Black cats for luck: that is an old and an equally modern superstition. But it must be really black, with no admixture of other colours; not even a single hair. A lady who recently lost her cat said, "I should not have minded, but it was perfectly black." The following instance of a belief in black-cat luck is taken from the Badminton Magazine (March, 1903):--"The Prince (Ranjitsinghi) has a great superstition in black cats, and the appearance of one at a shooting gathering serves to convince him in advance of a fine morning, plus a fine bag, and singularly enough it always turns out so. Twice in succession, he claims, has the timely appearance of a black cat been instrumental in winning a county match for Sussex, in addition to other occasions." A superstitious belief in cats, black and otherwise, is of great antiquity. Among the Egyptians the animals were regarded with the utmost reverence, and their mummified remains, a cargo of which was imported to England not many years ago, are frequently found in the same tombs as their worshippers. In witchcraft and soothsaying, cats have always played no unimportant part, and wherever we see a picture or description of a witch's hovel, there, too, we shall certainly find portrayed her companion in darkness--a black cat.
"In a dirtie haire-lace
She leads on a brace
Of black-bore-cats to attend her;
Who scratch at the moone,
And threaten at noone
Of night from Heaven to render her."
-HERRICK ("The Hag")
One of the special ingredients in the filthy concoctions with which these hags were supposed to work their villainy was the brains of a black cat. Ben Jonson in his Masque of Queens mentions this ingredient in the song sung by the witches:--
"I from the jaws of a gardener's bitch,
Did snatch these bones and then leaped the ditch;
Yet I went back to the house again,
Killed the black cat, and here's the brain."
The black cat has been accounted lucky from time immemorial, but that is about all that can be traced. There is no reason why this position should have been assigned to him; and of course the superstition itself is an absurdity among the most illiterate of its kind.