Cats — lovable family pets, or evil minions of Satan?
The answers will finally be revealed on Aug. 7, when an expert in kitties and their historic association with the devil gives a talk at the Morbid Anatomy Library and Museum in Gowanus.
“Cats were such a symbol that if an old lady had a lot of cats, she was a de facto witch,” said Paul Koudounis, a photographer and “macabre art historian” who lives in Los Angeles. “People are so in love with cats now, I don’t think many people realize the incredible amount of negativity there used to be.”
Koudounaris stumbled on the notion of evil cats when he was researching a book that brought him into the weird world of medieval superstition. He kept coming across stories — largely from the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe — in which cats participated in all sorts of occult evil.
Alleged fiendish felines cats throughout history have included killer cats in league with accused witches, and even a ghost cat stalking the halls of the United States Capitol, whose appearance is said to foretell imminent doom and disaster, he said.
The origin of suspicious attitudes toward cats has its roots in a rejection of Egyptian tradition by former Jewish slaves, explained Koudounaris. Worshipped by the Egyptians, cats became a symbol of pagan devil-worship in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
“Cats just had a terrible reputation because the Judeo-Christian really turned its back on them after leaving Egypt,” Koudounis said. “They were seen as demons of the desert.”
Superstitious medieval Europeans also saw all animals as more susceptible to demonic possession because of their lack of faith, which they considered a Christian human’s main form of defense against forces of evil, Koudounis said.
The notion of cats as in league with evil persisted as late as the turn of the 20th century. But once writers, artists, and other weirdos started to take the animals as pets, society’s view of them slowly began to turn around — although they can remain a polarizing subject.
“People are pretty either/or when it comes to cats — they love them or hate them,” Koudounis said.
But his upcoming talk is for both cat people and dog people alike.
“If you love cats, you’re going to love this lecture, and if you hate cats, you’re going to love it even more,” he said.
“Demonically Possessed Cats” with Paul Koudounis at the Morbid Anatomy Library and Museum (424 Third Ave. between Sixth and Seventh Streets in Gowanus, www.morbid