To the Puritans of Salem, Massachusetts, black cats are an ominous symbol of witchcraft. For paranoid villagers like Samuel Parris and his family, the mere presence of such a creature near their home is a sign that Satan is near. But if black cats are deeply frightening to many of the white Puritans, Judah White (a local New England healer and a friend of Tituba’s spiritual mentor Mama Yaya) sees them as important conduits of nature’s power. Indeed, Tituba finds that—in a land devoid of the tropical plants and animals she grew up with—black cats are often some of the best substitutes when it comes time to work her healing magic. The polarizing symbolism of the black cat then reveals a deeper fissure between Tituba, who is half-Ashanti, and the white people who enslave and persecute her. Whereas the white Puritans fear black cats (a nonsensical terror that itself might symbolize their pervasive anti-Blackness), Tituba finds power and comfort in these cats. Moreover, her ability to draw power from black cats shows that, even far from home, Tituba is aware that her “knowledge must adapt itself to society”—while Parris and his ilk operate within a rigid set of symbols, Tituba is able to bend her perceptions as her environment changes.
Black Cats Quotes in I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem
I cannot describe the effect this unfortunate black cat had on the children, as well as on Elizabeth and Samuel. Samuel Parris seized his prayer book and began to recite a seemingly endless prayer […] Abigail asked, holding her breath: “Aunt, it was the devil, wasn't it?”
“What will you think up next? It was only an animal that was disturbed by our arrival. Why do you keep talking about the devil? The invisible world around us only torments us if we provoke it.”