terça-feira, 10 de abril de 2018

Friday the 13th Black Cats and Other Cat Superstitions

Superstition, prejudice, bringer of good or bad luck


As Friday the 13th rolls around, pictures of black cats are popping up everywhere. For some reason, black cats have been doused with a witch’s brew of superstition—the result of cult horror films (remember the Anna Faris vs. black cat fight scene in Scary Movie 2?) and society’s unending portrayal of black cats as unlucky or evil.


The folklore surrounding black cats varies from culture to culture. The Scots believe that a strange black cat's arrival to the home signifies prosperity. In Celtic mythology, a fairy known as the Cat Sìth takes the form of a black cat. Black cats are also considered good luck in the rest of Britain and Japan. Furthermore, it is believed that a lady who owns a black cat will have many suitors. In Western history, black cats have often been looked upon as a symbol of evil omens, specifically being suspected of being the familiars of witches, or actually shape-shifting witches themselves. Most of Europe considers the black cat a symbol of bad luck, particularly if one walks across the path in front of a person, which is believed to be an omen of misfortune and death. In Germany, some believe that black cats crossing a person's path from right to left, is a bad omen. But from left to right, the cat is granting favorable times. In the United Kingdom it is commonly considered that a black cat crossing a person's path is a good omen.
The black cat in folklore has been able to change into human shape to act as a spy or courier for witches or demons. When the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock, they brought with them a devout faith in the Bible. They also brought a deepening suspicion of anything deemed of Satan and were a deeply suspicious group. They viewed the black cat as a companion, or a familiar to witches. Anyone caught with a black cat would be severely punished or even killed. They viewed the black cat as part demon and part sorcery. These superstitions led people to kill black cats. There is no evidence from England of regular large-scale massacres of "satanic" cats, or of burning them in midsummer bonfires, as sometimes occurred elsewhere in Europe.

In contrast, the supernatural powers ascribed to black cats were sometimes viewed positively; for example, sailors considering a "ship's cat" would want a black one because it would bring good luck. Sometimes, fishermen's wives would keep black cats at home too, in the hope that they would be able to use their influence to protect their husbands at sea (see Ship's cat). The view of black cats being favorable creatures is attributed specifically to the Egyptian goddess Bast (or Bastet), the cat goddess. Egyptian households believed they could gain favor from Bastet by hosting black cats in their household. This view was held in the early 17th century by the English monarch Charles I. Upon the death of his treasured pet black cat, he is said to have lamented that his luck was gone. True to his claim, he was arrested the very next day and charged with high treason.
Pirates of the 18th century believed that a black cat would bring different kinds of luck. If a black cat walks towards someone, that person will have bad luck. If a black cat walks away from someone then that person will have good luck.
Conversely in the United Kingdom if a black cat walks towards someone, it brings good fortune, but if it walks away, it takes the good luck with it. If a black cat walks onto a ship and then walks off it, the ship is doomed to sink on its next trip.
Black cats have been found to have lower odds of adoption in American shelters compared to other colors except brown, although black animals in general take more time to find homes. Some shelters also suspend or limit adoptions of black cats around Halloween  for fear they will be tortured, or used as "living decorations" for the holiday and then abandoned. Despite this, no one has ever documented in the history of humane work any relationship between adopting black cats and cats being killed or injured. When such killings are reported, forensic evidence has pointed to natural predators, such as coyotes, eagles, or raptors as the likely cause. August 17 is "Black Cat Appreciation Day".
In the early days of television in the United States, many stations located on VHF channel 13 used a black cat as a mascot in order to make sport of being located on an "unlucky" channel number.

More Curiosities 

Most people wouldn't admit to it, but if it's Friday the 13th, even if you don't really believe all the superstitions, you might get out of a black cat's way (assuming you don't live with one) on this day. It's an odd superstition, but it wasn't just created out of thin air. According to the People's Almanac, there is reason behind the "don't let a black cat cross your path" on Friday the 13th superstition:

"The Egyptians worshiped the cat and punished anyone who dared to kill one. In the Middle Ages, however, the black cat was linked to witches and Satan. Since it was believed that a witch had the power to transform herself into a cat, it was thought likely that a cat who crossed one's path was a witch in disguise."



Of course, as friends of felines, we don't believe any of that...right!?

Here are some other cat superstitions that are out there:


  • If a cat scratches behind his ear, rain is on the way.
  • Dreaming of a white cat brings the dreamer good luck.
  • If a cat run around wildly, expect the wind to blow.
  • Kittens born in May will bring snakes into the house. (Celtic myth)
  • Cats found lurking in coal mines are bad luck.
  • Stroking a black cat's tail will cure a sty in your eye.
  • A black cat in the audience means success for a play.
  • If a young unmarried girl accidentally steps on a cat's tail, she will have to wait 12 months to find a husband. (French myth)
  • A cat's sneeze brings luck to all who hear it. (Italian myth)
  • If a cat sits with his back to a fire, expect a storm or frost.