The bottom of all this to my opinion, is the colour black.
It was the colour of the old European (Roman, Celtic German goddess of fertility Mother Earth, giving the later "black madonna's". Which was not exclusively European ( Compare ISIS!!) Black was regarded as the colour of the earth, the goddesses' first element. Her second element was water, giving the colour blue.
The elements of the male god ( in the sky) were air and fire ( sun)
While druids were dressed in white, with red ribbons ( white= air, red = fire, sun ) it is too little known that there were female druids that were dressed in black with blue ribbons.
E.g.: In a certain period ( GERmanic) the goddes was called GER, giving GERTRUDE as being the female druid (=trude.Male druid = trudO) of GER.
Before, in Celtic period , she was called Cella ( CELtic)in Western Europe en HELLA in Eastern Europe ( cfrHELLas, HELLena, Hellenic )
Being mother earth, "the life-giving one ", her "home" was the black earth below, That became the HELL for Christianity A HOLE in the ground was an entrance to her home, and HOLY were the days of her feasts, or a tree dedicated to her.
A Hell- or Holestreet on the European mainland goes from the centre to the North, as North was the direction to find the mother goddess the dark/black night where the sun never shines( North).
As Ger/Cella /Hella was the wise (mother nature) and gave life those female priests were the "wisewoman" - les Femmes Sages ( = midwifes) that assisted on birth. They knew also a lot of herbal medicine: they had a huge knowledge of nature, their goddesses products.
And the honour they payed to to Ger was by masses were black was THE colour.
Christianity convicted those black masses and this "black magic" and it got a bad name, as well as the colour black itself.
The female druids where mostly accompanied by a cat with the holy black color. And as black was "from the devil" since Christianity black cats where too.
Much later, when Inquisition wanted to chase the new religions in the cities, they still encountered the rest of the old one in the countryside: the wiccas.
They where burned as witches together with their black cats, or the cats where thrown from the belfry towers.
I have no info why in England or elsewhere black cats are harmless. But as England is very traditional, and still very Celtic... knowing that black was a GOOD colour in Celtic times, one should look in that direction...The old idea that black colour being "a good colour" was not totally erased by chrsitianity, it seems. Till very recent, black was regarded as a "female" colour and my mother used to where it in mass before. The black for funerals (life/death, mother earth) is the same.
So traditions are stubborn
It is an interesting note that beliefs in the UK tend to run opposite those in America. In England the white cat is considered unlucky, the black being a bringer of good fortune, except in East Yorkshire where, while it is lucky to own a black cat, it is unlucky to come across one. In Belgium, Spain, Germany, and some other European countries the common aversion to black cats is shared with the American view.
In western history, black cats have long been looked upon as a symbol of bad omens. Cats among other animals Britannic/Celtic regions, currently known as the UK, also regarded hares with the same animosity as the cat) were sacred to certain pagan goddesses. When Christianity spread to regions that practiced traditional tribal religions the church sought to convert these natives. It would take far too long to get into the entire process of stamping out native traditions and replacing christian ones, as more of the local populations converted the church began to "demonize" symbols of the old religion, it was a form of propaganda designed to suppress the customs that did not fit in with their religious practices. Along with labels of witches and sorcerers was spread the notion that these magicians could shape-shift into cats (hares, etc) and skulk around in the night cursing their neighbors and communing with the devil or doing other perverse and evil things. Cats were slaughtered en Mass in some areas, believed to be wicked witches that must be destroyed. This practice and superstitious belief started in areas of what is now the UK before and most especially during the witch trials in these areas and persisted long after. When the "pilgrims" and British colonists came over to the New World, they brought it with them and it has remained with us in the idea that a black cat is an ill omen.
One of the prevalent black cat superstition alive in our the western culture today is if a black cat crosses your path, it is considered bad luck. Interestingly, in most other cultures, the black cat is a prized possession & owning one is said to bring the owner good luck.
The origin of the black cat & good luck is said to have begun in Ancient Egypt with the sacred black cat of BAST. BAST is an official deity of Egypt in the 22nd dynasty. During her reign, Egyptians courted her favors, by keeping black cats in their houses, believing that she would become part of the cat in spirit & grace their home with riches & prosperity.
Charles I of England (1600-1649) owned a black cat. He loved the cat so much so that he had guards protecting the cat 24 hours a day, until one day the cat fell in & died. Charles I was heard to proclaim, "Alas my luck is gone." True enough, he was arrested the next day & charged with high treason. He was later put to his death.
In Sumatra, during a long drought, a black cat is found and thrown into the river. The village folk would line the bank, forcing the cat to swim until almost exhausted. Once the cat is exhausted they allow the cat to get out of the water. The women of the village then chase the black cat while throwing water on the cat and themselves. This is supposed to bring rain. Although this tradition might bring good luck to the village, pity the poor cat that has the bad luck of being chosen for this!
In the Yorkshires, a black cat was said to bring the fishermen home safely from the seas. During the most prominent part of the fishing industry in this village, black kittens were often catnapped and sold to the highest bidder (usually the wives of the fishermen) by racketeers trying to cash in on the popular superstition.
In parts of Europe, if a black cat crosses your path, you are considered to have good fortune. If a black cat walks into your house or home, you are truly blessed. But in the United States, the term Black Cat was used by the fishermen and sailors of Michigan's Lake Superior for a boat that was believed to have a spell cast upon it and therefore, never will carry a full crew.
The attitude towards black cats is said to change sometime around the pilgrims arriving at Plymouth Rock. The pilgrims were devout Christians & they were deeply suspicious of anything deemed of the devil. Comprised of England's & Europeans, these pilgrims viewed black cat as a companion or a familiar to witches. Anyone caught with a black cat would be severely punished or even killed. They viewed the black cat as part demon and part sorcery.
When the Christians gained a foothold in America they also propelled this myth forward, during a time when witches were coming into fruition in America. Sharing a sisterhood with witches in England, and rumored to use black cats as an integral part of their craft. Black cats were suddenly cast into a bad light many black cats were sought after and killed. If a farmer believed his land had a spell cast upon it, the only way to break that spell was to shoot a black cat with a silver bullet.
Ask anyone what comes to mind when black cat is mentioned and cat lovers will inevitably say: mysterious, alluring, beautiful, playful, elegant and gorgeous. But non-cat owners would come up with: bad luck, witches familiar, evil, demonic, mean, spooky and Halloween... So you can see the superstition lives on even today.
Here are more superstitions from all around the world. Some are good & some, not necessarily so:
- A black cat seen from behind foretells a bad omen -- Unknown
- A strange black cat on your porch brings prosperity -- Scottish
- A black cat crossing ones path by moonlight means death in an epidemic -- Irish
- A black cats carry demons -- Unknown
- If a black cat walks towards you, it brings good fortune, but if it walks away, it take the good fortune with it.
- It is believed that if a black lived in the house, the young lass would have plenty of suitors -- English
- It is believed that if you find one white hair on a black cat, Lady Luck will smile upon you -- French
- While it is lucky to own a black cat, it is extremely unlucky to come across one accidentally -- English
- It is considered bad luck to pass a black cat at 9pm
- It is thought that a reincarnated soul may be liberated by throwing a black cat into a fire -- Indian
- Women could change their soul into a black cat & that any harm brought to the cat would be suffered by the women -- Bengali
- It is thought that black cats were reincarnated being able to divine the future -- Celtic
- It is believed that if a black cat jumped on the bed of a sick person it meant death is near -- German
- It is thought that black cats were thought to carry the souls of the dead to the other world -- Finnish
- It is thought that the presence of a black cat foretold of poverty -- Chinese