Black cat  

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A cat with uniformly black fur.

Contents

Historical associations

Witchcraft and superstition

Historically, black cats were symbolically associated with witchcraft and evil. In Hebrew and Babylonian folklore, cats are compared to serpents, coiled on a hearth. The cat was worshipped in Egypt and to kill one was a crime punishable by death. When an Egyptian family's cat died, the cat was mummified and the family went into mourning. Romans, also, considered the cat sacred and introduced the animal into Europe. In most European countries, except Britain and Ireland, a black cat crossing one's path is considered bad luck; they were also seen by the church as associated with witches. Black cats (and sometimes, other animals of the same colour, or even white cats) were sometimes suspected of being the familiars of witches. Black cats were believed to be shape shifters, that witches could transform into them by saying a spell and travel about doing evil things unnoticed. According to sources witches took such good care of their cats for this reason and it was rumored that they even fed them the blood of babies to stay youthful and agile. As the cat was a form of it's witch owner it was believed that by harming a cat you were directly harming its witch. Many also believed that the devil regularly took the form of a black cat. Because of this on holy days, such as Easter, during the Middle Ages black cats were routinely hunted down and burned. By the 17th Century, however, the cat began to be associated with witchcraft and its luck turned from good to bad in many areas around the world. The black cat was still usually seen as good luck; however, in the British Colonies in North America and parts of Europe (e.g. Spain), which saw witch hunts, the association with witches caused them to be considered as bad luck.

In Scotland, a strange black cat on your porch is a sign of upcoming prosperity. In Ireland, when a black cat crosses your path in the moonlight, it means there is going to be an epidemic illness. In Italy hundreds of years ago, it was believed that if a black cat lay on the bed of a sick person, that person would die. Many years ago in England, fishermen's wives kept black cats in their homes while their husbands went away to sea in their fishing boats. They believed that the black cats would prevent danger from occurring to their husbands while they were away. Superstitions centering around the black cat are some of the most widely known and popular superstitions.

In places which saw few witch hunts, black cats retained their status as good luck, and are still considered as such in Britain and Ireland.

However in Romanian and Indian culture, especially in the historical region of Moldavia in Romania and everywhere in India, one of the strongest superstitions still feared by many people is that black cats crossing their path represents bad luck, despite the fact that these regions were never affected by witch hunts or anti-paganism. An identical superstition survives also in Central Europe, such as the Czech Republic. There are also still myths and superstitions in America about black cats, and especially their bones, which are believed to hold magical powers. There is an Internet black market for the sale of black cat bones to be used in various ways to bring luck and power to the bearer of the bone.

Anarcho-Syndicalism

Since the 1880s, the color black has been associated with anarchism. The black cat, in an alert, fighting stance was later adopted as an anarchist symbol.

More specifically, the black cat — often called the "sab cat" or "sabo-tabby" — is associated with anarcho-syndicalism, a branch of anarchism that focuses on workers' rights. See wildcat strike.

In testimony before the court in a 1918 trial of Industrial Workers of the World leaders, Ralph Chaplin, who is generally credited with creating the WWI's black cat symbol, stated that the black cat "was commonly used by the boys as representing the idea of sabotage. The idea being to frighten the employer by the mention of the name sabotage, or by putting a black cat somewhere around. You know if you saw a black cat go across your path you would think, if you were superstitious, you are going to have a little bad luck. The idea of sabotage is to use a little black cat on the boss." A black cat is a feline with black fur, historically a symbol associated with witchcraft and anarchism.

Bohemian culture

Le Chat Noir (French for "The Black Cat") was a 19th-century cabaret in the notoriously bohemian Montmartre district of Paris. It was opened on 18 November 1881 at 84 Boulevard Rouchechouart by the artist Rodolphe Salis, and closed in 1897 (much to the disappointment of Picasso and others who looked for it when they came to Paris for the Exposition in 1900).


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