In a number of accounts, the cunning person or witch was experiencing difficulty prior to the appearance of the familiar, who offered to aid them.
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As historian Emma Wilby noted, "their problems… were primarily rooted in the struggle for physical survival—the lack of food or money, bereavement, sickness, loss of livelihood and so on", and the familiar offered them a way out of this by giving them magical powers. In some cases, the magical practitioner then made an agreement or entered a pact with their familiar spirit.
The length of time that the witch or cunning person worked with their familiar spirit varied between a few weeks through to a number of decades. In some rarer cases there were accounts where the familiars would appear at times when they were unwanted and not called upon, for instance the Huntingdonshire witch Elizabeth Chandler noted, in , that she could not control when her two familiars, named Beelzebub and Trullibub, appeared to her, and had prayed for a god to "deliver her therefrom".
Familiars are most common in western European mythology, with some scholars arguing that familiars are only present in the traditions of Great Britain and France. In these areas three categories of familiars are believed to exist: During the English Civil War , the Royalist general Prince Rupert was in the habit of taking his large poodle dog named Boye into battle with him.
Throughout the war the dog was greatly feared among the Parliamentarian forces and credited with supernatural powers.
As noted by Morgan,  the dog was apparently considered a kind of familiar. At the end of the war the dog was shot, allegedly with a silver bullet. Most data regarding familiars comes from the transcripts of English and Scottish witch trials held during the 16thth centuries.
The court system that labeled and tried witches was known as the Essex. This case is fundamentally political, trying Sampson for high treason, and accusing Sampson for employing witchcraft against King James VI. The prosecution asserts Sampson called familiar spirits and resolved her doubtful matter.
Another Essex trial is that of Hellen Clark, tried in , in which Hellen was compelled to state that The Devil appeared as a "familiar" in the form of a dog. The English court cases reflect a strong relationship between State's accusations of witchcraft against those who practiced ancient indigenous traditions, including the familiar animal or spirit. In some cases familiars replace children in the favour of their mothers. See witchcraft and children.
In colonial America animal familiars can be seen in the witch hunts that took place in Salem, Massachusetts in Familiar spirits often appear in the visions of the afflicted girls. Although the law that defined a witch as one who "hath or consulteth with a familiar spirit" had been suspended ten years earlier, association with a familiar spirit was used in the Salem trials as evidence to convict suspected witches. Sarah Good was said to have a yellow bird who sucked between her fingers.
Ann Putnam in particular frequently saw the yellow bird in her afflictions. Tituba was known to have seen strange animals that urged her to hurt children, these included, a hog, a black dog, a red cat, and a black cat. The mark was most commonly an extra teat found somewhere on the body and was suspected to be used to suckle the familiar spirits. An example of this can be seen in the Salem witch trials of For example, Ann Putnam told Martha Corey that, "ther is a yellow burd a sucking between your fore finger and midel finger I see it" .
Historian Emma Wilby identified recurring motifs in various European folk tales and fairy tales that she believed displayed a belief in familiar spirits.
familiar | Definition of familiar in English by Oxford Dictionaries
She noted that in such tales as Rumpelstiltskin , Puss-in-Boots and the Frog Prince , the protagonist is approached by a supernatural being when they are in need of aid, something that she connected to the appearance of familiar spirits in the Early Modern accounts of them. Recent scholarship on familiars exhibits the depth and respectability absent from earlier demonological approaches. The study of familiars has grown from an academic topic in folkloric journals to a general topic in popular books and journals incorporating anthropology, history and other disciplines.
James Sharpe, in The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: In the 19th century, folklorists fired the imagination of scholars who would, in decades to come, write descriptive volumes on witches and familiars. Examples of the growth and development of familiar scholarship are found in Folklore , which consistently contributes articles on traditional beliefs in England and early modern Europe.
In the first decades of the 20th century, familiars are identified as "niggets", which are "creepy-crawly things that witches kept all over them". Margaret Murray delves into variations of the familiar found in witchcraft practices. Many of the sources she employs are trial records and demonological texts from early to modern England. Her information concerning familiars comes from witchcraft trials in Essex in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Her detailed contribution to the topic included several court cases and accounts from Europe in which she finds mention of familiars. Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free! Do you feel lucky?
Our Word of the Year justice , plus 10 more. How we chose 'justice'. And is one way more correct than the others? How to use a word that literally drives some people nuts. The awkward case of 'his or her'. Identify the word pairs with a common ancestor. Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words? Other Words from familiar Adjective familiarly adverb. Adjective bosom , buddy-buddy , chummy , close , especial , friendly , inseparable , intimate , inward , near , thick , tight Antonyms: Adjective distant Visit the Thesaurus for More.
Choose the Right Synonym for familiar Adjective common , ordinary , plain , familiar , popular , vulgar mean generally met with and not in any way special, strange, or unusual. Examples of familiar in a Sentence Noun a longtime familiar of the bar, she would most likely have been there on the night in question with old familiars the normally reserved writer can be quite warm and funny Adjective Some authors, such as Richard Rodriguez and Ruben Martinez, will be familiar to media mavens outside the region … — Ray Olson , Booklist , 15 Oct.
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