At some point in history they were worshipped as gods and deities. Over time, they had to bear the brunt of a common superstition that branded them unlucky. And while some might feel ascribing godly status to them is taking it a bit too far, any cat owner today will confirm that cats haven’t forgotten their godly lineage and prefer to be treated thus.
While the felines live a fairly good life today, black cats, in particular, have become the subject of one of the most common superstitions. Variations of having to drop the task at hand or turning around if a black cat crosses your path (to avoid bad luck) have reverberated across the world. One can’t help but wonder then, how exactly did the black cat go from being a god to the harbinger of doom?
The God complex
Cats in ancient Egypt were held in high esteem. Citizens believed that gods could transform into various animals, but the only goddess that could transform into a cat was Bast. People believed they could gain her favour by keeping cats and it was a crime to harm them. Naturally, these graceful animals were fed royally and mummified post mortem.
The feline’s high life continued across cultures. Bast was known to the Greeks as Ailuros, whereas the Norse goddess of love and fertility–Freyja–rode in a chariot pulled by two huge cats. Farmers who worshipped the goddess would leave offerings for the cats to ensure a good harvest. In Christianity, the M marking on the forehead of Tabby cats is said to have been Mother Mary’s blessing after she saw the cat playing with baby Jesus. On the flip side, the only reference in Hinduism to cats being divine is of goddess Shashti, a folk goddess who is known to be the benefactor and protector of children. Shashti rides a cat. In addition to these, there are many other legends that reiterate the status of cats as gods, in other words, the association of cats with supreme beings.
In the middle ages, the superstition reached a point where people started capturing black cats and killing them.