The Cat in Black
BLACK CATS IN HISTORY
‘Look into a cats eyes and you may not like what you see.’
Throughout my life we have always had cats and mainly black cats. As I write even now one sits above my desk on his specially widened window sill so he can watch me while I work, guarding and guiding me and ensuring I have a break when his need arises for a snack or two. Another lazes contently on the mat below me and a third is sunning himself outside no doubt dreaming of endless bowls of food, sunny days and moonlit nights.
Old traditions believed that the cat had the ability to show you your inner soul if you looked into its eyes. The Noble and majestic cat, full of mystery, magick and mischief, the cat is also linked to the Mother Goddess, to the stars and the night.
There are many different beliefs as to when and where cats originated. Many ancients believed that they came from Atlantis before the Egyptians worshipped them. They are certainly not mentioned in the bible, apart from a brief reference which is believed to be a mistranslation, but we do know that they existed before then as the earliest known cat remains were found in Jericho, Palestine and date from 6700 BC. Muslims feel that cats were put onto Noah’s ark, to help keep down the rat population. They were said to of been brought forth by the sneeze of the lion. Common in seventh Century Saxon, England, the cat was protected as a valuable member of the community due to its “mousing” qualities. The Greek and Romans believed the cat to be a part of their Goddesses, Artemis and Diana, while the bulk of the Christians believed that the Dog was the creation of God (Dog spelt backwards) and that the Cat, was the Devil’s creation. So as they were considered demons of the Devil and his creation, the poor ole pussy cat got a harsh and severe beating throughout history, at the hands of those who were misfortunate and stupid enough not to value the cat’s true potential and instead feared and nearly destroyed, these majestic, magickal beings.
The Witches Familiar most often a cat, but also included toads, rats or any other animal chosen to work with, was seen in many other religions to be a demon in disguise, a gift to all Witches from the Devil himself to do their bidding, always on the negative side of course. As human mass hysteria flourished, the cats really got the rough end of the stick along with their human Witches, guilty or not, were accused of all sorts of deviant and demonic spell casting and magic and subsequently were put to death. As the cat had arrived in Europe shrouded in mystery, this fact disturbed those within the church who liked to know what was going on at all times. Heathen practices were pretty much a no-no around this time and many were told that if they continued this carry on, certain death would ensure. Many of the victims were wise woman and healers and of course, they had a Black cat as a companion. By the time we had reached medieval times, the cat had become hated and feared by many. Black Cats, especially were seen as creatures of power, a symbol of bad luck. The Devil was incarnate in a ball of fur, claws sharpened and ready for action. And those who did like cats were too scared to go near one, in fear of being accused of Witchcraft and Devil worship.
In the 13th century, the anti-cat Pope Gregory IX in his infinite wisdom, denounced the Black cat, telling all who cared to listen and those too scared not to, that all heretics worshipped the Devil in the form of a Black cat. This created great cat massacres throughout the lands. In 1307, many Black Cats again perished at the hands of the church. The Bishop of Coventry was accused of having a Black cat as a companion and thus many more Black cats suffered an untimely fate, which was a great shame as when the ‘Black death’ or Bubonic Plague came about in Europe in the late 1340’s, it was believed to of been spread by fleas with the help of animals like the black rat. Many believe, that had the cat population not nearly been wiped out, the Black plaque may never have got so out of hand.
However, some good news, after all the plague upset, and on a St John’s Eve, the tale goes that some Black cats escaped their untimely deaths as they had a tuft of white hair on them around their breast. This was known as ‘the mark of God.’ The torturers seeing this were inspired to be merciful and let them go. These few white hairs saved many Black cats from nearly becoming extinct. This was a very sudden change of nature and the exact person that began this mercy is unknown, but it is something that many of us are thankful for, including Black cats. This is why it is very rare to find a complete Black cat today, many will have a few white hairs on them. So if you have a Black cat or several, look closely and find those white hairs, maybe even one stray hair that is said to have been passed down from their ancestors from when those few white hairs saved their lives.
As little back as the 19th Century, Black cats were still making the masses anxious, but not all humans throughout history saw the cat as evil. The Egyptians totally revered them in all manner, in fact so much, that anyone who was caught harming or killing a cat, was themselves put to death and their families would have been ousted from society. It is said that cats were domesticated in Egypt as early as the 3rd Dynasties, circa 2600 BC. In Ancient Egypt, Bast (Bastet) the cat-headed goddess represented a powerful aspect of the Sun, life-giving, pleasure, joy, music, dance, health, healing, the Moon and of course, Cats. At her city, Bubastis, all cats were considered divine. The Temples were full of them, and they were cared for by a special group of Priestesses. When Egyptian cats died, they were taken to certain cities to be mummified and to be prepared for life in the afterworld. (Now that’s more like it!)
Black Cats are considered to be the number one cat for use in magick and witchcraft because of their colouring, which seems to invoke magic and mysteries. Most certainly the black colouring does represents these symbols, and black actually holds all the spectrums of the rainbow within. Have a look into your black cats coat on a sunny day or under the light. You will see all different colours, purples, blues and pinks, in fact all the colours are there. But just because someone has a Tabby or White cat does not make this cat any less important or less magickal for that matter. All have their own individual and unique magickal ‘pawprint’ so to speak. You will find that most cats seem to arrive at a time when their help is needed. This could be due to the loss of another pet, upheavals, relationship changes, or because the cat has chosen to find someone new to work with. Either way, your time with them is sacred and should be considered as such.
A few Black Cat Superstitions
- The tail of a black cat can brush away a stye in the eye.
- Sailor’s wives would keep a Black cat at home to ensure the safety of their husbands at sea.
- A stray Black cat is considered lucky if it shows up at your home. However not so lucky if it was during the Burning Times!
- If a Black cat crosses in front of you, this is considered as a bad omen. With many black cats under my feet daily I find this one near impossible to avoid and personally I believe this to be good luck unless of course one is tripped up.
- Stroke the tail of a Black cat three times for luck before venturing outdoors.
- Meeting a black cat in the morning would foretell misfortune. Once again I look forward to meeting my black cats every morning and I call that a blessing.
- If a Black cat runs before a Fisherman, it is considered as good luck.
- To see a Black cat before a wedding is good luck.
- Never chase away a Black cat if it enters your home as that would bring bad luck.
- To see three black cats together represent magick, mystery and mischief.
- And those who do not like cats in general or fear them may have been mice in a previous life!