No animal on earth is as divisive as the black cat. At times throughout history, they have been revered and adored, while at others, rounded up and exterminated. Some people believe black cats will bring good fortune while others associate them with the devil. Differing cultures have placed black cats in folklore and superstition which has resulted in a confusing reputation.
Way back yonder in the years BC, pussies were put on a pedestal. The ancient Egyptian Goddess, Bastet, was a feline deity, often depicted as a woman with a black cat’s head. She was the highly-regarded ‘defender of the kingdom’ and as such, black cats were seen as providers of protection and good luck. The wealthy would adorn their cats with jewels and feed them expensive fare. Cats became an object of devotion. They were also good at keeping mice away from the crops which was good.
It was for this reason that cats were brought to Europe. Cats don’t eat crops, they prefer meat and mice are made of meat so it was a mutually-beneficial arrangement between farmer and cat (not so good for the mice). Cats proved themselves to be useful members of society. They were a welcome addition into Pagan Europe and lived happily for centuries until the superstitions of the Catholic Church came into play.
In the 13th Century, a report about a Satanic Cult was presented to Pope Gregory IX. This detailed a demonic ritual which included kissing a black cat on the bumhole (not even kidding!). This saw Pope G declaring the black cat an enemy of the Catholic Church which led God-fearing folk to prove their love for baby Jesus by rounding up black cats and killing them. The word of the Lord proved so successful that cats almost became extinct in Europe by the 14th Century. And when the cats are away, the mice will play… well, the rats. The 14th Century saw the rat population accelerate and their highly-successful ability to spread disease flourished resulting in the deadliest pandemic known to man. One-third of Europeans lost their lives to The Black Death… maybe they shouldn’t have been so quick to despatch The Black Cats, huh?
With so many evil connotations levied at them – how did the black cat become a good luck symbol? Well, fortunately, not everyone is so easily swayed by hysterical witch hunts and nonsensical papal declarations. And let’s not forget that the ‘witches’ were (largely) non-believing women who lived on their own and had cats – they sound great! So although black cats have been associated with evil there were also huge swathes of society who didn’t subscribe to this superstition. They followed more in line with the Ancient Egyptians who regarded black cats much more favourably.
Of course, the historical juxtaposition of positive and negative vibes attributed to black cats results in confusion to this day. Some cultures believe a black cat walking towards you is good luck while others believe it is bringing you bad luck. Similarly, in England, a cat crossing your path is believed to be good fortune while the reverse is true in other countries.
Interestingly, the black cat is still regarded as a ‘bewitching’ presence although it has a more positive ‘charm’ and ‘influence’ – as in this little Welsh ditty from 1896:
“A black cat, I’ve heard it said, can charm all ill away and keep the house wherein she dwells from fever’s deadly sway”
Once again, the black cat is seen as the ‘defender of the kingdom’.
In the UK, a black cat is considered good luck and a sign of prosperity. By the turn of the 20th century, good luck black cat postcards kept the printing presses busy. People bought them in stacks to send good wishes to their loved ones. A trend which invaded America and over to Japan faster than a rat can spread a deadly virus. Black cats were bringing good wishes to millions of people the whole world over.
To see over 70 black cat greeting cards reproduced from vintage black cat postcards Please put BLACK CAT in the search bar above.
I hope you are all keeping safe and well ~ Richard :)