America is just one of a few gorgeous black cats in the care of Funds for Furry Friends that is looking for a home. For more information, visit www.fundsfurfriends.com (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
It’s that time of year when pumpkins and fallen leaves adorn our doorsteps, and we begin to prepare décor for Halloween. As we get into the spirit of the season, we garnish our homes with symbols of the season — ghosts, skeletons, goblins, witches, and black cats!
Halloween is celebrated around the world, and while its origins are Celtic, there are influences from other cultures that have been incorporated over the years.
Traditionally, All Hallows Eve was a festival that took place in a time when crops were harvested, and we prepared for a few months of a "dead" world where things would not grow. Some cultures believed that this was the time when the veil between the living world and the dead world was lifted.
It was once believed that those feared, otherworldly things could walk the earth for this one day. It is believed that this was the foundation of the tradition of Halloween costumes — some cultures believed it was just better to blend in!
So, where do the cats come in? Cats have been both revered and feared for their unusual ways for centuries. Cats, after all, are very unusual animals.
They have excellent night vision, and can see with one-sixth of the light humans require to see. Cats can hear pitches that are too high for humans and dogs to detect, and have ears that can pivot 180 degrees. They can walk almost soundlessly, jump seven times their height, and can vocalize with more than 60 different sounds. It’s no wonder people believed they had special powers.
In ancient Egypt, these strange and amazing creatures were both feared and respected.
The Egyptians witnessed these amazing little hunters march into the dark with eyes that reflected the light. It was believed that cats were protectors, and they were worshipped in ancient Egypt. As a matter of fact, the penalty for killing a cat was instant death in those times.
While cats were worshipped and respected in some cultures, they were feared by others.
During the Middle Ages, a fear of witches swept the world. While witches, sorcerers and healers were once a common part of society, everything changed in the 17th century. An irrational fear of witches led to witch hunts and many innocent deaths — and to a new found fear of cats.
With many cities facing cat overpopulation, it was not uncommon for people to feed stray cats to encourage them to stick around. Women who showed kindness to these cats, providing them with food and affection, were believed to be consorting with the cats.
This lead to the belief that these cats — with their stealthy night travelling and quiet watchful ways — were helping the witches. Some believed that cats were witches familiars, and others believed that they embodied spirits or demons. A simple association with cats was enough proof for conviction of a woman accused of witchcraft.
This fear lead to the destruction of many of these suspected familiars. Black cats were feared most of all, due to their dark, deceptive colour.
Interestingly enough, the death of so many cats led to an increase in the rodent population, and this played a large role in the spread of the bubonic plague.
While the world has changed today, remnants of superstitions and myths from times past are still with us. Some of the best-known superstitions today centre around the black cat.
Many still believe that black cats are bad luck, and there is a stigma that follows these dark-coloured felines even today.
Black cats aren’t just for Halloween. However, while these gorgeous cats spend most of the year blending into the shadows, October seems to be the one time of year that they get an extra glance.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 11, 2012