ASPCA’s Top 10 Pet Safety Tips for Halloween

The article below was published by the ACPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) website.  Feel free to click on the link for more information. 

No Scaredy Cats This Halloween: Top 10 Safety Tips for Pet Parents

Grey kitty in a witch's hat

Try not to annoy your pet, no matter how cute she looks.

 

Photo by A. Jones

Attention, animal lovers, it’s almost the spookiest night of the year! The ASPCA recommends taking some common sense precautions this Halloween to keep you and your pet saying “trick or treat!” all the way to November 1.

1. No tricks, no treats: That bowl of candy is for trick-or-treaters, not for Scruffy and Fluffy. Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also cause problems. If you do suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

2. Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered to be relatively nontoxic, but they can produce stomach upset in pets who nibble on them.

3. Wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations should be kept out of reach of your pets. If chewed, your pet might suffer cuts or burns, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.

4. A carved pumpkin certainly is festive, but do exercise caution if you choose to add a candle. Pets can easily knock a lit pumpkin over and cause a fire. Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames.

5. Dress-up can be a big mess-up for some pets. Please don’t put your dog or cat in a costume UNLESS you know he or she loves it (yup, a few pets are real hams!). For pets who prefer their “birthday suits,” however, wearing a costume may cause undue stress.

Trixie wears a skull bandana

A happy pet = a happy owner
Photo by A. Jones

6. If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume isn’t annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict the animal’s movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe, bark or meow. Also, be sure to try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting him go au naturale or donning a festive bandana.

7. Take a closer look at your pet’s costume and make sure it does not have small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that he could choke on. Also, ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.

8. All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets.

9. When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn’t dart outside.

10. IDs, please! Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver, increaing the chances that he or she will be returned to you

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Top 12 Witches in History

Bio.com rates the following as the Five Most Famous “Witches” in History:

1. Mother Shipton

Prophetess Mother Shipton

Prophetess Mother Shipton

Ursula Southeil, also known as Mother Shipton, was said to have been England’s greatest clairvoyant.  According to legend, she predicted the Spanish Armada, the Great Plague of London, the Great Fire of London and the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Perhaps adding to her reputation, this “English prophetess of the 16th century” had the misfortune of being disfigured.  Locals called her “Hag Face” and claimed her father to be the Devil.  Despite some believing she was Satan’s spawn, Mother Shipton died of natural causes and is said to be buried on “unholy ground” on the outer edges of York in 1561.

2. Agnes Sampson

The Scottish midwife and healer was victim of fear and speculation around the early 1590s.  King James VI of Scotland and his queen, Anne of Denmark-Norway, launched a campaign against witches because the royals suffered a horrific sea voyage believing it was witches who cast a spell on Mother Nature, causing the horrendous storm.

She was one of 70 people accused in the North Berwick area between 1950-1592.    With Misery loving Company, .Geillis Duncan, an accused witch, named Agnes Sampson to be a witch.

According to sources, Agnes denied the charges brought against her.  However she relented after being tortured by a “witch’s bridle,” an instrument that inserted four prongs in the mouth and was attached to a wall.  She was then strangled and burned to death.

3. Merga Bien

She was a well-to-do German heiress in the 17th Century, who was childless with her first two husbands.  It was after 14 years of marriage to her third husband that she became pregnant.  Townspeople found this odd and came to the conclusion that Merga must have had sex with the Devil.   It should also be noted that shortly before becoming accused of being a witch, she had just returned to the city after arguing with one of her husband’s employers.

She was burned at the stake in the Fall of 1603.

Witch hunter Balthasar von Dernbach, the prince and abbot of the spire-topped town of Fulda, had embarked on a series of witch trials upon his return from exile in 1602. The Fulda witch trials would go on to claim 250 lives, ending only after Dernbach’s death in 1605.

4. Malin Matsdotter

The Swedish widow of Finnish descent was accused of being a witch by of her own daughters.  The girls stated that Malin had abducted them and took them to a satanic sabbath.  Malin, along with Anna Simonsdotter Hack, were the last victims executed for being witches during the great Swedish witch hunt of 1668-76, often referred to as “The Great Noise.”

