More About Witches: The Animals of Halloween
Sacred To Many
Animals of the Halloween Season
Well my little ones, the learning is never done. Let's this time take a look at the animals most often connected to witches and why. Keep in mind that during the Burning Times many accused witches confessed to anything to make the torment stop. In other words, anything learned from these poor women was most likely a lie.
But we have a fine habit of turning ugly lies into beautiful truths. So many of the animals connected to us falsely, have become animals we admire and work with. I'm going over the animals most often associated with us in the Halloween season. Because of course that is the one time of year art featuring us is pasted everywhere.
As always all writing and photography are my original work. Like my owl? She and a lot of the other animal statues are from my personal collection and were photographed by me. Enjoy!
Out of the foggy night, the haunting moans of the dead come. They grow louder as bobbing lights approach. Louder still, and a huge white horse emerges from the mist. You try to shut the door and hide. But to your horror, a horse's skull peers in at you through a window. The moans of the dead grow louder. Muck Olla wants in!
Blessings Of The Animals
Not Vincent Price, either
Well this one is odd. Yes there may have been, before time began a connection to a God or Goddess. Also bats were often prized as magical tools. Sadly for the bat this meant a fatal meeting. This may well be a remnant of offering bats to a Deity lost in time.
The new world comes in to play too. Here bats were often totems among the Native Americans. Who being not only the real Americans, but wise people, refused to give up bat totems. Bats also were fond of the dark. As were hunted witches. Why?
Well if people wanted to burn you, you hid. Also if you were working skyclad you didn't need every pervert in town getting "happy" over it. True it also had to do with full moon power. Both European pagans and Native American shamans knew her and used her powers well.
The Christians on the other hand were forbid to even think of such a thing. So all other lunar creatures like bats and witches must be evil. That and the ideas of the day. It was felt bats avoided the sun because of God and feared fire for the same reason.
Well today we know they are simply night hunters. These bats keep pests down, pollinate crops and flowers, and can tell you many things. Like what? Well bats are super sensitive to electricity. So when a storms a-brewing he'll let you know.
Your local bats would like to put in a word. All those super-scary photos of them? Some nut-job photographer though bats would look more scary if he annoyed them. So wind is blown into the poor little guys face to make him "snarl". Happily the ASPCA does not share the same views.
Bats also bring luck. Live ones only, please.
God/dess Sacred to: most crones, Santa Muerte, Mictlantecuhtli, Mictecacihuatl
Color Association: black, brown
Magical Working: finding your way, bat magic, underworld mysteries, night or lunar magic
The Black Cat
Heartbeat real strong...
Janet Jackson was right about the poor black cat's fate. Although she may not have meant the four-footed kind.
Well you know that during the Burning Times a lot of poor cats died. First all black, but then anything feline. Why? A few disturbed men wanted power. And to do this away went the women healers and their faithful companions.
This fear may well stem from the cult of Bast being deeply imbedded in Europe. It may also stem from the gallant Polish cat god, or the tribal totems of wild cats. But mostly it was pure fear and hate for one reason.
Cats are hex smashers. No evil can stand these devine felines and flees in terror. You can bet if they had lived these cats would have smashed any attempt to bring ruination. They and the witches would have fought to protect to populace from evil.
Witches loves cats both as pets and co-magicians. We feel Deity gave all His/Her creatures powers. Each is different, and each can be blended to help one another. A good witch and her faithful feline can disrupt evil, bind criminals, and fight illness. They make a powerful duo and may well be protecting you right now. And yes, that means we feel animals capable of prayer and magic in their own way.
Cats by the way do no evil. Neither they or true pagans and witches seek to harm you. So all that negative garbage about stealing breath or hexing folk is just that, garbage. We don't have proof any of these poor "witches" even confessed. All that mumbo jumbo was more likely spawned by literate males seeking to kick out women healers.
So why do folks fear the witches cat? Well honestly, I feel it is jealousy. It is not small thing to win the love of such a charming and intelligent animal. And if he wants to work magic or worship with you? Outstanding. Also the same folks who hate and fear cats won't take time to learn the truth about them.
