In early modern
English superstition, a familiar spirit, imp,
or familiar (from Middle English familiar,
related to family) is an animal-shaped spirit
who serves for witchery, a demon, or other
magician-related subjects. Familiars were
imagined to serve their owners as domestic
servants, farmhands, spies, and companions,
in addition to helping bewitch enemies. These
spirits were also said to inspire artists
and writers (compare Muse).
Familiars are considered an identifying characteristic
of early modern English witchcraft, and serve
as one feature setting it apart from continental
or New World witchcrafts.
Familiars are most common in western European
mythology, with some scholars arguing that
familiars were only present in the traditions
of Great Britain and France. In these areas
three categories of familiars were believed
Types of familiar spirits
The most common species identified as familiars
cats (particularly black cats)
Less common species include:
In later cases, familiars moved to more ethereal
forms, often taking the shape of a "black
man" (some claim a relation to shadow
people) thought to be representative of Satan.
Familiars are generally animals. They usually
have some magical power or are simply there
to advance the story. Dangerous familiars
are in the forms of weasels, puppies, and
toads. Familiars were also animals or birds
that sucked witch's blood.
On the eastern side of England, in places
such as Suffolk, familiars were said to be
more common. Eastern familiars were cats,
ferrets, mice, moles, toads, and dogs. Familiars
sucked blood and were known to eat bread,
raw meat, and drink milk.
Each familiar grants special abilities to
the chosen ones they visit. The first visit
often occurs during childhood (between 4 and
6 years old). Each familiar has a special
power inherent to it and it is often difficult
to know and learn the powers they offer as
The scholarship on the witch's familiar has
changed and improved in depth and respectability
since it was covered in the demonological
contexts of early modern Europe. The study
of the witch's familiar has evolved from an
obscure topic in folkloric journals to popular
books and journals that incorporate a historical
discipline with multi-disciplinary approaches
like anthropology, study of early modern Europe,
and women’s studies. James Sharpe, in
his article on the witch’s familiar
in The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: the Western
Tradition, states: "Folklorists began
their investigations in the 19th Century [and]
found that familiars figured prominently in
ideas about witchcraft."In the 1800s,
folklorists sparked the imagination of the
scholars who would, in the decades to come,
write descriptive volumes on witches and their
One example of the growth and development
of familiar scholarship can be found in the
scholarly publication Folklore, which has
consistently contributed articles on superstition
from England and early modern Europe. In the
first decades of the 1900s, the witch's familiar
was only superficially mentioned as "niggets"
which were "creepy-crawly things that
witches kept all over them".
Margaret Murray, the mother of familiar scholarship,
has taken what was a field comprised, at best,
of gossip and hearsay into a legitimate branch
of study in early-modern Europe. Her work
delved into the variation of the familiar
found in witchcraft practices. Many of the
sources she relied on were trial records and
demonological texts from early to modern England.
These include the 1556 Essex Witchcraft Trials
of the Witches of Hatfield Perevil, the 1582
Trial of the Witches of St. Osyth, and the
1645 Essex Trials with Matthew Hopkins acting
as a Witch-finder. In 1921, Murray published
The Witch Cult in Western Europe, a book that
was quite remarkable in the depth and analysis
of the culture and folklore that surrounded
witchcraft and the theories concerning the
witch-cult. Its information concerning the
witch's familiar comes from the witchcraft
trials in Essex in the 1500s and 1600s. Margaret
A. Murray made megalithic contributions to
the corpus of scholarship on the witch's familiar
and has continued to be cited in recent scholarship,
a testament to the timelessness of her work.
There has not been a contribution to familiar
scholarship in eighty years which has equaled
Murray's work. Although recent
scholarship has been made multi-disciplinary
with integrations of feminist-historian and
world-historian approaches. One of the major
pieces to come from this Atlantic Trend is
Deborah Willis' Malevolent Nurture: Witch-Hunting
and Maternal Power in Early Modern England.
In her chapter [Un]neighborly Nurture, she
links the witch's relationship with the familiar
as a bizarre and misplaced corruption of motherhood
and maternal power.
The most evidence of familiars comes from
the English and Scottish period during the
16th century and the 17th century. The court
system that tried witches was known as the
Essex witchcraft trials. The Essex trial of
Agnes Sampson of Nether Keith in 1590 displays
proof of a divinatory familiar. This evidence
shows Sampson being tried for high treason
and the court wants to prosecute Sampson for
attempting to use witchcraft on King James
VI. The court documents Sampson for stating
familiar spirits came when she called it and
resolved her doubtful matter. Another evidence
of a familiar appearing in an Essex trial
is that of Hellen Clark tried in 1645. This
court documented Hellen and she stated that
the devil appeared as a familiar in the form
of a dog.
The English courts reflect a strong relationship
between the witch and the familiar.
