Halloween and black cats collide: Beware le chat noir!

Black cats have long been held as a witch’s accessory and thus demonized. Photo: A black kitten, ready for Halloween Image: Lazy Lobster

VIENNA, Va ., October 29, 2012Tis the time of year for ghosts and goblins, spooky beings…and black cats. And as long as they are cardboard representations, fuzzy or not, to hang in a window that’s fine.  But as usual it is the time of the year, literally a day of the year, for real, furry, sentient black cats to be kept indoors and safe from prejudicial, cruel, ignorant humans. And there are reasons why.

In many countries black cats have been said to be portents of bad luck since before the Middle Ages. Some consider the black cat a symbol of good fortune, but far too many look at this innocent animal as the opposite.

Steinlein’s famous Chat Noir

In America it may go back to Salem and the witch trials, which were as cruel to humans as they may have been to cats. It was thought by the highly intelligent humans of the era — which proves the point that animals have more brains than humans — that since there were witches, usually the little old lady of the village who took in stray cats, a cat could then be her “familiar,”  the creature who could go anywhere unbidden, and spy on humans.

Cats were considered bad luck and witch-associated…need we say more?

For some time humane societies and county or other animal shelters have revised the handling of adoptions of black cats at any time around Halloween, for fear that people (read: idiots) with bad intentions might wish to have them.

In all truth, these same groups have had no reports of any such mischief occurring, but it is a logical prohibition.

Almost all breeds of cat have a solid black type, and some pure bred groups also sport the same type, such as  Bombays, which are always dark black, including paws, nose leather and whiskers.

But sometimes in the right light or brightest sun, a brown sub-shade can be seen, which is termed “rust” by the aficionados.

Lilith sits patiently for Halloween to pass

In England, Scotland and Ireland, it is considered good luck if a black cat crosses your path. Too bad “the colonies” did not adopt that aspect.

Another Halloween tradition  is that of trick or treating for the kids.  This has its origin in very olden times, when during Samhain (when the veil between the human world and that of the spirits was at its thinnest), allowing ghosts of those who had died to be able to mingle with the living.

If, however, the living dressed up as a ghost, it could fool the spirits into believing you were one of them, and they would not try to steal your soul. One source traced trick or treating to the late 1950s, which is a good 20 years after it began.  Must be a gremlin or ghost fooling with the tradition.

With Halloween only a couple of days away, it is still advisable to keep a good mental leash on a black cat, as you never know when you will need a bit of good luck.  

We are owned by one, who has a purr commensurate with his 13 lb. size, loves to be held, chatters like a monkey, and was a delightful rescue from a shelter when his elderly owner died.  However, if he gets mad and opens his big mouth to growl, he looks for all the world like a Halloween bat with white fangs. 

Have a Happy Halloween! 

Follow the column on Face Book or LinkedIn at Martha Boltz, and by email  at MBoltz2846@aol.com Read more of Martha’s columns on The Civil War at the Communities at the Washington Times.

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Martha M. Boltz

Martha Boltz is a frequent contributor  to the long running Civil War features in The Washington Times America At War feature in the print and online editions. She has been a regular contributor to the original Civil War Page and its successor page since 1994, and is a civil war buff, historian, and writer. "Someone said that if we don't learn about the past, we are condemned to repeat it," she said, "and there are lessons of all sorts inherent in this bloody four-year period of our country's history."  She is a member of several heritage and lineage groups, as well as the Montgomery County Civil War Round Table. Her standing invitation is, "come on down - check the blog - send me your comments and let's have fun with its history and maybe learn something at the same time."


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