Myths About Black Cats That Are Pure Superstition

For centuries, black cats have gotten a bad rap in Western cultures. Explore the origins of the myths, as well as how they're perceived in other places.

Updated August 29, 2023
Close-up of black cat outdoors

Have you ever crossed paths with a black cat and felt a twinge of superstition? As the subject of feline folklore and superstition, myths about black cats abound. From being symbols of bad luck to witches' sidekicks, these sleek felines have a long history of being misunderstood. Even if you believe these dark-colored kitties are bad luck, you can't deny their charm and beauty.

Black Cat Myths About Luck

The superstition that black cats are bad luck is especially prevalent in Western cultures and can be traced back to medieval times. But guess what? In many other parts of the world, like Japan and the UK, black cats are actually considered good luck! So, this whole bad luck business? It's all about perspective.

Cats in Ancient Egypt

In Ancient Egypt, cats were highly revered animals, and the color of their fur didn't diminish their status. Cats were associated with the goddess Bastet, who was depicted as a lioness or as a woman with the head of a lioness or domestic cat. She was the goddess of home, fertility, and childbirth, as well as the protector of the pharaoh. Killing a cat, even accidentally, was considered a grave offense, punishable by death.

Fast Fact

Cats were so revered that they were sometimes mummified and buried with their owners.

Celtic Folklore

Black Maine Coon Cat

In Celtic folklore, black cats were considered to bring good luck. They were believed to possess supernatural powers and were held in high esteem by the Celts. In Celtic mythology, it's considered good luck if a black cat crosses your path — quite the opposite of Western belief.

Japanese Culture

Japanese folklore also holds black cats in high regard. The Maneki-neko, or "beckoning cat," is often depicted as a black cat and is thought to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. While the most commonly recognized Maneki-neko is white, black versions are also popular, especially for keeping away evil spirits or bad luck.

Greek and Roman Traditions

In ancient Greek and Roman traditions, black cats were generally considered unlucky or associated with the underworld. This was particularly true in Roman culture, where witches were believed to keep black cats as companions. Over time, this perception evolved, and by the Middle Ages, black cats were actively persecuted as supposed witches' familiars.

Norse Mythology

In Norse mythology, the goddess Freyja, who was the goddess of love, fertility, and beauty, had a chariot that was pulled by two large black cats. Cats were sacred to Freyja, and it was considered good luck for a black cat to cross one's path — so long as the cat was treated well!

Chinese Folklore

In ancient Chinese folklore, black cats were generally seen as a symbol of prosperity and good fortune. They were believed to ward off evil spirits and were often kept in homes and shops for this purpose.

Black Cats and Witchcraft

Black Bombay Cats

Things went sour for black cats by the 1600s when felines became associated with witchcraft. This whole idea of black cats being witches' familiars or some kind of evil accomplice got its roots from medieval Europe. Back then, people were super superstitious and, unfortunately, black cats got a bad rap during the witch trials. They were thought to be witches' helpers, shape-shifted witches, or even witches themselves.

Fast-forward to today, and most of us know that black cats are just as cuddly, playful, and lovable as any other cats. They're not plotting any magical mischief. The most they're planning is when to take their next catnap or how to get you to feed them a few minutes early.

The Cats at Sea

Have you ever heard the one about sailors using black cats to predict the weather? It's one of those quirky superstitions that sounds too far-fetched to be true, but back in the day, some sailors genuinely believed this. The idea was that if the ship's black cat was frisky and playful, a storm was brewing, and it was time to batten down the hatches. On the flip side, if the cat was calm and lounging about, you could expect smooth sailing ahead. 

Lucky Black Cat Lovers

While some people still cling to the baseless black cat superstitions, anyone who has the pleasure of a black feline's company knows how off base this idea is. Personality-wise, black cats are no different from other cats, and they can run the gamut from silly and fun to gentle and calm. Just rest assured that having one in your life will never bring you bad luck, but years of loving companionship instead.

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Myths About Black Cats That Are Pure Superstition