Dark History

The Trouble with the Witch’s Familiar

The Trouble with the Witch’s Familiar

KATIE DOHERTY asks why such beautiful creatures as black cats are considered unlucky

It is a rather sad fact that black cats can be very difficult to re-home due to their associations with bad luck and omens. Last year a campaign was launched by a cat charity to bring awareness to this issue so their black cats could find a nice loving home that they deserve without prejudice.

Cats in general have been associated with the occult, in particular witches. A witch’s familiar depicted in art and literature over hundreds of years has led many to believe that they are evil and may even be the witch themselves having magically transformed herself into a feline. Even non-believers have a tendency to look over their shoulder or avoid the path of a black cat.

Within the UK there are a few superstitions depending on your location but generally it is very lucky to own a black cat but many think that is not so. The idea that this beautiful creature is evil is just another piece of our superstitious history. The image of the black cat is dark and mysterious; they are nocturnal and can just appear from anywhere as they are rather stealthy creatures which raised concerns amongst our ancestors who believed they were agents of the devil.

But whatever our feline friend may get up to in life they have also made the history books in death. There have been many cases of mummified cats being found in the walls and floors of buildings. Most recently a cottage was uncovered by the local water board in Pendle where they unearthed a concealed room that contained a cat in its brickwork. It was believed that, looking at folklore, that the cat may been buried to protect the home but there has been many other theories as to why a cat would be buried in the wall – would the owner really bury it alive for the protection of their home? Seems cruel but we will never really know what happened to these poor creatures.

It is unfortunate for the black cats that cannot find a home but it is also interesting how the belief in such superstitions still live on in the UK and I am guessing across the world too. I have heard people say that cats are “creepy”, “calculating” and they think that “they know something they don’t” hence why they don’t own a cat – this very much reflects the folklore of our ancestors. It is thought provoking that despite the changes we have gone through and the knowledge we may have gained throughout our lives that when it comes to folkore and the supernatural – nothing ever changes!

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  1. Angi

    15th February 2014 at 12:48 am

    I come from Nottinghamshire in the uk and was always taught that a black cat was lucky especially if it crossed your path, I think the American belief is the opposite and originated with the puritans transported with the pilgrim fathers.

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Dark History

Katie Doherty is a blogger and writer currently living in London. Check out her website at blacksundaymagazine.net

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