All horror movie fans have noticed the fact that black cats have been a staple of the horror movie industry for years. Black cat decorations also adorn many of our houses come October 31st each and every year. Why is it that so much importance has been given to cats over the years by the horror movie industry? What is the symbolism of cats in horror?
Black cats have been part of the history of the belief structure of Wicca ever since practitioners were called witches, and burned at the stake. Many Druids and witches found that they had an affinity for cats, and gave them almost humanistic qualities. The fears of the pagan religions led the Christians of Europe to fear black cats and deepen the associations with witches. This made black cats a prime addition to horror movies.
During Victorian years in England, Egyptology became a huge craze. Interest in gods and goddesses such as Bast (the mother of cats) spread across the empire. Some of the early rumors of curses attached with the tombs of the pharaohs came to be known in England as the, “Kiss of Bast.” This added to some of the superstitions about the followers of, and those animals protect by, Bast. Notice that many of the early mummy movies always included a cat walking around somewhere.
The belief that a cat crossing your path has been a European superstition for years. Some in Europe believed that a cat seen on the window pain meant that someone in the house was going to die during the night. Superstition has always been a area that was poised for Hollywood horror movies.
Gothic authors frequently used cats, and black cats in particular, to tie in many of the superstitions of the felines into their work. Lord Dunsany, Poe, and Lovecraft all used cats frequently in their works. Since many of the early horror movie directors read these works, cats, and black cats, made their way into many of the horror movies that came out at the time.
The next time that you see a cat, or black cat, in a horror movie, remember that the tradition of cats and horror dates back hundreds, if not thousands of years. Religious fears from centuries past have given us one of the major staples and clichés in the horror movie industry. Just remember that these fears are nothing more than a way to put you in a state of unease. There is nothing inherently evil about cats or black cats…or is there?