Black Cats & Bad Luck
Hello my good friends, how are you? I hope I find you in good health Today’s video is rather short, after all it’s a Sunday video, therefore it’s not a too heavy a subject, or rather, the complexity of the subject doesn’t require a lot of research Today I’m going to talk about black cats and why are such lovely animals associated with bad luck and witchcraft This is an October video and black cats are often associated with this season and witches, and I think it’s a perfect time to talk about black cats and to encourage people to actually adopt black cats because the poor little things are often unwanted and don’t get the chance to have a home mostly because of superstition, and worse than that, precisely during the month of October many people get black cats because it’s “cool” and to enter in the mood of the season, and then abandon the animals as soon as Halloween comes to an end And even worse than that are those wannabe “satanic” kids who get black cats during this season and mistreat the animals and even kill them I’m also doing this video because my own cat, wasn’t black but I do miss him and next January marks 2 years of his departing But this December also marks 3 years since I’ve become a youtuber and my cat, Mr. Tico, occasionally made an appearance during my very first year in this platform If you are one of those 100 people I had when I’ve published my first videos, you probably remember Mr. Tico I’ve already done at least 3 videos about cats in honour of my cat, 2 of which associated with Freyja and witchcraft, so by the end of this video I’ll leave those 2 videos for you to see if you want to delve a little bit more into this subject and want to know more about the association between cats and witchcraft, cats in general, not just black ones But today it’s just black cats and in relation to bad luck. So let’s get started Of all the things we may have heard about black cats and why they became associated with witches and specially bringing bad luck, it’s actually pretty simple, more or less, why this change of mentalities The black cat has never done any harm to anyone and yet it is directly associated with bad things in the lives of humans that come across a black cat So let’s start with prehistory, just a few notes The cat is introduced in the history of mankind rather late when compared to other animals such as the dog and the boar As humans began farming and stockpiling grain in the very early stages of the Neolithic and the first vestiges of a certain organized network of settlements, grains had to be stored so proper containers – structures – were built to store grains, this led to a new problem – mice Mice are pretty smart and they will obviously go straight to the place where food is in greater abundance Unfortunately for mice, cats are pretty smart too and take advantage of situations As the natural predators of mice are cats, wild cats started to slowly move on into the early Neolithic settlements hunting mice precisely in the structures that contained grains We humans have domesticated loads of animals but we did not try to domesticate cats because they had no apparent use to us until the Neolithic The cat introduced itself and kind of pushed its presence in our societies Because cats became so useful in keeping away mice from the main sources of food during the Neolithic, a variety of religious connotations were applied to cats They became guardian entities since they were naturally guardians of the grains, eating mice thus saving grains now… I’m not going to develop on the religious connotations around cats as I’ve done that already in other videos Suffice to say the cat, just like other animals, enters in a variety of folk traditions and ancient religious beliefs as an animal that brings something positive beneficial for those who have it as a companion But the thing is, many animals were important in the religious lives of many ancient cultures Each had its usefulness But cats are one of the few animals that were actually seen as pets, as companions Dogs have been with us longer than cats, There’s no dispute but dogs for a millennia have been used as food resources, others as hunting “tools”, and others as guardians of the settlement Only in the past 50, 70 years or so, in the collective consciousness of our modern society we started to see dogs as pets At least until the first half of the 20th century, there were still butcher shops all around Europe selling dog meat, that’s exactly where the concept of hot dog comes from And I remember when I was a child, many people had dogs just for hunting, that’s it People did not see them as pets but as a “tool” to help in the hunt They did not keep dogs in the house, but in pens, and the only interaction between the owner and the dog was simply during the hunting season, and as soon as the dog ceased to have its usefulness, people would abandon or kill the dog, or sell its meat to the butcher As cruel as it sounds, it was a general reality that only changed in the past 70 years or so There is a wonderful variety of animals that we have domesticated precisely because we saw some usefulness in them, and most of that usefulness concerns food But that’s the thing, we domesticated the animals and we forcibly introduced them into our society Let’s not continue to feed on that romantic idea that the wolf came to us and we have found a special bond with it, and there was mutual understanding and they became our friends It wasn’t like that at all and we clearly have that very well printed in the archaeological record We did not domesticate the cat, however The cat simply came to us taking advantage of a situation We found no usefulness in the cat The cat showed its usefulness to us, and that had a great impact on the human prehistoric religious mentalities The cat was not a source of food The cat was useful as a guardian and all sorts of taboos against the consumption of cat-meat were created Until very late in the history of mankind the cat was the