She was considered the only witch in Swedish history to have been burned alive.  This was unique because those accused of being witches were decapitated or hanged to death before their bodies were burned at the stake like Anna Simonsdotter Hack.   While Anna asked for forgiveness, Malin refused and maintained her innocence, refusing to shake hands with her daughters as one called for her to repent.  One witness account claimed [Malin] gave her daughter into the hands of the devil and cursed her for eternity.”  As she was being burned alive, Malin reportedly did not scream nor did she appear to be in pain — for the locals, it was further proof she was a witch.

Shortly after the grisly incident, one of Malin’s daughters was convicted of perjury and sentenced to death.

Examination of a Witch

Examination of a Witch in Salem

5. The Salem Witches

“Of all the witch trials in history, The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 in Massachusetts is arguably the most famous. They occurred during a time of great insecurity in Puritan colonial America: the trauma of a British-French war on American soil still lingered, there was fear of Native American retribution, smallpox had spread throughout the colonies, and longtime jealousies between neighboring towns were coming to a head.

In January 1692 two young girls began suffering from fits, uncontrollable screaming, and body contortions. A local doctor diagnosed the girls’ conditions as the work of witches, although toxicologists in recent history have offered a more palatable explanation, believing the girls were poisoned by a specific type of fungus that was found in their food supply. Symptoms of ingesting the fungus explained the girls’ responses (i.e. muscle spasms, delusions, etc).

More young women began mirroring the symptoms and by February, three women were accused of bewitching the two young girls: a Caribbean slave named Tituba, a homeless beggar named Sarah Good, and an impoverished elderly women named Sarah Osborn.

Seeing that her fate was sealed, Tituba confessed to being a witch and began accusing others of dark magic. Other women followed her lead and hysteria ensued. On June 10, the first alleged witch, Bridget Bishop, was hung at the gallows in Salem and many more died thereafter. In total over 150 men and women were implicated during this period.

By the late 1690s the trials were deemed unlawful, and a decade later financial restitution was given to those families whose loved ones had been executed or damaged by the hysteria. Still, the pain and resentment of what happened in Salem lived on for centuries to come.”

It is believed the Ergot Poisoning may have been the true cause behind the Salem Witch Trials. Behavioral Psychologist and Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York Linda Caporael believes the hallucinations, convulsions, and bizarre skin sensations may have been due to a fungus-infested crop of rye.

She concedes that mass hysteria and/or outright fakery were other contributing factors.  Caporal said, ” “At the end of June and the beginning of July, 1692, I think there was more imagination than ergot. But by that point in time three people had already been hung, and the trials had taken a path that people felt they had to stay on.”

She added, “One of the clearest examples is the young accuser who, in the late summer, said ‘wait a minute, I don’t think that there are witches after all.’ At that point, the other girls began accusing HER of being a witch, and she immediately seemed to understand what was going on and began being a vociferous accuser again.”

More Notorious Witches in History

Here’s more notorious women, accused of being witches compiled by Jenna Ivy of Weird Stuff.

Anna Koldings aka "The Devil's Mother"

Anna Koldings aka “The Devil’s Mother”

Anna Koldings

She was known by her contemporaries as “The Devil’s Mother,” was a Danish witch who was also accused of summoning storms against Queen Anne’s (pictured above) ship. She met others in the house of Karen the Weaver where they performed spells against the Queen. Witch hunts in Denmark had become popular after the country converted to Protestantism in the early 16th century and while genuine religious zeal fueled this fervor, high-ranking officials also used them for political advantage. The Danish minister of finance, who was being investigated for undersupplying the royal ships for James VI’s journey with Queen Anne across the North Sea, voiced his suspicions of Karen to shift the blame from himself. His accusations led to her arrest. During the investigation, Karen pointed out several others including Anna Koldings. Imprisoned and tortured, Anna eventually confessed and contributed the names of five others, one of which was the wife of the mayor. With twelve other women, Anna was burned at the stake in Kronborg, the elegant green-roofed castle which provided the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Bridget Bishop

Bridget Bishop

Bridget Bishop was the first person executed for witchcraft during the Salem Massachusetts witch trails in 1692.

Bridget Bishop was the first women executed as a result of the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. Bishop was a successful and outspoken woman. She owned several taverns and was known to dress in provocative red gowns. The townspeople of Salem claimed a wide variety of accusations against her which would lead to her death. Allegedly she had bewitched five girls, poisoned a pig, and attacked men while they slept. (The last accusation was probably due to a natural condition, sleep paralysis).

