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TEENS: What's behind the black cat superstition, anyway?

Molly Garretson
Molly Garretson

With Halloween quickly approaching, all of us have been getting out our decorations, choosing costumes, and thinking spooky thoughts! Scary stories are one of the best things about Halloween, but have you ever thought about the stories behind some of our biggest superstitions?

That black cat sitting on your porch has a story of its own. We have all heard about black cats being bad luck. We fear one when it crosses our path, but have you ever thought about why?

The black cat legend actually goes back to Ancient Egypt, where cats were worshipped. Egyptians idolized cats, treating them like gods. Killing one was a capital offense. Word of this practice spread to Europe’s deeply rooted Christian society, and they hated it. They started to associate black cats with darkness and evil because Christians feared anything that challenged their religion.

Black cat superstitions caught fire during the time frame of witch trials, and they were viewed in the same light as their human counterparts. Oftentimes, cats were burned with their “witch” owners, so the townspeople could be sure the evil they brought was eliminated.

Christian people shared beliefs that the cats were more than just cats. Some thought that witches could turn into cats to hide themselves; others believed that cats and witches were working together as one unit against Christianity. No matter what specific story was spread, Christians in Europe vehemently feared black cats and did anything in their power to eliminate them and their witch coconspirators.

This fear journeyed to America with the pilgrims, along with devout Christianity. Just like in Europe, the pilgrims found themselves hunting down black cats and witches. The terror and insanity the new settlers brought still sticks with us today. Americans still believe that a black cat crossing your path delivers a bad omen.

But the U.S. isn’t the only country that has a stigma about black cats. In Japan and the United Kingdom, people think a black cat crossing your path is good luck. In Germany, a cat crossing from right to left is bad luck, but the opposite way is good luck. In Turkey, a black cat crossing is bad luck no matter what but can be reversed if you hold a piece of your hair while it crosses. 

So next time you see a black cat, you may grab a piece of hair, or run away, or maybe walk up and pet it. No matter how you view them, you should not hurt the cats. All they are is a coincidental counterpart to a spooky folk tale.

Instead of hating on the cats, spread the tales, put out your cat decorations and enjoy your Halloween!

MOLLY GARRETSON is a senior at Flanagan-Cornell High School. To contact her, email Assistant Editor Julie Barichello at jbarichello@shawmedia.com.

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