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Why Black Cats are Halloween Symbols

Updated on November 4, 2012
Melinda Nagy @Dreamstime.com
Melinda Nagy @Dreamstime.com

The Halloween cat is one of the most commonly recognized symbols of Halloween. The black Halloween cat is one of the images that is inseparable from the idea of Halloween. Even though the Halloween cat has long been an integral part of Halloween festivities, most people don’t know how or why cats first became associated with Halloween. Cats, particularly the black cats most commonly associated with Halloween, have long been creatures of great mystery and superstition.

Where Superstitions Began

The cat is one of the most mystical creatures associated with humans and one of the most contradictory. Cats have both been loved and feared throughout history. Where and how the cats became revered in some places and symbols of evil in others is not very clear. The Chinese and Egyptians, some of the most ancient civilizations on the Earth, have believed cats are sacred creatures.

However, in India, Europe, and America cats – particularly black cats – have long been associated with the devil, witchcraft and inauspicious biddings. Since the days of ancient witchcraft, many people have believed that witches could turn themselves into cats to make for an easy getaway when faced with danger or a threatening situation.

Black Cat Superstitions

Even today, In India, if a cat crosses one’s path, a person will stop and walk back a few steps – since the crossing of the cat would mean something very bad could happen. Hence, by stopping and reversing his or her steps, the person averts whatever mishap might have been in store for them should they not have escaped the path of the cat. In America, people are also superstitious about cats, with superstitious people going to great lengths to avoid crossing the path of a black cat.

The fact that cats are nocturnal animals and almost un-tamable makes it easy to associate them with the supernatural. This may be one of the primary reasons that the cats are associated with Halloween so strongly. At one time, it was believed that cats were the spirit of the dead. Since what we know today as the modern Halloween holiday evolved from ancient All Souls Day, or Day of the Dead celebrations, it stands to reason that an animal believed to represent the dead is an integral part of the day’s symbolism.

Witches and Black Cats

Of course, no image is more commonly associated with Halloween that that of the witch. Throughout history and literature, black cats and witches go hand in hand. Any story about witches usually includes one or more black cats, along with a broom and a cauldron. As much of the lore surrounding Halloween is associated with witches and witchcraft, it only makes sense that the Halloween cat has become an enduring symbol of this holiday.

Halloween Cat Costumes

Halloween cat costumes are a popular choice when it comes to selecting Halloween costumes. For the mother and child who plan to trick or treat together, a witch and cat costume can be an excellent choice. With mom dressed up like a witch and the small child outfitted as her Halloween cat sidekick, the benefits of trick-or-treating are sure to be great!

Since the image of the Halloween cat is so closely tied to Halloween celebrations, it is only fitting that Halloween decorations and celebrations prominently display the Halloween cat. No Halloween party or trick-or-treating adventure is complete without coming in contact with, or even crossing the path of, an image of a Halloween cat.

Comments

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  • profile image

    mamabuja 

    5 years ago

    I think cats are awesome, I've had a black cat and white cat, they are really pretty. Once I found a white cat and i painted him blue, so my mom got mad and told me to clean it, so I put it in the washroom, he died. I still feel bad for it, but now I'm older and I am hoping to create an asociation to help cats.

  • John Wulff profile image

    John Wulff 

    6 years ago from Northern British Columbia

    Interesting hub! I have to admit that I've never really understood the superstitions around black cats, so thanks for enlightening me!

  • lisa42 profile image

    lisa42 

    6 years ago from Sacramento

    I've had several black cats as pets and have never understood why these superstitions persist. Black cats are just as sweet as others.

  • Gerber Ink profile imageAUTHOR

    Charlotte Gerber 

    6 years ago from upstate New York

    Hi Kittythedreamer, I've watched some shows on the History channel about superstitions, and many times their animals suffered the same fate as the witches did. Such a shame; my cats have always been so loyal and brought me comfort.

  • kittythedreamer profile image

    Nicole Canfield 

    6 years ago from Summerland

    Love black cats, wish I had one of my own! Voted up and awesome. It's a shame that the stereotype on witches crossed over to animals, too. There are also superstitions about owls, as they are said to be associated with witches, too.

  • Gerber Ink profile imageAUTHOR

    Charlotte Gerber 

    6 years ago from upstate New York

    Hi RNMSN - I agree. I have a black cat now, and have had several that have gone on to their "great reward." I always keep them indoors during Halloween and most of the week prior. I'm conscious that there are people who will harm them, just for their color, if given the chance. I live in a rural area, but there are nuts everywhere. Keep Dog safe!

  • RNMSN profile image

    Barbara Bethard 

    6 years ago from Tucson, Az

    Our cat named Dog is an American black cat. No matter is we were in smalltown USA or big city like here in the desert, come All Hallows Eve and for the following 2 days and nights, Dog has to stay very close to home. People are cruel at times.

  • Simone Smith profile image

    Simone Haruko Smith 

    6 years ago from San Francisco

    Most interesting! I've always loved black cats, and now I appreciate them even more! Interesting Hub, this is. I hadn't heard of that Indian superstition before!

  • Gerber Ink profile imageAUTHOR

    Charlotte Gerber 

    6 years ago from upstate New York

    Hi Tamaracreese, Many people don't like cats; I have a relative who has ailurophobia, which is simply the fear of cats. Personally I have a few cats (as well as dogs, rabbits, chickens, etc! I live on a farm). However, that doesn't mean you have to like them too! Thanks for stopping by.

  • tamaracreese profile image

    tamaracreese 

    6 years ago

    cats creep me out

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