Myths and Superstitions: Halloween and Black Cats

halloween and black cats, samhainThe assimilation of Pagan and Christian rites would come in the form of Samhain, an ancient Celtic festival and precursor of today’s Halloween. Halloween and black cats have been bound together because of the cats’ pagan ties which originated in Ancient Egypt.    Samhain celebrated the end of summer harvest, marking the beginning of the Celtic New Year.  Celts thought that the change of seasons brought about a time when the line between life and death was easily crossed.  So as not to attract the wrath of the roaming spirits which Saman, the Celtic God of Death gathered together, people impersonated the dead by wearing masks and costumes.  Along with offerings of food, a cat or horse might also be sacrificed to appease unruly spirits. 

halloween and black cats, samhain

The Romans, after conquering the Celts in 43AD, adapted Samhain into a festival celebrated in late October in honor of Feralia and the Goddess Pomona, who was associated with fruit and especially apples.  Later, Pagan rituals merged into Christian ones, so Feralia became All Saints Day and All Souls Day and eventually Halloween.  The Christians believed that souls wandered the earth for 48 hours from October 31 thru November 2.  Carrying a turnip lantern, symbolizing the soul in purgatory, devotees went from door to door asking for soul cakes in exchange for prayers for the dead. Celtic Druids, who held fast to their beliefs, were accused of witchcraft and persecuted as witches that led to the murder of many men, women and cats.  Thus the festival Samhain, with some Roman influences, is the basis of today’s Halloween, which is associated with witches, cats, bobbing for apples and going from door to door asking for offerings.


halloween and black cats, samhain


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Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats

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