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Halloween is a European holiday of Celtic origin, “Americanized” and taken over by many peoples of the Western world. The non-Christian celebration through its manifestations, however, is accepted by the Catholic church. Halloween is celebrated on the night of October 31, although in some countries the date varies. For example, in Sweden, it is celebrated on the first Saturday in November.
The term Halloween is short for the Scottish name all Hallows ‘even, the name of the Christian feast of all Saints being first attested in the 16th century. In countries where Catholic and Protestant Christianity prevails, Halloween was associated with all Saints Day, celebrated on November 1.
Historian Nicholas Rogers observed that while some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, the feast is most commonly linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, originally written as Samuin. The name comes from old Irish and means “end of summer”. The Samhain Festival celebrates the end of the “bright half” of the year and the beginning of the “dark half”, and is sometimes considered to be the “Celtic new year”.
The black cat
The ancient Celts believed that the boundary between this world and the underworld was weakened on the day of Samhain, allowing spirits, good or bad, to cross it. The ancestors of the family were honored and invited home, while the evil spirits were banished. It is believed that the need to ward off evil spirits led to wearing costumes and masks.
They banished evil spirits by disguising themselves in an evil spirit in the hope of passing unnoticed. In Scotland, the role of spirits was played by young men dressed in white with masked or blackened faces.
Samhain was a time when winter supplies were made and animals were cut to keep meat for the cold season. The campfires also played a role in the celebrations. All the other fires were lit by the big fire. The bones of the cut animals were also thrown into the fire. Sometimes two fires were lit side by side, and people and animals passed between them as a purification ritual.
The black cat – between superstition and reason for celebration
All year long, we avoid meeting her. And if we run into it, by chance, we step back and consider it a reason for bad luck. Well, this isn’t the case on Halloween night. The black cat then arouses everyone’s admiration for the simple fact that, along with the “Jack’s lantern”, bats and witches, it is one of the hallmarks of this holiday.
Over the centuries, the black cat has played a rather significant role in the traditions of certain peoples, a role with a mythical base focused more on superstition and prejudice. In the Middle Ages, it was believed that the black cat was a reliable ally of witches, and some people even believed that they were actually reincarnated witches! Many of the superstitions of that time still exist today.
Depending on what part of the world they are in, black cats are either a sign of future luck or bad luck
- In Asia and in the U.K., the black cat brings good luck.
- In Yorkshire, England, you’re lucky to have a black cat, but you’re unlucky to meet one on the street.
- If you dream of a black cat, you will be lucky.
- If during a funeral procession the cortege meets a black cat, it is said that another member of the family will die.
- In 16th century Italy, people believed that if a black cat lay in bed next to someone who was sick, he would die.
- In North America, it’s bad luck if a black cat crosses your path, and good luck if the cat is white. In the U.K., the colors reverse, unless you live in Yorkshire.
- If you find white hair in the fur of a black cat, you will be lucky.
- A black cat on the porch brings prosperity.
- A black cat seen from the back foretells that something bad will happen.
- If a black cat comes toward you, it is good luck, but if it moves away it is said to take the luck with it.
As I mentioned, the black cat was associated with witchcraft. In October, Halloween month, black cats and witches are the favorite costumes of those who celebrate, the most sought-after decoration models, but also the themes of some parties. These customs are so attached to modern society that we have forgotten that Halloween originated in ancient times.
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Because cats are nocturnal animals, and especially black cats have a more sinister allure, according to some, they have been affiliated with evil and believed to possess supernatural powers, along with their masters, the witches.
Trick or treat
During the festivities, the poor begged for food and people offered them pies called “soul cakes” in exchange for the promise to pray for the souls of the dead in their family. This tradition was a relatively inexpensive way for the whole Community to enjoy the holiday. Theoretically, in this way people could prevent being fooled (trick) by giving children or those who were knocking on their door in costume a little attention (treat): candy, sweets, apples.
Along with the black cat, the pumpkin is one of the important symbols of the Halloween holiday, its use as a lamp is based on a very interesting story.
“The Stingy Jack ” and the Halloween pumpkin have a very big connection. It seems that Jack had been drinking with the Devil and, as he did not want to pay for the drink, convinced him to turn into a gold coin so he could pay. But Jack kept the coin and put it in a pocket alongside a silver one, making it impossible for the Devil to return to his original state.
Jack eventually released him with the promise that he would not disturb him for a year, and in case he died he would not claim his soul. The following year Jack lured the devil and asked him to climb a tree to bring him an apple. Meanwhile, Jack carved the sign of the cross on the bark of the tree, and the Devil could not come down from the tree until he promised not to disturb him for 10 years. Shortly after, Jack died, and God did not take him to heaven. Nor did the Devil, as they agreed, receive him into hell and sent him out into the night just with a lump of burning coal to light his way.
Jack put the coal in a pumpkin and has been traveling Earth ever since. Once in America, the Irish brought with them the habit of making bright pumpkins to put in the window. The purpose? To scare the spirits of the dead and Jack’s. This is how jack-o’-lantern was born.
Every cat has its own temperament, and cat lovers know this very well. The black cat is no different from the rest of the cats, except through its green eyes which seem to stand out even better on the black background of the fur.