A friend in Hawaii mentioned over dinner a few years ago that a black cat had crossed his path the day before as he was on his way to a major math test for his major math master’s. When he stated it was a community black cat (the University of Hawaii has a large community cat population), our group gave up three simultaneous reactions to black cats.
“Aww!” I said because I am I And because I enjoyed the University of Hawaii community cats company more than most college students.
“Uh-oh!” my born and raised American friend said
“Oh!” said my Japanese friend – with a smile.
Most understood my American friend’s reaction – “Did you feel bewitched about your test?” Some people asked – but I preferred my Japanese friend’s answer: “But that’s good!”
Black cats and luck – an overview
Unlike much of the western world, Japanese culture regards a black cat crossing your path as a good omen. In fact, black cats are widely considered to be good luck charms in Japan and much of Asia. My Chinese mother, the Feng Shui master, placed her black cat’s bed on the north side of her house specifically to ward off evil.
“Tip toe is a very lucky cat,” she said. “Good luck with her.”
I think Tiptoe just likes that her bed is the closest thing to coveted space heating in winter.
So are black cats good luck? Let’s look at these good black cat luck superstitions around the world:
1. They bless marriages
English superstition says that giving a bride a black cat on her wedding day will bring her good luck in their marriage. It is also believed that newlyweds with a black cat in their home will lead long, happy lives together, and the black cat will ward off evil spirits. In much of the UK, a cat’s black is a happy color.
While I don’t necessarily approve of giving cats as gifts, newlyweds or future spouses should look forward to sharing their home with a black kitten.
If you are a woman who is still looking for that special person, Japanese superstition says that a black cat will bring many good suitors to a single woman.
2. Black cats attract wealth and prosperity
You may have seen the Fortune Cats or Maneki Neko that populate Japanese culture. These little cat figurines with raised paws are said to bring happiness, wealth and prosperity to their owners. Often times they are white, but Lucky Cats are also black.
A black lucky cat not only brings luck, but also scares off demons, evil energy and stalkers. (Yes, stalker.)
3. They make safe homes and good harvests
Also, as my mother with a Feng Shui inclination says, black cats have strong powers of good. If you keep your black cats happy and safe, they will keep you happy and safe. In real life, if you don’t have a black cat guarding your home, a north-facing black cat figure will keep bad energies and ghosts away.
And while we are dealing with gods and demons, in Norse mythology the goddess of love, fertility and beauty, Freya, rides a chariot pulled by two black cats. To get Freya favor, the farmers left their companions milk bowls in their fields. Freya would then bless them with a good harvest.
4. Black cats in the audience help a piece
Cats are excellent viewers. Just ask Brandy my cat if I am moved to dance when my playlist changes to Build Me Up Buttercup. For theater people in many cultures, there is no better audience than a black cat. If a black cat finds its way into your audience on opening night, your play will have a long and successful run.
5. Black cats lead to treasures
It is also long believed that black cats invite not only happiness on the path of happiness, but also on the path of wealth. French farmers long believed that if a black cat were released at an intersection where five streets cross, the black cat would lead them to treasure.
6. Respecting a black cat is lucky
And in the south of France, black cats were called “matagot” and are known as “magician cats” or even “money cats”. If the matagot shows the right respect – like the first bite of dinner, a nice bed to sleep in, or a home even after the death of its owner – it will reward its person with wealth and good luck. (This belief has some connections with black cats and negative connotations of witchcraft, but I see it as if those who don’t treat their cats well get their comeuppance.)
7. Black cats give seafarers a safe journey
English sailors could probably have used a matagot in their home to bring them additional wealth. In ancient times, black cats were considered so happy and so safe that seafarers would return home safely from the sea that many black cats cost so much that they are unaffordable for seafarers.
Black cat or not, I’m sure most of our feline family members would agree that the first bite of our dinner is in their rights.
Also check out the reasons why there are myths about black cats in the first place >>
Thumbnail: Photography by Vincent Mounier / Shutterstock.
This piece was originally released in 2015.