Witchcraft is the origin of the long held belief in many countries and cultures that black cats bring bad luck if they cross your path. Confusingly the opposite belief – that they bring good luck – is also a superstition in some places.
It started in Europe in the Middle Ages and during three centuries of persecution of the cat. Cats were considered to be familiars of witches and disciples of Satan. ‘Familiars’ are ‘a demon supposedly attending and obeying a witch, often said to assume the form of an animal’.
The superstition evolved that a black cat crossing a person’s path brings bad luck. Specifically and precisely it originated in the belief that the black cat was marking a path to Satan.
Not all witches familiars were black. At the first official trial for witchcraft in 1566, Angnes Waterhouse and her daughter Joan were executed as witches. It is reported that the woman had a ‘whyte spotted cat’. They ‘feed the sayde cat with breade and milkye’. This cat was white with spots. That sounds like a bicolour cat.
Another bit of witchcraft trivia is the origin of the well known saying that a cat has nine lives. A witch could take on the body of her cat nine times:
It was permitted to a witch to take on her catte’s body nine times. – Beware of the Cat.
I believe that this book was written by a printer’s assistant and a poet: William Baldwin. Some academics believe that it is the first novel ever published in the English language. The first two sections are horror stories inclusion supernatural elements and cats.
Sources: Wild Cats of the World and Wikipedia.