Who does not remember “Tournée Du Chat Noir”, one of the most famous nineteenth century posters that advertised the Parisian coffee house of the same name? Even today the poster created by the Swiss-born artist Theophile Steiner runs in the form of posters in the homes of some people and is depict on many souvenirs like magnets or postcards, bags, and not only in French Capital. The success of the poster and its passage through the centuries is largely due to the magnetism of the feline, which in its darker color variation is irresistible for cat lovers and hated by the most superstitious.
Playing right on the ambiguity of the Black Cat, on the symbolism and on the legends associated with it, the first international museum dedicated to the black cat will be inaugurated in Naples, Italy. Its inauguration will be on November, 17 2019, on the occasion of the black cat day 2019, by Aidaa, the Italian Association for the defense of animals and the environment, which for 15 years has been celebrating the World Day dedicated to the most maligned cat in the world.
The museum will open at Vomero and the president Lorenzo Croce, promoter of the initiative, says: “there will be paintings, sculptures, poems, photos, historical material linked to the black cat from the time when it ended roasted on the stake together with the alleged witches until the current days. We will give a stable home to all the material we have collected in the first 15 years of activity. The Black Cat Day has become a solid reality, it is celebrated not only in Italy but everywhere in the world, even in Azerbaijian. And in that date now so many newspapers publish photos of black cats”.
The “Black Cat museum” will have a historical path on the events concerning the history of the black cat over the centuries, with an important part dedicated to the wrong motivations that led the black cat to become the symbol of misfortune, a fact that cost in the centuries life to millions of animals. In the museum there will be several sections containing works, paintings and sculptures of black cats. A second section will be dedicated to the writings and to the history of the black cat, all with writings and photos and finally a contemporary section dedicated to the world of the black cat that this year in November celebrates its sixteenth edition. Obviously there will be a room dedicated to games and the museum will obviously be open to the owners with their cats.
The erroneous popular belief that black cats are considered bad luck bearers has very ancient origins and has been handed down stubbornly over the centuries, although not in all regions of the world. The origin of the mysterious power attributed to black cats is to be found in ancient Egypt, a country where the cat was considered the incarnation of the goddess Bastet, the cat goddess, who made these animals sacred. However, the cat was also linked to the cult of the goddess Isis (Artemis for the Greeks and Diana for the Romans), the goddess of the night, whose color was precisely black. In the meaning of “animal of the night”, of darkness and therefore also of death, the black cat was linked to the superstition of the bad omen, although Isis was also, paradoxally, the goddess of fortune. Among the Romans and other ancient peoples, a black cat, for example, was considered a good omen on ships!
Today in Italy black cats are about eight hundred thousand compared to a population of about 20 million cats found in homes and in the Italian feline colonies. Unfortunately, there are still some esoteric groups that practice the sacrifice of black cats on Halloween night even if the phenomenon in the last few years is practically almost disappeared, compared to the end of the eighties when many black cats were killed in the name of homemade Satanism.
On the day of the inauguration, any professional jinx will be invited to show how our four-legged friends not only do not bring bad luck, but are even carriers of love and good fortune for humans!
But why are cats associated with witches?
Even if cats were once worshiped like gods, over the years their reputation was tarnished. In the middle of the 14th Century, black cats became linked with the devil, so many of them were killed during the Black Death pandemic. This proved to be a fatal error, because the cats would have helped take out a lot of the rats that spread the plague, and If greater numbers had been around, it’s likely that more people would have survived the plague.
The term witchcraft may have negative connotations now, but it actually means “craft of the wise”, from the word “wicca” that derived from “wicce” or “wise”. Witches claimed to be able to perform magic, but also brewed potions and were known for healing the sick. However, the Christian Church did not like the fact that people were asking witches to solve their problems, so spread propaganda that their magical powers stemmed from the devil and most of 16th Century Europe began to believe witches were evil. So, many were trialled, tortured and sentenced to death. Witches were at one with nature, and it was common for them to have a cat as a companion. Plus, the Celts believed that cats were actually humans who had been forced to return to this world after committing bad deeds, and such theories led people to invented stories of witches turning into cats.
Thus, the cat became more than just a witches’ pet; it was her familiar. Sadly, this meant that cats got tied up with the witch trials and often faced the same fate as their owners.
Now black cats are seen as a good luck charm in many countries, particularly those not affected by the witch trials, such as Japan and Russia. In fact, the Japanese believe it’s important for single women to have a feline friend, as they are thought to attract handsome suitors, in a country that particularly loves felines, and in which you can find islands with more cats than inhabitants, or you can sip a tea or coffee in their company. In addition, the best Japanese craftsmen recently made a series of Furniture for Cats! A black cat appearing on your doorstep mysteriously is a good omen in Scotland, too! 🐱
Source: GrandeNapoli.it local sources and my personal researches. Images from web.