ANN MASSEY reveals some strange and wonderful black cat superstitions through the centuries…
1. It was often believed that a woman living alone and owning a black cat was a witch. The feline would be deemed a witch’s familiar and the owner accused of witchcraft. The witch would be condemned to death and the cat would endure a similar fate.
2. When the Great Plague swept across Europe in the mid 17th century, luck of the black cat swept from bad to good as they killed the rat infestation and reduced the impact of the disease.
3. When so much sea-faring superstition points to bad luck, a black cat on board a ship would indicate a safe passage. Wives of fishermen would take in black cats as they believed they were a lucky charm to ensure their husbands would return home.
4. Plucking a single white hair from black cat means that you will be lucky in love.
5. To counteract any bad luck, you think you may invoke with a black cat crossing your path, you need to use your thumb and forefingers to make the Holy Trinity and spit at the unfortunate feline through it.
6. Charles I adored his black cat and when it died he was distraught, citing his luck would change to is fortune and sorry. The following day the king was taken into custody and accused of High Treason.
7. The pirates of the 18th century believed that if a black cat towards them they would be subjected to the worst of luck, yet if the creature ran away from them they would receive luck and treasure beyond their wildest dreams.
8. In Ireland, it was believed that a black cat seen crossing the street by the light of a full moon was a portent of widespread disease and death.
9. A father and son in the English county of Lincolnshire in the 16th century were horrified their luck that their luck would turn sour after a black cat ran across their path. Angry, the two males began throwing stones at the frightened feline who ran into the house of a local woman accused of witchcraft. The following day the old woman was seen limping through town, bruised and nursing a hurt arm.
10. The people of medieval France were so terrified that cats were evil, they would burn thousands monthly until Louis XIII put a stop to the practice.
11. In Scotland, if a stray black cat appears on your doorstep, it means great wealth is coming your way.
12. In the Middle Ages across Europe, the belief was that black cats were the instrument of the devil. The Feast of Saint John falls on 24th June and it was thought this was when witches’ covens across the continent would gather for maximum power, so to combat this, all the black cats would be gathered and burned on this day.
13. The Vatican gave instructions to all the Inquisitors to round up all the black cats and burn them as witches’ familiars. The only black cats to escape this fate were those found to have a white mark upon them, no matter how small. This white spot was known as the ‘Angel’s Mark.’