Saturday, October 11, 2008

Mysterious Black Cat

'There are chests of gold within all the burial mounds, but mind the cats that guard them.'

~ Old Celtic Proverb

The black cat has been regarded as mysterious creatures with supernatural powers for ever it seems through history. These beliefs increased during the European witch-trials.
The witch trials started in the 13th century. the belief was that witches had the ability to turn into an animals, usually a hare or a cat, in order to transport themselves to a Sabbath. The idea of familiar spirits soon developed. These were imps or minor demons who took the form of any small animal, from a hedgehog to a toad. A familiar( a witch's pet) acted as an intermediary for the witch, carrying out her orders so that she wouldn't have to be at the scene of the crime when the evil deed was done.
A witch's cat came to be called a ?grimalkin?. The Scottish goddess of witches was called ?Mither o' the Mawkins?, a mawkin or malkin being either a cat or a hare. Originally a grimalkin was a gray cat. Later the term came to refer to the "pussies" or "catkins" on a pussy willow, as well as to the witch's cat. ( I did a blog entry on catkins a while back)

There are many superstitions associated with cats, partly because the cat has lived alongside humans for many millennia. The cat was worshipped in Egypt and to kill one was considered a capital crime. 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 it into Europe. By the 17th Century, however, the cat began to be associated with witchcraft and it's luck turned from good to bad in many areas. A practice that became popular for a time was to burn cats and other animals on Shrove Tuesday (before the start of Lent), in order to protect one's home from fire and other calamities.
Superstitions centering around the black cat are some of the most well-known and popular superstitions today. It is interesting, though, because the good or bad luck they possess is dependent on where you live in the world. In Britain and Japan, having a black cat cross your path, is considered good luck, whereas if you live in the USA or several European countries, it is bad luck to have a black cat walk by.

Good luck associated with black cats include:
· Possessing a black cat.
· Having a black cat greet you at a door.
· Having a black cat enter your home.
· Meeting three black cats in succession.
· Touching a black cat.

Bad luck associated with black cats include:
· Meeting a black cat early in the morning.
· Having a black cat turn its back on you.
· Scaring or driving away a black cat from your property.
· Walking under a ladder after a black cat has walked underneath it.

In India it is thought that a reincarnated soul may be "liberated" by throwing a black cat into a fire.
In Bengali folklore women could change their soul into a black cat and that any harm brought to the cat would be suffered by the women.
The Celts thought black cats were reincarnated beings able to divine the future.
German folklore believed that if a black cat jumped on the bed of a sick person it meant death was near. In Finland it was thought that black cats were thought to carry the souls of the dead to the other world.