Dolls were also instrumental in her denunciation. A local named Samuel Shattuck testified that she had asked him to dye lace for her which he believed she intended to use for a poppet. The poppet predated the Voodoo doll and serves a similar purpose of transferring whatever spell is inflicted on the poppet to the person it represents. Salem townsfolk John and William Bly later found poppets in Bishop’s house. Her resentful attitude throughout her trial eventually led to her prosecution, which would be followed by 71 more.

Katharina Henot

Germany’s first female postmaster, was tried for witchcraft in Cologne in 1627. In the middle of one of Cologne’s cold winters, a nun at the local convent accused Katharina of causing illness and death among the nuns and the archbishop arrested Henot based on the nun’s suspicions. During her imprisonment Henot was tortured but never confessed to anything.

Despite her brother’s attempts to prove her innocence, she was sentenced to be burned alive in May. Her exoneration was not attained until just this year. As of June 28th, 2012, the City Council of Cologne has cleared Henot’s name as well as the other victims of the Cologne witch trials because they believed the executions were the result of political conspiracies.

Karin Svensdotter

In a town located within a forested and boggy area of Sweden, Karin Svensdotter, a maid, claimed that her seven children were fathered by the King of the Faeries. This resulted in her being put on trial in 1656 for her own unbidden confession. In 17th century Sweden, consorting with fairies was a genuine crime which was usually punished the same way as sodomy or bestiality.

Prior cases involving men’s trysts with nymphs had sometimes ended in execution. However Svensdotter’s case became an early instance of compassion for the insane. Her judge had been advised by church officials that Satan had driven her mad. Instead of punishment, the judge ordered the church to pray for her. Later she affirmed that she no longer saw the fairy.

Kael Merrie

During the Roermond witch trials in the Spanish Netherlands, Kael Merrie, a Dutch woman, was accused of paralyzing a pig, preventing milk from being churned into butter, and making children sick. The Roermond witch trials, directed by Catholic Spaniards, were the largest of the Netherlands.

Kael Merrie

Kael Merrie was a victim of the Roermond Witch Trial.

The accused often came to Roermond with hopes of acquittal, but zealous mercenaries were prone to lynch or drown the freed women anyways. In early trials such as Merrie’s, the Dutch court maintained skepticism towards peasant accusations and would not use torture to extract confessions. Merrie was only banished because she pleaded innocent, but upon leaving Roermond marauding Spanish mercenaries found her and drowned her in the Maas River.

Entjen Gillis

Entjen Gellis, a Dutch midwife, confessed to killing fetuses and newborn babies during the Roermond witch trials of 1613, the deadliest year of all for witches in the Netherlands. Local magistrates raided the rural town of Straelen where they arrested Gillis and thirteen other witches. Their magic was said to have caused diseases and miscarriages and they became part of a larger trial, sparked by the sudden deaths of hundreds of newborns, elders, and animals.

As an emergency measure, the magistrates rounded up 63 witches and sentenced them all to death within a short period of time. As in earlier confessions, they claimed the devil had made them do it, but unlike Karin Svensdotter there would be no mercy for the witches of Roermond.

Märet Jonsdotter

Märet Jonsdotter was accused of attending Witches’ Sabbaths in Blockula, a mythical Swedish meadow. Jonsdotter was the first witch tried in Sweden during “The Great Noise” that swept through the country between 1668 and 1676. A local shepherd girl, Gertrud Svendsdotter, whose father had unsuccessfully courted Märet, was the first to accuse her. Getrud was not without motivation. At the time, the local priest of Älvdalen, a Swedish town that looks like it belongs to a storybook, was investigating Gertrud because her small brother alleged that she had led a parade of goats across the water like Moses.

Gertrud named Märet as the person who had taught her witchcraft and also claimed that Märet had introduced her to the devil. During the trial, Gertud’s father declared that Märet had ridden him as a horse to Blockula. Märet’s little sister asserted during questioning that she and Märet had ridden cows to Blockula where they slaughtered them and slept with the Devil. Because she would not confess, Märet could not be executed at this point in time. But the witch craze continued to spread in Sweden and laws requiring confession for execution were soon modified. When she was again accused during the Mora Witch Trials she was declared guilty. In 1672 Jonsdotter was decapitated, as was the Swedish custom, before being burned.

