Witches’ Familiars: The Good, the Bad, and the Weird

We’ve all seen the images of witches with their loyal cat or toad by their side. These witches’ familiars help them cast spells, or in the case of Harry Potter, deliver the mail.

But what are familiars and why are they so important to ideas around witchcraft? And what unusual familiars can we find in history, beyond the stereotypical black cat?

We’re going to look at exactly that, so grab your nearest pet for company, get comfy, and come with me into the world of witches’ familiars…

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Fabulous Folklore with Icy – Witches Familiar

Witch Familiars, Spirit Guardians and Demons

The folklore of the wicked witch and her diabolical animal familiar is a well-known and often repeated tale. When the seasons change and the nights get long it’s not uncommon to see images and symbols of a dark-cloaked witch with an evil black cat or toad at her side. This is a fantastic archetype of magic users wielding control over nature and animals, but it’s a far cry from the beliefs that started it all.

The concept of magical spirit creatures has resonated throughout history in creation myths, tribal traditions and religions, but it’s only relatively recently that magical animal and familiars became re-imagined as evil or dangerous companions. Historically, familiars or spirits were often seen as a type of guardian angel rather than an evil demon.

The Witch’s Familiar

Most people conjure up thoughts of the witch with cat or toad when speaking of familiars. In the days of widespread persecution of witches in Europe and North America during the Medieval and Early Modern periods, women accused of magic use and witchcraft were assumed to have a familiar, most often in the form of cats, dogs, owls, mice, newts or toads. These servants to witches were considered low-ranking demons, or even fairies. Legends of the time, British and Scottish contribution to the lore, said familiars fed on the blood of the women. The witches in turn used the animals for spell casting. The familiar could shape-shift, and spy on others. Many completely innocent pet lovers were persecuted for this ‘unnatural’ pairing, and the blame was placed on them for any kind of bad luck, such as milk spoiling or crops withering.

“During the Salem witch trials, there is little account of the practice of animal familiars, although one man was charged with encouraging a dog to attack by way of magical means. The dog, interestingly enough, was tried, convicted, and hanged.”  Patti Wigington reveals in  About Religion .

To read the rest

What is an Animal Familiar?

In some traditions of modern Paganism, including the various Wiccan paths, the concept of an animal familiar is incorporated into practice. Today, a familiar is often defined as an animal with whom we have a magical connection, but in truth, the concept is a bit more complex than this.

History of the Familiar

During the days of the European witch hunts, familiars were “said to be given to witches by the devil,” according to Rosemary Guiley’s Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft.

To read the rest of this article by Patty Wigington on About.com please click on this link: http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/magicandspellwork/a/AnimalFamiliars.htm

The Witch’s Familiar

Here I will try to enlighten you on what exactly is a witch’s familiar. I have found some cool history, as well as meditations to help find your own familiar. I give credit when I know it, if the author is unknown I will provide the link where the information was found. Remember, though, that a familiar usually finds us, when we least expect it. It is hard to say when or where we might find our familiar, when we do, they deserve the utmost respect and kindness.

In legend, a familiar or familiar spirit is a supernatural being that helps and supports a witch or magician. Traditionally, a familiar is an animal, but some are said to be humanoid. Familiars often have special powers of their own. When witchcraft is portrayed as a type of communication or alliance with evil forces in order to gain magical powers, a familiar may be considered a type of demon.

The stereotypical familiar in Western culture is the black cat. Because black cats are strongly associated with witchcraft, there are a number of superstitions regarding them. A black cat crossing ones path is said to be a portent of doom, for example. A familiar may be nearly any animal, however. Other common forms for a familiar to take are a dog, an owl, and a toad.

To read the rest of this article on the website Wiccan Magic please click on this link: http://wiccanmagick69.tripod.com/id15.html

What is a Witch’s Familiar?

