It is bad luck if a black cat crosses your path – ever heard of this superstition before? In some countries or cultures, black cats are believed to bring good luck or prosperity, but the widespread superstition is that black cats are harbingers of doom. Just exactly what have these little balls of fluff done to deserve such bad reputation?
As it turns out, absolutely nothing. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and well, the bad name just sort of stuck. You see, back in the middle ages, the whole of Europe basically went on a witch hunt. Of course, we now know that it was a load of bullsh*t, but back then, it was a convenient way to blame someone else for any misfortune. You didn’t have a good harvest this year? Must be witchcraft. Your wife can’t seem to conceive? Obviously the work of an evil witch. Your kid fell sick? Yeap – you guess it – a witch’s doing. As a result, women accused of practising witchcraft were subject to torture, execution, and being burnt (alive!) at the stake.
According to records, most of the accused are poor or widowed women, or women who live alone, etc. It so happens that these women also like to feed stray cats, which led people to believe that cats must be associated with witchery in some way. From that association, other wild misconceptions started springing up, like how cats are evil spirits that serves witches and that witches can transfigure into cats.
There was also a rumour that further fuelled the hatred for black cats specifically. Word has it that a black cat crossed the path of some travellers one night. They threw rocks at it, injuring the poor cat so it ran for cover into someone else’s house. The next day, the travellers saw an old woman emerging from the house, carrying similar injuries to the ones that the cat sustained. This story spread, and you can see how this morphed into the superstition that black cats crossing your path = bad luck.
I’m not sure about you, but whenever a black cat crosses my path, I’ll always be sure to stop and give it a few pats. The strays in Singapore are always so friendly!
Image: 123RF.com/Stefano Rocca
Text: Sophie Hong