People have been fascinated by black cats for centuries – and as a result many superstitions evolved throughout history and across cultures. Today, most people in America consider black cats – especially one that crosses your path – to be a sign of bad luck.
Gamblers are particularly wary of black cats. It is believed that if a black cat crosses your path on the way to a casino, you should turn around and go home as you are now marked for a run of bad luck. (I cannot help thinking that this last superstition was created by a gambler’s wife who purposely – and regularly – planted black cats in her husband’s path when he was off to squander the family fortune!)
So many Americans are superstitious about black cats that they have the lowest adoption rates. Shelters often must host special black cat adoption months and offer steep discounts on black cats as an extra incentive for someone to choose one over a tiger tabby or calico. However, October is usually avoided as the month to promote the adoption of black cats in an effort to discourage the frivolous use of “live Halloween decorations.”
That said, bad luck is not the only luck assigned to a black cat. There are numerous cultural superstitions where a black cat portends good luck. Here are a few examples:
- In many Asian countries, owning a black cat today is considered lucky.
- In England, a black cat is good luck – unless you live in Yorkshire and then it is deemed bad luck!
- In Scotland, a black cat suddenly appearing on your doorstep is a sign of future prosperity.
- In the 18th and 19th century in Northern Europe, a fisherman’s wife would actively seek out a black cat as it was believed it would ensure her husband’s return home safely after a fishing expedition.
- In Japan, black cats are a sign of good luck. Many single women seek a black cat as this cat is believed to bring many suitors.
- In ancient Egypt, the black cat personified the goddess Bast, and was believed to bring good fortune.
I find it fascinating that this one color of cat could portend bad luck in one culture while attract the precise opposite luck in another. What is it about the black cat that incites the human imagination in such extremes?
How do you react to a black cat crossing your path? Would you – or have you – adopted a pure black cat, or does superstition hold you back? Please share your stories and/or your superstitions about the mysterious black cat in the comments.