Although most house cats aren’t scary (unless you’re a juicy mouse, small bird or large bug), black cats have a long established role in Halloween. Halloween was originally known as All Hallows’ Eve. This is the night before All Hallows’ Day, also known as All Saints’ Day, dedicated to remembering the dead including saints and martyrs. Some of Halloween’s customs including costumes and trick or treating actually arrive from Celtic Pagan traditions, in a festival called Samhain (summer’s end) that marked the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter. Samhain dates back almost 2000 years.
The witch was originally a benevolent pagan goddess known as “The Crone”. Also known as the “Earth Mother” or “Old One”, she symbolized wisdom, change and turning of the seasons. She was the Goddess of Samhain. Christian persecution of witches during the Middle Ages transformed this positive archetype into something malevolent and tied to Satan.
Black cats’ association with Halloween has origins in the Middle Ages in Europe as well. Elderly, solitary women were often accused of witchcraft, and their pet cats were guilty by association. Cats were thought to be demonic animals, or “familiars”. While a couple cats I’ve met can truly be described as demonic, I mean that figuratively. Another myth describes Satan turning into a cat when meeting with witches. The ignorance of that time was amazing; everyone knows Satan turns into a basilisk, not a cat. Black cats specifically were associated with bad luck in Europe. The more enlightened British on the other hand viewed it as good luck when a black cat crossed your path. I’m proud my Cornish Rex ancestors came from England.