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Ritual abuse and sacrifice of black cats
Samhain, Halloween, and black cats:
There is a widespread rumor that "Samhain" is a God of the Dead worshipped by the ancient Celtic people. In reality, Samhain means the "end of
the season of the sun." 1 It
was a new-years festival observed by the Celts every year in what is now the end of
October. It is the origin of both our present-day celebration of Halloween, and the
Wiccan celebration of Samhain, and other traditions.
The Celts believed that the veil between this world and the afterlife was thinnest at this time
of year. Friends and relatives who had died would often return to Earth, with their souls
inhabiting an animal. It was believed that the animal of choice would be a black cat.
Many later superstitions were associated with black cats:
During the Burning Times of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, when
tens of thousands of "Witches" were burned alive in Roman Catholic
countries, and a smaller number of "Witches" were hanged in Protestant
areas of Western Europe, it was believed that Witches kept small animals as:
"familiars -- those hellish imps that took the forms of animals to
assist witches in their evil deeds. It was believed that these imps were
given as gifts from Satan to his faithful followers. The arrangement
seems to have been a lucrative one for the devil, as when an imp wasn't
busy inciting the witch to greater evil, it was reporting back to its
master on the comings and goings of his servant." 2
Often, the familiars would be burned to death
along with their owners.
Witches were believed to take the form of their familiars in order to
travel to their black Sabbats where they would carouse with Satan.
Even today, some people become alarmed if a black cat crosses their
path. Some feel that they have to turn around and return to the place from
which they came or risk a serious interval of bad luck.
The Satanic Panic of the 1980s:
The torture-execution of tens of thousands of "Witches" and other heretics
lasted for about three centuries. Superstitions about Witches, Satan, Sabbats,
familiars, and other topics became imbedded in the culture. Many of the folk
tales about evil "Witches" and Satan worshipers still circulate today.
During the 1980s a widespread belief in the existence of modern-day secret Satanic cults
surfaced. The fear was partly triggered by a series of four books: Michelle Remembers, 3 Satan Seller, Satan's Underground and He Came to Set the Captives Free.
All contain what the authors claim to be personal experiences with Satanism -- as
a victim or perpetrator. Satanists were believed to ritually abuse and sacrifice both animals and humans. All four books have been reported to be works of
fiction by various Evangelical and Wiccan investigators.
By the mid 1990's, after through investigations by police extending
over two decades turned up no hard evidence of the existence of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA),
belief in its existence has largely faded. However, it still surfaces from time
to time among some conservative Protestants, a few feminists, and among personnel at
Why you often can't adopt a black cat at Halloween:
Back in the late 1990s, when the Satanic Panic had almost run its course,
belief in SRA appeared to be still strong within the animal protection
In 1996, Nancy Suro, director of the Maxfund, a pet-adoption agency in
''Some satanic cults sacrifice all-black or all-white cats as part of
their rituals. I know such activity goes on. We absolutely refuse to take
any chances with these cats' lives." 4
In 1997, Deborah Thomas the executive director of the Maryland SPCA said:
"As horrible as this may sound, cats are tortured around Halloween time.
It's just incredible what people will do to cats, as if they don't have any
In 1999, K.C. Baker of the Daily News in New York City wrote:
"Black cats, beware."
"Long associated with witches, bad luck and the dark side, black felines are
often used for pranks, party props and even satanic, sacrificial rituals
" 'This is a time when blood rituals take place,' said Hedy Litke, director
of animal placement at the ASPCA. 'Black cats are often sacrificed.' Such is
their popularity that many shelters in New York and around the country ban
adoptions of black cats in the weeks and days preceding Oct. 31 to protect
them from potentially grisly endings." 6
Some animal shelters and humane societies across North America still ban the
adoption of black cats over the Halloween season. Phil Morgan is executive
director of the Kootenai Humane Society in Coeur d'Alene ID. Twenty-eight of the
97 cats at his shelter in late 2006-OCT were black. He said:
"It's kind of an urban legend. But in the humane industry it's pretty
typical that shelters don't do adoptions of black cats or white bunnies
because of the whole Satanic sacrificial thing. If we prevent one animal
from getting hurt, then it serves its purpose."
Gail Buchwald, vice president of the American Society for the Prevention
of Cruelty to Animals shelter in New York City notes that black cats are
adopted less frequently than other felines. She said:
"Black cats already suffer a stigma because of their color. Why penalize
them any more by limiting the times when they can be adopted? ...
Behaviorally, there's no difference from the color of the cat. It's tied
into this whole mythology about the animal - don't let it cross your path or
some foreboding or foreshadowing of evil - and that's an outdated
Kim Intino, director of animal sheltering issues for the Humane Society of
the United States said:
"It's not clear how many shelters still seasonally ban black cat
adoptions but the trend seems to be fading ...If there were people out there
performing rituals with animals, then I would think that Halloween would be
a time for that, but a good adoption process would tend to weed that out.
There's going to be incidents of weird abuse that happen no matter what. The
remedy is not banning black cat adoptions." 7
Are animal sacrifices happening today?
Rituals involving animal sacrifices are common in various syncretistic
religions which combine beliefs from West African Aboriginal religion and Roman
Catholicism. These include Santeria, Vodun, Macumba, etc. Small animals like chickens and
goats are ritually sacrificed in a humane manner, generally by cutting their carotid
artery. They are later cooked and eaten after most rituals. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1993 determined that
various ordinances passed by the City of Hialeah, FL to prohibit ritual
sacrifices were unconstitutional.
Some observers suspect that youths dabbling in a version of Satanism of their
own creation occasionally engage in the ritual sacrifice of cats and other small
animals. However evidence of this activity is sparse, and the practice appears to be
rare. As Franny Syufy of About.com wrote:
"The conundrum is that the problem can be self-fulfilling. Young minds
are vulnerable, particularly the minds of youths who have themselves been
abused. When they hear stories of ritual Satanic abuse of cats, a spark
ignites, and a new crime wave is off and running, with a 'stray' black cat
the target." 8
We suspect that when evidence of such killings are found, they are most
likely the product of psychopaths, not a person or group engaged in a religious
Religious Satanists are unlikely candidates for ritual sacrifices of animals
because Satanists value the life force in humans and animals. Wiccans and other
Neopagans have never been known to sacrifice any living entity higher on the
evolutionary chain than an apple or orange.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.