real and only pet of humans, in the entire sense of companionship All other animals had their usefulness and mostly were as food resources But not the cat In fact until quite late in many countries, especially in Europe during the Middle Ages, cats were very rare, especially white cats which were kept by the nobility Cats were so rare that their importance just increased So owning a cat was not for everyone Most people that owned a cat were members of nobility, and that is actually very well documented during the Viking Age, for instance, as I’ve said before on another video For too long, the cat was the only actual pet humans had This doesn’t mean that someone somewhere didn’t see the dog as a pet, in ancient times probably someone had a dog or even a wolf for a pet But the general collective consciousness of our societies did not see the dog as a pet but as something useful to aid us in a variety of situations The cat simply became a pet, and also for the exact same reasons that led the cat to introduce itself into our societies People did not keep dogs in the house, but they kept cats to clean out the mice An animal inside the house, with a closer proximity to a human, there is obviously the natural tendency to create a special bond with the animal The cat easily became the actual first pet Because the cat had no apparent usefulness and served solely as a guardian of the home, keeping mice away and became a pet, a lot of people started to have cats and they became the only animal companions people had Lonely people had cats as their only companions, and as you know, during the late middle ages and modern period, the witch hunts were mostly on lonely women, “easy targets” for that time The hunting of witches actually starts earlier already within the Pagan Roman Empire, but that is a subject I will develop this month on a future video But there was an increase in the persecution of women accused of witchcraft precisely during the plague, the Black Death, for 2 main reasons In Europe it was a period of many conflicts between a variety of kingdoms and empires Many men died in the war With the plague, things were even worse for men, for the male gender which biologically speaking had little defence against the plague Nowadays we know that women have a stronger Immune system, biologically they have more defences against a variety of diseases precisely because through the ages women have developed a good biological defensive system as they are the ones that generate other human beings and that biological defensive system is necessary for the protection of the baby With the Black Death it was mostly men that died, not women Due to war and plague, most women were left alone taking care of their husband’s property No more men to help out, women had to fend for themselves Many women became actually quite powerful and wealthy Now in terms of religious and political system of the Middle Ages, Christianity comes from a background of societies culturally developed around the male figure, patriarchal societies male-dominated societies It is a long history since the Greek Classical period of building a degrading image of women to cut them from power and secure the patriarchal power of the state You will understand all of this in the future video I have for you The point here is: During the Middle Ages things in political and religious aspects did not change that much and women with power were still a problem to be dealt with from the perspective of the Church, obviously So the persecution of women increased during and after the plague because there were, for Christian standards, far too many women with property, power and wealth Christianity took advantage of their loneliness, and brought back the stigmatization of the figure of the witch, and purposely witch hunt was fomented to seize these powerful women’s properties Most documentations of the late middle ages regarding witch hunts after the plague, these “witches” in the great majority of cases were women who held property Property was taken from them by the church, since such lonely women were easy targets, and most women ended up on the streets, begging, and they became even more easy targets and just one step closer to burn at the stake Women’s biological defences against the plague was a convenient excuse from the part of the church to accuse them of witchcraft because clearly they were using magic as they were the only ones with more chance of survival than men And this natural factor alone (which I’m certain in that time no one really knew the actual reason for this) was a good excuse to agitate the mind of the mob, which was a powerful tool used by the church in the expression of power and authority and spreading dominance due to fear brought by ignorance All this to tell you that it’s precisely in this moment that there is an even more- an increase in the hunting of cats as they are seen as companions of witches, as they were the only pets these lonely women had, to hunt down mice which were a constant threat in the properties and estates these women owned But all cats, not just black A variety of cats have been hunted down as being the companions of witches, not just black cats But it so happens, that witchcraft is obviously associated with long lasting pagan practices, , and to many ancient cultures, especially European ones, the black cat specifically had a lot of value in religious terms and within folk tradition, especially from the Celtic tradition, where the black cat has an usual association with faeries and the fae folk in general So to the black cat, by the Christian church, it was given a special association with witches and witchcraft; black cats became the supernatural servants of witches Furthermore, black cats, in the past before christianity, have been associated with fertility of both the land and humans, so many people owned specifically black cats, especially women, due to the belief that a lady who owns a black cat will have many suitors In Scotland for instance, where