Cat Familiars: Every Witch Needs One!
For some Halloween fun, let's look at some history and myths about Cat Familiars!
Cats as familiars have a long and dark history in western mythology. These cats often found their way into literature. One of the most famous was Grimalkin, the witches' cat from Shakespeare's Mac Beth. Cats as witch's companions are still a part of the popular symbology associated with the modern holiday of Halloween.
What is a familiar?
In western mythology, a familiar was an animal companion given by the devil to a witch in order to help her with her evil magic. These familiars would have names just like any other pet. In the middle ages, if you were caught talking to your pet (like a lot of people do) you were considered to be consorting with the devil. Obviously you must be a witch communing with your familiar.
The Middle Ages were a very dark and violent period in Europe. The alternative name "Dark Ages" should come as no surprise. Learning was confined to clergy and nobility. The general population was therefore quite ignorant and prone to superstition. The church itself often perpetuated these superstitions as facts.
A witches familiar could be any type of animals such as a toad, dog or cat. Black cats became the traditionally cited companion and hence cats became particularly reviled. In 1233 Pope Gregory IX wrote his Papal Bull "Vox in Rama" which actually denounced black cats as satanic.
The Popes' proclamation began the persecution of cats all over Europe. Thousands and thousands of cats were burned alive in the attempt to drive out the evil Satan. Wild tales of these cats shape shifting into other creatures were common among the populace and justified these terrible acts in their minds. When the power of the Knights Templar was broken, some of the knights were said to have confessed to worshiping cats.
As these so-called confessions were given under extreme torture, they would seem to speak more to the attitudes of their inquisitors than to anything the Templars themselves had actually done.
Why were black cats in particular singled out?
There are a couple of legends that might explain this singular revulsion. In the first legend, the story goes that cats who were born at the end of blackberry season were called blackberry cats. According to this legend, the end of blackberry season coincides with the expulsion of Satan from heaven. When he fell he landed on a blackberry bush which he defiled with his urine and spit. Thus, blackberry cats, especially black ones are associated with the devil in this tale.
The second tale comes from Italy. The Italian witches, called streghe, tell a legend about Diana goddess of the moon also called "Queen of the Witches". Her brother who was known in ancient times as Apollo is renamed Lucifer (Light Bearer) in this tale. Supposedly, Diana wanted to have a son by Lucifer, so she attempted to trick him by taking the shape of a black cat.
As you can see, these stories were pretty wild, and yet the people of those Dark Ages took them as the gospel truth. After all, it was the church that was telling them.
The irony of this superstitious hysteria against cats was that by destroying the cats the Europeans nearly destroyed themselves. Cats had been used for centuries to keep down the population of vermin, especially mice, and rats. When their predators were destroyed, the vermin population exploded.
Rats ate large amounts of grain that had been meant for human consumption resulting in widespread hunger among the people. Even worse than the hunger was the enormous numbers of rats became disease carriers. The worst of these diseases was the Bubonic plague, otherwise known as the Black Death.
The Plagues of the Middle Ages were a terrible instance of the repercussions that can befall humans due to misplaced zeal.
Superstitions of cats especially black cats continue today. Many still fear them as witches familiars, they shudder when one crosses their path, and some believe that cats may be able to see the specter of death.
While cats are quite psychic and do often see the spirits of the dead, they are in no way evil or dangerous.
Let’s remember there are also many positive superstitions in regards to our little furry, purry, friends. Such as the old Buddhist superstition that says a light colored cat will bring silver to the home of the owner, while a dark colored cat brings gold. In America to see a white cat on the road is considered lucky, and let us not forget the fine English superstition - whenever the cat of the house is black, the lasses will have no lack of lovers.
So this Halloween give a shout out to your favorite cat familiar- its OK the inquisition can't harm you now!
Thank you, for reading - groundedpsychic.com
Wishing You a Happy Halloween!
In loving memory of Marmy gone too soon, and Smoky my first wonderful cat familiar.