“Black cats were created to give everyone the opportunity to be owned by a mini-panther.”
Those of us who love black cats really love black cats. Yet, even those who don’t personally know a black cat are often intrigued by them. Indeed, these onyx colored felines have many spiritual and cultural associations. In this post, we’ll explore all aspects of black cat meaning and symbolism, from spiritual meanings to superstitions and more.
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This post is dedicated to my black cat, Isa, one of the most beautiful and sweet souls I have ever been blessed to know.
What does it mean when you see a black cat?
For those of us who love black cats and even have them as companions, seeing a black cat is always a positive experience. Yet because of some old-world superstitions, some people feel a little freaked out when they see a black cat, especially when one crosses their path. We’ll go into more detail about the history of those negative associations later in this post. But first, here are some high-level meanings associated with black cats:
- Good Luck
Is a black cat bad luck?
One of the more archaic meanings applied to black cats is that they symbolize bad luck. How did this come to be? To begin, black cats (along with all domestic cats) are naturally nocturnal. So, like bats, they are commonly associated with nighttime.
Many people fear what they can’t see, so the dark of night is a particularly scary time. Black cats being black are even harder to see at night. Thus, fearful people have long associated them with the unknown, and the unknown as something negative.
Black Cats and Witches
In the nature-worshipping pagan Europe of old, healers (who were often women) were held in high regard in their communities. In fact, they held so much power that as Christianity spread throughout the continent, church leaders (who happened to be men) felt competitive with these healers for the hearts and minds of the local communities.
Perhaps the church authorities saw similarities in these medicine women and cats. After all, both were mysterious and independent. Much in the same way that authoritarian-leaning people do today, in the Middle Ages, authorities vilified the opposing side. They called the medicine women witches, claiming they were in cahoots with the devil. In the same way, the church authorities also vilified cats. And no other cat was as mysterious and difficult to pin down as the one who was the color of night.
In fact, the unfounded hate for cats festered to the point where in the 13th century Pope Gregory IX claimed that all cats were demonic. As a result, cats were ritually killed in England because of these superstitions.
However, this unfounded cruelty was not without its consequences. Historians theorize that the death of so many cats enabled rat populations to thrive, which made the impact of the Bubonic Plague of the mid-1300s far worse than it would have been otherwise.1
Black Cat Crossing Your Path Meaning
These archaic impressions of black cats as bad luck symbols carried through to other superstitions. People of many ancient cultures, including those in Europe, believed that human beings could shape shift into animals and back.
Since cats were associated with demons in the Middle Ages, some people believed cats were actually demons or the devil himself who had shapeshifted into a furry four-legged feline. And no one wanted to cross paths with a demon, let alone Satan himself.
Hence, a black cat who just so happened to be walking in a perpendicular direction was fodder for many people to freak out. In fact, they would run to their local priest and pay him to undo the spell.2 (From the priest’s standpoint, this may have been the beginning of black cats symbolizing prosperity…)
For those of us who love black cats and who see them as the loving and godly creatures that they are, a black cat crossing our path is always a positive and welcome sight!
Black Cat Spiritual Meanings
How black cats are viewed on a spiritual level depends on cultural attitudes as well as individual perception. Of course, it also depends on what people think of the color black. For some, such as certain factions in the Middle Ages, black is a sinister color. For others, it is beautiful and profoundly divine.
A comparison can be made to how different Christians portray the Virgin Mary. In some cases, Jesus’ mother is portrayed as a white woman with blond hair, even though she was of Middle Eastern descent. Yet, in others, she is portrayed with dark skin and dark hair, such as the Black Madonna of Częstochowa in Poland and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico.3
What is clear is that black cats have had important spiritual meanings to many people of different cultures and religious views for a long time and they still do today. Here are some examples:
1. Black Cat Spiritual Meaning: Nighttime
Because they are nocturnal and the color of the night sky, black cats are naturally associated with nighttime. For many, the night is the time that we enter a dream state and connect with different metaphysical dimensions.
Black cats also symbolize peacefulness because cats, by nature, are tranquil souls and black is a particularly calming color. This is why in meditation we often close our eyes because darkness helps to calm the mind.
Black cats also embody the idea of mystery because darkness is equated with the unknown, which can lead us to wonder. While we all have our own spiritual views, there is still an element of mystery surrounding anything beyond our material world.
What do cats do when they’re out at night and the rest of the world is sleeping? Just as the black cat symbolizes mystery, they also embody the idea of exploration. This exploration can represent our own spiritual curiosity and the quest for gaining universal wisdom.
Black cats have long been associated with magic because of their nocturnal nature as well as their ability to see in the dark. Not to mention: their mysterious dark color. In addition, cats make very good companions for the types of people who spend a lot of time studying and in meditation to enhance their psychic skills.
Every night, transformations occur in nature. Even as we sleep, our own bodies undergo a healing transformation as they work on cellular repair. Thus, because of their connection to nighttime, black cats are also symbols of the kind of transformations that can occur seemingly overnight.
In addition, in some cultures, people believe that spiritually powerful people can shape shift into animals and back into being human. Because of their association with magic, black cats are viewed by some as being particular receptive to shapeshifting shamans and their like.
