Bad Company? Witch Familiars, Spirit Guardians, and Demons

October 31, 2019 - General
A witch with her cat familiar, a spirit servant to help her with magic.

The folklore of the wicked witch and her diabolical animal familiar is a well-known and often repeated tale. When the seasons change and the nights get long it’s not uncommon to see images and symbols of a dark-cloaked witch with an evil black cat or toad at her side. This is a fantastic archetype of magic users wielding control over nature and animals, but it’s a far cry from the beliefs that started it all.

The concept of magical spirit creatures has resonated throughout history in creation myths, tribal traditions, and religions, but it’s only relatively recently that magical animals and familiars became re-imagined as evil or dangerous companions. Historically, familiars or spirits were often seen as a type of guardian angel rather than an evil demon.

Frontispiece from the witch hunter Matthew Hopkins' The Discovery of Witches (1647), showing witches identifying their familiar spirits.


Source: origins

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