For hundreds of year’s stretching way back to medieval times it has been claimed that witches used familiars. Even to this day films such as Harry Potter see the use of such creatures and black cats have long been associated with witches and witchcraft. However, not just cats have been known to be used. Feathery owls, silky snakes and troublesome bats are all but a few. So what is their role, their purpose as instruments of magic? Well, they were once seen as supernatural entities believed to assist witches and magicians in their practice of magic. They didn’t however just appear as animals. Familiars had numerous guises some human some not so human which were described as ‘clearly defined, three dimensional forms, vivid with colour and animated with movement and sound’. Those creatures that wished to serve witches were often thought to be malevolent, unlike the owls used in the film Harry Potter which were said to be benevolent.
A familiars main priority is to protect and serve the witch or young wizard when they come into their new powers. Familiars work with their chosen witch or warlock during spell casting and any animal can be used if a witch feels a spiritual connection with the animal. The witch has various ways to use her familiar. They can be used to transport messages or for psychic guidance. In my second Book, ‘Betrayers of Magic’ my evil wizard uses his owl and is graced with a vision which makes him inadvertently change all his plans.
Of course the black cat is the most famous of familiars and has the longest running history entwined with the belief that they were used by witches. For several centuries ‘witches’ were rounded up, tried and burned at the stake and sadly, what they believed to be their familiars were killed alongside them. Cat’s suffered a bad reputation because they were more often than not, nocturnal and liked to slink about at night.
For me, familiars are fascinating creatures. They are clever, wise and above all astute enough to realise when danger approaches. Many a magical being has been saved by the distinct cry from a wary cat or a screech of a flying bat. Although I am happy with my two dogs, I believe magic still exists today and practiced in the form of Wicca. Today, many Wiccans have animal companions that they consider their familiars and most people no longer believe that spirits or demons inhabit or possess these animals. Instead, they feel they have an emotional/physical bond with their animal that is simply attuned to the powers of its human partner.
Familiars – Wicca and Witchcraft
Black Cats and Halloween