DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Many Americans have a superstition that black cats are dangerous or unlucky; however, the origin is not as widely known as the ideology itself.
“It starts with Pope Gregory IX in 1233 when he publishes the papal bull, Vox in Rama, which began the Inquisition and the sanction of the church, the heretic and witch hunts,” Meghan Henning explained, associate professor of Christian origin at the University of Dayton. “In this document from 1233 he says that black cats were an embodiment of Satan. “
Henning said today’s superstition was initially rooted in a forced admission of witchcraft, which aptly included questionable feline stories.
“Initially, Pope Gregory IX was actually responding to confessions obtained by Conrad of Marburg in Germany, via torture, in which the practices of a satanic sect included kissing a black cat’s ass,” she declared.
The ideology spread throughout medieval Europe (excluding England and a few other places), although many other cultures around the world held opposing beliefs, notably that cats held luck because their dark fur allows them to hunt more successfully.
However, the negative association of centuries ago has never completely disappeared.
“The connection between witches and black cats has remained in part because of the respect that pagan cults and witches had for plants and animals, but also for gender reasons,” Henning said. “Women who have been accused of witchcraft have been caricatured as the authority in question because they have independent thoughts… and cats are also characterized as independent and distant.”
Henning said that while Halloween decorations for black cats are fun, the tradition has a story that isn’t necessarily good for cats or humans, and the negative stigma surrounding them isn’t true. Misconceptions about black cats have led to lower adoption rates and mistreatment by some people.
“People have told me that they are only allergic to black cats,” said Kaitlin Becraft, marketing manager for the ICSSA Adoption and Pet Welfare Center. “There are certainly people who hesitate a bit with them. “
On the flip side, she said, through a thorough vetting process, all of their pets are successfully adopted and go to safe homes. Some people are even excited to adopt them around Halloween, recognizing that they are no different from cats of other colors.
“They’re always going to want to hug you and love you and everything and they don’t bring anything bad with them,” Becraft said. “We all have different types of adopters who come looking for these little guys. “
For these reasons, both Henning and Becraft have stated that black cats are not inherently unlucky, and if you see a black cat being abused or mistreated, you should contact your local animal shelter or law enforcement.