The image of a witch with her black cat is synonymous with Halloween. It’s right up there with the jack-o-lantern as a symbol of the season. Many people who actually have black cats refuse to let them outside for fear that they might be poisoned! Are people really still that superstitious?
Humans have been forging co-operative relationships with animals for thousands of years! Hunter gatherers tamed wolfs who became dogs and early farmers welcomed wild cats who kept the rodent populations in check. These partnerships were probably formed out of necessity but they have been nurtured over all these years because of the bond that forms between people and their animals.
So a loving pet is a great companion to have, no doubt but do they qualify for the title of familiar? Most of the sources I’ve found describe a familiar as either a physical animal or the spirit of an animal that assists witches and cunning folk in the practice of magic. There’s an obvious tie to shamans and animal spirit guides there too.
These animals often appear and sort of adopt their human companions of their own accord, or in some cases are given as a gift and they always seem to appear right when they are needed. A fun example from history that I’ve found is of Boye the dog. Boye was given to Prince Rupert of the Rhine when he was imprisoned during the thirty years war. According to the legends Boye was a vicious white attack poodle who could find hidden treasure, catch bullets in his mouth and was invulnerable to attack. That’s a pretty impressive poodle, and it reminds me a little of Ghost from Game of Thrones. Needless to say Boye was widely suspected of being a witch’s familiar and some people even believed him to be the devil. I definitely never would have imagined the devil taking the form of a poodle but I’m also not from 17th century Europe.
Puss in Boots is a great folk tale example where a poor miller receives a cat as his inheritance. This cat makes a request to the miller for some boots which are provided. Who wouldn’t invest in some boots for a talking cat? And in return the savvy and unscrupulous cat manages to land both his human and himself in the royal palace. Good kitty.
Meet my Familiar Zorbing. She was trapped in a neighboring house after the resident was arrested, luckily I had an in with the property manager and I was allowed to go in and get her. It had to happen, I could see her looking at me from the window! She definitely needed a new and loving home. After much patience and love she has revealed herself to be one of the funniest and most bizarre cats ever but she always appears when I’m working with magic, she’s resting her head on my wrist as I write this. It’s worth mentioning the huge grey tabby I used to have who would walk up to my cards laid out in the half moon shape and actually pick a card.
So what sort of familiar do you have? A cat, a frog, a vicious attack poodle?
Share a picture of your animal spirit on instagram with the hashtag #13postsofhalloween or just share your story in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.
I will soon be offering SKYPE readings you guys which will mean that I can read for the you from anywhere in the world! This is so exciting that I’m going to run a contest! Join me on Instagram at madeleinestarchild for the details.