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Episode 7

Black Cats Are Good Luck! The History of Black Cats, from Prosperity to Persecution with Binx's Home for Black Cats

August 17th is National Black Cat Appreciation Day! In honor of our furry friends, we will be taking a dive into the history behind Black Cats with Binx’s Home for Black Cats. We’ll learn about their unfair fall from grace and the individual who lead to their persecution as well as how to help them now!
Binx’s Home for Black Cats:
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Ancient Egyptians Knew What’s Up

It’s fairly well known that the Ancient Egyptians loved themselves some kitty cats. 

And while they loved all the kitties, Black Cats held an especially important role in Ancient Egyptian Beliefs. One that Europeans would have done well to remember before launching a crusade against these powerful allies. 

But more on that a little later,

So, around the year 2800 BCE, the Egyptian goddess Bastet appeared on the scene. 

While going through various forms of representations, she would eventually be depicted as either a black cat or a woman with a black cat’s head.

Bastet was the daughter of Re, the sun god, and is associated with the concept of the Eye of Ra (the all-seeing eye) [2]

She was the Goddess of Protection, fertility, and childbirth; more specifically, She protected the home from disease and evil spirits and was strongly associated with women and children.

Cults would eventually grow to worship her, and to quote the Encyclopedia Britannica,

Bastet quote, “… became important when the pharaohs of the 19th dynasty (1292–1190 BCE) moved their capital from Thebes to the delta, and it reached its peak of prosperity when its prince, Sheshonk I (the biblical Shishak, reigned 945–924 BCE), became pharaoh. The city’s God was the cat-headed Bastet, whose festival was among the most revelrous in Egypt.”

End Quote:

Held in the city of Bubastis, This festival was said to “attracted some 700,000 visitors” [1] every year. Which, based on the estimated population of Egypt being around 1.5 million, means 46% of the total population of Egypt showed up to party in honor of the Black Cat Bastet 

To add a little side note here, I found an incredible little snippet of history that shows how far Egyptians took their love of cats.

“in 525 BCE, when Cambyses [the] II of Persia invaded Egypt, he made use of the goddess to force the Egyptian’s surrender. Knowing of their great love for animals, and cats especially, he had his soldiers paint the image of Bastet on their shields and then arranged all the animals that could be found and drove them before the army toward the pivotal city of Pelusium. The Egyptians refused to fight for fear of harming the animals and offending Bastet and so surrendered.” 

Traditional Stories of Bringing Good Luck

So what about the rest of the world?

Well, beliefs in Black Cats can be found in nearly every corner of the planet. And for a majority of history, it then held a particularly special place of reverence in Europe.

For instance,

For eligible bachelorettes in England, there was a proverb that read, “whenever the cat of the house is black, the lasses of lovers will have no lack.”

But Black Cats didn’t just help you get through those long nights swiping right on medieval Tinder.

Their luck continued to follow you into marriage. Such as in the English Midlands, it was considered good luck to give a new bride a Black Cat on her wedding day. (assuming she didn’t already have one when she bagged prince charming.

But what if your hubby was a sailor? 

Well, for a long period of time, there was a belief that having a Black Cat on your ship was not only Good Luck and would assure a successful trip. But also, the cat’s behavior and the way it was treated directly affected the voyage and the seas.

To quote an article from a website whose name I can’t pronounce



“If a ship’s cat fell or was thrown overboard, it was thought that it would summon a terrible storm to sink the ship, and that if the ship was able to survive, it would be cursed with nine years of bad luck. Other beliefs included: if a cat licked its fur against the grain, it meant a hailstorm was coming; if it sneezed it meant rain; and if it was frisky, it meant wind.”

End Quote

As for the Newlywed back on land, if a black cat was kept in your home while your loved one was at sea, then it would guarantee their safe return.

Black Cat Luck doesn’t just stop at relationships and travels tho,

The famous Maneki Neko cat, the one that you see at pretty much every Asian restaurant or store you’ve ever been to, has 1 paw up looking like it’s trying to give you a High Five,

Well, when they are Black, it is meant supposed to keep away stalkers and general evil.

In France, it was a long-held belief that if you released a black cat where 5 roads intersected, then the cat would lead you straight to treasure.