God/dess Sacred to: most crones, Bastet, Freyja, Li Shou, Ovinnik, Hecate (By personal experience: Loki, Santa Muerte)
Color Association: black, brown, white
Magical Working: finding your way, cat magic, Egyptian or other mysteries touching on cats
Crow and Raven
Sorry bird watchers, but the rest of us have a hard time knowing which is which. So did people in the old days, so crow and raven magic or tales are often transmutable. Crow was once the messenger of the gods, and loyal companion to the Morrigan. This was also a form She used to clean up battlefields and best Her enemies. And just like Her, they could be tricksters who fooled enemies with powerful magic and cunning.
Raven and crow are often connected to crones as well, because they eat dead things. Since the Crone is often the Goddess who collects the dead, the image stuck. Again, this wasn't a bad thing. Seeing crows or ravens meant they were doing holy work with the dead.
Again as the Old Ways faded, so too did the crow's popularity. Across the pond in the US he has fared little better among settlers. The Native American people however, had many ideas about crow and raven that matched those of the old world.
Here he was seen as a trickster as well. Crow could bring strong magic to people, or trick them out of what they already had. Like all tricksters this sometimes seemed unfair, so he was branded the devil's bird by settlers who heard of the magic in a very bad way. Considering brave Crow warriors have done well by crow, people are starting to love this wise bird once more.
God/dess Sacred to: most crones, The Moirriagn
Color Association: black
Magical Working: finding your way, healing after loss
UPDATE: Just found a fantastic example of Raven as seen in Native American folklore on The Pumpkin Exploded right here at Squidoo.
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: If you see only one or two birds you are likely dealing with a raven. A whole flock of them would be crows.
OK guys, a special thanks to Murochka for asking. Sometimes you will notice animals hanging around you. They might be a bit scary depending on your society's view of that animal. Crows for example, frighten a lot of folks.
But crows are excellent bringers of wisdom. They have been seen as Gods, companions to the Crone, and much, much more. Seeing some may be a sign you need to notice the magical world, or that someone is sending you wisdom.
But they could just be crows being crows. The smartest members of the bird kingdom love large groups. They will readily adopt humans. So seeing a mated pair may show they want you as a part of their growing family.
Crows like food and shiny gifts keep them happy. Talking softly and being kind will win them over. Once bonded to a human, crows will die for them. Nobody will get near you if your crow family has anything to do with it.
You'll learn the calls for food, friends, hello, danger and so forth if you keep at it. I was adopted by a family of crows myself, and enjoyed the protection, friendship, and playful antics.
They may have found the straw talisman to be pretty and gave it to you as a gift. Crows love giving gifts more then they love getting them. Leave some food as thanks if you like. Since you got both crows and a protection symbol you might start by studying the God or Goddesses connected to crows and protection. For more nifty infor on crows and other magical animals, hit the second witchy lens.
Or simply thank your chosen Deity for the thoughtful gifts of friendship and protection. Oh, almost forgot. Crows hate evil and will attack any negative critter or person forthwith.
Cutty Black Sow
She's no cutty (short-tailed) sow to mess with. When nights get shorter, she is on the prowl for the hindmost. Huge, aggressive, and oh yeah, she likes to collect souls. The black sow may have been a Crone or Death/Life/Death Goddess at one time. But in Ireland she is also connected with the Good Folk, so no speaking ill of her. Most likely she collected souls around Samhain on a wild hunt.
She's also known in Wales and other places under various names and functions. She can also be a he, but all black sows or boars seem to like crossroads and are seen as dark or death harbingers.
God/dess Sacred to: most crones
Color Association: black
Magical Working: unknown, contact may be dangerous
European dragons like other serpents, were in the time before history, gods. People saw them as loving parents, providers, and what we all came from. In other words, Daddy Snake and Mommy Woman made the cosmic egg. Which produced all that is. In some cases daddy was a dragon, or both Divine parents were dragons.
No surprize then, that dragons or at least man's idea of dragons were left in peace. Children were taught the truest dragon treasure was love, friendship and knowledge. Before you laugh remember it is likely even angels at one time were seen as dragons.
