The origins of the myth that it’s bad luck when a black cat crosses your path are still a mystery after my extensive internet research. The myth isn’t uniform around the world, as black cats aren’t associated with doom in all parts of the world. In Japan, a black cat crossing your path is good luck. And in Scotland, a black cat that appears on your porch is an omen of good luck.
It wasn’t always that the black cat was considered a scary creature. In Ancient Egypt, cats, especially black cats, lived along with families and were protected from slaughter by criminal law. But in the United States and some other countries, the notion that a black cat will cross your path is dreadful, especially around Halloween. Why might this myth have started?
The association of black cats with spirits and misfortune have been prevalent throughout history. Ancient Babylonian and Hebrew people beleived that black cats were related to serpents because they liked to curl up in a circle near the fire. In Germany in the Middle Ages, it was believed that a black cat on the bed of a sick person meant that their death was near. While some believed that cats were good and others evil, that still doesn’t explain how the myth became so prevalent in the United States.
Black cats are independent, agile hunters that are sneaky and can blend into the darkness. These weren’t particularly good traits to have during the witch hunts that occured in the United States and other countries. It seems likely that this myth gained hold in the United States when the black cat became associated with witches and witchcraft.
The association between witches and black cats rests on a couple theories. One holds that black cats are a witches familiar, a spirit serving and protecting the witch. Another argued that a witch could turn into a cat. Whatever the reason, the association between black cats and witches was sufficient to turn both into permanent symbols of evil and Halloween.
So the next time you see a black cat, will you embrace it or avoid its path? If you are interested in giving someone at your Halloween party a little bad luck, a black cat costume might not be a bad idea.