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice/Spiced Nuts Recipes by Taste of Home©

For a delicious spice to add to pumpkin pie, try this spice blend. The blend can also be added to spiced nut blends.—Mary Dixon, Catlin, Illinois

Makes 30 Servings

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice

Photo by Taste of Home©

Yield: Approximately  2-1/2 tablespoons.

Ingredients:

  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

 

 

 

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place up to 6 months.
  2. Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice may be used as a substitute for store-bought pumpkin pie spice or to prepare the following recipe: Spiced Nuts.

 

Originally published as Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice in Country Woman November/December 1995

 

 

Spiced Nuts

Yield: 6 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 2 cans (12 ounces each) salted mixed nuts
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Homemade Pumpkin Spice (recipe above)

 

Directions: 

  1. In a small bowl, beat egg white until frothy. Add water; beat until soft peaks form. Stir in nuts; toss to coat. Combine sugar and spice; stir into nut mixture. Spread nuts evenly on a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan.
  2. Bake at 325° for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool on waxed paper.

 
Originally published as Spiced Nuts in Country Woman November/December 1995, p21

 

 

 

Black Cats: Halloween, Legends and Superstitions

Witches’ Familiars and Other Longtime Superstitions about Black Cats

by Franny Syufy, Cats Expert

Black cats have played a major role for centuries in folklore, superstition, and mythology. Black cats in the middle ages were believed to be witches’ familiars, and some people even believed them to be witches incarnate. Many of these old superstitions about black cats exist to this day.
Explore the mythology and lore about black cats, witches, and other beliefs that carry on in the 21st century, especially around Halloween."A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere." - Groucho Marx

Black Cats and Luck

Depending on one’s area of the world (and the century one lived in), black cats portend either good or bad luck. Here are some examples, a couple of them quite involved, with some tongue-in-cheek asides.

  • In Asia and the U.K., a black cat is considered lucky.
  • In Yorkshire, England, it may be lucky to own a black cat, but it is unlucky have one cross your path.
  • To dream of a black cat is lucky.
  • On the other paw, seeing a black cat in your dream indicates that you are experiencing some fear in using your psychic abilities and believing in your intuition. I wonder who makes up these things?
  • A funeral procession meeting up with a black cat is believed to forecast the death of another family member.
  • In 16th century Italy, people believed that if someone was sick he would die if a black cat lay on his bed.
  • In North America, it’s considered bad luck if a black cat crosses your path and good luck if a white cat crosses your path. In the U.K., switch the colors, I guess unless you live in Yorkshire.
  • Finding a white hair on a black cat brings good luck. Don’t pluck it though, or your luck may turn bad.
  • A strange black cat on a porch brings prosperity to the owner. (Scottish Lore)
  • A black cat seen from behind portends a bad omen. (And a black cat seen from the front is a GOOD omen?)
  • Ahhh…an explanation here: If a black cat walks towards you, it brings good fortune, but if it walks away, it takes the good luck with it.
  • If a black cat crosses your path while you’re driving, turn your hat around backwards and mark an X on your windshield to prevent bad luck. Oh my, what if you aren’t wearing a hat? Or you’re not carrying a felt-tip pen or lipstick? Please, don’t try this one at home! (Or while you’re driving.)
black kitten with big green eyes

Legend has it that a kitten born in May will be bad. With a face like that? Surely not.

More Lore about Black Cats

  • Sixteenth-century Italians believed that if a black cat jumped on the bed of an ill person, the person would soon die.
  • In Colonial America, Scottish immigrants believed that a black cat entering a wake was bad luck, and could indicated the death of a family member.
  • The Norse goddess Freyja drove a chariot pulled by a pair of black cats. Some versions of the tale claim they became swift black horses, possessed by the Devil. After serving Freya for 7 years, the cats were rewarded by being turned into witches, disguised as black cats.
  • A Roman solder killed a black cat in Egypt, and was killed by an angry mob of locals.
  • Appalachian folklore said that if you had a stye on the eyelid, rubbing the tail of a black cat on it would make the stye go away.
  • If you find a single white hair on your otherwise-black cat, it’s a good omen. In England’s border countries and southern Scotland, a strange black cat on the front porch brings good fortune.
  • Fisherman’s wives kept black cats while their husbands went away to sea. They believed that the black cats would prevent a disaster at sea. These black cats were considered so valuable that they were often stolen.
  • Sailors, who allowed the cat on ship, believed if a cat was thrown overboard it was  guaranteed to raise a storm and bring bad luck of all sorts.
    Sailor with a ship’s cat aboard the cruiser Olympia, ca. 1898

    Sailor with a ship’s cat aboard the cruiser Olympia, ca. 1898/Source: Independence Seaport Museum.