Well that didn't sit too well with the new folk. For one it meant all could have dragon love. No churches needed. And celebrations were given freely and in true love. Plus both these dragons and witches defended the poor and weak. They loved the homeless, upheld laws, and were fiercely loyal to the old ways.
Didn't take more than a century or two and the damage was done. Once gods were mere beasts, and evil beasts at that. They all stole treasure and virgins. And it was a Christian man's duty to slay them. This might well mean the desecrating of old pagan groves. Well of course the witches dove right into the fracas. Our friends would have our support.
So guess who else was evil now? Then the witches needed secrecy like the poor dragons. The old ways of a serpent or dragon god went underground. The true meanings were passed down in fairy tales, even to this day.
Many witches do dance with dragons. These beautiful creatures, like angels, only want to love and help us. Being so much older they lend a helping wing and teach us the forgotten old ways. They also demand the best work and highest moral values. Many of us believe that there are local dragons guarding towns, countries and so forth. Once contacted they will help the seeker feel the rhythms of nature the moon and stars.
God/dess Sacred to: any dragon or serpent god/dess
Color Association: any color
Magical Working: just about anything
Frogs and Toads
Both critters were thought to be used in potions by Shakespeare's time. And the poison toads were thought to secrete was supposed to be used in deadly elixirs. But here in the US it was though that Satan gave the witches a frog as a familiar to do her will. Some folks claimed these were even demons in disguise. Sadly thousands of folks died both in Europe and here in a span of three centuries for nonsense like this.
The truth is, most witches don't like reptiles any better than other folks. Those who do know no animal could be forced to do anything. Frog or toad may be a positive totem, but that is about it. You don't see frogs too often in Halloween décor any more, so perhaps the amphibian has hopped away from magical association.
Oh wait, thanks to Disney the idea of witches or magical folks turning you into a frog is alive and well. Sigh... That Dr. Facilier is a hottie though. Speaking of which in the original African story it is the prince who marries a frog. You go, girl!
God/dess Sacred to: most crones
Color Association: green
Magical Working: finding your way, healing
Gargoyles are a lot like angels. Spirits that most likely never had an Earthly form. Protective and downright ferocious they take their guardianship duties very seriously. To witches these spirits are not the statues themselves but can attach themselves to a particular statue. Gargoyle statues are now so popular they are found almost all year round online, in malls, and in various gift stores. You will find the indwelling spirit or real gargoyle will have a lot to say about where they sit to guard you, and it will not always be where their statue is. And no, destroying the statue does not harm your friend, though you can do gentle healings if they seem out of sorts.
Goatus Scapus, get it?
Why are we such good buddies with goats? Well not all witches are. After Christians labeled them evil, they want nothing to do with them. Many a fine witch will tell you we never worked with them, and for them it is true. After all, most of Europe abounds with deer. Virile and mighty, the buck is an ideal way to represent the God.
But in the wonderful hills and mountains of Italy goats were common. Far more common than deer. So the local God had goat-like features. This meant to show he was connected to the wild and show his fertile side. It also showed his protective mode. A large male goat is not an animal to cross.
Ah, also goats like to make little goats. Often too. So a practical way to show a heathen (heath dwelling) child about sex was the goat. Pan, just like his goats would frolic with everything. Yup, even one of his goats. He is half goat after all, and gives abunance to them too.
So the goat also became a beloved creature. Heck you can eat 'em, wear their skin, milk them, make soap from the milk, or get more goats. Very useful indeed. So it is little wonder that the God and goat were interlinked. Both could provide from cradle to grave.
Plus remember those wonderful eyes. Pagans felt them pretty important. So maybe goat could see things we humans couldn't. Maybe those eyes scared evil away, or imparted knowledge. The males were brave and strong, like a fine pagan man. The females loved their children and could still nourish humans. Not bad, eh?
Well imagine the poor Christians. They came into town and no doubt saw happy pagans frolicking with a priest wearing only goat horns. The horror! That sexuality was natural in this new land mattered not. It had to go, and with it, the goat.
