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How to Understand the Black Cat Superstition

Black cats have had a bad reputation for centuries. But what's the story behind it?


  • TIP: King Charles I of England was beheaded shortly after his beloved black cat died, which is to say, went away from him.
  • Step 1: Read modern literary works featuring black cats, and you'll see how they have been portrayed as magical or evil. Examples are T. S. Elliot's _Magical Mr. Mistoffelees_ and Edgard Allen Poe's "Black Cat," in which the cat seduced his master into committing murder. With karma like that, it can't hurt to have nine lives.
  • FACT: As of 2008, black cats were among the least adopted pets at animal shelters in the United States.
  • Step 2: Be aware of the superstition that if a black cat walks toward you, good fortune is coming your way, but that if it walks away from you, it will take good luck from you.
  • Step 3: Understand that black cats are avoided in some non-Western cultures, including Japan, probably because the color is associated with the night, which humans feared throughout most of their history.
  • Step 4: Look for references to black cats in folk traditions. In some cultures, black cats are seen as good omens. In Latvia, for example, they are associated with a god of the harvest and are considered auspicious.
  • Step 5: Know that during the witch hunts in 15th-century Europe, black cats were believed to embody supernatural spirits that could be used by witches to cast spells. The cats often met the same fate as the witches.
  • TIP: During the Middle Ages, black cats were sometimes thought to be witches or demons in disguise.
  • Step 6: Recognize that the Egyptian goddess Bast was believed to take on the form of a black cat. Ancient Egyptians sometimes kept black cats in hopes of currying favor with the goddess.

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