  • In Ireland, having your moonlit path crossed by a black cat was thought to foretell death in an epidemic.
  • It is considered bad luck to pass a black cat after 9 pm
  • To reverse the bad luck curse of a black cat crossing your path, first walk in a circle, then go backward across the spot where it happened and count to 13.
  • In North America, it’s bad luck if a black cat crosses your path and good luck if a white cat crosses your path. In Britain and Ireland, it’s the opposite.
    If a black cat walks towards you, it brings good fortune, but if it walks away, it takes the good luck with it.
  • In 16th century Italy, people believed that if a black cat lay on the bed of a sick man, he would die. However, they also believed that a cat will not remain in the house where someone is about to die – if the family cat refused to stay indoors, this was a bad omen.

 

Black Cats as Witches’ Familiars

Salem the Cat from the ABC show "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch"

Salem Saberhagen – Talking black American Short Hair Breed cat (voice of Nick Bakay) that lived with Sabrina, a pretty blond teenage witch (Melissa Joan Hart) on the fantasy comedy SABRINA, THE TEENAGE WITCH/ABC/1996-2003.

  • It was largely in the Middle Ages that the black cat became affiliated with evil. Because cats are nocturnal and roam at night, they were believed to be supernatural servants of witches, or even witches themselves, according to Glenda Moore.
  • Folklore has it that if a witch becomes human, her black cat will no longer reside in her house.
  • Some believe that black cats are witches in disguise, or witches reborn.
  • Others believe black cats are witches familiars (beings that aid witches in performing their craft). Not all familiars were black cats though; some were cats of other colors, dogs, pigs, or other animals.
  • For several centuries “witches” were rounded up, tried, and killed by burning or other violent methods; often their familiars were killed along with them.

Cats and Witches

  • Traits associated with cats include cleverness, unpredictability, healing and witchcraft, since in ancient times it was believed that witches took the form of their cats at night.
  • It was largely in the Middle Ages that the black cat became affiliated with evil. Because cats are nocturnal and roam at night, they were believed to be supernatural servants of witches, or even witches themselves. Partly because of the cat’s sleek movements and eyes that ‘glow’ at night, they became the embodiment of darkness, mystery, and evil, possessing frightening powers. If a black cat walked into the room of an ill person, and the person later died, it was blamed on the cat’s supernatural powers. If a black cat crossed a person’s path without harming them, this indicated that the person was then protected by the devil. Often times, a cat would find shelter with older women who were living in solitude. The cat became a source of comfort and companionship, and the old woman would curse anyone who mistreated it. If one of these tormentors became ill, the witch and her familiar were blamed.
  • A kitten born in May will be a witches cat.
  • Some believe black cats are witches in disguise.
  • Others believe black cats are witches familiars (beings that aid witches in performing their craft).

 

The Color BlackBombay breed of cat

  1. Black is one of the three basic colors of cats which Franny Syufy would call “pure.” The other two are red and white. All other colors and color patterns of cats are a combination of any two or three of these basic colors.The differences are all a matter of genetics, a very complicated study of the genes which are carried down from cat-to-cat. Cats with a dominant black gene are often (but not always) pure black in appearance. A cat with two parents, both possessed of a dominant black gene, will almost always be pure black. However, if either of these cats has a recessive red gene, the child may also carry it, a fact which accounts for the fact that sometimes black cats appear “rusty” in the sun.
  2. While many recognized breeds have been around for years, or are the result of naturally occurring genetic mutations, the Bombay is a result of years of selective breeding in an effort to develop a black “Parlour Panther.” It is the only recognized cat breed whose only acceptable color is black.Although stunning as sleek, black show cats with mesmerizing copper eyes, the Bombay is easily adaptable as a pet who will play fetch, guard your house, or even venture out with you on a leash.
  3. In addition to the Bombay, listed above, The Cat Fanciers’ Association allows solid black as a color option in 21 other breeds. The color description is fairly standard for all those breeds: BLACK: dense coal black, sound from roots to tip of fur. Free from any tinge of rust on the tips. Nose leather: black. Paw pads: black or brown.

