With Halloween is around the corner, Chairman Meow is reminded of a time hundreds of years ago when similar institutional dogma helped fuel the outbreak of The Black Plague across Europe.
Cats Blamed for The Black Plague
In the 13th Century a wave of anti-cat sentiment swept through Europe, with religious leaders labeling cats as evil and “diabolical,” including Pope Gregory IX who did so in 1232 AD.
In the ensuing years huge numbers of cats (especially black cats) and even their owners were killed across Europe in fear that they were evil witches and linked to Satan.
By removing many cats from the food chain, the population of rodents began to rise across Europe, as Asian and other foreign ships carrying rats brought them to European harbors. Many of these rodents had fleas that carried diseases including the Black Plague.
As people began to get sick and the Black Plague began spreading, more and more cats were killed. (along with other predators including snakes, which had long since carried the label of being “evil”)
As hysteria increased, the rat population boomed and the Black Plague began to spread out of control.
Cat Ladies labeled as witches
Cat owners were often accused of witchcraft, and often murdered along with their pets. The most likely targets were often older cat-owning peasant women (The “Crazy Cat Ladies” of their time) who were labeled “witches” and often burned alive at the stake.
That misguided stereotype is why witches are still depicted with black cats to this day.
Killing cats & snakes made the rat population explode
Between 1347 and 1352, some 100 million people died of the Plague, representing almost half of Europe’s population. The mass murder of cats was not the only cause of the Black Plague, but it removed a crucial natural predator of the flea-carrying rats that spread the disease.
When an animal is removed from the ecosystem (especially out of fear) it usually causes a chain reaction. In this case, with no cats around, disease-carrying rats multiplied like crazy, spreading the Plague.
Cats were seen as “agents of the devil,” throughout much of history, and slaughtered again centuries later in New England during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.
During these witch trials, a woman even testified in court that cats spoke to her, and threatened to hurt her if she didn’t abuse children in the town.
Chairman Meow Says: Iz so awful that such a time occurred in our history. Actually, the murder of cats in Europe continued for hundreds of years, and another Plague swept through Europe again in the 17th Century. Many superstitions, including fear of black cats, continue to this day.
Keep in mind that Chairman Meow iz not targeting religion, but shedding light on human nature to digest and follow institutional dogma. (dogma defined as “the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, ideology, or any kind of organization: it is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from”)
Often fueled by a fear, individuals are often capable of doing illogical or terrible things as groups when given permission by authority figures.
Consider a quote from Rastafari leader Haile Selassie; “Throughout history it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most, that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” Iz just as true during Dark Ages as iz now.