Black Cat Power, Part 1: Origins & Witches – Valentina's Reflections
Perhaps the association between cats and old-world religions is the reason why cats have been tied to "witches" during the Dark Ages and. Many think of cats or toads when they think of witches' familiars. Thomas A. Donaldson points out the relationship between the witch and. The popularity of cats at Halloween has everything to do with their association with witches, but how did this begin? We explore this pairing in detail.
Using her studies into the role of witchcraft and magic in Britain during the Early Modern period as a starting point, the historian Emma Wilby examined the relationship that familiar spirits allegedly had with the witches and cunning-folk in this period. Meeting[ edit ] In the British accounts from the Early Modern period at least, there were three main types of encounter narrative related to how a witch or cunning person first met their familiar.
The first of these was that the spirit spontaneously appeared in front of the individual while they were going about their daily activities, either in their home or outdoors somewhere.
Various examples for this are attested in the sources of the time, for instance, Joan Prentice from EssexEngland, gave an account when she was interrogated for witchcraft in claiming that she was "alone in her chamber, and sitting upon a low stool preparing herself to bedward" when her familiar first appeared to her, while the Cornish cunning-woman Anne Jeffries related in that hers first appeared to her when she was "knitting in an arbour in our garden".
For instance, the alleged witch Margaret Ley from Liverpool claimed, inthat she had been given her familiar spirit by her mother when she died, while the Leicestershire cunning-woman Joan Willimot related, inthat a mysterious figure whom she only referred to as her "master", "willed her to open her mouth and he would blow into her a fairy which should do her good.
And that she open her mouth, and that presently after blowing, there came out of her mouth a spirit which stood upon the ground in the shape and form of a woman. As historian Emma Wilby noted, "their problems… were primarily rooted in the struggle for physical survival—the lack of food or money, bereavement, sickness, loss of livelihood and so on", and the familiar offered them a way out of this by giving them magical powers.
Witch Familiars, Spirit Guardians and Demons | Ancient Origins
The length of time that the witch or cunning person worked with their familiar spirit varied between a few weeks through to a number of decades. In some rarer cases there were accounts where the familiars would appear at times when they were unwanted and not called upon, for instance the Huntingdonshire witch Elizabeth Chandler noted, inthat she could not control when her two familiars, named Beelzebub and Trullibub, appeared to her, and had prayed for a god to "deliver her therefrom".
In these areas three categories of familiars are believed to exist: During the English Civil Warthe Royalist general Prince Rupert was in the habit of taking his large poodle dog named Boye into battle with him. Throughout the war the dog was greatly feared among the Parliamentarian forces and credited with supernatural powers.
As noted by Morgan,  the dog was apparently considered a kind of familiar. At the end of the war the dog was shot, allegedly with a silver bullet. Witch trials[ edit ] Most data regarding familiars comes from the transcripts of English and Scottish witch trials held during the 16thth centuries. The court system that labeled and tried witches was known as the Essex. This case is fundamentally political, trying Sampson for high treason, and accusing Sampson for employing witchcraft against King James VI.
The prosecution asserts Sampson called familiar spirits and resolved her doubtful matter.
Witches’ Familiars: The Good, the Bad, and the Weird
Another Essex trial is that of Hellen Clark, tried inin which Hellen was compelled to state that The Devil appeared as a "familiar" in the form of a dog. In some cases familiars replace children in the favour of their mothers. See witchcraft and children. Black cats have long been regarded as a witch's companion.
Source Two witches are pictured here with a cat in one's lap. Source The Witches' Hounds Hounds have long been regarded as associated with the afterlife in various old texts and folklore, so it is no wonder that famous witches from the Dark Ages were said to have familiars that took the form of black dogs. One such infamous witch, Alizon Device, who was put to trial for witchcraft in the Pendle Witchcraft Trials, confessed to having a familiar who was in the form of a black hound.
