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Witch's Familiars: The Cat

No storybook witch would be complete without a black cat, her steady companion and accomplice in evil doings. Not that cats were the only animals associated with witches. Far from it. Ferrets, rabbits, hedgehogs, blackbirds, owls, crows, dogs, toads and frogs were all considered suitable helpmates for sorceresses.

Cats and other alleged familiars frequently served as evidence in British witch trials of the 17th century, a custom that had the side effect of lowering a pall of suspicion over people who formed close attachments to pets. Animals had played many roles in the pagan myths and religious practices of Europe and some of the superstitions about the magical capacities of small creatures survived when the Continent became Christianized. Church doctrine was developed that encouraged the credulous to discern the shadow of Satan in any strong relationship with an animal.

Cat lovers were particularly vulnerable to suspicion because of the longstanding superstition about felines. No less than four thousand years ago, cats had been worshiped in Egypt as sacred animals and revered by religious cults. In the city of Bubastis, festivals celebrating the cat-headed goddess, Bast, included music, dancing and sexual rituals. The affection of the Egyptians for cats probably stemmed from a recognition that the animals had value in protecting granaries from vermin. But the affinity was deeply felt and anyone who killed a cat was subject to execution. A contemporary account tells of a Roman in Egypt who was slain by a mob in his own home for killing a cat.

Other parts of the ancient world also attached religious significance to cats. The Roman goddess Diana was said to assume feline form and in northern Europe, cats drew the chariot of Freya, goddess of love and beauty. The advent of Christianity in Europe brought an end to the veneration. Eager to repudiate every aspect of paganism, the Church taught the formerly sacred animals were minor demons. And as the Church fathers fought to stamp out heretical sects, they at times made reference to feline superstitions in describing the dangers posed by dissenters. The Cathars, for example, were accused of worshiping the devil in the form of a cat.

With the coming of the European witch hunt, the forced confessions of alleged witches were used to back up the Church's claims. A white-spotted cat named Sathan became a featured player in the 1566 English trial of Elizabeth Francis. Sathan, the prosecutors declared, had performed many magical services for Francis. The cat had filled up his mistress's pastures with sheep and brought her suitors. Sathan was credited with killing a suitor after the match turned sour. And each time Sathan aided Francis, witnesses said, he was rewarded with a drop of her blood.

At a trial in 1618, a cat was portrayed as having figured in the magic that sent Margaret and Philippa Flower to the gallows. Margaret confessed to having rubbed the gloves of her intended victims on the belly of her pet. The fate of Margaret's cat is not recorded, but most familiars of convicted witches were burned alive.

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and what happent if i am allergik in cats?????
Very interesting Raven! Thanks for this posting, Blessings, Ianna:)


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