Black Cats

Today is Friday the 13th.
Although I should know better I am superstitious. I would never submit a manuscript or deliver finished artwork on a Friday the 13th. If a black cat crosses my path I walk backwards for 7 steps or throw salt over my left shoulder as soon as possible. (Salt tossing is my all purpose antidote for bad luck).

Several years ago I illustrated the book Knock on Wood: Poems About Superstitions by Janet S. Wong. It was great fun to illustrate. Unfortunately it taught me new superstitions to worry about. (For example, you should never leave your hat on a bed.) Here is a black cat from that book.

Earlier this week I began a draft for this blog post. I was unable to finish it because my previously perfect computer stopped working midstream; after several hours on the help line I found out that the hard drive was broken. No amount of salt tossing could fix it. I am working on a different computer now. Even as some primitive part of my brain thinks that my computer problems were related to the date or the subject matter of my post, another part wonders how I could ever give these superstitions credence. Why should black cats be considered bad luck?

kotofei ivanovich by Tatyana Marevna

Why not black horses?

Why not orange cats?

Art from Where Is Catkin? by Janet Lord

Do you indulge in any superstitions? Can you recommend any charms or antidotes to bad luck? Can you remove the hex from my hard drive?

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12 responses to “Black Cats

  1. Marcie Sillman

    frankly, the more I’m around my black cat, the better I love him, and them. my superstition has to do with the evil eye: when I’m knitting, there’s always a (semi) intentional mistake left in. when things are too perfect, that draws attention of the evil eye.

  2. I got over my fear of black cats when I wrote and illustrated Bad Luck Boswell, about a black cat who is shunned by the superstitious villagers and later saves them from an evil witch with his bad luck capabilities. I think my superstitious nature comes to the fore when I get one of those chain e-mails saying if I don’t pass this along to at least five friends I’ll have bad luck FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE! I never pass them along and am thoroughly disgusted that anyone would send such a letter to a friend. I try to laugh it off but secretly I wonder if they are true.

    • Julie Paschkis

      Chain letters pack a double punch because you have to choose between the possibility of accepting bad luck and the certainty of letting down a friend PLUS you have to harass other friends.I always choose the bad luck and so far it’s been okay. I think we should start a new superstition:the passing on of chain letters of any kind will bring seven days of bad luck.

  3. I had two black cats–brothers–and I always felt good that they cancelled out any bad luck that might have come from having just one. When one of them died, a series of difficult things happened right away. It was hard not to think there was something to that.

  4. Here’s my superstition… Never put your pillows with the pillow case openings towards the middle of the bed! I also should know better, but when I was a kid, I got it in my head somehow that this might cause bad luck and also bad dreams – and to top it off, most definitely a poorly made bed.
    For anyone who wants a black cat, the ASPCA is allowing people to adopt them for free today. Growing up, I had a very dark gray cat was creatively named “Dark Shadows” by my grandfather. I like the idea that black cats could be the darkest of shadows. Thanks Julie for this post!

  5. I don’t like to submit things on a Monday usually. Not sure why, but maybe it’s my Mamas and Papas.

  6. Never heard that one about the pillowcases before – but now that I have, I’ll be more careful! In my family, it was considered very bad luck to rock a rocking chair when no one was sitting in it, ditto with fully opening an umbrella inside the house. Both predicted a death in the family! For us, spilled salt was the simple form of bad luck, fixable by throwing a bit of it over your left shoulder with your right hand (we were very specific about how to ward off evil!) I wrote a poem several years ago about bad omens – and I posted it today in honor of Friday the 13th, over at The Drift Record.

  7. After living in Tokyo for a year when I was in college, I came home with the Japanese superstition about the number 4 – the word for four is “shi” which is also the word for death. Now when I go to the grocery store I can’t ever buy four pieces of fruit. Like bananas. I always have to find a bunch with three or five, or take one off of a four-bunch. I feel guilty leaving one lone banana behind, but my fear of bad juju always wins out.

  8. My grandmother got me started on superstition and to this day I’m stuck. She was particularly strict about throwing salt over your shoulder to counteract the evil spells loosed by its spilling. Yesterday our son Sam reminded me it was Friday the 13th and I tried cheerfully announcing that a lot of folks actually consider it a good luck day. While it seemed as though he bought it, I didn’t convince myself one bit.
    Really not related except that it has to do with my grandmother and salt, I remember when the mantel caught on fire at my cousins’ house. Someone had overbuilt the fire in the fireplace and the flames licked up under the mantel and caught it on fire. Aware that salt can suffocate flames, my grandmother retrieved the salt shaker from the kitchen and promptly began sprinkling salt on the flaming mantel. Fire engines eventually came and got the flames under control but I will always remember my sweet granny calmly standing before the flames with salt shaker in hand.

  9. I am just going to drool over the artwork, if I may. I love all your inclusions, Julie. About the two that are yours–are they both in watercolor or is the top one something else?

    I adore this blog and the books of all 4 of you.

  10. I’ll try it!

  11. Julie Paschkis

    Thank you all for leaving comments. I love and hate learning new superstitions. I find them interesting but once I learn them I often feel compelled to follow them. I knew about umbrellas but not vacant rocking chairs or pillowcases. I have always loved the number 4 – I associate it with the color blue. I hope and think it is too late in life for me to start being afraid of it.
    …And maybe salt as a general good luck charm came partly from its ability to put out fires.
    I would like to learn more lucky charms and antidotes to bad luck!

    Ashley: My paintings are always gouache and sometimes black ink.

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