This black hound would suckle at her breast and thereafter would do her bidding. She confessed that her familiar, the black dog, had lamed a man after she requested it of him. Helen Clark, another accused witch, in the year of confessed to having met the devil. The devil had taken the form of a black dog. Certain old-world gods and goddesses were said to have been protected by hounds, including the Greek Goddess of Witches—Hecate.Why do witches like cats? - Cat History!
There were also ancient gods who were depicted as dogs themselves—Anubis, the jackal-headed god of the Egyptians and Cerberus, the underworld three-headed dog guardian to the Greeks. Dogs have long been tied to the crossroads between life and death.
Source The Wolf and Other Familiars In addition to the likely suspects, there were many other animals that were thought to be familiars to witches during the Dark Ages.
The Wolf is an animal that was often associated with witches in the northern European countries. During the werewolf-witch trials, many men and women were accused of witchcraft and being able to shift into the likeness of a wolf. Some said that it wasn't the actual witches who were the wolves but actual familiar spirits who inhabited the bodies of wolves to do the witches' bidding.
Wolves were sacred to old gods, as well. Any type of weird or unlikely creature could have been accused of being a witch's familiar. Some of the lesser known familiars included frogs, toads, lizards, blackbirds, snakes, butterflies, beetles and more. A witch's familiar was not always in the form of an animal A couple of the Pendle Witches accused of having familiars confessed that their familiars were actually in the form of a human man or a little boy.
Perhaps these familiar spirits took on the shape of something that the witch could feel most comfortable with We may never know. Many modern day witches have a magical pet that they may call their familiar.
I am in a cattis liknes just now, Bot I sal be in a womanis liknes ewin now. Catt, catt, God send thee a blak shott Wedeck See also the section on Lycanthropy. The Devil as a Cat Much folklore surrounds cats. Presumably because a cat is thought to have nine lives, witches were able to assume the shape of a cat nine times.
Broth made from black cats will theoretically cure consumption. However, black cats were thought to be the Devil himself, and on Easter and Shrove Tuesday during the middle ages, black cats were routinely hunted down and burned.
Cats accused of being witchs' familars were generally burned alive Guiley The testimony in many trials portrayed witches or heretics like the Waldensians and Cathari as gathering together to kiss the posterior of a black cat.
The Cathari, or Cathar, were given their punning names for this reason. According to William of Paris'12th-century De Legibus"So according to the idolatrous practice of this age Satan is believed to appear in the form of a black cat One abominable kiss, under the cat's tail In the trials of the Templars, members of this military religious order were charged, along with many other offenses, of venerating a cat Kieckhefer Ina Suffolk witch by the name of Abre Grinset was put on trial.
The charges went back quite a few years.
- Black Cat Power, Part 1: Origins & Witches
- Familiar spirit
- Witches' Familiars: A Look at Familiar Spirits and Magical Pets
Cats as Familiars By the mid- to late s, cats had emerged as classic familiars. Since familiars often acted as a cipher for a witch's own anger and desires, the explicit sexual nature of a cat tied in well with the sexual desires of a witch.
Cats and Witchcraft
Induring one of the very first English witch trials, Elizabeth Francis of Hatfield Peverel admitted her grandmother had counselled her to renounce God and His word, and to give of her blood to Satan as she termed it which to delivered [to] her in the likeness of a white spotted cat, and taught her to feed tghe said cat with bread and milk, and she did so.
Also she taught her to call it by the name of Satan, and to keep it in a basket. When this mother Eve had given her the cat Satan, then this Elizabeth desired first of the said cat calling it Satan that she might be rich, and have goods, and he promised her she should, asking her what she would have, and she said 'Sheep' for this cat spoke to her, as she confessed, in a strange hollow voice, but such as she understood by use and this cat forthwith brought sheep into her pasture to the number of 18, black and white, which continued with her a time, but in the end did all wear away, she knew not how.
And after, when this Andrew had thus abused her, he would not marry her, wherefore she willed Satan to waste his goods, which he forthwith did, and yet not being contented with this, she willed him to touch his body, which he forthwith did, whereof he died.