Catholics and Satanists United against Black Cats in Italy

From the Daily Mail:

Dozens of black cats are vanishing across Italy every day to be used in Satanic rituals, an animal welfare group claimed yesterday.

…The Italian Association for the Defence of Animals and the Environment estimates 60,000 were killed last year, to ward off bad luck, to be sold to cosmetics laboratories  –  where black fur gives the best results – and for use in Satanic rites.

Association president Lorezno Croce said…’we have strong suspicions that these cats are being used in Satanic rituals. We want to halt this massacre, educate people and restore dignity to black cats.’

As much as I couldn’t resist the headline, it should be noted that Croce provides absolutely zero evidence for his claim of Satanist involvement. The story seems to be an August staple; almost exactly the same tale appeared last year, although then the emphasis was more on the role of the Catholic church:

A leading animal rights group has estimated that 60,000 black cats are killed every year by Italians who believe that they bring bad luck.

The Italian Association for the Protection of Animals and the Environment claims that some are also killed as part of black magic rituals.

…Across large parts of Europe, black cats have been associated with witchcraft since the Middle Ages and were said to be the favourite companions for witches.

Lorenzo Croce, the association’s president, blamed the Church for spreading myths about the animals.

“The Catholic Church has perpetuated this idea for centuries and it is now deeply implanted in people’s minds,” he said.

Sara Lipton gives some historical background to the Catholic hatred of black cats:

[According to an accusation cited by Alan of Lille in the 12th Century] “Cathars are called after the cat, because they kiss the posterior of a cat in whose shape, it is said, Lucifer appears to them.” The same practice was mentioned by Gregory IX in a bull of 1233…Stephen of Bourbon referred to underground rites in which heretics conjured Lucifer in the shape of a cat and related that St Dominic expelled the devil in the form of a black cat from female heretics in Fanjeaux. (1)

Gregory’s Bull (entitled “Vox in Rama”) also mentions “a certain man…from the loins upwards gleaming more brightly than the sun…whose lower part is shaggy like a cat” (2). Some websites mentioning the Bull deal with the story rather loosely, as if Gregory had simply launched a denunciation of black cats.

I have blogged on fears about Satanism in Italy several times in the past, such as here and here. The most famous story of a cat being killed for occult purposes in Italy occured in Sicily in the early 1920s, when certain Raoul Loveday was persuaded by Aleister Crowley to drink the blood of a sacrifical feline. Loveday expired soon after; his widow blamed Crowley and the cat’s blood, but probably either drugs or the local water supply was the cause.

Croce has also complained about the current Pope’s wearing of fur garments.


(1) Sara Lipton, Images of Intolerance (California University Press, 1990) p. 89.
(2) Available in Alan Kors and Edward Peters (eds), Witchcraft in Europe, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001) pp. 18-19.