during the modern period, especially with King James the sixth of Scotland and the First of England, witch hunts and trials were especially hard, before Christianity it was believed that having a black cat or coming across one signifies coming prosperity and good fortune So many people had black cats due to the long folk tradition of bringing something beneficial; a tradition built by the fact that cats were the first actual pets of humans, living within the domestic environment of humans and therefore easier to build affection with the animal So progressively due to folk traditions associated with the pagan past, therefore with witchcraft and for political reasons to overthrow powerful lonely women and they happened to have cats in the domestic environment for all the previous reasons given before, a new religious idea around black cats was built – the black cat became affiliated with evil in the Middle Ages, thought to be supernatural servants of witches, or even witches themselves black cats were witches in disguise But not all of the animals hunted down by such new superstitions were cats Dogs, pigs, goats as well But the cat was specially hunted down and greatly associated with witchcraft because it was the only animal that was actually kept in the domestic environment And because many people owned black cats due to their importance expressed in folklore and because during the middle ages white and yellow cats were quite rare, so mostly it was just black cats and tabby cats, it was the black cat that got more attention from the Church, and I’ll tell you why With the rise of Christianity in Europe, pagan symbols came to be viewed as symbols associated with evil by the Catholic Church It’s a question of politics and not religion, precisely to diminish the cults associated with pagan motifs Various beliefs began to be despised including cat worship as divine creatures or in association with spiritual entities with a direct relationship with the divine or supernatural As preciously said, Celtic tradition and fae folk, the case of cats in Ancient Egypt and the great admiration for cats, in Scandinavia cats associated with Freyja which was one of the most worshipped deities, and again in direct association with feminine power, which just doesn’t work within Roman-Christian based cults But the black cat started to be especially hunted down in a very specific date In 1233, when Pope Gregory IX declared that black cats specifically, were the devil’s own incarnation Consequently, another belief was formed that these animals are cursed and bring bad luck to those who cross their path, due to being the incarnation of the devil himself So in this period, black cats were burned alive, like people accused of witchcraft In addition they were considered the pets of witches In the Middle Ages, therefore, and in the centuries to come, no one dared to have a black cat at home And this belief is still very much alive in our days, unfortunately I was a child and living in the country side I remember every time someone saw a black cat on the street they would make the sign of the cross as if there was no tomorrow And the only people in that accursed village that owned a black cat, were the ones outside the village and everyone told in whispers “it’s the witch” And I’m 31; this wasn’t that long ago Pope Gregory IX lived just a 100 years before the Great Plague really hit hard in European soils, but he lived in a time, the 13th century, precisely when the Catholic church was pressing hard due to the wars and famine all across Europe The evils of the world always been associated with witches and the other downtrodden groups of the society It’s quite possible that Pope Gregory IX grew up terrified with the stories of witches and he might have had a special hate for black cats due to the folk traditions and the association of the animal with witches and witchcraft Thus, leading him in 1233 to declare that [black] cats were the reincarnation of the Devil Since then, the black cat in folklore has been associated with a variety of things associated with bad luck and even being able to change into human shape to act as a spy or courier for witches or demons And during the Protestant period or countries that remained protestant, it was even worse Anyone caught with a black cat would be severely punished or even killed Just 100 years after this declaration by the Roman Church, with the Great Plague being associated with witches and their black cats, you can only imagine the fear people had in seeing a black cat During the Black Death there were specific religious groups looking for witches and their cats, to kill them and bring the Black Death to an end Many people really thought the Black Death had been concocted by witches, because most women did not get sick So clearly they were using some sort of magic To make things even worse for black cats, and on a political panorama, during the 19th century the colour black has been associated with anarchism, and the black cat of the Industrial workers all over the world, was adopted as their symbol Not a symbol of anarchism in general, but as a symbol of a branch of anarchism that focuses on labour organizing Sadly, this famous superstition around black cats is still very present today Nowadays, in animal shelters, abandoned black cats are the least sought after and most difficult to find a family Despite all this, we know that black cats do no harm to anyone This bad reputation is just an ignorant myth and the black cat is as adorable a pet as any other furry companion, or animal companion in general, even a toad can be pretty awesome Alright my dear friends. I hope you enjoyed this video I wish you all the continuation of a happy and prosperous October, and if you can, adopt as many animals as you can, including black cats I want one, but my heart isn’t ready yet to accept another friend as I still miss very much my cat companion Thank you so much for watching, see you on the next video, and as always, tack för idag!