Where did the black cat get its bad reputation?

by Daniel Mackie February 18, 2016 1 Comment


Pope Gregory IX has got a lot to answer for!

Cat in a night Garden By Daniel Mackie at The DM Collection

Historically the black cat has been seen as lucky, but also unlucky, depending on whether it's walking towards or away from you. The black cat is a shapeshifter, a courier for witches, a witches familiar. Yet if you are a lady and own a black cat, you shall have many suitors!

It wasn't until the early 19th century that the black cat managed to shake off its "unlucky" reputation. Its name was blackened in the middle ages and a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then.

The black cat's reputation was, to put it bluntly, ruined by Pope Gregory IX in 1232. He issued a Papal Bull, or decree, called the Vox in Rama which was sent to King Henry (VII) of Germany demanding that all efforts must be made to stop the practice of Luciferianism, a form of devil worship.

Now, the 12th century wasn't such a great time to be anything but a catholic. It was a time of great superstition and the start of the “demonisation of heretics". Prior to the Vox in Rama, Conrad of Marburg had been sent out by the pope to uncover satanic cults. You guessed it, he found them and not only were they worshipping the devil - but also a diabolical black cat! 

This looks like where it all went wrong for the black puss. Read more about the bizarre contents of the Vox in Rama here. But I must press on.

The Vox in Rama is the first official document that condemns the black cat as an incarnation of Satan. As a result it was effectively a death warrant for black cats everywhere and they were slaughtered without mercy. 

Some scholars claim that this worsened the Black Death a century after Gregory's time. This was because the plague was spread by rats who were unchecked in Europe due to the decline of cat numbers.

Thankfully that was a long time ago and the black cat's reputation is now fully restored.

Take a look at the beautiful black cat design I've included in the Nocturnal Collection - I think you'll agree he's far from a 12th century demon! 

 Image © Daniel Mackie 

Daniel Mackie
Daniel Mackie


1 Response


February 19, 2016


I discovered your work on a greetings card stand yesterday in the Webb Street Co. shop in Chichester and fell in love! I wanted to buy them all up! I bought the “tomorrow is another day” red squirrel & made a note to web-search later on. Now I’m musing over your blog with my tea. Lots of food for thought: folklore, pre-Christian religion, old phrases and fables. And such beautiful animals! Now I want a Kitsune fox for my birthday. XD

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in News / Work in progress / Mythology

Kingfisher - Halcyon Days

by Daniel Mackie March 12, 2021

In Greek mythology, Halcyone and Ceyx were lovers who incurred the wrath of the god Zeus by mocking him and his wife. Angered, Zeus killed Ceyx.

Read More

Belling The Cat- Aesop's Fable

by Daniel Mackie December 30, 2020

Ideas are nothing, execution is everything.
Belling the Cat is a fable first recored in the 12th ceuntry. A group of mice debate plans to neutralise the threat of a marauding cat. One of them has an idea of placing a bell around its neck, so that they will be warned of its approach. The others applaud the plan, until one mouse asks who will volunteer to place the bell on the cat. All of them make excuses!

Read More

Tiger in Buckinghamsire!

by Daniel Mackie June 14, 2020

This is Mack's Tiger. It was part of a school project based on my work and a theme of animals in the natural habitat.  Mack created this on Procreate on his mums iPad

Read More