Oregon State University's student-run lifestyle magazine

Beaver's Digest

Oregon State University's student-run lifestyle magazine

Beaver's Digest

Oregon State University's student-run lifestyle magazine

Beaver's Digest

Latest issue

Is your furry friend unlucky?

The superstitions and folklore of black cats
Aisling Gazzo, OMN Photographer
Salem, the cat is held in the arms of his owner Haley Bowers (she/her) outside on Oct. 18.

Black cats are one of the most common icons of the Halloween season, as symbols of horror, companions of witches, and omens of bad luck. This fact raises the question: Why? 

Black cat folklore is a varied and nuanced subject. Numerous cultures had beliefs about the animals, varying from viewing them as harbingers of death to seeing them as signs of good luck, but the most common beliefs in the modern day tend to lean more towards negative superstitions. 

Many of these negative beliefs come from the middle ages, such as that Italian, Germanic, and Norman people once thought they were an indication that someone would soon die. 

“Like the black raven, a black cat was a sign that a death would soon occur”, claimed the National Library of Medicine in an article on why these animals were viewed in such a negative light. 

They were also often associated with witchcraft and Satanic worship in Middle Ages Europe, according to an article by the Peninsula Humane Society. 

The treatment of women accused of this practice is one that most people are familiar with, and the associations of witches and black cats are common even today. Which, according to the National Library of Medicine, is in part due to the immigration of Puritans to the United States. 

Black cats and the witches they were believed to serve were even blamed for the Black Death, which prompted the mass killing of black cats, in turn, allowing for higher populations of rats who actually did spread the plague creating a vicious cycle. 

However, despite these associations being the most known to modern Americans, there are positive beliefs surrounding black cats, such as that of the Egyptian goddess Bastet, who was often depicted as having the head of a black cat. 

Japanese folklore holds the belief that a black cat can bring good fortune, and, similarly, English superstition says that a black cat staying on a ship indicates safe voyages in its future.

Of course, in truth, we all know that black cats are no different than any other cat. For those who own, want, or enjoy black cats in particular, it may be interesting to know where their associations come from. 

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