Black Cats Witches Familiar
January 13, 2012 by staff
Black Cats Witches Familiar, A late sixteenth-century illustration of a witch feeding her familiars from England.
In European folklore and folk-belief of the Medieval and Early Modern periods, familiar spirits (sometimes referred to simply as “familiars”) were supernatural entities believed to assist witches and cunning folk in their practice of magic. According to the records of the time, they would appear in numerous guises, often as an animal, but also at times as a human or humanoid figure, and were described as “clearly defined, three-dimensional forms, vivid with colour and animated with movement and sound” by those alleging to have come into contact with them, unlike later descriptions of ghosts with their “smoky, undefined form[s]“.
When they served witches, they were often thought to be malevolent, while when working for cunning-folk they were often thought of as benevolent (although there was some ambiguity in both cases). The former were often categorised as demons, while the latter were more commonly thought of and described as fairies. The main purpose of familiars is to serve the witch or young witch, providing protection for him/her as they come into their new powers.
Since the twentieth century a number of magical practitioners, including adherents of the Neopagan religion of Wicca, have begun to utilise the concept of familiars, due to their association with older forms of magic.
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