Cats and the Black Plague

“Based on historical accounts and medieval art, people during this period were prone to many superstitions. The Catholic Church was the most powerful entity in Europe at the time, and the masses were consumed with the presence of evil and eradicating it in any form it might be believed to take. Because of their secretive nature and their ability to survive extraordinary circumstances, the general population came to fear cats as consorts of Satan. The innocent cats began to be killed by the thousands.medieval-ugly-cat12
“The cats ultimately got their revenge, of course. Since there were few felines left, the rat populations increased unchecked, and the plague grew even more widespread. You’d think that the humans would make the connection by this point, but instead, they made things even worse. They began to associate the plague’s new vigor with the cats and even with dogs. They believed that since both of these animals typically harbored fleas, they must be the cause of the plague. Subsequently, cats were outlawed in many parts of Europe, and huge numbers of cats and dogs were killed. In fact, at one point in the middle ages, there were barely any cats left in England at all.
medieval-ugly-cat14“Even though cat ownership was illegal in some regions, a few people kept their felines. Other people finally noticed that these cat owners often seemed to be immune to the black plague. Word spread quickly, and more observations of this phenomenon were noticed. This resulted in research, crude as it was during the time.
medieval-ugly-cat18“Eventually, it was decided that the rats, not the cats, were responsible for spreading the black plague. Then, of course, everyone wanted to own a cat or two.”

Learn more about the Black Plague, including its various forms and their symptoms, at “Cats and the Black Plague” on Owlcation.

Images from Ugly Medieval Paintings of Cats

Abduction by Fairies

fairies“Most famously, the fairies were wrongly fingered as the chief suspect in the disappearance of Bridget Cleary, a 26-year-old cooper’s wife, in 1895. According to the transcript from the Irish Crime Records, which is kept in the National Archives, she went missing on the night of March 15. She had been killed by her husband Michael Cleary, her father Patrick Boland, her aunt Mary Kennedy, her cousins Patrick, William, James and Michael Kennedy, and John Dunne, and two men named William Ahern and William Simpson, and her body secretly buried. One week later, after an extensive search, her body was found by police about three quarters of a mile from her house.In-1895-Michael-Cleary-was-charged-with-killing-his-wife-Bridget-who-he-accused-of-being-a-fairy-changeling“After Bridget became seriously ill, her family said that she had been abducted by the fairies and replaced with a fairy changeling. To drive the changeling away, they tortured her over a number of nights. Bridget died of her injuries. It was a most extraordinary and unusual case, particularly because folk custom and legend about fairy changelings clearly indicated that fairy changelings should never be harmed, only threatened: if the fairies had the real person with them, they may retaliate harshly if the humans harmed the changeling they had left behind.”

from “Abductions by Fairies” on Ask About Ireland