Prince Rupert's dog
Prince Rupert and his "familiar"
dog in a pamphlet titled "The Cruel Practices
of Prince Rupert" (1643). During the
English Civil War, the Royalist general Prince
Rupert was in the habit of taking his large
poodle dog, named "Boye", into battle
with him. Throughout the war the dog was greatly
feared among the soldiers of Parliament and
credited with supernatural powers, evidently
considered a kind of familia). At the end
of the war the dog was shot, allegedly with
a silver bullet.
Familiars in art, music and
Familiars were mentioned in Shakespeare's
Macbeth, as the witches called their familiars.
Loiosh, in Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos series
In the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud,
djinns and other demons are summoned and serve
as a passive manifestation of a magician's
power as opposed to any true arcane skills
Familiars have appeared in several fantasy
role playing systems, most notably as the
companions of wizards and sorcerers in recent
versions of Dungeons & Dragons.
In vampire fiction (Salem's Lot, Blade, etc.),
familiars are humans who were promised immortality
by a vampire lord in exchange for services
of some kind.
In The WB television series Charmed, the star
characters possessed a familiar for the first
half of the series named Kit the Cat, who
was a white Siamese with blue eyes.
In the film Elvira: Mistress of the Dark,
Elvira possessed a familiar named Algonquin,
or Gonk for short, who took the shape of dogs
In the manga series Sugar Sugar Rune two familiars
come as a mouse and frog.
In the Sailor Moon metaseries, the main characters
possess familiars, in the form of cats, named
Luna, Artemis and Diana.
In the Earthsea books, Ged has a mouse-familiar,
an "ottak". There are references
to several other familiars, including ravens
In the Harry Potter series there are a number
of characters possessing beloved pets similar
to familiars, though the term is never used.
Note that the three pets students are allowed
to have in school are an owl, a toad, or a
cat, three common types of familiars.
The DC Comics character Klarion the Witch
Boy has an orange cat familiar named Teekl,
as does the character Morgana whose black
cat was named Frimost.
In the Philip Pullman book series His Dark
Materials, dæmons are similar to familiars.
In the animated television ReBoot, the character
Hexadecimal had a "verminous" familiar
The Marvel Comics character Satana had a familiar
named Exiter who died while trying to save
In the British comedy programme The Mighty
Boosh, Bollo, who is the "oldest ape
in captivity" is the Shaman Naboo the
In Riviera: The Promised Land, a Game Boy
Advance game, the main character Ein has a
familiar named Rose (who looks like an ordinary
black house cat).
The PlayStation game Castlevania: Symphony
of the Night features several familiars that
can be unlocked to aid the player.
In another PlayStation game, Azure Dreams,
the basis of the gameplay is centered around
recovering monster eggs that become the hero's
familiar when hatched.
In the computer game GODS, a familiar is an
unlockable bird of prey that follows the protagonist
In the browser-based MMORPG Kingdom of Loathing,
familiars are like pets that can be obtained
to assist a player in various ways, from healing
to attacking to increasing item drop rates.
In the Karin (anime), Karin's sister Anju
control a horde of bat familiars that watch
over Karin throughout the day. She is also
accompanied by many doll familiars, most notably
"Boogie" whom she often carries
around with her.
In Rob Schrab's "Twigger's Holiday",
Twigger has a humanoid familiar named Josh
who often barks like a dog. Twigger's girlfriend
Michelle also has a humanoid familiar who
meows like a cat.
The plot of the Japanese visual novel Fate/stay
night, tells the story of a war between magicians
and their "servants", heroic spirits
which can be rendered as familiars.
In the Japanese anime Zero no Tsukaima, all
of the 2nd year students must summon their
own familiar. The heroine's familiar turned
out to be a human.
In Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Sabrina Spellman
had a black cat familiar named Salem, though
he was actually a warlock turned into a cat
as punishment for attempted world domination.
Familiar is the name used for a common, bat-like
monster in Ragnarok Online. They can be summoned
by the MVP Boss, Dracula.
In the game Warhammer 40,000, space marine
librarians, chaos sorcerers, and inquisitors
can choose familiars as equipment.
A dog and cat prowl a dark alley, pausing
to inspect a corpse, in the opening sequence
of the 1986 horror/mystery film Angel Heart,
foreshadowing the appearance of the sinister
Louis Cyphre and his attorney.
Masaki Andoh from the Super Robot Wars game
series has two cat familiar spirits, a female
black cat named Kuro and a male white cat
named Shiro. They also help him in combat,
piloting Cybuster's Hi-Familiar remote weapons.
In the book "The Bridge" by Iain
M. Banks the familiar lives atop the barbarian's
back and helps him in a few ways, ranging
from spells to advice.