The exceptions are:

Oriental – EBONY: dense coal black. Free from any tinge of rust on tips or smoke undercoat. Nose leather: black. Paw pads: black or brown.
Sphynx – BLACK: black. One level tone from nose to tip of tail. Nose leather: black. Paw pads: black or brown.
Ragamuffin – Although black is not specifically mentioned, the standard allows for “any color, with or without white,” so technically speaking, an all-black Ragamuffin would be allowed under the breed standard.

 

Black Cats and Halloween 

Why are Black Cats Associated with Halloween?

by Catherine Beyer

 

The connection between black cats and Halloween is complicated and frequently unclear. There are many claims made about connections, but many of them lack historical backing.

Witch flying on a broomstick with black cat, pumpkin and raven

Witch flying on a broomstick with black cat, pumpkin and raven

Witch Familiar

During the European witch-craze, witches were widely believed to keep familiars, which were malevolent spirits or demons that disguised themselves in the shape of animals and often fed off the witch’s blood. Cats were certainly considered potential familiars. After all, everyone had them to help control vermin population. But there were plenty of other animal familiars as well, including dogs, ferrets, birds, spiders, goats, toads, and hares, all of which could easily be found in the vicinity of most suspected witches.

Nature of Cats

Cats do have some qualities that can make them creepy to suspicious people. They are relatively intelligent, but they are also not terribly social with humans, unlike dogs. They’re harder to train and more often live on their own. They are naturally nocturnal, and humans naturally view nighttime as a time of danger before the invention of electric light because humans have terrible night vision.

Papal Bull Against Cats

Two papal bulls are sometimes pointed to as evidence of official persecution of cats. The first is the Summis desiderantes affectibus decreed in 1484 by Innocent VIII. This is the document commonly used to mark the beginning of the European witch-craze. However, while the document accepts the reality of witchcraft and threatens lay people with excommunication if they do not cooperate with Inquisition investigations on the matter, it doesn’t mention cats.
The second document is another papal bull, Vox in Rama, theoretically released by Gregory IX around 1232. The problem with this document is there’s doubt as to whether it actually existed. The first reference to it is relatively modern, a good 500 years after the reign of Gregory IX.

The Color Black

In Christian cultures, white is generally a symbol of goodness and purity, and black is a symbol of danger, corruption and evil. Any sort of black animal therefore could be more suspect than animals of other colors.

 

Natural Superstitions about Black Cats

Many urban legends state that Europeans have a long history of folklore vilifying black cats. In fact, there’s a wide variety of folklore about black cats, of which some are positive and some are negative.

Cat Worship in Egypt

The Egyptian Goddess Sekhmet

Egyptian goddess Sekhmet

It’s certainly true that cats were held in extremely high esteem in Egypt . However, there is absolutely no reason to think that things that happened thousands of miles away would color beliefs in northern Europe hundreds or thousands of years later. Some claim that the Church vilified cats to counteract their divine status in Egypt, but there’s no evidence of this, and it really reaches beyond common sense.
This belief presumes that large numbers of people in Europe had every aspect of their lives ruled by the Church, which is simply not true. There were all sorts of folklore that was not only separate from Christianity, but even ran counter to it.

Modern Tradition

Regardless of how black cats became associated with Halloween, the mere fact that it has become associated with Halloween is a reason for it to remain so. Seeing black cat decorations at Halloween reinforces the connection between black cats and Halloween.
As a comparison, consider the green-skinned witch often used in Halloween decorations. The first known depiction of a green-skinned witch was in The Wizard of Oz, a source that has absolutely nothing to do with Halloween. But, for whatever reason, we started making witches green in Halloween ornaments, and now it’s an accepted part of Halloween.

 

Cat Magic, Legends and Folklore

by Patti Wigington

 

Ever have the privilege of living with a cat? If you have, you know that they have a certain degree of unique magical energy. It’s not just our modern domesticated felines, though – people have seen cats as magical creatures for a long time. Let’s look at some of the magic, legends and folklore associated with cats throughout the ages.

Touch Not the Cat

In many societies and cultures, it was believed that a sure-fire way to bring misfortune into your life was to deliberately harm a cat. An old sailors’ tale cautions against throwing the ship’s cat overboard – the superstition said that this would practically guarantee stormy seas, rough wind, and possibly even a sinking, or at the very least, drownings. Of course, keeping cats on board had a practical purpose, as well – it kept the rat population down to a manageable level.

