BLACK CATSConsider the deplorable social condition of the black cat in America. For decades, the four-legged portent of doom, the dark harbinger of ill omen and bleak misfortune, has been maligned by a reputation for spreading bad luck merely by walking in front of people.

If only it had been born in England. Turns out, black cats in England are actually considered heralds of good luck, especially when their backs are arched upward, said Juliette Wood, the American-born secretary of The Folklore Society, based in London.

It’s those striped cats you have to watch out for.

According to Wood, a lecturer at the University of Wales, black cats have only recently started to suffer public image issues in the United Kingdom due to a spread of the American superstition, while traditionally it has been “brindled” cats that were considered unlucky. The sentiment has to do with an old idea that a two-toned animal is not entirely natural or represents a confusion of species, Wood said, and even Shakespeare made allusion to their status as ill-favored felines in “Macbeth.”

Good luck garnered by seeing a black cat in England may, however, be offset by a bird flying into your house or, indeed, even the image of a bird in your house, which can be considered bad luck in the U.K., Wood said.

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