familiar

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Related to Familiars: Witch's familiar

familiar

1. a supernatural spirit often assuming animal form, supposed to attend and aid a witch, wizard, etc.
2. a person, attached to the household of the pope or a bishop, who renders service in return for support
3. History an officer of the Inquisition who arrested accused persons

Familiar

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

An attendant spirit that usually took the form of an animal or bird. During the persecutions it was believed that every witch had a familiar—a servant provided by the Devil to work the witch's mischief. The owner would feed his or her familiar by giving a drop of blood, sometimes from a supernumerary teat. Such a teat would be searched for when a person was accused of witchcraft. Any similar protuberance, mole, or papilla of any sort was considered damning evidence. Matthew Hopkins made familiars a major issue in his hunting of witches and had every accused searched for the supernumerary teat and for the devil's mark.

King James's Witchcraft Act of 1604 specified that it was a felony to "consult, covenant with, entertain, employ, feed, or reward any evil and wicked spirit." Reginald Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584) states that demons could take animal form and be kept as pets by witches, who fed them milk and blood. Richard Bernard, in his Guide to Grand Jurymen (1627), said that witches "have ordinarily a familiar, or spirit, in the shape of a man, woman, boy, dog, cat, foal, fowl, hare, rat, toad, etc. And to these spirits they give names."

The very act of having a pet, especially one to which the owner spoke kind words, was in itself a sign of a witch and familiar, according to the accusers of the Middle Ages. Sometimes the mere fact that an animal—even one not belonging to the accused—had been seen running toward the supposed witch was enough to indicate that it might be the familiar.

According to the evidence of the 1692 Salem witch trials in Massachusetts, both Sarah Good and Sarah Osburn had familiars. Sarah Good's was a cat and a yellow bird; the bird sucked her "between the forefinger and long finger upon the right hand." Sarah Osburn had a thing with "wings and two legs and a head like a woman," according to the children accusers. Also at Salem, young Dorcas Good,

Sarah's five-year-old daughter, claimed to have a familiar. She said it was a snake. When asked where it sucked, she pointed to her forefinger, where the examiners observed "a deep red spot, about the bigness of a flea bite."

In Finnish, Lapp, and Norwegian folklore, familiars frequently take the form of flies, while Malay witches have owls and badgers. In European belief, cats are the most common, along with dogs, rabbits, and toads. The cat (and sometimes the hare) is often referred to as a malkin or malking.

In 1324 Dame Alice Kyteler, of Kilkenny, Ireland, was accused of having a familiar in the form of a cat, although it sometimes appeared as a shaggy dog and sometimes as a black man. She called it Robin Artison. Dame Alice attributed all her wealth to the workings of this familiar.

Many times a witch would give or bequeath his or her familiar to another. Elizabeth Francis, one of the Chelmsford witches of 1566, claimed to have received her white spotted cat familiar, named Sathan, from her grandmother. In turn, Elizabeth passed it on to her sister, Agnes Waterhouse.

Ursula Kemp, one of the witches of St. Osyth in 1582, had four familiars: a toad named Pygine, a lamb named Tyffin, a gray cat named Tyttey, and a black cat named Jack. The frontispiece to Matthew Hopkins's Discovery of Witches (1647) shows the "Witch Finder General" together with two witches and an assortment of their familiars. They bear such names as Pyewacket, Ilemauzar, Sacke and Sugar, Jarmara, Vinegar Tom, Pecke in the Crowne, Newes, and Griezzell Greedigutt.

References in classic literature ?
The whitewashed walls; the little pews where well-known figures entered with a subdued rustling, and where first one well-known voice and then another, pitched in a peculiar key of petition, uttered phrases at once occult and familiar, like the amulet worn on the heart; the pulpit where the minister delivered unquestioned doctrine, and swayed to and fro, and handled the book in a long accustomed manner; the very pauses between the couplets of the hymn, as it was given out, and the recurrent swell of voices in song: these things had been the channel of divine influences to Marner--they were the fostering home of his religious emotions--they were Christianity and God's kingdom upon earth.
We often feel that something in our sensible environment is familiar, without having any definite recollection of previous occasions on which we have seen it.
One of my pieces, which fell so far short of my visionary performances as to treat of the lowly and familiar theme of Spring, was the first thing I ever had in print.
"Yes, one is afraid," continued the first speaker, he of the familiar voice.
Yet I miss the room that used to be so familiar to me.
He was evidently puzzled to understand me when I informed him that the only object of my visit was to look once more at the familiar scenes round my old home.
As he listened to Petritsky's familiar stories in the familiar setting of the rooms he had spent the last three years in, Vronsky felt a delightful sense of coming back to the careless Petersburg life that he was used to.
For sounds in winter nights, and often in winter days, I heard the forlorn but melodious note of a hooting owl indefinitely far; such a sound as the frozen earth would yield if struck with a suitable plectrum, the very lingua vernacula of Walden Wood, and quite familiar to me at last, though I never saw the bird while it was making it.
But this sort of sickness used to pass off with the first sight of a familiar landmark.
One day, for illustration, I was passing along a street of a city, far from here, when I met two men in uniform, one of whom, half pausing and looking curiously into my face, said to his companion, "That man looks like 767." Something in the number seemed familiar and horrible.
"I--I've come to--to lay the case before you," stammered Pollyanna, after a moment, unconsciously falling into her father's familiar phraseology.
At that moment it struck me that there was something familiar about the house over the way.

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