Some animal superstitions stem from cultural changes. The black cat being bad luck is only in some parts of the world, in Great Britain and Scotland, the black cat is good luck. Western culture views the black cat as bad luck because they attributed the dark color and night orientation with evil; thus connecting them with witches during the Witch Trials. Some cultures feature animals as good or bad luck in conjuncture with their religious beliefs, others just by watching the animal (an owl is thought to be wise because of its wide eyes, and can be good luck to see, it can also be associated with death because it flies silently to kill its prey, and be seen as bad luck).
These type of superstitions come both from the animal’s role in history and their characteristics. A cat may be considered supernatural because of its strange, glow-in-the-dark eyes, its silent graceful movements, and its tendency to stare at invisible things. A black cat in particular blends in with the night. But some historical context helps too: cats are associated with “pagan” religions like that of ancient Egypt, and so western Christian society would look down on them. Black cats were also associated with witches, probably because black is considered a witching color and many elderly women who live alone have pet cats. Finally, Poe’s short story “The Black Cat” solidifies the animal’s link to the supernatural and the spooky. Other theories say that the superstition of a black cat crossing one’s path comes from eastern Europe/western Asia, like India and Romania. Cultural context is also important: in Japan a black cat is good luck, and in Ireland killing a cat brings a spell of bad luck.
The same blend of historical and biological characteristics can be applied to other animals. For example, some species of snake are dangerous to people, but one of the main reasons people think of them as “evil” is their Biblical connotation, not to mention their very un-human-like faces and strange habits like shedding their skin. Incidentally, in some cultures cats get part of their bad rap from snakes, since they curl up in a similar manner.
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