Are black cats lucky or unlucky? This is a question that has perplexed many people who study the cultures and folklore superstitions of differing traditions.
In Britain and Ireland the answer is a definite yes that they are lucky. They are seen as an extremely lucky omen and are welcomed as a sign of good luck to come.
In other countries and cultures the opposite belief is held and the black cat can be seen as incredibly unlucky.
In ancient times cats were animals to be revered and in Ancient Egypt the humble cat was worshipped as a sacred animal. The Romans also held the cat in high regard and introduced cats as pets throughout Europe.
But as Christianity spread throughout Europe and pagans, wise women and adherents to other belief systems were persecuted; the black cat also saw a downturn in its luck.
Vulnerable women became the easy target for religious fanatics who wanted a scapegoat to explain the woes of the world. During the Middle Ages they were accused of witchcraft and were the victims of torture, hanging, burning at the stake and drowning.
These same women often kept cats as companions. Cats, and in particularly black ones, (deemed the colour of evil) were seen as "Witch's Familiars" or partners in crime to the accused Witch, and the poor animal suffered similar fates to those of their mistresses. In Witch trials, ownership of a cat was taken as evidence of witchcraft and was all the proof needed to condemn both the woman and the cat to a terrible fate.
But the humble cat redeemed itself as controller of vermin during the Great Plague that swept throughout Europe. The cat, and in particular black ones, came to be seen as a very lucky omen.
Good luck superstitions surrounding the black cat sprung up. To have one as a ship's cat ensured the safety of the sailors on board. Similarly, wives of fishermen who kept cats that were black were assured the safe return of their husbands, despite often perilous sea conditions. Newly weds were often given a black cat to bring them luck for their future together.
Today the symbol of a black cat is often connected with the feast of Halloween and to the Wicca religion and is considered extremely good luck to have one cross your path.
All black cats are lucky but the luckiest type is said to be female, completely jet black with black whiskers and green eyes. If you come across a cat such as this, repeat this rhyme and good luck is sure to come your way.
Dearest Queen I bid you good day
Bring me the best of luck and send it my way!