In some mountain communities, it is believed that if a farmer killed a cat, his cattle or livestock would sicken and die. In other areas, there’s a legend that cat-killing will bring about weak or dying crops.

The Egyptian goddess Bastet

The Egyptian goddess Bastet

In ancient Egypt, cats were regarded as sacred because of their association with the goddesses Bast and Sekhmet. To kill a cat was grounds for harsh punishment, according to the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus, who wrote, “Whoever kills a cat in Egypt is condemned to death, whether he committed this crime deliberately or not. The people gather and kill him.”

In both France and Wales, there’s a legend that if a girl steps on a cat’s tail, she’ll be unlucky in love. If she’s engaged, it will get called off, and if she’s seeking a husband, she won’t find him for at least a year following her cat-tail-stepping transgression.

Lucky Cats

In Japan, the maneki-neko is a cat figurine who brings good luck into your home. Typically made of ceramic, the maneki-neko is also called the Beckoning Cat or Happy Cat. His upraised paw is a sign of welcome. It is believed that the raised paw draws money and fortune to your home, and the paw held next to the body helps keep it there. Maneki-neko is often found in feng shui.

Maneki-neko, the Lucky Cat

Maneki-neko, the “beckoning cat,” is a Japanese figure who brings good luck to its owner

England’s King Charles once had a cat that he loved very much. According to legend, he assigned keepers to maintain the cat’s safety and comfort around the clock. However, once the cat fell ill and died, Charles’ luck ran out, and he was either arrested or died himself the day after his cat passed away, depending upon which version of the story you hear.

In Renaissance-era Great Britain, there was a custom that if you were a guest in a home, you should kiss the family cat upon your arrival to ensure a harmonious visit. Of course, if you’ve had a cat you know that a guest who fails to make nice with your feline could end up having a miserable stay.

There’s a story in rural parts of Italy that if a cat sneezes, everyone who hears it will be blessed with good fortune.

Cats and Metaphysics

Cats are believed to be able to predict the weather – if a cat spends the entire day looking out a window, it could mean rain is on the way.

In Colonial America, if your cat spent the day with her back to the fire, then it indicated a cold snap was coming in.

Sailors often used the behavior of ships’ cats to foretell weather events – sneezes meant a rain or a thunderstorm was imminent, and a cat who groomed its fur against the grain was predicting hail or snow and if it was frisky, the wind would soon blow.

Some people believe that cats can predict death. In Ireland, there’s a tale that a black cat crossing your path in the moonlight meant you’d fall victim to an epidemic or plague. Parts of Eastern Europe tell a folktale of a cat yowling in the night to warn of coming doom.

In many Neopagan traditions, practitioners report that cats frequently pass through magically designated areas, such as circles which have been cast, and seem to make themselves contentedly at home within the space. In fact, they often seem curious about magical activities, and cats will often lay themselves down in the middle of an altar or workspace, sometimes even falling asleep on top of a Book of Shadows.

Early Americans believed if a cat washes her face in front of several people, the first person she looks at will be the first to get married.

A strange black cat on your porch brings prosperity. – Scottish superstition

Leo sitting in the sun

Photo by A. Jones

 

 

After dark all cats are leopards. — Zuni proverb

 

White Chicken Chili

by Lisa Leake for Epicurious

White Chicken Chili

Photo by Lisa Leake

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 jalapeño, minced
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels (no need to thaw)
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans white beans (such as Great Northern or cannellini), drained and rinsed
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth, store bought or homemade
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Optional toppings:
Chopped cilantro, sour cream, grated Monterey Jack cheese, diced avocado, and/or corn tortilla strips

 

Directions:

  1. In a medium soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeño and cook, stirring, until the onion has softened, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is lightly browned on the outside and no longer pink on the inside (add more olive oil if the pot starts to dry out), 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Toss the minced garlic and spices into the pot and turn a few times to coat the chicken evenly. Add the corn, beans, and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, about 20 minutes.
  4. Break up some of the beans with the back of a wooden spoon to help thicken the chili. Stir in the cream, garnish with the desired toppings, and serve!