A soldier of Wallachia, summoned by Alucard
as a familiar.Alucard from Hellsing has Cerberus-like
shadow dogs for familiars, and has the ability
to summon familiars of the victims of his
The Elf Wizard Vaarsuvius, from the popular
webcomic The Order of the Stick, has his/her
own familiar, a black raven.
In H.P. Lovecraft's The Dreams in the Witch
House, an old witch named Kesiah Mason has
a familiar named Brown Jenkin, a hideous ratlike
creature with a human face.
In the Manga/Anime Negima! the main character
Negi Springfield has a white ermine named
Albert Chamomile commonly called "Chamo"
as his familiar.
In the play Bell, Book, and Candle, by John
Van Druten, as well as in the film adaptation,
the main character Gillian Holroyd has a familiar
in the form of a cat named Pyewacket.
Mythological familiars were also portrayed
as antagonists in the TV series Dark Angel,
starring Jessica Alba.
In Miyazaki's animated film Kiki's Delivery
Service, Kiki is a young witch in training
who owns a black cat named Jiji. Jiji can
speak in human languages to her, but when
Kiki's magic abilities start to fail, she
can't understand Jiji, and he speaks in Cat.
In the anime series Paranoia Agent, a plush
doll of the character Maromi comes to life
and advises its creator Tsukiko Sagi much
as a familiar would.
In the short story, "Puddle Head",
which is no longer in print, the main protagonist,
Joshua, has a familiar named "Reed Bones"
given to him as a gift from his deceased father
In the anime D.N. Angel, With (or Wiz in the
English version) is Dark's familiar, in the
form of a dog and rabbit cross-breed.
In the Strategy RPG game series Summon Night
familiars are summoned.
In Garth Nix's Abhorsen Trilogy Mogget is
the Abhorsen's Familiar.
In Matty (composed by Johnny Mulhearn), Christy
Moore sings about the eponymous farmer meeting
his "dark familiar" before he dies.
In Jim Butcher's novel series "The Dresden
Files" White Council member Injun Joe
(AKA Joseph Listens-to-Wind) possesses a raccoon
familiar named Little Brother
The MMORPG Runescape features a wide variety
of Familiars in the skill called 'Summoning'
^ M. A. Murray, Divination by Witches’
Familiars. Man. Vol. 18 June 1918. 1-3.
^ Frances Dolan. Dangerous Familiars. Ithaca
and London: Cornell University Press, 1994.
^ Sharpe, James; Rickard M Golden (2006).
Familiars in the Encyclopedia of Witchcraft:
the Western Tradition. ABC-CLIO.
^ Times, The (1916). "Superstition in
Essex: A Witch and Her Niggets". Folklore
^ Murray, Margaret (July 1918). "Witches'
Familiars in England". Man 18: 101.?
^ Murray, Margaret A. (1921). The Witch-Cult
in Western Europe. Clarendon Press.
^ Willis, Deborah (1995). Malevolent Nurture:
Witch-Hunting and Maternal Power in Modern
England. Cornell U..
^ M. A. Murray, “Witches familiars in
England.” Man, Vol. 18 July 1918 1-3.
WITCH'S FAMILIARS DESKTOP BACKGROUND
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MORE ON WITCHES:
OF THE WITCH: CELEBRATING HALLOWEEN
year on October 31st the world changes: Time,
as we know it, ceases to exist and the veil
that shrouds our world draws back for a brief
span to open a doorway into the realm of shadows,
mystery and ancient magick, of the dead and
the dark Divine.
< READ MORE HERE>
too, it was long believed, were out in force
upon this Night of Nights to welcome the Witch’s
New Year in perfect fashion. When the last
golden glow of the setting Autumn sun had
faded, witches would take to the air riding
upon broomsticks, spades, or butter churns,
on the backs of airborne goats or huge black
cats, some even upon the backs of flying pigs,
all en route to the celebration of the Great
Sabbat of Samhain or All Hallow’s Eve.
This supernatural traffic was known as the
Halloween Rade and all good folk who did not
want to fall under an evil spell, or worse,
get swept up in the raid themselves, transformed
into some animal for a witch’s transport,
were secure inside their hushed and darkened
IN A WITCH'S GARDEN
of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and
tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's
leg, and owlet's wing, For a charm of powerful
trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."
< READ MORE HERE>
IN THE WITCH’S
GARDEN HELL'S BELLS
BY THE DEVILS' CURSE
by the devil or by a wicked witch. Many Americans
believe that serious forces are working against
them? Do You? A righteous curse, especially
when uttered by persons in authority, was
believed to be unfailing in its effect (Gen.
9:25, 27:12; II Kings 2:24; Ecclus. Sirach
3:11). Special names for specific types of
curses and evil spells can be found in several
modern cultures. A Haunted house Can be cursed
as can a person place or ordinary thing.
Read More Here.<