Let it be known on this Black Cat Day that black cats are NOT evil, bad luck

Updated:
This story is the perfect excuse ... ahem, completely legit reason ... to share photos of my beloved black cat. Everybody, this is Figaro. Figaro, this is everybody. (Source: Catherine Holland, 3TV/CBS 5) This story is the perfect excuse ... ahem, completely legit reason ... to share photos of my beloved black cat. Everybody, this is Figaro. Figaro, this is everybody. (Source: Catherine Holland, 3TV/CBS 5)
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

If you’re at all superstitious, you know without a shadow of a doubt that black cats are a symbol of bad luck – even a harbinger of death -- particularly if one crosses your path.

Do you know what a black cat crossing your path really means? Said cat had someplace to be.

Because Oct. 27 is Black Cat Day, we thought it a good time to try to dispel the negative myths surrounding black cats.

While seen as good luck and bringers of prosperity in some parts of the world, black cats have a bad rap in Western culture, particularly here in the U.S. -- and much of that goes back to the Middle Ages when they were believed to be witches’ familiars or witches either in disguise or reborn.

The roots of that can be found in Greek mythology.

As the story goes, Hera, the wife of Zeus, turned a slave named Galinthias into a black cat. Basically, Hera was trying to delay the birth of Hercules (that’s another story) and Galinthias got in the way. It’s generally a bad idea to anger a goddess, a lesson often learned the hard way.

Anyway, Galinthias, now a black cat, was sent to the underworld and became a priestess of Hecate. She was the Goddess of Death and Queen of the Witches.

Connection established.

[VIDEO: Blacks cats are part of Friday the 13th superstitions]

[MORE: Pets and animals stories]

Another notion of black cats as evil came from a papal decree issued in 1233(ish) by Pope Gregory IX. “Vox in Rama” was the pope’s response to a growing sect in Germany that purportedly worshipped the devil. Some historians claim the decree “vilified” cats, particularly black cats, by painting them as agents of Satan. This supposedly led to a widespread slaughter of black cats.

The text of “Vox in Rama,” so far as I could find in a document posted by a University of Oregon history professor, mentions a cat as part of an initiation ritual practiced by the sect.

“Then all sit down to a banquet and when they rise after it is finished, a black cat emerges from a kind of statue which normally stands in the place where these meetings are held. It is as large as a fair-sized dog, and enters backwards with its tail erect. First the novice kisses its hind parts, then the Master of Ceremonies proceeds to do the same and finally all the others in turn; or rather all those who deserve the honor. The rest, that is those who are not thought worthy of this favor, kiss the Master of Ceremonies. When they have returned to their places they stand in silence for a few minutes with heads turned towards the cat. Then the Master says: ‘Forgive us.’ The person standing behind him repeats this and a third adds, ‘Lord we know it.’ A fourth person ends the formula by saying, ‘We shall obey.’”

So the implication is that the cat is the devil or at least tight with him. But there is no definitive statement or call to action to rid world of black cats,

“Vox in Rama” describes another portion of the ritual (a decidedly not family friendly portion) after which a being, presumably the devil himself, appears.

“Then, from a dark corner, the figure of a man emerges. The upper part of his body from the hips upward shines as brightly as the sun but below that his skin is coarse and covered with fur like a cat.”

So, there was an unassailable source – the pope – leading people to the idea that black cats are evil, and the Middle Ages being what they were, people picked up on the implication, made the connection and turned it into fact.

That “fact” has persisted throughout the ages. Today Halloween is not complete without black cats. But that makes them targets for abuse, particularly around this time of year.

Also, black cats looking for “furever” homes are often overlooked. They have to wait longer than other cats for families to claim them, which can put them in danger of being euthanized.

As Cole, one of the most popular cat stars on the Internet, says, “Some people never adopt a black cat because they think black cats bring bad luck. The only bad luck is missing out on the blessing of having a black cat.”

When he was a baby, Cole and his humans, Chris Poole and Jessica Josephs,  put together a video showcasing the top 10 reasons black cats owners are beyond lucky. As the parent of a black cat, who prefers to be known as a fluffy mini panther, I have to agree with all of them.

  1. Natural-born ninjas (most of the time)
  2. Invisibility skills
  3. Black is always in fashion (black accessories are a must!)
  4. Very cute
  5. Awesome “shadow” boxers
  6. Save $$$ on Halloween – no costume required
  7. They clean up nicely – no spots or streaks
  8. It’s like owning a mini black panther!
  9. Did I mention they’re adorable?!
  10. They’re least likely to be adopted so will love you furever!

Full Circle News came up with a similar list. There's a little overlap, but I agree with it, too.

10. You’ll save $$ on their Halloween costumes.
9. You can always find them in the snow.
8. Holding a black cat is very slimming.
7. Black cats will match any decor.
6. A lint brush isn’t required for a black-tie affair.
5. When you love a black cat, Luck is on your side.
4. Black cats are like onyx, a beautiful gem.
3. Hey, they don’t care what color you are!
2. Love knows no color.
1. They are the least likely to be adopted.

Three years ago, Poole “a self-confessed crazy cat guy,” did an experiment, showing people pictures of six cats and asking them which one was their favorite or which one they would adopt. Cole and his Ginger brother, Marmalade, were on the poster.

“The reason we did this little experiment is that black cats are often the last to be adopted and the first to be euthanized in animal shelters,” Poole explained in the video. “The results were pretty much what we expected.”

So, I think we've established the black cats are not bad luck and certainly not evil.

"Every myth – good or bad – about black cats has been imposed on them by humans," Dina Fantegrossi wrote on IHeartCats.com last year. "They are the last to get adopted and the first chosen for euthanasia in shelters because of the difficulty in finding them proper homes."

Just remember this old English charm. It sums up black cats nicely.

Black cat, cross my path 
Good fortune bring to home and hearth
When I am away from home
Bring me luck wherever I roam

That said, I'll leave you with one last piece of advice from Cole.

"If a black cat crosses your path, pet it!"

Are you owned by or the guardian of a black cat? Post a photo in the comments below or tag #azfamily on Instagram and/or Twitter.

Note/confession: I am a "crazy cat lady" and share my home and life with a gorgeous black cat named Figaro (pictured above). He's the boss of me and I'm lucky to have him. I also am auntie to another super charming black cat named Charlie, who totally embraces his inner panther.


Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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