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Take the Time to Learn and Understand: Advice from a Black Cat 🐾

Updated: Nov 8, 2023


Advice from a Chicken from The Whine Bar by Ally Brown

Black cats and spookiness seem to be synonymous.


One of the oldest and most enduring superstitions is that crossing paths with a black cat will bring bad luck. The dark-colored felines have become symbols of Halloween, adding to their reputation of being spooky. However, this is an unearned reputation that dates back to the 13th century when an official church document declared them to be an incarnation of Satan. This statement began the Inquisition and church-sanctioned heresy, or as we know it, witch hunts.


Witch was a term used to describe pre-Christian pagan practitioners who were in Europe at that time. These people, mostly women, honored the natural world, having respect for both plants and animals, causing them to gain the attention and hearts of their neighbors. As such, the church viewed them as competition and indiscriminately began hunting, torturing, and murdering them in large numbers. Our friends the black cats, were no more than companions of these "old ladies"; however, like the women accused of witchcraft, they tended to exhibit a healthy disrespect of authority and were branded as being diabolical.


And that was only the beginning.

  • Accused witches were often found to have cats, particularly black ones. These cats earned the title of being a "familiar". This term simply means companion but was instead used to describe supernatural entities that would assist witches in their practice of "dark magic".

  • People feared a black cat crossing their path because they believed that it was either carrying out the work of the "witch" it was familiar with or the embodiment of the devil. Not wanting to partake in either option, people feared and avoided these creatures.

  • Cats were frequently killed for their perceived association with the evil. During the witch hunts of the 1600s, the hysteria became so great that if a person was even seen with a black cat, both human and cat could be tried for witchcraft together. This led to the mass killings of black cats.

  • Cats were blamed for causing the spreading of the Bubonic plague. This gave some an easy out as they used that as another reason to rid the world of unwanted felines. However, their plan backfired and the rodent population boomed causing the disease to spread rapidly.

Even today, black cats are viewed more negatively, adopted less often, and euthanized more often than lighter-colored ones.


Thankfully, not all cultures view black cats as being bad omens. In some countries, they have been known to represent prosperity. It appears that whether a black cat is viewed as a benevolent creature or an evil supernatural one is entirely based on whichever lore one is likely to embrace.


This made me wonder . . .


What other lore do we embrace today as just the way it is, especially on Halloween?


Black and Orange


The traditional Halloween colors of black and orange trace back to an ancient Celtic pagan religious festival originating from a spiritual tradition. It is usually celebrated from the evening of October 31 to November 1 and marks the end of the harvest season (orange) and the beginning of winter or the "darker half" of the year (the black). Celebrants of Samhain believe that the barriers between the physical world and the spirit world open during this time, allowing for interaction between humans and those of the Otherworld.


Seeing Ghosts


Celtic people believed that during the festival of Samhain, spirits walked the Earth. As time passed, Christian missionaries introduced All Souls’ Day on November 2, which perpetuated the idea of the living coming into contact with the dead around the same time of year.


Trick-or-Treating


The exact origins of trick-or-treating is unknown. However, some theories are:

  • During the festival of Samhain, Celtic people would leave food out to appease the spirits traveling the Earth at night. Over time, people began to dress as these unearthly beings to get some of these offerings for themselves.

  • In the Middle Ages, children and impoverished adults would collect food and money from local homes in exchange for saying prayers for the dead on All Souls’ Day. Some would drop the prayers in favor of non-religious practices, and instead exchange the treats for songs, jokes, and other “tricks.”

  • Trick-or-treating as we know it in America, originated from the German-American Christmas tradition of “belsnickeling,”. This is a tradition in which children would dress in costume and then call on their neighbors to see if the adults could guess the true identities of those in disguise. In one version of the practice, the children were rewarded with food or other treats if they were unable to be identified.

Carving Jack-o’-Lanterns


It is believed that this tradition originated in Ireland. As legend would have it, a man named Stingy Jack repeatedly caught and trapped the Devil, only letting him go once given a guarantee that Jack himself would never go to Hell. But when Jack died, his problems began. He learned that Heaven did not want his soul. Given that he now had nowhere to go, he was forced to wander the Earth as a soulless being, a ghost for eternity. Feeling a little bad for Stingy Jack, the Devil gave him a burning lump of coal in a carved-out turnip to light his way. The locals eventually began carving scary faces into their own turnips to frighten away any evil spirits. Over time, pumpkins became more favorable to use than turnips.


Devouring Candy


The act of going door-to-door for handouts has long been a part of Halloween traditions. But until recently the “treats” handed out tended to be things like fruit, nuts, coins, and small toys. Trick-or-treating rose in popularity after World War II when suburbanization allowed children to safely go door to door asking their neighbors for treats. This inspired candy companies to market small, individually wrapped candies. However, candy did not dominate over all other treats until the 1970s when urban legends prompted parents to start fearing anything unwrapped.


So, this Halloween, while you are walking past lit pumpkins and gathering candy, think about how you came to be doing so. Maybe next time a black cat crosses your path, you may want to give him a treat instead of being tricked.


Happy Halloween! 🎃


Cheers! 🥂


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