Hares As Familiars

According to “The Country Justice”, that was responsible for the legal aspect of witchcraft prosecutions in the New England colonies, owning a hare could be seen as a witch mark for hares were considered magical familiars.*

* Based upon European folklore of the medieval and early modern periods, familiars (sometimes referred to as familiar spirits) were believed to be supernatural entities that would assist witches and cunning folk in their practice of magic.

Empusa

The Empusa is a shapeshifting creature of the night, though she also appears at midday. She is an eidolon, an illusory phantom, with an appetite for the flesh of her victims. All of which aligns well with the Titaness Hekate, who is sometimes the mother of Skylla, and often associated with ghosts and haunts.

The Empousa appears in The Frogs by Aristophanes and may have had a role in the Eleusinian Mysteries, which may stem from her association with Hekate. She can appear as a cow, mule, woman, or a dog. With the exception of the mule, Hekate can appear as any of those animals according to lore. In each of these roles, the Empousa is a fearsome creature who resides in the underworld, another connection to Hekate, who is sometimes known as the Queen of that realm. The Frogs puts Empousa in Hekate’s train, a creature bound to Hekate’s will.

Some scholars believe that Hekate and Empousa began as one, with the monstrous creature being an epithet for the Goddess. Yet, Empousa is also described as a vampire-like daimon who will devour her victim. Most surviving stories suggest that the Lamiai, including Empousa, were used as boogy-men, to scare children into following rules. 

Hekate and Empousa share an underworldly nature, an association with the Dead, with the same figures of cow, woman, and dog, as well as both wearing bronze sandals, and being an, at times, fearful figure. It is no surprise that scholars believe that they, at the very least, have some common origin.

Hekate-Empousa,
Who haunts the day and night,
Come forth from the Underworld,
You who attends the sacrifices for the Dead,
Stay your hand from those I love,
And be kind,
And many will be the offerings poured in your honor,
Oh Hekate-Empousa,
Bless us,
Phantasmal Goddess.

Jigarkhwar (JIG-are-quor)

Oftentimes called the female equivalent of the Jigar Khoy, the jigarkhwar of the Sindh region of India is, although similar in many ways, distinctively different type of vampiric witch. The jigarkhwar uses her power of hypnosis to place a person into a trancelike state in order to steal his liver. After the organ has been stolen, the vampiric witch returns to her home and cooks it. While this is occurring, the victim falls suddenly ill. As soon as the last bite of the liver is eaten, the person’s life-energy has been consumed, and he dies. The spell can be reversed as long as a single bite of the liver remains uneaten. As soon as it is eaten, the person’s fate is sealed.

Source: Crooke, Introduction to the Popular Religion,

Morgan le Fay

Morgan le Fay first steps into Arthur’s mythos in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Vita Merlini, written in 1150. Here, she is the eldest of the nine sisters who rule the ethereal isle of Avalon and is a powerful healer. This Morgan could shape shift into animals, manifest as a crone or a maiden and fly. She’s also clever – a skilled mathematician and astronomer. Arthur’s men trust Morgan and take their mortally injured king to her to be healed. Geoffrey’s portrayal of her is sympathetic and he creates a strong, rounded female character.

In Chrétien de Troyes’ French romantic interpretation of the myth, she is presented as Arthur’s sister and described as ‘Morgan the Wise’. She is no longer the ruler of the island, but is in a relationship with its ruler, Lord Guigomar. And so her power starts to be subsumed, manipulated by medieval writers, reluctant to believe a woman could be knowledgeable, powerful or clever.

She remains a relatively benign character until Arthur’s tale is dramatically rewritten in the French Vulgate Cycle (c. 1210–30), thought to be composed by fundamentalist Cistercian monks. Cistercians were crusaders, dedicated to eradicating heretics. They despised women – some even argued against the existence of a female soul – and used the Arthurian tales as propaganda for the Christian religion. Morgan embodied everything that terrified them about the old forms of worship – a knowledgeable, gifted woman, unashamed of her flesh and desires, existing in a society that acknowledged a female presence. They twisted the benevolent character of Morgan Le Fay into a more sinister seductress and obsessive witch.

Using her looks and sexuality, she persuades Merlin to teach her the dark arts. She exposes Guinevere’s affair with Lancelot and later tries to seduce the knight. In the order’s later works, Morgan’s character becomes more overtly evil: she uses her powers to steal the magical sword Excalibur and its scabbard to use against Arthur and plots his downfall, only to be thwarted by the new witch Ninianne, the Lady of the Lake. However, at the end of Vulgate Cycle, Morgan is one of the ladies who escort Arthur on his final trip to Avalon.

