To kick off the beginning of October here at the IDHMC, we will be posting some Halloween-themed blogs throughout the month. Today we will be looking at the mystery behind black cats and where they got the ‘bad rap’ they hold to this day. Be sure to check out 18th Connect to find out more information and discover more amazing artifacts in the database!
Contrary to modern superstitions, the black cat was originally seen as a symbol of luck and prosperity dating back to 2890 BC in Egypt. In that time, the cat goddess Bastet was worshipped by Egyptians; she was believed to bless those who hosted black cats in their homes.
Over 4,000 years later, Charles I of England supposedly treasured a black cat in his home to bring him good luck.The story goes that the day Charles’ cat passed away, he claimed that his luck was gone and was arrested for treason the next day (March 1641).
Despite these positive associations, black cats became symbols of witchcraft and evil beginning in the late Middle Ages throughout the Renaissance and Puritan era. Black cats were drowned and killed on spot as they were considered inherently evil and agents of Satan. As the celebration of All Hallow’s Eve gradually turned into the tradition we know today, black cats and witches became synonymous with October and Halloween festivities.
So whether you believe that they will bring you good luck or misfortune, it is clear black cats have an interesting and mysterious history that continues to fascinate cultures to this day.
Have more interest in the history and lore of black cats? Be sure to visit 18th Connect to find various images, poems, and historical documents that revolve around this mysterious (and nefarious) animal.
Images provided by the New York Library Digital Collection
Written by Taylor Phillips