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Animals Associated with Witches

American crow on fence post 

Did you know that, in certain times and places, people believed some animals did the work of witches? Learn more about these creatures here.

  • Animals that were believed to be kept by witches were called "familiars."
  • "Familiars" were especially common in countries where people believed in magic and where there were "medicine men" or "medicine women." (There are still places where these beliefs hold true nowadays.)
  • In some cases, people said a familiar could do things and go places that humans couldn’t—changing into different animal forms.
  • Some people believed this animal had a special bond with just one person and served just him or her.

Hundreds of years ago, some people in Europe and in the American colonies feared witches.

  • People thought witches were nasty and deserved to die. (Many so-called witches were hung, in fact.)
  • So any animal seen with someone suspected of being a witch was said to be evil, too.

The cat remains the animal most often tied to magic and to witches. But lots of other animals were considered familiars of witches too. Here are just a few:

  • Honeybees: People said that witches loved bees for their wax—used by witches to make little statues in their rituals or black magic practices.
  • Wolves: Witches were said to ride wolves on their way to their witches’ meetings or sabbats. Some people said witches could turn into wolves, or become werewolves.
  • Dogs: People thought that dogs, and black dogs especially (like black cats), might be demons.

Other "familiars" included:

  • Blackbirds
  • Hares
  • Chickens
  • Foxes
  • Mice

Of course, you may have a kind of "familiar." It’s your pet!

  • When you’re sad, maybe your dog knows it and comes over and licks your face. Or maybe your cat crawls into your lap.
  • The truth is, animals have been companions to people in ways like this for thousands of years.
  • There’s nothing evil or magical about it.

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