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Legends and Folklore about Black Cats

Updated on June 21, 2013
A sleek and shiny pretty little black kitty
A sleek and shiny pretty little black kitty | Source
How could something so beautiful as a black cat ever be considered unlucky?
How could something so beautiful as a black cat ever be considered unlucky? | Source


Black cats have long been associated with luck, be it good or bad. And superstitions have run rampant around black cats... those sleek and sometimes sneaky felines.

But it is all simply folklore! Read on for the details of some of those legends.


Black Cats and Good Luck

The following good luck legends may be standard, but still stand mentioning:

  • To see a black cat cross the road is lucky
  • It is also a sign of good fortune if a black cat walks into your house
  • In the north of England it was considered lucky to own a black cat


Minerva the black cat may be sneaky, but she's not unlucky!
Minerva the black cat may be sneaky, but she's not unlucky! | Source

Black Cats and Bad Luck

But for all the blessings and beneficial superstitions regarding black cats, there also exist plenty of legends where black cats are dangerous, or unlucky:

  • In the north of England, Germany, and also the United States it has been considered unlucky for a strange black cat to cross one's path
  • Blacks in the southern states of the U.S. have believed that black cats are powerful hoodoo, causing bad luck, misery, disease, and even death.
  • Black cats have been considered to be witches or their familiars, or even the devil.
  • They have been believed to be haunts of the dead.

During the Salem witch trials in 1692, black cats were often unwilling participants in the gruesome charades, placed on trial and executed.

All these reasons have led to black cats being the least likely to be adopted, which is just too bad. Black cats need love, too!

Do you consider black cats lucky, or unlucky?

See results
A black cat crossing the road means good luck!
A black cat crossing the road means good luck! | Source

Black Cats and Cures

Black cats are also popular subjects in false cures:

  • An ancient Irish cure for St. Anthony's Fire (ergot poisoning, leading to convulsions or gangrene) was to draw blood from a black cat's ears, and rub the blood on whatever body part was affected.
  • According to English legend from Cornwall, shingles (a rash-like disease) could be cured by removing blood from the tail of a black cat, and applying it to the affected part.
  • An old-wives' remedy popular in Alabama, U.S. was to drink a black cat broth to cure consumption.


A sweet black kitty with an orange pumpkin makes a perfect Halloween picture.
A sweet black kitty with an orange pumpkin makes a perfect Halloween picture. | Source

Black Cat Legends and Stories

Specific legends about black cats also abound. Two in particular are:

In Sumatra, when drought is imminent, a black cat is made thrown into a river and made to swim there for a while. After, the cat is chased by the women of the village as they splash it and each other with water. This practice may be linked to ancient Egypt, where cats were bestowed demigod status and any good fortune was attributed to them.

In the Scarborough area of Yorkshire, England a black cat was kept in the home of fishermen to ensure the safety of husbands away at sea. Unsurprisingly, this superstition resulted in many black cats being stolen and sold at a high market value to the wives living in fishing villages!

But if there's one time during the year that black cats really come into their own, it's Halloween and the months leading up to it.

During this time, costume parties abound! Animal lovers of all types don complicated outfits and create specialized costumes involving whiskers and tails to appreciate the mystery and grace of the black cat.


"Paws up! Now give me all your crunchies!" These two black cats are probably a handful to care for, but I bet they provide lots of laughs, too.
"Paws up! Now give me all your crunchies!" These two black cats are probably a handful to care for, but I bet they provide lots of laughs, too. | Source

Black Cats and Money

Looking for gold pieces? Try this. According to a Herefordshire, England woman during the reign of James I, money can be generated through the use of a black cat:

"Bury the head of a black catt with a Jacobus or a piece of gold in it, and put into the eies two black baenes. Butt it must be donne on a Tuesday night at twelve o'clock at night; and that time in nine nights the piece of gold must be taken out and whatever you buy with it (always reserving some part of the money) you will have money brought to your pockets, perhaps the same piece of gold again."

A Jacobus is a gold coin worth 25 shillings. But it sounds like a great deal of mess and trouble to go to for some money. I wonder how many people fell for this superstition!


Sources

  • Radford, E. and M.A. Encyclopaedia of Superstitions. New York: The Philosophical Library, 1949.
  • Hershkovits, Krappe, Leach, Voegelin. Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1949.


Comments

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    • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Vega 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Blue Sidewinder, I agree Unfortunately, animal abuse was pretty rampant in the past. Abuse against black cats even exists to this day, and owners are cautioned to keep them indoors around Halloween. :^(

    • Blue Sidewinder profile image

      Evan Eulie 

      6 years ago

      Superstitions are interesting. It's funny how some say black cats are unlucky and some say the opposite. That's sad that they executed cats during the witch trials. I mean it's sad they executed people too, but I did not know about the cats before. Interesting piece of history.

    • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Vega 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Angie, thank you! Cats are close to my heart, and although I've never owned a black one, they are just as sweet as one with any other fur color.

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 

      6 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Perhaps its about time discrimination against the colour of your fur was made politically incorrect :)

      I adore all cats but there is something very special about black ones.

      Super hub, voted up and Facbooked.

    • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Vega 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Oh no, Jon! Sorry your day was turned upside down... but I guess your day is the exception that proves the rule (whatever that means!) :^)

    • jonmcclusk profile image

      Jonathan McCloskey 

      6 years ago from Cinnaminson, New Jersey

      I ran into a black cat, I'm not going to say the day was completely unlucky, but it didn't go as planned. Perfect hub for the season!

    • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Vega 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hey, tillsont! Thanks so much... as soon as I saw that video I knew I had to add it! What a sweet kitty. Always great to see you, too! :^)

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Poor little blck cat always getting a bad rap! This was very interesting and just shows how ignorant people were...the video was absolutely adorable and a good counter to the old legends. Voted this up and interesting.

    • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Vega 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi, teaches! Great to see you... let's go with "good luck" for that kitty! :^)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      I saw a black cat the other day by the roadside and I thought of some of these items mentioned.

    • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Vega 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Aww, Lizam1! Congrats on your little sweetie! I love learning about mirage from other countries (I live in the States) and was pleasantly surprised that black cats mean something other than bad luck! :-)

      Thanks for the comment, and for stopping by.

    • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Vega 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Bunny, yes and no. It depends which side of the pond you live on! :-) Personally, I don't think black cats are either lucky or unlucky... just incredibly charming! Thanks for stopping by.

    • Lizam1 profile image

      Lizam1 

      6 years ago from Scotland

      We have a little beauty of a black cat - always grew up with the "lucky" myth in the UK and was surprised to find North America believes the opposite.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image

      Brainy Bunny 

      6 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Huh. I always thought a black cat crossing your path was unlucky, not lucky. But my friend has a basement cat, and he is a very sweet and loving cat, so I don't think black cats are bad at all!

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