While many Witches have cats as familiars many of us have other furry or winged beings. A familiar is not an animal that goes out to do a Witch’s bidding, or to spy on their enemies or steal energy from others. A Witch’s familiar is their companion, a being that can help calm them as well as add power to some spells and/or rituals. They are not mean and attack people as they are so often portrayed as doing in films, TV shows, books, etc. You may be asking yourself “How do I know if a pet is my familiar or not?” or even “How do I find my familiar?” The best answers I have for these are if you feel a special bond with your pet, I’m not talking about a normal I love my pet kind of thing but

You may be asking yourself “How do I know if a pet is my familiar or not?” or even “How do I find my familiar?” The best answers I have for these are if you feel a special bond with your pet, I’m not talking about a normal I love my pet kind of thing but, ok hard to put into words but I will try, a calming effect whenever you are upset and your pet comes to you or it makes you feel, more, complete as a living being. You more than likely have one of your familiars for this lifetime. Now if you don’t have it or any pet and are looking for one my suggestion is first figure out if you are more drawn to dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters or…well I think you get where I’m going here. After that visit shelters, reliable pet shops, rescue places or even read the

Now if you don’t have it or any pet and are looking for one my suggestion is first figure out if you are more drawn to dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters or…well I think you get where I’m going here. After that visit shelters, reliable pet shops, rescue places or even read the classifieds in the newspaper and then go to see the animal(this is how I found my Cleo). Make sure you meet any animal that catches your eye. Do not make a snap decision but visit with the animal and see if it pick you as its human, pick it up cuddle with it or if it is to big for you to pick up and you can get down on its level. Believe me when I say you will know the animal is your familiar as soon as you make close physical contact with it. You will have a feeling a connection to that animal immediately.

Now we all know our lifespan is a lot longer then our companions/familiars is. Not to worry just as we live many lifetimes so do our familiars. So far for me in this lifetime my familiar has come to me as a cat, Tuffy, when I was 10 years old, he lived to be 17, then I got (my children…hahaha) a half cocker spaniel-half shelty mix, Boots, in my 30’s who lived for 14 1/2 years and now as my beautiful Cleo. The reason for me going so long in between Tuffy and Boots was I was in a rocky place on my life path barely able to take care of myself some days much less a pet plus I had fallen away from my Spiritual self and I hadn’t met the right companion for me during that time. Then between Boots and Cleo there was about a year and half while I was deciding what kind of pet I wanted. One day a friend of my husbands came over and brought his 4-month-old Min Pin, I had never really seen the breed before even though I had been working with canines for over 40 years and fell in love with the breed. So the search began and about 5 months later my hubby came home with an ad he had pulled out of our local newspaper for a breeder selling Min Pins very cheap. We called, made an appointment to see the litter, went to the breeders home and there were 3 girls and 1 boy. I was looking for a male only because up until this time my familiars had been male but the Universe had different plans for me this time. I put my hand into the enclosure the puppies were in and Cleo came up to chew on my engagement ring, lick my hand and try to climb over the fence, mind you, she was only 5 inches tall and weighed in at 2 pounds. I took my hand away from her trying to pet her siblings, she would have none of that as she pushed them away from my hand. So after putting my hand in and out a few times to see if she would keep coming over, which she did. When my hubby put his hand in there the same thing happened, she pushed everyone else out of the way to get to his hand. I asked to hold her and there was an instant bond with her and I. While her and my hubby are friendly there is no doubt that she is my companion and familiar.

Added note 2015- In 2014 I got a rescue Chihuahua, named Starbabie. She is now three years old and is another familiar of mine. I do not know why I have two of them in my life right now, but I am grateful for it. Towards the beginning of this year I was alone in our home for almost week with just my girls, I live next door to a state-run group home for boys some of who just got out of jail for violent crimes. Even though my girls are small I was not worried because Cleo kept watch on the outside of the house (through the picture windows in the living room and my den) and Star never left my side

Copyright 2012 Lady Beltane