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Halloween hoaxes

Ritual abuse and sacrifice of black cats

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Sponsored link.

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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:

bullet 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.

bullet Witches were believed to take the form of their familiars in order to travel to their black Sabbats where they would carouse with Satan.
bullet 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.

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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 some animal shelters.

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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 community.

In 1996, Nancy Suro, director of the Maxfund, a pet-adoption agency in Colorado, said:

''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 feelings." 5

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 around Halloween."

" '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 superstition."

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

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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 extremely rare. As Franny Syufy of 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 ritual.

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.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Fallen <3 Angel [sic], "Halloween - Info," at:
  2. M. Williams, "The Witch's familiar, past and present," at:
  3. Dr. Lawrence Pazder and Michelle Smith, "Michelle Remembers," Pocket Books (1980). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  4. James B. Meadow, "Halloween Is Trouble for Black, White Cats," Denver Rocky Mountain News, 1996-OCT-19, Page A19.
  5. Jay Apperson, "Animal Shelters Protect Black Cats at Halloween," The Baltimore Sun, 1997-OCT-22, Page B1.
  6. K.C. Baker, "Halloween's No Treat for Coveted Black Cats." Daily News, New York City, 1999-OCT-23, Page 22.
  7. Rebecca Boone, "Black Cat Adoptions Banned on Halloween," Associated Press, 2006-OCT-28, at:
  8. Franny Syufy, "October: Black Cat Month,", at:
  9. Barbara & David P. Mikkelson, "Cat o' Nine Tales," at:

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Copyright 2006 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2018-OCT-12
Compiler: B.A. Robinson

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