While October may be the favorite month of thousands of humans, who excitedly plan their costumes of spooks, vampires and monsters, in anticipation of Halloween, Cats, particularly black cats, have little cause for celebration this month.
I am no champion of Feline rights, but you may be interested to know that there are quite a few violent indignities that have been practiced on black cats at this time of year.
In ancient religions, black cats were considered to be reincarnated beings with the ability to divine the future. During the middle Ages it was believed that witches could turn themselves into black cats. Thus when such a cat was seen, it was considered to be a witch in disguise or a familiar, resulting in many black cats being thrown into fire. The throwing of cats into a bonfire used to be a folk custom in France, Switzerland and Belgium and was done on St. John’s Eve in June. The custom was abolished by King Louis XIV in 1648, though it continued in the provinces until as late as 1796.
Black cats have taken a bad rap throughout history. Greek mythology taught that a woman named Galenthias was turned into a cat and became a priestess at the temple of Hecate, the “Dark Mother,” and sometimes known as the Mother of Witchcraft. During the 12th and 13th century, witches in Europe were often found with their “familiars,” usually black cats, and were said to turn themselves into cats at times. During the witch-burning era of the 17th century, witches’ cats were put into baskets and burned alongside the witches.
Even in the 21st century, old superstitions have survived. In many European countries and in the U.S., black cats signify bad luck, while in England, your luck is said to turn good if a black cat crosses your path.
It is true that statistics on black cat torture during October are lacking – most of the stories we hear are here say, and some, no doubt, have been drummed up simply for the shock value. Ritual sacrifice still exists. Talk to almost any police officer in a rural area about it and you may hear a story or two about cattle found, completely drained of blood, often with vital organs missing. These stories crop up in newspapers once in awhile, and while some may be dismissed as “urban legends,” the possibility exists that some are true.