Blog: Black Cats, Bats and Halloween

SouthPaw Animal Clinic

Halloween is a time of costumes, trick-or-treating, and candy. If you have you ever wondered about the history of jack-o-lanterns and witches or wondered what black cats, bats, and spiders have to do with Halloween, read on to find out more.

Halloween originally started as a Celtic celebration. About 2,000 years ago, it was known as “Samhain”, which is Gaelic for “summer’s end”. It was the celebration of the harvest and crops and signified the death of summer and the change of the seasons. During this celebration, a pagan goddess known as “The Crone” was honored. She was kind and all knowing and symbolized wisdom, change, and the turning of the seasons. When people died, it was believed that their souls traveled to her Cauldron, which symbolized her womb. These souls went there to await rebirth and her stirring allowed new souls to flow in while older souls could come out to be reincarnated.

The Celts believed that during Samhain, the veil between the world of the living and the spirit world was the thinnest. It was believed that souls could walk among the living during this time. These souls could take the form of people and might even knock on your door asking for food or money. Turning these souls away could result in curses or haunting, so it was tradition to have a special treat to give to any visitors so they would not leave empty handed. It was also tradition to hollow out turnips and place candles in them to guide the souls back to the world of the dead. Scary faces were carved in them to frighten the ghosts away from the homes of the living.

In the Dark Ages, during the witch hunts, these beliefs took a more sinister turn. The Crone became a grisly, devil-loving witch that stirred a smoldering cauldron for her magic spells. She associated with animals given to her by the devil known as “familiars”. It was also believed that the witch, demons or the devil himself could take the form of these “familiars” which were often cats, bats or spiders.

It is easy to see how many of our modern day traditions sprouted from these ancient beliefs. Although many of these symbols are still used in decorations to get into the holiday spirit, thankfully our superstitions about cats, bats, and spiders have, for the most part, disappeared. Please remember to keep your pets indoors and safe from any unexpected outdoor adventures or accidental chocolate ingestion…and have a Happy Halloween!

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