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Black Cat

Throughout history, cats have been worshipped as gods by certain cultures and abhorred as demons by others. In European folklore, the black cat is the traditional companion of witches. Because of this old belief, the black cat has become an omen of misfortune and ill luck, and a popular notion is that unhappiness will follow quickly in the wake of the black cat that crosses one’s path. An old book called Beware the Cat (1584) gives warning that black cats are witches in disguise, and that killing a cat does not necessarily mean killing the witch, for a witch can take on the body of a cat nine times. In the Middle Ages, the brain of a black cat was considered an essential ingredient in all recipes of the witches and witch doctors.
The folklore surrounding black cats varies from culture to culture. In Great Britain, black cats are a symbol of good luck. The Scottish believe that a strange black cat's arrival to the home signifies prosperity. Furthermore, it is believed that a lady who owns a black cat will have many suitors. However in Western history, black cats have often been looked upon as a symbol of evil omens, specifically being suspected of being the familiars of witches; other cultures consider them to be bad luck as well. The gambling world is afraid of a black cat: it is believed that if, while traveling to a casino, a black cat crosses a gambler's road or path, that person should not go to the casino; most players believe that black cats bring bad luck.

Other black creatures, such as black dogs, have shared in the prejudice and suspicion of being "familiars". The black cat in folklore has been able to change into human shape to act as a spy or courier for witches or demons. During the Middle Ages, these superstitions led people to kill black cats. This had the unintended consequence of increasing the rat population and the spread of the Black Plague and other diseases carried by rodents.

There is no evidence from England of regular large-scale massacres of "satanic" cats, or of burning them in midsummer bonfires, as sometimes occurred in Europe. However, the supernatural powers ascribed to black cats were sometimes viewed positively, for example by sailors considering a ship's cat in general and a black one in particular as luck for their ship. Sometimes, fishermen's wives would keep black cats at home too, in the hope that they would be able to use their influence to protect their husbands at sea.

Black cats have been found to have lower odds of adoption in American shelters compared to other colors (except brown).Some shelters also stop adopting black cats around Halloween for fear they will be tortured. However, in the history of humane work, no one has ever documented any relationship between adopting black cats, and cats being killed or injured. Pirates of the 19th century believed that a black cat would bring different kinds of luck. If a black cat walks towards someone, that person will have bad luck. If a black cat walks away from someone then that person will have good luck. If a black cat walks onto a ship and then walks off it, the ship is doomed to sink on its next trip.

Today the black cat is not feared as it was in earlier times, and it is now the most popular pet among people in the United States, Australia, and France. However, many superstitious people still regard a black cat as an unlucky omen and believe that not only the black cat, but all cats, have nine lives.

Sources :
The Gale Encyclopedia of the Unusual and Unexplained by Brad Steiger and Sherry Hensen Steiger;

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