Black cats have long been associated with spirits. Notably, many cultures believe that night is a time when the veil between the physical and spiritual worlds is especially thin.
Furthermore, cats are incredibly sensitive creatures. So, they pick up on stimuli that we might miss. Some people believe that cats easily see, hear, and feel spirits.
The ancient Celts were one society who believed that certain deities and spirits would shapeshift into animal form and back. In fact, both the Irish and Scottish have myths of a fairy cat called the Cat Sith who was a large black cat with a white spot on his chest. Some versions of story say that Sith was a witch shapeshifter.
It was an important Celtic tradition to leave a saucer of milk out for the Cat Sith on the evening of Samhain, the holiday that we all know as Halloween. Failure to do so could bring bad luck to the home.4
8. Spiritual Protection
While domesticated cats are tiny compared to the average mountain lion, they still possess feline ferocity. And never does this ferocity come out more in full force than when they are protecting those they love.
This protectiveness and the cat’s devotion to those they love as well as their ability to tune into the metaphysical world is why they are associated with spiritual protection.
The black cat in particular is a symbol of spiritual protection because nighttime is when many believe spirits are the most active.
Black Cats in Ancient Egypt
The ancient Egyptians revered cats. In fact, their goddess Bastet was closely associated with cats. Bastet protected the home, pregnant women, those in childbirth, and children.
In addition, the Egyptians believed she prevented evil spirits and illness from entering the home.5
For the ancient Egyptians, the color black symbolized the cycle of life, from birth to life to death, the underworld, and resurrection.6
Black Cats in Hinduism
In Hinduism, the goddess Shashthi is like Bastet in that she was a protector of fertility, childbirth, and children.
One Hindu story tells the tale of a gluttonous young woman who took extra food in her household. When the other members of her family asked who ate the food, the young woman blamed the family’s black cat. So, the family beat the cat.
Unbeknownst to them, the black cat was beloved by goddess Shashthi. So, the black cat went to Shashthi and told her of the beating. The cat-loving goddess took revenge by stealing every child the gluttonous woman gave birth to, keeping them as her own.7
Black Cats as the Protectors of Sailors
Sailors of old also viewed black cats as spiritual protectors. In fact, British and Irish sailors believed that having a black cat aboard a ship would keep evil spirits away while bringing good luck. So, the crew would go out of their way to make sure the cat was safe and happy.8
In fact, cats were important crew members aboard ships because they controlled rat populations, therefore keeping crew and food safe.
For those who believe in reincarnation, many say their cat was with them in a past life.9
Black cats, in particular, tend to be old souls because they have been many colors in different lifetimes. Their beautiful black fur embodies the energy of their many past lives.
Black cat spiritual meaning also includes the power of the imagination. The infinite depth of a black cat’s fur represents the infinite power of our imaginations. We can use this power in both the physical and metaphysical realms.
Black Cat Symbolism: Additional Meanings
Black cat symbolism also includes the idea of independence. While all cats can be independent, the black cat, in particular, represents the confidence in being exactly as you were meant to be regardless of what others think.
In Norse mythology, the goddess Freya rides a chariot that is pulled by two cats. As well as being associated with love and good luck, Freya also symbolizes female independence.
In Scandinavian and other societies, the color black has long been associated with the power of independence.
Black cat symbolism is also associated with rebellion. The black cat is not trying to fit in; they are who they are. And if someone fears them for being black – that’s their problem.
There is a saying in the fashion world that everyone looks good in black. The black cat knows this too, as they embody refined elegance.
Like a black tie event, the color black also symbolizes formality. Thus, black cats also embody the idea of elegant formality. Incidentally, while they have some white markings, the black and white cats known as a tuxedo cats are very much in the black cat camp!
The term “black beauty” hasn’t endured in the common vernacular for no reason. This is because, quite simply, black is beautiful. Black cats are the manifestation of beauty.
16. Good Luck
Are black cats bad luck? Those who love black cats says no! In fact, quite the opposite. Black cats have long been associated with good fortune and blessings.
The saying that cats have nine lives stems from the fact that cats have the skills to get themselves out of danger. As they say, a cat always lands on their feet. So, they are lucky indeed.
In fact, people have linked cats with good luck for thousands of years. Ever since cats started to become domesticated around 8000 BCE, people have appreciated their presence. This occurred in the Fertile Crescent during the birth of agriculture. Wild cats started to hang around areas where people were planting crops because the crops attracted small plant-eating animals. The cats ate the mice and rabbits and the farmers appreciated their presence, associating them with bountiful crops.10
The black cat was seen as a good luck symbol because they were particularly adept at hunting without being seen at night, as well as avoiding predators because of their black color.
Just as they are symbols of good luck, black cats are also symbols of prosperity and good fortune. For example, in the practice of fung shui, the color black represents the water element as well as wisdom and wealth. And as noted above, black cats in particular bring good fortune.
Summary: Black Cats are Fabulous Felines
While there have been a number of unfair superstitions projected on to black cats, these beautiful felines have managed to survive and thrive throughout the centuries. Those of us who love and appreciate them understand the magic they bring to our lives.