It’s late and you are walking home at a brisk pace in an attempt to beat the oncoming storm. You are only a few streets from your destination when you spot a little black cat making its way towards you, angled to cross your path. Just like that you decided to risk getting a good soak rather than let the black cat cross your path, succumbing to an old superstition rooted in legends of witchcraft.
The Black Cat Superstition
Cats certainly are unique creatures. They can be soft, fuzzy and pleasant, and they can be bristling, spitting balls of razor sharp teeth and claws. Seeing a black cat is –depending on the country you are in at the time-- considered bordering on unlucky times, but having a black cat cross your path is considered by many to be an omen of doom; not only is it bad luck, it is VERY bad luck. From there the superstition goes as far as belief that the black cat is a demon in disguise trying to cut off a person’s access to heaven. What would drive people to believe such malignance would come from a kitty cat?
The origin of the Black Cat Superstition
The actual origins of the black cat crossing your path superstition is a bit of a mystery, but there are a few ideas. Cat’s ability to move silently and practically undetected put some people on edge, and their association with Egyptian religion added to the uneasiness in some Christian cultures. From here it was said that cats- and black cats in particular- acted as “familiars” to witches, creatures that are imbibed with an evil, otherworldly sentience that give power to their master. What God fearing Christian who believed in witches wouldn’t fear them, back when such rumours began?
Cats are sneaky, clever, agile hunters with a strong streak of independence- more reasons to add them into legend and wives tales. There are a lot of superstitions centred around cats, some colour specific, some not, and some even contradict each other.
In Scotland a strange black cat appearing on your porch is an omen as well- but a good one. It means that prosperity is on the way. If you hear a cat sneeze in Italy then you are in for a streak of good luck, as you are if you dream of a white cat in America. If you happen to spot a white cat in America as the sun sets, however, you might be in trouble.
Cats are not allowed in the room if family is having a private talk in the Netherlands- the fear is that the cat will spread gossip all over town, and the family secrets will be out. Don’t be too hard on the cat in Ireland, however- killing a cat there brings 17 years of bad luck.
So, a black cat crossing your path is unlucky, you say? Interestingly that is what many believe in the USA and many European countries, but that very same belief in Japan is flipped on its head- they believe it is good luck. The next time a black cat crosses your path, just say “Konichiwa” and take control of your own luck. Think black cats bring bad luck? There's a school of thought that says the same about women! Read our feature here...
@steph - I would not worry, a dream is just a dream and means absolutely nothing and neither does a black cat crossing your path. I have a black cat that crosses my path every day because it lives in the same house as me and I've never had any bad luck, only good luck.
Misty - 12-Feb-15 @ 12:29 PM
So last night on my way home from school a black cat ran out in front of my car, I almost but did not hit the cat, and this morning my brother tells me he had a dream I was shot five times, then my son says he had a dream we went to the zoo and all the animals attacked me, I really am freaking out here.
steph - 11-Feb-15 @ 3:59 PM
@brit. I think you will be fine and I wouldn't worry. I hope your luck changes for the better soon.
TimelessMyths - 15-Oct-14 @ 2:50 PM
I have had the worst day today and seen a pychic, Ive come out of a really bad relationship and have a VRO on him. I was just driving home and a black cat was about to cross the road but I came n it curled itself up against the kurb and went around the back of the car, I am so hoping this is good luck that it didn't cross my path.
brit - 15-Oct-14 @ 1:25 PM
From my experience over the years the black cats that have crossed my path have basically given insight into the coming year. A family of black cats crossed in front of my car Weeks before I found out I was pregnant with my first born. I've had fat healthy ones which were good fruitful years and noticed when the skinny sickly one crossed out was a difficult year. My cousin has a bigfat one. Him and the healthy young outside one are the only two I've encountered this year. I hoping this year is just as fat, healthy and happy as these two. Never heard of the white cat thing. But off that's the case I hope the 2 black cats cancel out the mean whit cat that's here. Most importantly is the last statement. Make your own luck. Lol!
jye - 23-Apr-13 @ 5:54 AM
I just want to know, I have been living with superstition all my life. 1. I never split poles, its bad luck. 2. When a black cat ever cross my path, whether walking or driving, I turn around and go the other way. 3. I do not like stepping on the cracks in the sidewalk, apparently that's bad luck. 4. Am I just living in the wrong life? As far as actually believing what the old folks use to say back in the day? I mean, what is it?
Tinkerbell - 16-Apr-13 @ 7:29 PM
I heard it was also lucky for a black cat to cross your path, was from the black death era, when sailors and people who traveled to Asia bringing cats home, communities faired better and suffered less from the black death if cats we're owned locally, so seeing a black cat made people feel safer knowing cats we're about, hence the good luck if one crossed your path keeping the rats at-bay!!
Shadows-Revenge - 1-Sep-12 @ 12:38 PM
"The Black Cat" is in many ways a moral tale that deals with the tension between love and hate and that warns of the dangers of alcohol, a substance to which Poe himself was addicted for much of his life. The narrator appears at first to love both his wife and his pets, but by the end of the story his fondness has turned to neglect, spite, and even hatred, particularly for Pluto and his successor. Although Poe does not provide a solid explanation for the narrator's encroaching loss of sanity, perhaps suggesting that madness might happen at any time to any person, the narrator admits the role of alcohol in his behavior. In addition, the arrival of the second cat is closely related to his alcoholism, since he first finds the cat in a seedy drinking establishment. The second cat ultimately serves as the facilitator of justice when it reveals the corpse's hiding place at the end of the tale, and its initial appearance on top of a hogshead of gin or rum emphasizes its moral purpose.
Minorkle - 26-Jul-12 @ 9:31 PM
A black cat ran across the path of the car we were driving along a straight clear road in the middle of no where, not even a house close by , a week later my brother sadly took his own life, the cat by the way is still out there, because my partner slammed on her brakes missing it.At the time we even joked saying we were going to have bad luck.
Chickencoup - 11-Jun-12 @ 6:53 PM
My dog is really ill at the mo, I was in the kitchen makin a cup of tea and noticed a black cat on our fence looking at me through the window meowing, we've never seen a cat around our way before especially in our garden. Is this a sign letting us know our dogs not got long left? Thanks.
bear - 31-May-12 @ 9:45 PM
Thank you for helping me with my speech I had to write a speech on a superstition and I chose the one about walking under a ladder and the origin is very interesting.