Black Cat Appreciation Day August 17, 2020
Welcome friends and furry family members. As we hit the dog days of summer here in August I want to remind you all to remember our feline friends as well, especially our black feline friends on National Black Cat Appreciation Day on August 17, 2020.
Throughout history, all cultures have had their own interpretation of how cats are seen by society- from good, evil, magical, and sacred. Black cats in particular have always had more superstition following them than any other color or breed variety to this date. Some cultures viewed them as positive, good luck forces that protected crops and provided prosperity such as in Norse and Ancient Egyptian culture as seen with the worship of the goddess Freya and Bastet. It was common practice to present them as wedding gifts as well as bring on ships for good luck with sailing due to their excellent hunting and enthusiasm for controlling the vermin population. So when did they get the present day superstition of bad luck and that of witches’ companions if they were thought of as helpful and positive influences on day to day life?
The superstition surrounding black cats can be traced back originally to Ancient Greece where a story regarding Hecate, the goddess of death, darkness, and witchcraft, acquired a human turned into a black cat as a “minion” to interact with the human world thus starting the association of the black cat being a symbol of darkness and companions of witches. This belief of black cats being familiars of witches and darkness was further enforced by Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241) after issuing his papal bull known as Vox in Rama in the 1233. This papal bull denounced cats, especially black cats, as evil and in league with Satan. Even though it is unlikely the everyday or poor person would have read this papal bull, it is proposed that this teaching was trickled down through the different social classes thus perpetuating the belief that black cats are signs of darkness and bad luck. Such common myths that have passed through the sands of time are: bad luck if a cat crosses your path, if a black cat is present at a funeral it means a person at the funeral will also die soon, they are witches who can transform into the black cat shape 9 times throughout their lives, and they are companions to witches and satanic worship just to name a few.
Times are changing though, as we become more educated and less superstitious, it is blaringly clear that black cats have no more magical power than any other breed or color of the feline family. In fact black cats are currently being researched by the National Institutes of Health for their resistance to illness that other felines without the black hair coat trait are more susceptible to, such as FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus). Through this research, it has been discovered that the genetic mutations that cause cats to have a black coat offer some protection against these diseases. This mutation occurs on the same gene that, in humans, would help offer HIV resistance. By studying black cats and how they evolved to resist diseases due to this mutation, researchers are hoping to learn hope to prevent certain diseases in humans as well.
Cats, in general, have a long history by human side ranging from perfect pest controls to divine beings of worship, to incarnations of evil to, finally, our everyday house pets that help better our lives. So as August 17th rolls around, remember to take a moment and appreciate all that black cats have gone through and all the potential they have to offer of enriching and improving our lives.
Mandee Davenport, LVT