Black cats have long been associated with both the malignant and good forces in this world, depending mostly on where you come from. At Halloween, the image of the evil black cat sitting on a witch’s broomstick is quintessential in America. However, in the UK, Japan and other Asian countries, the black cat is mostly a symbol of good luck and fortune. So, how did the unsuspecting black cat end up affiliated with witches and black magic? The reasons are plentiful.
Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, black is the color associated with black magic. This, coupled with the cat’s nocturnal nature, was enough to instill a deep-rooted fear of black cats into the people of the Dark Ages.
The second reason is a little more complex. During the Middle Ages, many poor, lonely and elderly women would keep small animals, such as cats, as company. When the fear of witches reached its pinnacle, witch hunters would accuse these lonely women of witchcraft, an accusation which would adhere itself to the animals that resided with them as well. Soon, cats (particularly black ones), would be labeled as familiars of witches, and practicers of the black arts. It was even thought that black cats were actually witches in disguise, a myth which was substantiated by false accounts of women who displayed the same or similar injuries as their cat after it had been beaten.
The third reason has much to do with the cat’s inherent nature. It’s stealth, independence and secrecy put Medieval societies at unease. For a generation of people who feared the unknown more than anything, it was too much to handle. Cats, like witches, were considered “incomprehensible” and therefore, “expendable”.