Since medieval times, the myth that black cats are bad luck has hung around, making believers jump out of the way when a black cat crosses their path (and, in the worst cases, kill black cats). This belief most likely came about in the Middle Ages when widespread fear of witchcraft took over. Because of their nocturnal nature, cats were believed to be a witch’s sidekick (or a witch in another form), and black cats got an especially bad rap. When Did Black Cats Becom Bad Luck? If you go back even further in history, black cats represented good luck. The Egyptians were one of many civilizations to worship cats — they even had a goddess who took the shape of one. In maritime lore, black cats have traditionally been symbols of good luck. Sailors welcomed them on board for their mice-catching prowess, and they served as reassurance that the ship would have a safe passage home. In Scotland, a black cat showing up at your doorstep is a sign of prosperity. Women who have a black cat included in a photo are more likely to find a suitor in Japan. And in parts of England, a black cat is sometimes given as a lucky wedding gift to the happy couple. Research from the National Institutes of Health has found a gene mutation associated with black cats that may give them resistance to certain diseases. It’s the same as a gene found in some humans that gives them resistance to HIV, and researchers are hopeful about the possibilities this link could hold for treating diseases in animals and humans. FEARSOME FELINES Of course, cat lovers know that this is all very silly. Black cats make great pets! You don’t have to look far to find evidence that others agree. DEBUNKING THE MYTH
MYTHICAL CATS OF THE WORLD Tails From the Past Most owners will tell you their cats act like ancient deities. Majestic, scrupulous, and utterly unpredictable, these fascinating creatures have long captured our imaginations. Even before cat videos took the internet by storm, humans have been idolizing felines, placing them alongside some of their most important mythological figures. BASTET — EGYPT Of course, a list of mythical cats has to start with Egypt. While many people know the pharaohs and their followers thought cats were sacred, you may be surprised by how deep the connection goes. The earliest depiction of Bastet, the feline deity of protection, is a lion-headed woman in battle. But, over the course of 2,000 years, Bastet evolved to resemble the domesticated, pointy-eared cats we know and love today. 招き猫 (MANEKI-NEKO) — JAPAN Legend has it that in the 17th century, a monk living in a small temple in Edo (now Tokyo) was struggling to survive, but he still split his meals with his cat, Tama. One day, Lord Nakaota li got caught in a rainstorm while hunting and took shelter under a tree near the temple. Nakaota spotted Tama near the temple, and the cat raised its leg, beckoning the noble
to come toward him. Curious, Nakaota complied, stepping out from beneath the tree just before a bolt of lightning struck it down. The lord’s life was saved, and to this day, the Maneki-Neko (the beckoning cat) is a symbol of wealth and good fortune.
Around here, we’re fans of all felines (and all animals, for that matter), and we happen to think black cats are pretty darn cute.
FREYA’S SKOGKATTS — NORWAY In Norse folklore, the goddess Freya had a unique means of travel: a chariot pulled by two cats. These were skogkatts, or Norwegian Forest cats, that were only a little larger than your average house cat. Still, these small felines towed Freya around battlefields as she gathered warriors to send to Valhalla. On top of being the goddess of war, love affairs, and magic, Freya may well have been Midgard’s first cat lady.
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