A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to author Roby Sweet. Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Black Cat Superstitions


Are black cats good luck or bad luck? Or are they just extraordinarily handsome?



Quiz. You’ve just met a strange black cat
on the street: How will this meeting
affect your luck?
Photo by Sander Hoogendoorn, Flickr.

Welcome to Black Cat Month here at The Cuddlywumps Cat Chronicles. What better way to start things off than with an exploration of cats and luck? I’m sure you’re familiar with the old “black cats bring bad luck” superstition, but did you know that black cats actually have a much more complex association with this so-called “luck”? You might even call it nuanced.

According to folk wisdom from various parts of the world, a black cat can bring either bad or good luck, depending on your relationship (or lack thereof) with the cat, as well as when and where you meet him. See below.

Black cats and bad luck

It is bad luck to do any of the following:
  • meet a black cat early in the morning
  • come across a black cat accidentally (specifically in Britain where, confusingly, it is good luck to own a black cat)
  • chase a black cat away from your home
  • have a black cat approach and turn its back on you
  • take your black cat with you when moving to a new home (but if the cat follows you of its own accord, that’s okay)
  • walk under a ladder that a black cat has just walked under
It is probably also bad luck to break a mirror that a black cat has just looked into, but we cannot confirm that.

Black cats and good luck

It is good luck to do any of these things:
  • live with a black cat (in Wales, a young woman living in a home with a black cat would have many suitors)
  • be approached by a black cat
  • be greeted at your door by a black cat, especially a strange black cat (in Scotland, this is supposed to bring prosperity)
  • keep a black cat when your husband is at sea (if you happen to be a fisherman’s wife)
  • have a black cat on your ship (if you are a sailor)
  • meet three black cats in a row

Photo by She of Little Talent.
By the way, the earliest known depiction of a black cat—in a mosaic from southern France—can be interpreted as a symbol of good luck. The mosaic showed a black cat, its head turned to the viewer, holding a dead mouse in its mouth. This was possibly meant to ward off rodents and evil, and so could be seen as a symbol to ensure good fortune. This mosaic was dated to the early Roman Empire, or roughly the first century AD. Sadly, it is now lost. (Engels, p. 100)

So, are black cats bringers of good luck or bad luck? We think they are bringers of beauty and joy, which sounds like good luck to me.

Sources

Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. “Superstition Bash: Black Cats” http://www.csicop.org/superstition/library/black_cats/

Engels, Donald. Classical Cats: The Rise and Fall of the Sacred Cat. London: Routledge, 1999.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Black Cat,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_cat

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