Tag Archives: black cat

Indian Superstition – Leaving the House

Main Piece

Informant: “If you’re about to leave the house and someone asks you where you are going, you have to come back in and sit down for a minute and then tell them where you are going. Basically it’s because it’s bad luck to interrupt someone as they are leaving. You shouldn’t ask someone where they’re going if they’re already on their way out and if someone asks you, then you should come back inside. Or else whatever you were going to do will not get done.”

Background

My informant is a practicing lawyer in Los Angeles, California. She is of Indian descent, and her knowledge of Indian folklore comes from her father. 

Context

This superstition is enacted when someone is about to leave the house and they are interrupted.  

My Thoughts

There is not always a rhyme or reason for superstitions. According to my informant, people follow superstitions even if there is no good reason to follow them. However, there are certain elements in this superstition that I connected with others. This superstition falls in line with the Indian black cat superstition (originally from Egypt, popularized in India). This popular superstition says that if a black cat crosses your path, you will have bad luck. Both the black cat superstition and the superstition told by my informant depict the interruption of a journey. In both superstitions, your interrupted journey will bring bad luck and assurance that whatever you were doing will not get done. 

Black Cat Crossing the Street

Main Piece:

 

The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as LG. I am marked as DG.

 

LG: So like, when my mom was driving she was really superstitious so if there was a black cat anywhere around it crossed the road, it didn’t matter if you had to go back two miles, that’s how far you were gonna go around up around it. And to this day I still don’t wanna cross a road that a black cat’s just crossed. And I know it’s dumb, but…just can’t do it. Just can’t.

 

DG: So you learned that from your mom?

 

LG: I learned it from my mom. Every single time we saw a black cat. And our street had a lot of black cats (laughs). So, yeah.

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting on a patio in Glendora, CA. The sun is setting and a group of us are sitting around all sharing folklore. The black cat superstition itself was used whenever a black cat was seen, especially so when in a car.

 

Background:

 

The interviewee is a 54-year-old mother of two, who is married. She grew up in Los Angeles, before moving around, and finally ending up back in Los Angeles. Her and her parents had a very tight-knit relationship, and she comes from a religious background.

 

Analysis:

 

I find it interesting that there is one specific color of cat that has this superstition surrounding it. I also find it interesting that if there is reason for the black cat, in particular, to be cursed, the interviewee was not aware. This shows that as folklore is passed down, it evolves. The interviewee’s mother may not have known why black cats are cursed, and her mother’s mother may not have known, but there was an original reason for the superstition one day. It’s also interesting to see how strongly the participant avoided black cats-including going so far as miles out of the way to avoid crossing a black cat’s path. This was a superstition so strongly believed that it disrupted the participant’s daily life at times.

“Ah Ma Schwartz Katter”

“When somebody’s being lame, or kind of a wet blanket, there’s, I mean, okay, I mean, there’s two of them. One of them is “ah ma schwartz katter” which is “oh, my poor little black cat,” and that’s for if they’re being silly. So, just, for instance, if someone is like, ‘oh, poor pathetic me!’ it’s ‘ah, ma Schwartz katter,’ [she mimics patting someone on the head in mock sympathy]. And then sometimes I do a variation on it, which I don’t know if it’s even correct or not, but it’s ‘ah ma brune katter,’ which is ‘ah, my little brown cat.’ But honest to god, it’s probably a huge bastardization of German, I know the actual one when I’m saying it is correct, but I don’t know the actual spelling of it, because my mother did not deem to teach me it.”

 

It’s like saying “oh, poor thing,” but it’s a little bit mocking. The informant uses the brune version because sometimes she likes to “mix it up,” and because her cat is brown. Usually, when she is saying this to someone, it’s her mother (because her father doesn’t “get it”), and she uses the brune version because her mother’s hair is brown.

The informant first learned this when she was about seven from her mother, (who speaks multiple languages, including German). Both she and her mother are of German descent.

This is a good demonstration of how foreign languages are kept partially alive and spread throughout generations who may not be fluent in it. Sayings are easy to remember because of their brevity and they also seem to create strong bonds between those who say them (e.g. the informant here shares this with her mother and brother, but not outside her family or even with her father).