Devils and Familiars

The devil possessed witches in mind, spirit, and body. Illustrations graphically depicted the depravity of possession, from seduction to abduction to licentious orgies. Nowhere is this better represented than in the Sabbat, a gathering that was imagined to bring hundreds, even thousands, of witches together in devil worshipping. Sabbat engravings were quite detailed and salacious, fueling popular imaginings of the abomination of witchcraft.

Once a pact was consummated, the devil gave the witch a demonic familiar in the guise of a small animal—rat, owl, cat, dog, or other farm animal—to offer advice and perform evil acts. The presence of such animals, particularly in England and Scotland, could suffice to convict a person of witchcraft. Animals also figured prominently in a witch’s power to shapeshift, to take the form of animals in order to perform evil deeds. One of the most feared metamorphoses was assuming the shape of a wolf, or werewolf.

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