Posted in Culture, Marmoset, sociology

Superstition Part II – Black Cats

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Charles Piscitello Ed.D

Happy Black Cat Day!  According to daysoftheyear.com

Cats in ancient Egypt were revered highly, partly due to their ability to combat vermin such as mice, rats. Cats of royalty were known to be dressed in golden jewelry and were allowed to eat right off their owners’ plates. The goddess of warfare was a woman with the head of a cat named Bastet.

 

Alternatively in American Culture, it is bad luck if a black cat crosses your path.  Around Halloween time we see cartoon witches usually accompanied by their trusty black cat.  So the superstition behind the black cat isn’t entirely alien to us in America.

I began to wonder about the superstition surrounding our furry little friends a four years ago, when my sister was kind enough to host my first child’s baby shower.  Sicilians love gatherings because it gives black-catthem the opportunity to make cookies, and they love making cookies.  My sister, also loves pets, including her two black cats.

One lady refused to attend the baby shower because she heard that my sister indeed owned a couple black cats.  The lady refused even when she was ensured that the cats would be in cages in another room.

So, why are cats at the very least viewed as bad luck if they cross your path or even highly taboo for some people?

Petcaretips.net lists a couple reasons why Italians would fear black cats, here are a few:

At one time the Catholic Church considered cats to be witches’ familiars or
transformed witches, always up to no good.

This is consistent with the Italian witch superstition  illustrated in Italian Superstition Part I – Toccare le palle, since witches had the power to curse a family with the “evil eye,” which rendered the males sterile.  Furthermore, the article states:

During the Middle Ages there was a flurry of superstition and cats were hung from trees and immediately killed on sight because they were suspected of being witches or witches’ familiars. This ultimately was a primary cause of the wide spread of the Black Death or Bubonic Plague in Europe because the rodent population boomed due to the natural predators of the rodents having been killed.

And specifically:

In Italy long ago if a black cat lay upon the bed of a sick person it meant that person would die.

According to todayifoundout.com which stated that in the middle ages anyone who saw a cat cross their path would

threw rocks at the furry feline until the helpless injured creature scurried out into a woman’s house, who at the time was suspected of being a witch

and

The belief of witches transforming themselves into black cats in order to prowl streets unobserved became a central belief in America during the Salem witch hunts. Even today the association of black cats and witches holds strong during Halloween celebrations, despite the holiday’s religious beginnings.  Thus, an animal once looked on with approbation became a symbol of evil omens in some parts of the World.

So an association with death, illness, and witches (sterility) created the superstition with many ethnic groups which brought the superstition here to the states.

It is always interesting to see the origins of superstition, we can see a link between word events, religion, values, and culture through how people perceived what is good or evil, lucky and unlucky.

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Author:

Instructional Designer, teacher and sociologist.

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