Africa, Black Cats and Superstition

Black cat superstitions in AfricaI’ll make a provocative statement and say there is more superstition in Africa than there is in the West and it is one factor that is holding Africa back in its development from being a third world country (developing and one of the least developed countries).

That is not to say that there isn’t a pile of superstition in the West. There is. Superstition is a legacy of humankind’s past. We are yet to fully shrug it off. Shrugging off superstitions is a world developmental problem and it hurts animals, big time.

However, in Africa, superstition is not considered superstition. Superstition is a part of mainstream life and it substitutes rational or scientific thought. This blocks development for many reasons. One is that if a problem is considered to be due to some sort of magic beyond a person’s control nothing is done to solve it. It is accepted. Nothing happens. No development.

And now to the cat. A recent comment on PoC, by Natalie, living in South Africa, caught my eye and it supported what I had guessed. It is the first comment of its kind on PoC and describes, at first hand, the reaction of a black women, Ketiwe*,  to seeing a black cat . It is on the Do Black People Dislike Cats? page.

Hi all, I’m 15 years old living in South Africa. Well, today my Helper (she’s a woman well into her 30s) who is from the township area started freaking out when she saw the stray cat we had taken In!!

We were forced to take the kitty outside and I just sat there with the cat ._. When I came inside again, Ketiwe* was still in a state! She was crying, shaking, sniffling so much, I honestly thought that maybe she witnessed a murder or something! She still refuses to talk to us about what she sees when she looks at the kitty !

Did I mention it’s a black cat? Unfortunately – there are many instances where the people from the townships ‘hurt’ black cats that roam their streets, and that brings overwhelming rat problems – it’s horribleee because I’m an avid animal-lover – the RSPCA (an animal shelter) does everything they can to help stop this, but I think this is more of an issue that the black children are brought up with – superstition ?

Even some kids in my class refer to black cats as ‘Tokaloshe’ or muti – a kind of witchcraft in South Africa… There’s hardly any information regarding their superstitions on the internet .. So I hope Ketiwe* calms down so I could ask her what it is .. Sucks that I know so little about my own South Africa.

I think it is a great comment. I asked Natalie to interview this lady to find out more about her thoughts. Perhaps it is too tricky to do that. Perhaps I should not have asked.

Superstitions not only result in people being terrified of black cats and then, as a result, hurting them, it also holds back development. I think it is double trouble. You would have thought that education would gradually erode superstitious beliefs but superstition may prevent enlightened and scientific education taking place.

It is shocking that the black cat causes so much fear in so many parts of the world. I don’t think this is a legacy of the medieval past in Europe and witchcraft. I think many people have an underlying fear of the cat, full-stop, because the cat is such a good predator and the black cat is singled out because it is harder to see at dusk and dawn and at night. It is like the black panther, the melanistic jaguar, which is famed for it stealth and power. We have to go back to the caveman to understand black cat superstitions.

I hate this line of Natalie’s comment because of the hurt to cats….

…there are many instances where the people from the townships ‘hurt’ black cats that roam their streets, and that brings overwhelming rat problems

It does not pay to be born black if you are a cat, which, in respect of Africa, is horribly ironic don’t you think?

I’ll finish on another quote from Awais in Pakistan…

If Africans are superstitious then there are certain reasons; it is my own experience that to meet a black cat is usually not good for any person. I am not alone in demonstrating such a view, but there are many who have similar approaches to black cats. I have met many persons who are not human beings but they are (jins) spirits and they are very good friends of mine. I am a journalist and there is no need to tell a lie in this regard that I have an opportunity of meeting such super human things. Still I am in contact of these spirits. If someone has a desire to meet them I can facilitate the meeting (BBC website from 2004)

It is not rational is it?

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Africa, Black Cats and Superstition — 4 Comments

  1. When it comes to what people are taught from their youth it can be hard to change attitudes. We have Baptists that are taught that Mormons and Catholics are devil worshipers. I am Mormon and have had ministers either treat me like these poor kitties or they try to save me. It is so unfair that these people are taught traditions that bring them so much fear and unhappiness. Religious wise, aren’t we suppose to love all mankind? I think that extends to animals too. Black cats are no more evil than any other animal on earth. Period. They are just unlucky to have been included in these myths.

  2. As a Catholic , the “SNAKE” is considered as the “DEVIL” and as a Muslim or Jew, the “PIG” is considered a devil ! ?.So much for religious preaching’s inherited from childhood from our religious sects that ultimately results in persecution of some of these animals .As for the Cat, it is the only domestic pet never ever mentioned in the bible and could that be one of the reasons for superstition based against it, let alone the “Black Colour”? Thanks to Marc i am understanding a bit of local American religious sects like the Baptists and the Mormons and surprised about the prejudices of the Baptists against Catholics and Mormons.My knowledge of Mormons was of the biography of late Howard.Hughes and the fact that Mormons are a wealthy polygamous religious sect of America. In India , we Indians are very superstitious about cats , the same as in Africa and hence till date we don’t have a registered cat club although every city has a “Dog Club” !With economic progress the status of the Cat as a pet is gradually on the ascendant and just this year India had its first “Cat Club” and “Cat Show” in Bangalore and i am proud to have been one of the pioneers in this field along with a little help from Mr Michael.Broad of “P.O.C”.

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