Monday, June 8, 2009

Witches’ Familiars, Naguals, and Tonallis (Oh my!)

A witch’s familiar is a companion animal thought to enhance and support a witch’s magical powers. Because animals are closer to other spiritual realms, they also assist witches to communicate with spirits on other planes. Or so it is said.


A black cat is the typical image that pops into one’s mind when discussing witches’ familiars. Oscar, my neighbor’s cat, came into my life around the same time as I started writing the Witchcraft series. Coincidence?

It has been pointed out that old women—those most likely to be accused of witchcraft—tend to be fond of cats and often live on their own with only feline companionship.

But cats aren’t the only candidates for witches’ familiars. Some of the common familiars are pigs, toads, owls, dogs, and even mythical creatures. Below: two witches and a familiar.

The concept of companion animals assisting their magical masters is not unique to Europe. In what is now Mexico and Central America, the concept of the Nagual or Nahual (both pronounced [na'wal]) remains powerful, as does the idea of an animal associated with one’s birthdate, called the Tonalli.

When in need of arcane information about Mesoamerican beliefs, I did what I always do: I dialed my ex-husband.

Find out what he said tomorrow!

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