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Legends and Folklore about Black Cats
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
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?
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.
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.
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!
- 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.