Come October, it’s hard to miss the many indelible images associated with Halloween. Homeowners may decorate their home exteriors with scarecrows, inflatable ghouls and goblins, and jack-o’-lanterns. Local businesses also may get in on the fun, offering “spooktacular” sales and decorating their storefronts with images of vampires, witches and other symbols of Halloween.
Black cats have become synonymous with Halloween decor, but few may know how this association came to be. According to History.com, the notion of black cats as bad omens can be traced to the Middle Ages. Back then, people believed witches avoided detection by turning themselves into black cats.
The perception of black cats as something more than mere felines may even pre-date the Middle Ages. For example, in Norse mythology, Freyja, a goddess of, among other things, a type of Late Scandinavian Iron Age magic known as “Seior,” was believed to have ridden a chariot pulled by two cats. That connection to sorcery could explain the link between black cats and witches that continues to be made today.
Despite the lengthy history suggesting black cats are bad omens, it’s not all bad for these dark-colored felines. One researcher at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History found that Welsh folklore depicted black cats as harbingers of good luck, and even noted their ability to predict the weather.
Black cats are one of many symbols of Halloween. And much like jack-o’-lanterns and trick-or-treating, the story of how black cats came to be associated with Halloween is interesting and thought-provoking.