Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Familiar Spirits

The concept of witches having cats is a trope that has been around for centuries. Particularly black cats. There's something furtive and witchy about them, even in anime witch representations:




However, centuries ago there were people who were more likely to look askance at women, especially poor older women, who had unusual pets. This is before the days of the talking parakeets, gerbils, or ferrets. Befriending a homely-looking mutt or having a pet toad might not be a good idea back during the Middle Ages. In the 17th century Matthew Hopkins, the self-styled Witch Finder General, found several instances of witches having unusual pets, with curious names.

One witch had a short-legged terrier, named Jarmara, black bunny named Sacke and Sugar, and a greyhound with an ox's head named Vinegar Tom. Another witch had Pyewackett, a cat familiar, and Grizzled Greedigut,

These animal familiars served as spies, pranksters, and all around sidekicks when witchy business was to take place. Toads were sometimes said to be witches' familiars. They were castigated as a source of warts for centuries.




I wonder how much demand there is for a Cajun witch. Surely more than a Cajun bitch! After all, there are herbalists, traiteurs, and traiteuses that lurk unrestrained by the Medical Practice Act. And curses are rife in the Bayou subculture, even outside of election season. (The Gubernatorial race takes place in the year before the Presidential race.)

But some practice the Dark Arts. And, if they want a familiar spirit, they would probably have a nutria. But still, the greyhound with an ox's head is kind of cool.

6 comments:

Grand Crapaud said...

A pet nutria would be neat!

Cloudia said...

Cool survey

John Hill said...

And if you were a young Cajun witch, what would your familiar of choice be, Angel?

Mike said...

A pit bull with horns. Now there's a scary thought.

Deena said...

A classy witch would only go with a purebred dog or cat nowadays.

Bilbo said...

Why do we call a witch's pet a "familiar?"