11. Popular Halloween Symbols Have Pagan Roots
Many of the symbols of Halloween seem engineered to be spooky and sell decorations. However, these symbols are neither designed by marketers nor merely random; they have roots in historical paganism. Black cats, spiders, and bats are all associated with Halloween decorations due to their ancient association with witchcraft.
Black cats, spiders, and bats were all believed by medieval Europeans to be the familiars of witches. In European folklore, familiars are malevolent entities that take on animal or humanoid forms and aid witches in their practice of black magic. Common types of familiars were believed to be black cats, insects, bats, frogs, toads, rats, and other small animals. Due to the association with witchcraft, cats, spiders, and rats are also tied to bad luck. Older Americans may still remember the folklore of never wanting a black cat to cross your path. The identification of familiars played a role in the German and American witch trials, so having a black cat may truly have been bad luck.
The festivities of Samhain themselves also cemented the idea that black cats, spiders, and bats were associated with Halloween. The large bonfires of Samhain would drive spiders and other insects away from the conflagration. The heat, light, and sound would conversely attract bats and small animals to the area.