Monday, 10 November 2014

Black cats are lucky!

Why is this blog called "Souvenirs of a Black Cat"?
Because I've always a particular affection for black cats, a real soft spot.
Their shiny and soft hair, with the colour of the night, their intense and intelligent green eyes, are like the apotheosis of the felinity to me.
Whoever knows and loves cats, is aware that the black ones are usually charachterized by a particular intelligence, by a curious predilection for everything made of paper and by an even more adventurous and rebel spirit than the feline average.
So, if we ever want to humanize it (even if I'm nor actually sure I would give it any advantages in this way), the black cat would no doubt be a traveller and writer cat - therefore my perfect alter ego, the ideal mascotte for my blog about travels, observations and mysteries.
But it's not just this...

I gatti neri portano fortuna - Souvenirs of a Black Cat
The perk of being a black cat is that you camouflage pretty well on black suitcases...

I've grown up among cats - black cats, white ones, tabby, ginger, of every breed and charachter, each one of them with their own perks and charachteristics. I'm not sure whether this is the reason why I've learnt to love them: I don't think you can actually "learn" love, as if it was a rule or a lesson; but I think you can sow it, and then it blooms if the soil is fertile.
My mum has sowed a lot of cats in my heart since I were a kid.
And one of these cats in particular was black.

I gatti neri portano fortuna - Souvenirs of a Black Cat
[image taken from the web]

On Christmas Eve 2000 my mum came back home with a tiny black kitty she had found inside an old fridge out of order, in the basement of someone who didn't want her and who was hoping to get rid of her closing her inside there.
Nera was an adult but young cat, petite and lively. She used to love sleeping on my books and my diaries. She was jumping on the table when I was writing and she was dropping my pens to play with them; or sometimes she was stealing my black cat necklace and she was carrying it around. She loved pink colour: I have a framed picture of hers where she's wearing a pink feather on her head which she had grabbed by herself (and I still keep on ignoring where she might have found it).
She used to run like a nut along the hall skidding with her paws for then jumping on your lap.
Nera is no longer with us since 2006.
Somebody took her away from us. I don't know who has been to do so, and moreovere I don't know why, but when we had found her she had a cross wound on her head as if she had been hit by a blunt object.
Maybe I rather not knowing, because I still feel a deep rage about it, the kind of rage given by free cruelty, summed up to the pain of having lost a dear living creature - and therefore I prefer not having someone to direct it on.

But actually in many ancient civilizations killing an animal with no reason was considered something that could bear bad luck.
And also when animals were killed with the purpose of eating them, and therefore in order to survive, people used to make rituals of purification and pardon. 

I gatti neri portano fortuna - Souvenirs of a Black Cat

They were giving a soul to animals, often even wiser and more archaic than the one of human beings, so much that they were considered reincarnations of gods.
For cats this used to happen in Ancient Egypt and India, where the goddesses Bastet and Sasti used to be worshipped, and they both had feline looks.
Always in India, the principle of the cosmic balance between light and shadown, between day and night, used to be represented by a white cat and a black one.
Cats were also sacred in Islamic countries, and Mohammed himself had his own cat, whom he had a deep bond with.
Etruscans, Romans and Greeks used to welcome cats, as pets and as skilled rats hunters.
Norse goddess Freya was travelling on a fire charriot towed by two cats. Freya was a love and fertility goddess and she represented the feminine principle in the Viking pantheon, so, in order to ask for her help or to thank her for a received grace, peasants used to offer bowls of milk to stray cats.

I gatti neri portano fortuna - Souvenirs of a Black Cat

And so? What happened then?
Middle Ages have been a dark and gloomy period, which has casted so many shadows where previously light and wisdom were shining - and inside such shadows fear has grown generating horrible monsters out of ignorance and superstition, which have destroyed so many things.
Some things have been destroyed by suffocating them, some others by denying them, some else by burning them on the fire.
During Middle Ages the most cruel and vaste genocide of the history of humanity has taken place: an extermination made in the name of God by tortures and fires, known as witch trials.

I gatti neri portano fortuna - Souvenirs of a Black Cat

During this blind homicide delirium made of superstition we know that hundreds of thousands of women have died in an horrible way, women who were only guilty of bearing an ancient wisdom that Church wanted to suffocate into the darkness of ignorance - but most of time they didn't even belong to this category.
Most of time their only fault was being women, being somehow different, showing a certain degree of freedom and indipendence that wasn't approved by those who wanted to have not only a spiritual dominion, but a temporal one as well.
People are dominated if you get the chance to dominate their mind, if you don't allow them to think. People are dominated if you put them under fear and ignorance - and this is the kind of dominion that Medieval Church was giving, not caring anymore about the real message of Jesus, but preferring to concentrate on power, richness, spiritual dictatorship obtained through the menace of Hell for those who didn't want to obey their dogmas.
And it was a men's dominion, in a men's world, where even God had reincarnated under a man's appearance, and not anymore under the two principles as it used to happen during ancient times.
Woman had just become a mean for generating, but she didn't contain in herself the divine anymore.
Sex had become a sin, and not anymore a divine gift, a manifestation of what is sacred within human nature, but a manifestation of Evil - and along with it, the woman as well, the female body that starts such instinct in the man's mind, dragging him away from the spiritual dimension, from the communion with God.

