Does black cat superstition come from Pope Gregory IX’s papal bull Vox in Rama?

Why do black cats have a reputation for evil? It appears that an overzealous and cruel German priest and nobleman, Konrad von Marburg kick started the superstitious link between black cats and Satan in 1232. The conventional view is that Pope Gregory IX “initiated the feline Holocaust in Europe” by denouncing the black cat as diabolical in his Papal Bull of 1233. In denouncing the black cat, he gave his approval to the widespread persecution of cats leading to 5 centuries of cat hatred which in turn led to the torture of witches by burning them at the stake and further in turn led to an increase in population of rats which spread the Black Death killing millions (75m-200m).

Konrad von Marburg started the ant-black cat campaign in 1232
Konrad von Marburg started the ant-black cat campaign in 1232. Image: MikeB based on black cat image by Warren Photographic (with his permission) and Wikipedia image of von Marburg (McLeod – Own work)
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Pope Gregory IX (1147-1241) is described as a cat hater par excellence. A researcher, Alex Johnson (museum hack), has kindly provided his version of the famous Vox in Rama, the Papal Bull. This was a declaration by the Pope to all the faithful.

It included a report on a ritual by a ‘satanic sect’ written by a zealous inquisitor named Konrad von Marburg who was appointed by the Pope. The Pope granted him permission to ignore standard procedures in investigating heresy. An open door to bias and injustice for an overzealous priest.

In fact, it was Konrad von Marburg’s condemnation of Luciferianism which led to Vox in Rama. These are his words in relation to the black cat as translated and perhaps modified by others including Alex Johnson:

“Afterwards, they sit down to a meal and when they have arisen from it, the certain statue, which is usual in a set of this kind, a black cat descends backwards, with its tail erect. First the novice, then the master, then each one of the order who are worthy and perfect, kiss the cat on its buttocks. Then each [returns] to his place and, speaking certain responses, they incline their heads toward to cat. “Forgive us!” says the master, and the one next to him repeats this, a third responding, ‘We know, master!’ A fourth says ‘And we must obey’.”

But there it is: the notorious reference to black cats doing devil-like things. Konrad was linking the black cat with the devil. But is there a connection between this and the catastrophic Black Death?

This papal bull was published between 1232 and 1234. The Black Death started in 1346, over 100 years later. A long time but it is plausible because Roman Catholicism was more than a religion during the Middle Ages. It was a way of thinking. A culture. A way of life.

If the top man was and is the vicar of God and the embodiment of spiritual authority and worldly powers what he said stuck. Back in the day what he said was unquestioned as the truth.

This toxic combination would have led to a change in attitude towards domestic cats at that time. To actually spell out black cats in Vox in Rama is extraordinary. In reflection it looks like an example of massive superstition and simplistic bias against a companion animal.

The colour black is synonymous with darkness and the night. A time when evil deeds occur out of sight. Konrad, bless him (he needed to be blessed with something good) was it seems a pretty nasty character. He had heretics burned at the stake without due process and justice.

He was the main protagonist and the founder of this enduring, superstitious link between black cats and the devil. Vox in Rama cemented his apparent hatred of cats. If I am correct, he has caused untold misery to black cats down the ages to today.

The black cat superstition is alive and well in 2022 thanks to good ole Konrad. Or would it have happened anyway? 😎

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