Are animal familiars important to a Pagan home?

RecenIMG_1731tly my partner and I brought home an 11 week old Tabby kitten. While I have had several cats in my life I have been mostly a dog-person (so to speak). In my travels as a Wiccan I do see regular references to cats being an important part of a Wiccan household, so I decided to do a bit of digging to see where this comes from. At the outset I will say that there is not a lot of helpful objective information, but I will share what I have.

With regards to cats as Pagan pets this belief seems to centre around the Egyptian god Bastet who was worshiped for magical powers. Bastet appears to have been revered for her female magical energy, and was first recorded in Egyptian history in 2890 BCE. Bastet was originally depicted as a lion and was associated with the power of the sun. Later that depiction changed into what we more commonly associate with a cat. Her power remained that of protection, particularly in cat form for the pharaoh Ra.

The association between cats and witches in the US and Europe

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In more contemporary times witches have been associated with cats. Every year in America news reporters across the country warn that owners of black cats keep them inside on Halloween for fear of pranksters causing harm. The association with ‘witches’ and cats in the United States stems back to the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts during the 17th century. Christian persecutors felt that cats were somehow spiritual extensions of witches, and therefore could walk relatively unnoticed amongst the population doing the witch’s deeds. Dogs were also represented in the massacre, as they were also said to do the evil bidding of witches, however It is my opinion that based on the cat’s ability to climb and move quietly through spaces they would cause more concern.

In Europe the association with cats and evil-doing started long before. In the 12th century cats were scene as both an aid to society and an animal to be feared. An article during by Irina Metzler described how cats were recognized as valuable in controlling the rat population (known for spreading disease), however they were seen as stealthy hunters who could not be domesticated as dogs can. This lack of domestication (obedience) I believe caused the distrust and  eventual fear.

Modern cats in Pagan homes

A search of today’s modern information stream (the internet) reveals that many modern-day Witches and broader Pagans believe in utilizing the magical power of cats (and other domestic animals) in their spells. Often these are in regards to harnessing the collective power of the animal’s spirit with your own to create a broader and stronger magical connection. Others are about protection and security. In any form Cats and other domestic animals seem to have a strong place within a modern magical home.

So what’s my take?

Any animal member of a family plays an important role in the magic of that household, just as any human members would. I believe that cats share an air of mystery and magic over dogs due to their inquisitive nature, ability to climb and jump, and their inherent lack of domestication (we all know that cats want to do their own thing!). Are cats particularly magical as opposed to other animals, I am not convinced. There is no doubt that having a pet within a household, magical or not, brings a new added facet to the spiritual crystal within. We love our Max, and he will be welcomed for years to come.

I hope you have found this article as interesting as I have. I would be interested in your feelings on the subject of animals and Witches.

Until next time,

Blessed Be

References:

Cats in Ancient Egypt

Wikipedia- Bastet

Wikipedia- Familiar spirit

What is a Animal Familiar?

Why are cats associated with Witches?

Animals in the Salem Witch Trials

Why were cats hated in Medieval Europe

Cat Magick

Animal spells- Witches of the Craft