Lisa’s Tip
This dish is also great with leftover cooked chicken. Just skip step 2 and add the cooked chicken with the garlic and spices in step 3.

100 Days of Real Food
From 100 Days of Real Food: Fast & Fabulous © 2016 by Lisa Leake. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Mini Gyro Burgers with Watermelon-Feta Salad

Recipe by Better Homes & Gardens

Yield: 4 servings/Sandwiches

 

Ingredients: 

 

Directions: 

In a medium bowl combine all ingredients except pita bread rounds. Shape into eight 1/2-inch thick patties; place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil 4 inches from heat 6 to 9 minutes or until done (an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into patties registers 165 degrees F), turning once. Place 2 patties on each pita; top with Watermelon-Feta Salad. If desired, sprinkle with mint leaves. Fold over to eat.

 

Watermelon-Feta Salad

Yield: 1 -1/3cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chopped seedless watermelon
  • 1/4 c. crumbed feta cheese (1 oz.)
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped red onion
  • 1 Tbsp. snipped fresh mint
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. olive oil

 

Directions: 

  1. In a small bowl combine watermelon, cheese, onion, mint, lemon juice and oil.  Toss gently to coat.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

 

 

Grilled Chicken with Watermelon Glaze

Recipe by Better Homes and Gardens

Yield: 6 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe Watermelon Glaze*
  • 1 whole chicken or 3 1/2 lbs. meaty chicken pieces
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • Snipped fresh herbs (optional)

 

Directions: 

  1. Prepare Watermelon Glaze; reserve 1/3 c. of the glaze.
  2. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. To butterfly chicken*(see below), using poultry or kitchen shears, cut along each side of backbone to remove it. Turn chicken breast-side up. Open the two sides of the chicken as if opening a book and lay it flat. Break breastbone by firmly applying pressure and pressing down. Tuck wing tips under upper wings.
  3. Prepare grill for indirect grilling**(see below).  Brush chicken with olive oil. Season chicken on both sides with salt and black pepper. Place skin-side down, on center of grill over indirect medium heat. Cover and grill for 25 minutes. Turn chicken over. Brush a little of the remaining 2/3 cup glaze on skin. Cover and grill for 25 to 30 minutes more, or until juices run clear and an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of thigh registers 180 degrees F, brushing with glaze two more times.
  4. Remove chicken from grill; brush with the reserved 1/3 cup glaze. Let chicken rest for 10 minutes. Cut chicken into pieces. Serve with watermelon slices reserved from Watermelon Glaze and, if desired, sprinkle with herbs.

 

From the Test Kitchen

*Butterflying Chicken:  Butterflying makes it easy to cook a whole chicken on the grill. Kitchen or poultry shears are the best tool for the job. Make a cut about 1-1/2 inches apart on both sides of the backbone, cutting all the way down, and remove backbone.

**Indirect Grilling: This method positions the fire to one side or both ends of the grill. Food sits over the unlit part, and the grill is covered so the food cooks from all sides. This is best for thicker cuts that need longer cooking, such as roasts and ribs.

 

Watermelon Glaze

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 of a small watermelon
  • One 12-oz. jar apple jelly
  • Peel and juice from 1 small lime
  • 2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp. bottled hot pepper sauce
  • pinch of salt

 

Directions: 

  1. In a small saucepan, melt apple jelly over low heat stirring often so it does not burn. Stir in the 1 c. reserved watermelon juice, the lime juice and lime peel. Add crushed red pepper, hot pepper sauce, and salt. Mix and taste. Adjust seasoning as desired; remove from heat.
  2. Cut watermelon in half. Slice and reserve one half for serving with chicken; refrigerate until serving time. Cut the remaining watermelon half into chunks (about 4 cups). Place in a food mill or juicer and collect the juice.  Or place watermelon chunks in blender. Cover and blend until nearly smooth. Pour mixture into a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl; discard solid bits. Reserve 1 cup of the juice and drink or freeze the rest.
  3. Use glaze warm, or let it cool and transfer to a clean jar. Glaze will keep, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

 

 

Nutrition Facts (Grilled Chicken with Watermelon Glaze):

Per serving: 539 kcal, 27 g fat (8 g sat. fat, 6 g polyunsaturated fat, 11 g monounsaturated fat), 135 mg chol., 313 mg sodium, 39 g carb., 1 g fiber, 30 g sugar, 35 g pro.