Suppose you are heading for an important business meeting. Suddenly a black cat crosses your path. If you are like most of the people, you would be thinking ‘Oh, God, the day is gone!’ The cat would have reached wherever it had been going, without knowing you are cursing it.
Superstitions prevail in every corner of the world and animals are connected to many of them. The black cat is such an unfortunate victim of superstitious practices. They are universally considered to be bad luck.
However, it hasn’t been very long since the black cats fell out of favor with people, considering the history of companionship between the man and the felines. As far back as 3000 BC, during the Egyptian civilization, cats including the black ones were regarded highly. Rather than being mere pets, they were respected and even worshipped. Some of the Egyptian gods had the figures of cat as well. The killing of cats was a crime worthy of capital punishment. They were revered so much that many of them received the coveted honor of mummification upon their death like the humans. In 1888, when an ancient Egyptian tomb was uncovered, it was found to house thousands of mummified cats!
So when the humans began to turn against their feline friends? It was several centuries ago, in the middle ages, people began to harbor ill-feeling towards cats. It was during when the tales of so-called witches began to find their way around. Many old women, especially those were living alone and detached from the society, were accused of practicing black magic. Since many of them had cats as pets, they too were hated and feared by people. Especially the black cats took the brunt of the loathing against their species.
A lot of stories began to spread about cats. In Scotland, people believed in a fairy called Cat Sith, who had the appearance of a giant black cat and the ability to steal a dead person’s soul before the gods could take it away. People used to guard the body until the time of burial, to protect it from Sith.
By 16th century, another belief also began to spread, that witches could take on the appearance of cats. It was strengthened by a folk tale of a father and son that began to circulate then. In the story, the father and son were travelling in the night when a black cat crossed their path. The son threw stones at the creature, injuring it. It scuttled away to the home of a woman suspected of being a witch. The next day, the father and son came across that woman and saw that she was limping, and it further solidified the belief of witches turning into black cats.
During the Salem Witch trials, this belief found support from people and the fear of black cats prevailed in the society. Different cultures echo the same fear, supported by various folk tales. However, there are still some places where the black cats are held in high esteem. The Japanese believe black cats are good luck, and in English Midlands they are given as wedding gifts in hope of bringing good fortune.
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