Many of us get swept up in all the fun of Halloween, but costumes and candy haven’t always been part of the tradition. Instead, the holiday originated in ancient times and included celebrating mortality with large feasts, fires, dancing, waking spirits, bedeviling night creatures, and other supernatural occurrences.
Today, most people are shopping for their Black Panther costume, but it’s worth noting that black cats have always been part of this seasonal, ritualistic event.
A Look Way, Way Back
The Halloween we know (and love) descended from Samhain, an ancient Celtic celebration of the harvest. Common beliefs around the event involved the dead rising from their graves and spirits crossing over to the human realm to seduce them. Human sacrifice may also have been part of the ancient ritual.
For Samhain, experts believe that people wore costumes (most likely animal skins) to masquerade as spirits as a way of blending in with those that were awakened.
Black cats were – and continue to be – central to the holiday. Known to hunt at night, black cats can go virtually undetected in the shadows. Our ancestors grew suspicious of their stealth and labeled them as evil. In fact, they were perceived as “familiars,” or the alter ego, of real witches. Black cats were often burned at the stake along with women believed to be witches.
When Christianity appropriated this pagan holiday, it was renamed All Hallow’s Eve, the night before All Saint’s Day when saints were honored. Followers were strongly encouraged to dress up as saints or figures from the church.
Despite strong arguments, Irish and Scottish immigrants to North America brought along their beliefs that witches transformed black cats into horses on All Hallow’s Eve.
Good or Bad Luck?
We think that all cats are lucky, but for centuries, black cats were thought to be harbingers of something truly dreadful. However, in some countries like Japan and Egypt, black cats were worshipped as symbols of affluence and good luck.
Black cats are just as wonderful as their striped, spotted, and multi-colored counterparts. To this end, Black Cat Appreciation Day occurs every third Friday in August. Together, we can change the misperceptions about black cats that still linger to this day.
For further proof, we offer this list of famously terrific black cats:
- Felix the Cat
- Sylvester the Cat
- Salem from Sabrina the Teenage Witch
- Binx from Hocus Pocus
- Snowball II from The Simpsons
- Lucifer from Cinderella
Plus, black cats can curl up on your black clothing, and you won’t even have to get the lint roller out!
We Love Black Cats
One element of Halloween pet safety involves protecting all black cats from danger and pranksters. If you’re lucky enough to own a black cat, be sure to keep them inside on the days leading up to and after Halloween.
If you have additional questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our veterinarians and staff. Happy Halloween!