Looking for Regional Information?

The History of Black Cats and Halloween

By Charles Hopkins Published 08/8/2006 | Kids & Teens

Cats have taken second place behind dogs as the pet of choice by people in the world. Now, while cats have wonderful personalities and are loving and loyal animals, they are also fiercely independent, quirky and moody. Maybe that is why people love them. And people have loved them for centuries.

Cats have been immortalized in many cultures. All one has to do is look at the ancient world of Egypt where cats were once worshiped as gods as a perfect example of the heights cats reached in the world.

But, not all images of cats as so loving as cats have been portrayed as malevolent in a variety of cultures. In olden days, black cats were believed to be physical manifestations of Satan himself. It was also purported that witches could turn themselves into black cats. So, many poor cats were round up and burned to death in a way of executing the devil.

Please dont ask why the devil and witches would keep turning themselves into a black cat over and over again as opposed to, say, an orange cat where they could remain incognito. Were dealing with superstition, not logic here.

Why were black cats picked? Probably because black was associated with darkness and evil. Keep in mind, when night fell on the world when only candles existed to keep aware the enveloping darkness, the color black took on grim significance and the night was forever associated with evil.

Black cats became probably the second most scapegoated animal after the wolf in the annals of human history of the middle ages.

The middle ages were also an era rife with satanic panic and fear of devil spawned magic. In these days, evil was everywhere and was hiding behind every corner waiting to abscond with the souls of innocent people. The preponderance of black cats floating around provided a convenient physical manifestation to explain the devils presence as, of course, there was NO DEVIL anywhere to be found.

If the devil was so powerful, why did he have to hide his appearance. Humans could do him no harm. But, common sense and logic was never applied and gullible, primitive people became sold on nonsense like black cats seeking to destroy human souls. As such, this was also the origin of black cats causing bad luck or, in more accurate terms, unleashing black magic and a curse upon those whose paths it crossed.

In time, people and the world as a whole became somewhat less superstitious (or, more accurately, the superstitions became more subtle as opposed to being overt) and the black cat ceased to be a creature to be feared. Then again, some of them are creepy looking and scary, but that is a moot point.

So, the evil image of the black cat became appropriated into Halloween along with the other supernatural images and creatures who no longer scared a jaded populace. In a way, the black cat finally received some of the respect and proper treatment it deserved after the centuries of abuse reaped upon it in centuries past.