Cat has always been associated with the feminine principle, for its grace, its elegance, but also for its indipendent spirit, its elusive mistery which can easily work as a metaphor for all what they were trying to suffocate in the darkness of superstition.
Black is a colour with a powerful symbolic meaning: it's the color of the night, of the absence of light; but night scares only those who see it as the end of one day, and not as the beginning of another one.
The black cat is therefore a special creature, who has always been associated to special feminine figures, bearers of an ancient wisdom, who knew how the see the night as a new beginning. And with these women it has also shared its destinity in the most painful hour.
Pope Gregory IX issued a note in 1233 to officially excommunicate cats - as he thought they weren't creatures of God, but of Satan. It was enough to be seen taking care of a black cat for being burnt alive as witches.
And, among the flames, together with thousands of women, also thousands of cats lost their lives.
According to some historians, this feline genocide has been one of the main causes of the diffusion of the Black Plague in Europe, whose disease was transmitted by rats - that were swarming all around, without their feline nemesis.

I gatti neri portano fortuna - Souvenirs of a Black Cat
[picture taken from the web]

In some areas of Europe, anyway, apparently the traditions coming from the ancient times ended up being stronger than what brutally imposed by the Inquisition: in England and Ireland black cats are still considered lucky nowadays.
In Cornwall there is the legend of the Matagot, a sort of good spirit wandering around the countryside in the body of a black cat: if this cat decides to get into somebody's house, it has to be treated like the most important guest, offering him the best food and a warm resting place, because the spirit will pay in gold the generosity of those who have welcomed him. Of course there is no way to know before if it's just a common stray cat or a generous goblin in feline disguise; but if there is a doubt it's better not to make any mistakes.
There are similar legends in Ireland and in Turkey; while in the Yorkshire the black cat is more specialized in the sentimental area, helping unmarried girls who welcome him in their houses to find their own Mr Right.

I gatti neri portano fortuna - Souvenirs of a Black Cat you see why I love UK so much??
In Wales sailors think it's a good sign to board on the ship a black cat, and about this also the Phoenicians agree, but for them it wasn't really a matter of superstition, but actually about a concrete usefulness to clean the bulk out of mice: black cats (I can confirm you) have always been averagely more skilled in hunting than most of cats, and their colour allowed them to camouflage very well in the darkness of the bulks.
Perhaps the superstion about the black cat crossing your path being a sign of bad luck actually comes from here: once upon a time, in some Mediterrean cities by the sea, seeing one of them wandering around, meant that a Phoenician pirat ship had just got docked somewhere near, and therefore lootings and destruction were about to come.

I gatti neri portano fortuna - Souvenirs of a Black Cat it's why!
May it come from this or from something else, superstion always comes from ignorance, from credences that have been instilled by chance or by convenience and stay there for centuries, for generations - because nobody takes care about checking their reliability with rational criteria, o simply because another consequence of ignorance is fear.
What you don't know scares you, and the fear of the monster makes you become a monster too, to defend yourself before it will eat you.
But we live in an age and in an area of the world where welfare and mass culture make the chance to know and to open the mind available for everyone.

I gatti neri portano fortuna - Souvenirs of a Black Cat

Ignorance is not a blame, bu nowadays it cannot be enough of an excuse when it becomes a way to vent one's own lowest and meanest instincts against those who cannot defend themselves.
The small contribute of this post is to show how black cats have been considered in radically opposite ways according to time and place, and, therefore, to explode the validity of a superstition which has just a validity strictly connected to culture.
Faith and beliefs must be respected, but above everything there should be the respect for the life of every living creature - which, anyway, should also be the first rule of every religion.
This is what I believe, and this is the kind of messaga I'd like to give.

I gatti neri portano fortuna - Souvenirs of a Black Cat

Besides the fact that good or bad luck mostly depend on our attitude and on the actions that we (don't) take: taking the blame on external agents totally unrelated means not wanting to take the responsability for trying to build one's own fortune; hurting those who don't have any guilt means breaking a balance in a bloody and cruel way, which surely won't set the Universe, God or whoever to send any positive and lucky energy towards who has made such gesture.
Groucho Marx used to say that "if  a black cat is crossing your path, simply means that the animal is going somewhere".

I gatti neri portano fortuna - Souvenirs of a Black Cat

I will add that, all the black cats that have crossed my path, Nera and all the other who have come after her, have always brought me a lot of fortune: the one that derives from their love and beauty.

1 comment:

  1. I am also a cat lover, and I have a big natural place where at least ten cats are living in very good conditions.
    I don't understand why some people are afraid of black cats, they are the same like any other cat so has nothing to do with bad luck or anything related.