Back in England, if a black cat was present in the crowd on the opening night of a play, then the play would be blessed with a long successful run.

In regions around the world, it was understood that if you give a black cat the first bite of your meal, then they would ensure that you would be gifted with wealth, good luck, and prosperity. 

Honestly, the amount of belief about why and how Black Cats are good luck is overwhelming. It seems like every corner of the globe has at least 1 reason why you should love and respect them.

So, where did it all go wrong?

Pope Gregory IX Was A Stupid Dick

  • Vox in Rama

Well, surprisingly, it can almost be traced back to a specific date and a specific dude.

On June 13, 1233, Pope Gregory IX issued the Vox in Rama

It was a Papal Bull, basically a public decree.

In it, he railed against witchcraft, hedonism, and fears of a satanic cult spreading through Germany.

Quoting now from the Vox in Rama

“The whole coven was required to kiss the cat’s behind, and once they had done this, a wild sexual orgy occurred. Once the lights came back on, “from a dark corner, the figure of a man emerges.” This ‘man’ was Lucifer, who the whole company firmly believed to have been wronged by God. As was to be expected of a former angel, “The upper part of his body from the hips upward shines as brightly as the sun.” However, his fall from grace was encapsulated by his lower body where “his skin is coarse and covered with fur like a cat.”

The whole document is filled with stuff like this and filled with symbolism and bigotry regarding Black Cats.

From Prosperity to Persecution

As this decree would grow in awareness and be adopted by European Christians as the word of God, so too would rumors and superstitions eventually evolve into the common stigmas around black cats today.

As for the most common superstition, “That it’s bad luck for a black cat crosses your path.”

Well, this comes mainly from the belief that a black cat may be a witch’s familiar or even the devil in disguise.

 This means that a black cat crossing your path may be on its way to do the devil’s bidding, as opposed to it just going somewhere else to be cute and perfect. 

This superstition had an interesting effect, or should I say benefit for the church.

You see, for so long Black Cats were understood to bring wealth and fortune to those lucky enough to be graced by their presence. 

Now, when people ran across them, they would head to the church for protection, where they would pay their local priests to bless them and hopefully remove any evil curses bestowed upon them by the cat.

So whether intentional or not, the same institution that twisted traditional signs of prosperity into persecution began harvesting the luck and fortune Black Cats would bring, but for their own ends. Like some kind of Black Cat Industrial Complex.

And if all this isn’t enough, this terrible bias would come back to bite them in their holiest of holies. 

The Black Death of Black Cats

There’s something important to understand here,

Cats with black fur, in fact, are some of the most common types of cats that exist, meaning a large number of the world’s cat population, including Europe’s, are adorable and perfect Black Cat.

Now sadly, due to the growing mass hatred towards Black Cats during the 12th century, it became common for people to murder them en masse. I’m not going to go into the details, but people had regular ceremonies and customs around this, which were much worse than any imaginary claim made by the Pope. 

But this doesn’t come without consequence; by the year 1347, after over 100 years of consistent persecution, there were far fewer feral felines to help handle a now booming rat population.

And in October of that year, 12 ships would arrive from the Black Sea and dock in the Sicilian port of Messina. 

The scene on board the ships looked like it came straight out of a horror movie. Nearly all of the sailors were dead, with the few still managing to hang onto life, gravely ill, covered in black boils that were seeping pus and blood. 

The Black Death had officially reached Europe.

Before long, Europeans would suffer from the truth, the Egyptians had already understood 3 thousand years earlier.

Cats protect families from disease.

Sadly, they never really put 2 and 2 together and would eventually intensify their hatred towards cats, thinking they were helping to spread the plague.

Moving Won’t Change Who You Are, Bro (The New World & the Old Ways)

Fast-forward to North America in the late 1400s, Europeans begin colonizing, killing, spreading disease, and pushing their faith on First Nations while stealing their land.

It may have been a New World to Them, but they kept close their old ways and old superstitions.

This leads us to today; people still hold terrible and unfair beliefs about Black Cats. The bias and hatred they continue to face is an absolutely disgusting tradition that still haunts and hurts them.

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