By 1485, when the definitive Arthur book, Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory, appears, the Cistercian template is set. Malory’s Morgan is even more reductive. There is no affair that initiates her conflict with Guinevere; instead she’s just a fundamentally wicked person, malevolent, Arthur’s nemesis, a mistress of the dark arts, manifesting the medieval world’s fear of the knowledge and power of women.

In Germany, the Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches) was about to be published near-simultaneously and these books helped to whip up anti-magic fervour and presaged a spike in UK witch trials. One last vestige of Morgan’s earlier incarnation remains – she is permitted to transport Arthur’s body to Avalon.

Morgan has remained a powerful figure in literature – she appears in Italian Renaissance poems, French literature and English writer Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Faerie Queen. She has smouldered on the big screen, memorably portrayed by Helen Mirren in Excalibur (1981).

Her character is strong enough to bear endless reworking. The image of a sexually confident woman, clever, and gifted with magical healing abilities has been reimagined from benevolent to evil, yet still retains its power. Medieval authors turned Morgan into an evil, vengeful caricature – the only way they could deal with her independence, her power, her sexuality.

Sources: Warriors, Witches, Women

Iara

An iara is a vampiric spirit or vampiric witch from Brazil, depending on the way it died. If a person dies violently, or before his time, or outside the Catholic Church, or if a body is not given a proper Catholic burial or is buried in the jungle, that person will become the vampiric spirit type of iara. However, if a living person sells his soul to the devil for power, he will become the vampiric witch kind of iara.

The iara, no matter how it came to be, can, in its human guise, sing a beautiful, sirenlike song that will lure men out into the jungle. There is a protective chant that can be uttered as soon as a man hears the iara’s song, but he must be quick, otherwise he is doomed to fall prey to it. Once the iara has secured a victim, it shape-shifts into a snake with red eyes and, using a form of mesmerism, hypnotizes its prey, after which it will drain off his blood and semen. It leaves the bodies of those it has killed near waterways.

Source: Bryant, Handbook of Death

Ars Goetia: Buer

Buer —> The Tenth Spirit is Buer, a Great President. He appeareth in Sagittary, and that is his shape when the Sun is there. He teaches Philosophy, both Moral and Natural, and the Logic Art, and also the Virtues of all Herbs and Plants. He healeth all distempers in man, and giveth good Familiars. He governeth 50 Legions of Spirits, and his Character of obedience is this, which thou must wear when thou callest him forth unto appearance.

Haunted South: Stuckey’s Bridge (Savoy, Mississippi)

There’s a lot of bridges in the South with a ghost tale attached to them, and Stuckey’s Bridge is no exception.

The 157-year-old bridge runs over the Chunky River and is rumored to be haunted by a gang member named Stuckey who murdered and robbed travelers during the early nineteenth century in the area of where the bridge would eventually be built, reports The Meridian Star.

Stuckey was eventually caught, put on trial, found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging at the bridge he is now said to haunt.

Since then, folks have claimed to see the apparition of a man hanging from the bridge as well as heard unexplained splashing they claim is the sound of his body hitting the water.

Ars Goetia: Paimon

Paimon —> The Ninth Spirit in this Order is Paimon, a Great King, and very obedient unto Lucifer. He appeareth in the form of a Man sitting upon a Dromedary with a Crown most glorious upon his head. There goeth before him also an Host of Spirits, like Men with Trumpets and well sounding Cymbals, and all other sorts of Musical Instruments. He hath a great Voice, and roareth at his first coming, and his speech is such that the Magician cannot well understand unless he can compel him.

This Spirit can teach all Arts and Sciences, and other secret things. He can discover unto thee what the Earth is, and what holdeth it up in the Waters; and what Mind is, and where it is; or any other thing thou mayest desire to know. He giveth Dignity, and confirmeth the same. He bindeth or maketh any man subject unto the Magician if he so desire it. He giveth good Familiars, and such as can teach all Arts.

He is to be observed towards the West. He is of the Order of Dominations. He hath under him 200 Legions of Spirits, and part of them are of the Order of Angels, and the other part of Potentates. Now if thou callest this Spirit Paimon alone, thou must make him some offering; and there will attend him two Kings called Labal and Abalim, and also other Spirits who be of the Order of Potentates in his Host, and 25 Legions. And those Spirits which be subject unto them are not always with them unless the Magician do compel them. His Character is this which must be worn as a Lamen before thee.