The History of Halloween and Felines

November 8, 2020 5:04 am Published by

Black cats are a ubiquitous symbol every Halloween season. They’re a favorite among cat owners, even if they once inspired superstition. But where does that superstition come from? Why are black cats such an integral part of Halloween here in Alexandria, VA?

The story of cats and Halloween goes back to ancient times with links to other traditions before joining modern myths. Here are three past and present traditions that make up the feline Halloween history.

Egyptian Magic

The earliest known link between cats and Halloween is the Egyptians. They revered cats and kept them in special sanctuaries where priests cared for them and interpreted their movements into prophecies. The Egyptian cat-headed goddess Bast was associated with these temple cats and also with night, which is when Bast fought the Serpent of Darkness. When the sun rose in the morning, that was a sign that Bast won. This early reverence links cats to night, mystery, and magic—which corresponds nicely with Halloween.

Witch’s Familiar

The familiar was a demonic servant of a witch. In the early Puritan communities in the colonial U.S., cats were believed to be gifts from the devil granted to witches. It was also believed that witches could transform into black cats or reincarnate into them after they died. The natural independent and stealthy behavior of cats did not help in this belief and was heightened by their dark fur and glowing eyes.

Cats ended up being feared as badly as the witches and these beliefs fed a “witchcraft hysteria” between 1560 and 1660—much of its centered places like Salem and even here in Alexandria, VA! Now, this witch association helps black cats in their Halloween image and the season helps us embrace rather than fear the dark, spooky and mysterious.

Celtic Mythology

This is the most direct link between cats and Halloween. The ancient Celts honored the idea of the Cat Sith and linked them to the Samhain holiday. Samhain took place between sunset on October 31 and sunset on November 1, and it marked the start of winter. During this time, the veil between our world and other dimensions weakened, which allowed greater contact with the dead and supernatural creatures.

Cat Sith were fairy creatures who resembled black cats with a white spot on their chests. If you left a saucer of milk outside your house for the Cat Sith, your house was blessed. As Samhain merged with All Saints Day to create Halloween, the black cat symbolism remained.

Black cats and Halloween

Black cats still attract belief in the supernatural and superstition, and unfortunately, there are people who seek out black cats on Halloween night to hurt them. If you are blessed by a black kitty, keep them inside at night and if you have an escape artist, consider keeping them in one room so they do not take visiting trick-or-treaters as an opportunity. This is especially essential if your cat spooks easily at loud children or outlandish costumes.

We here at Kingstowne Cat Clinic in Alexandria, VA hope you enjoyed reading this story of cats and Halloween. As a cat-only veterinary clinic, we are here to help if your spooky companion requires vaccines or an annual exam. Call us today to schedule an appointment.

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