During my most recent volunteer visit with the cats that I help care for, the sweetest cats I met that day were two adult male black cats.
As one nestled in my lap, I gave him the name of one of my favorite spiritual teachers, so calm and loving was this cat’s presence. Sitting there with Mooji in my lap, I found it extremely painful to think about the horrors that might await some black cats across the nation during this season of Halloween.
That a black cat can be associated with anything other than being a cat is a purely human convention, based on a belief system more than 3,000 years old, and grounded in misunderstanding. In Medieval times, women (mostly) who practiced healing with plants and who were tuned into nature, and the spiritual aspect of things rather than the material, were greatly misunderstood — a misunderstanding that led to suspicion and fear.
In the 2012 movie, “Bless Me Ultima,” based on Rudolfo Anaya’s 1972 novel, the boy, Tony, asks his dad, “Why is there evil in the world?” His father replies, “The way I see it, most things we call evil in this world aren’t really evil at all, it’s just that we don’t understand them, so we call them evil.”
Sadly, for these misunderstood “witches,” they and everything associated with them, including their black clothing (which was also worn by nuns and widows in those days) and the animals they lived with and cared for, also came to be seen as “evil.” Unfortunately, the short leap between calling something “evil” and giving oneself permission to torture and kill it (in this case the “witch” and the cat she hung out with) is something human beings have been doing since the beginning of time.
Mooji says “we have a poor relationship with our thinking,” and when we identify with a faulty belief, it’s like unleashing a serpent in our mind. Combine that faulty belief with anger, frustration and fear of the unknown and voila! We get a human with lots of adrenaline and no brain; a bully using any excuse to cause harm, seeking out someone else’s vengeance by hurting something that can’t fight back. Now that’s evil.”
There are many times of the year, like the springtime puppy and kitten boom, Fourth of July terror, holiday poisonings and summer heat when pet parents, animal welfare organizations, shelters, and the veterinary community become extra concerned about animals. But in October, as humans gear up for trick-or-treat night and other Halloween festivities, we animal welfare people begin to keep very close eyes on our black feline friends.
In truth, “Halloween” is a combination of two words — “hallowed,” which means sacred, holy and venerated; and “evening” (e’en in Old English language.) For pagans and Christians alike, the night was one of connection to the souls of the departed, and a chance to pray them into the afterlife and on to their “final reward.” It’s a tragedy that such a night could be turned into an excuse to torture and kill things.
The ancient Egyptians worshiped cats of all colors, and considered them to be magical. In Japan, a black cat is considered good luck. And if you’re in Scotland or Ireland (where my ancestors came from) and a black cat crosses your path, you’ll be rewarded with health, wealth and happiness! It’s sad that our culture overwhelmingly chose to hold onto the story that allows for destruction, discrimination, and domination, rather than one that holds a belief in benevolence… and magic.
In Anaya’s book, many people viewed Ultima (a curandera,) with suspicion, and called her a “witch” because she healed with plants and was connected to the spiritual world and to nature. In the movie, Tony’s father explains Ultima to him in this way: “In the end, mijo, understanding simply means to have sympathy … and Ultima has sympathy...but with her it’s so complete that she can touch people’s souls and heal them.” “That’s her magic?” Tony asks. “Si, mijo,” he replies, “and in all the world, no greater magic can exist.” Just imagine if we all were all capable of that kind of magic.
Be well, be kind and take care of the animals.