black cats with. When I grew up, it was like, ”Don’t let a black cat cross your path.” We found though, that so many other cultures and societies actually view it a little bit differently and I think that’s really cool.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 6:36
It is really cool. I mean, all the way back to Egyptians now, which like Egyptian mythology and Greek mythology, were probably close to the same era. But Egyptians held cats in very high esteem. They worshipped them. If they had a cat in the house, it was considered good luck. They put jewels on them. They mummified them when they passed on.
If you were an Egyptian and you killed a cat accidentally or otherwise, you were sentenced to death. And they mourned so much, that when a cat that they had died, they shaved their eyebrows and mourned until their eyebrows grew back. So, they loved the cats. They were definitely almost worshipping and putting them up on a pedestal, which I believe is where cats belong.
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 7:18
Yes. And I feel like that whole Egyptians and cats is a whole other video that will have to do someday.
But the fact that, simultaneously, while Greek mythology, Norse mythology, and then eventually the Pope was saying negative things, Egyptians were actually holding them to high esteem.
And there are some other examples too. My husband is Scottish and apparently, in Scotland, if a black cat comes and hangs out on your driveway or your porch, that’s good luck. So, I’ll take that. I love that one.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 7:48
It’s considered good luck, I believe, in Japan, too. If you see a black cat, it’s just like, “Oh, that’s a lucky symbol.”
I think that there are several cases of that. There’s plenty of places if you go and find the research that you can find where people are either worshipping, believe in good luck, or honoring black cats. So, it’s two sides of the coin.
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 8:07
And we couldn’t end this video talking about black cats without sharing some pictures of some beautiful black cats. So, we reached out to some friends and some influencers who have black cats in their life. And here’s a little slideshow of black cats and how great they are.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 8:45
And to wrap up this video, we hope that you think about the myths that you hear, the superstitions that you have, and maybe help educate people and where they come from when it comes to black cats, because they’re a wonderful companion. Plenty live in happy homes. And we definitely want to make sure no harm comes to any black cats during the month of October for Halloween, and witches, and superstition, or anything that or otherwise, any time of the year. We want to promote how wonderful of a pet any cat and black cats definitely are.
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 9:15
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What’s your favorite or least favorite black cat myth?