KIDSGAZETTE

Are black cats bad luck? And other Halloween omens and superstitions

A black cat stands between rails in Frankfurt, Germany, early Friday, Sept. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
A black cat stands between rails in Frankfurt, Germany, early Friday, Sept. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
KIDSGAZETTE ARTICLES

10:00AM | Mon, November 30, 2020

10:00AM | Mon, November 30, 2020

10:00AM | Mon, November 30, 2020

10:00AM | Mon, November 30, 2020

View More KIDSGAZETTE Articles

Every black cat I know is sweet and snugly. So why are they thought to be a bad omen?

Their bad reputation likely dates back centuries. In 1233, the pope, who oversees the whole Catholic church, told his followers black cats were an incarnation of the devil.

Catholics took the pope’s declaration so seriously that they started rounding up and killing felines, according to cat historian Donald Engels, and by the 1300s there were hardly any cats left in all of Europe.

Turning against the cats was a big mistake. Cats hunt rats and mice, and without any predators, those little critters helped spread the bubonic plague through Europe starting in 1347. Tens of millions of Europeans would die from the disease.

The lesson? Cats aren’t the devil. Let them be!

The Western world has lots of superstitious ideas, and they all seem to have something to do with Halloween. Even jack-o’-lanterns are rooted in an old superstition — and it’s another one involving the devil.

Have you ever wondered why we cut holes in the tops of pumpkins, scrape out their insides and carve faces into them? Whose idea was that?

This tradition started centuries ago, too. There’s an Irish myth about a guy named Jack who invited the devil to have a drink with him. But “Stingy Jack,” as he was called, didn’t want to pay for his drink.

Stingy Jack convinced the devil to transform in a coin, according to a version of the legend on the History Channel’s website. But then he didn’t pay — instead he stuck the coin in his pocket next to a cross, trapping the devil.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Eventually, he let the devil go on the condition that when he died, he wouldn’t go to hell. But when Jack died, heaven wouldn’t let him in either. So the devil left Jack out in the dark with just a burning coal to light his way.

Jack put the coal in a hollowed-out turnip and has been wandering around ever since, according to legend, and the Irish started calling him Jack of the Lantern. Soon he was known as Jack-o’-lantern.

The Irish, Scots and Brits started making versions of jack-o’-lanterns with turnips, potatoes and beets. When they immigrated to the United States and found out about the pumpkin, they switched to the orange jack-o’-lanterns we know today.

Comments: molly.duffy@thegazette.com

KIDSGAZETTE ARTICLES

10:00AM | Mon, November 30, 2020

10:00AM | Mon, November 30, 2020

10:00AM | Mon, November 30, 2020

View More KIDSGAZETTE Articles

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.