Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cats as Familiars

For thousands of years, cats have been regarded as mysterious creatures with supernatural powers. These beliefs certainly did not disappear during the European witchcraze.

Kim Novak had Piwacket as her familiar in the movie Bell, Book and Candle.

By the mid- to late 1500s, 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. In 1566, during 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.

When she had gotten these sheep, she desired to have one Andrew Byles to her husband, which was a man of some wealth, and the cat did promise thae she should, but he said she must first consent that this Andrew should abuse her, and so she did.

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.

That every time he did anything for her, she said that he required a drop of blood, which she gave him by pricking herself, sometime in one place and then in another, and where she pricked hereself there remained a red spot which was still to be seen (Briggs 29-30).

Cats were cherished by the witches who owned them, and anyone who harmed these familiars potentially endangered themselves. In the Lake District in England, there lived a witch whose cat was killed by the innkeeper's dog. The old woman stood by, sad but dry-eyed (witches could not weep) while the innkeeper's servant dug a grave for the animal. The old woman asked the servant, whose name was Willan, to read some verses over the cat from a book she had, a request that sent the man into howls of laughter. He threw the small, furry body into the hole he had dug, reciting in a loud voice a silly, mocking rhyme: 'Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Here's a hole and go thou must.''Very well,' said the old woman bitterly. 'You will be punished, as you will see.'And Willan was indeed punished. A day later, as he was plowing the innkeeper's field, the plowshare caught in a rock on the ground; the handles flew up into the air and pierced the young man's eyes. He was blinded for life (Lehane 114-115).

Interesting, huh?


  1. First I thought oepssss its a scary face:(
    But now I like it, its great !!
    Are our cats also by witches
    ( I hope not LOL)
    I like the story ^____^

  2. One of my favorite book is called Reja and its this guy who turns himself into a cat lol! Yes he is a familiar!

  3. Dogs are lovely, but cats are truly magical. It's always surprising how intuitive they can be. And have such regular patterns. My cat wakes me up the same exact time every day. He was crying for his food early last night and I told him to come back at 10:00 (was watching film, didn't want to miss any). Exactly at 10:00, he comes trotting out of my room towards me. Coincidence maybe, but I swear they can tell time! x