Many modern witches are fond of goats. They remind us of Pan, and are mostly sweet animals. They will also guard you better than any dog, and are a green lawnmower that makes groovy fertilizer. Some pagan males love the analogy, as do many male witches.
Truth be told outside of Italian forms of witchcraft you'll find little to no praise or use of goats. Deer were more plentiful and better known in most other areas, and the horror of the demonized goat the Church touted still scares the snot out of many witches.
Oh the whole legend about us riding goats? Comes down from far older legends of the Gods riding goats and having them as sacred animals. Thanks for treating us like gods. Hehehehe.
God/dess Sacred to: Pan
Color Association: Grey, Black, Brown (any coat color or pattern)
Magical Working: fertility, abundance, night magic, Pan or nature work
People sometimes forget the poor. But this legendary beast from Ireland won't let you. Every Samhain Muck Olla would collect gifts via groups of men. Shown as a horse skull atop a pole, he both gave and took good things in life.
This is a good spirit, even if he has been called a boogeyman, sun god, death spirit, death god, devil, or one of the good folk, we still can't pin him down. We do know one of the spokesman was dressed as a horse, the men carried lanterns and blew cow horns, and all people gave willingly, as Muck Olla hates stingy folks. Poems or speeches reminded the giver that if Muck Olla gave them everything good, they too could give. If they didn't Muck Olla might just destroy crops, food stores, or even kill animals or family members.
If you see a white horse on Samhain night, think of giving to the poor. And now you know why horse skeletons continue to endure as a Halloween symbol. Oh, some say Muck Olla also had a form of a huge boar. Sadly, no form seems to be popular anymore, even among modern witches and pagans.
God/dess Sacred to: any boar or horse loving deity, any underworld God/dess, Loki, Odin, Sleipnir
Color Association: White, black
Magical Working: Dealing with death, prosperity, contacting the underworld, the Good Folk.
Well poor owl was a blessed owl at one time. He or she was loyal to the crone Goddess and carried Her messages to Her people. Pagans and witches alike would work with owls both as totems, and bringers of wisdom from the cauldron. It was a wonderful time and owls were dearly loved.
Remember too, pagans paid attention. Since an owl hunts silently, what better totem for a hunter? And what better example for protecting and teaching your young? And as owls inherit territory or breeding grounds they might have seemed almost immortal. Remember kids, no glasses back then. Add that owl was fearless at night and could hide at day, and you had one super animal.
Again this did not work with Christian theology. Remember they wanted no animals implied to be God's messengers. They had priests or wise men for that. Pus owl reminded folks of the old ways and the Crone. Well they had doves. Which since they taste good and are rather stupid made little sense to pagans. Plus they mate and fight like all the other little birdies do. But eh, if these newcomers wanted doves they weren't the first.
Still warrior pagans would have laughed. Why pick a prey animal as a totem? They probably rolled on the ground in hysterics. I mean, can you imagine a dove protecting you from a grizzly or armed warrior?
Today many witches adore owls. Oddly enough we take negative stereotypes and turn them back around. So the owl is a loyal friend, giver of wisdom, and you guessed it, the best to destroy evil in the avian kingdom. To hear her hoot is to hear the Crone.
Do not fear the owl. She brings wisdom to you. It may be a message from the Goddess, wisdom from the ancestors, or a friendship with this wonderful raptor.
God/dess Sacred to: Hecate, Santa Muerte, any underworld God/dess, Mictlantecuhtli, Mictecacihuatl
Color Association: White, black, brown
Magical Working: finding lost magic or items, seeking solutions, protection
Snakes in Myth and Magic
Snake holds much magic, wisdom, and are world famous in lore. Snake Gods and Goddesses have created worlds, borne children, and protected humans from death. The Mother Snake, for example, protected tombs with both her double fangs and sexuality.
Yes, sexuality is where snakes got a bad rep. Most snakes after all, mate in groups, have large numbers of offspring, and seem to enjoy life in a sensual sense. This also made the snake a symbol for women. Remember Lilith?
Snakes are also interchangeable in some cultures for dragons. Tiamat is seen as both the great dragon mother, and a snake. In many English myths serpent or worme can mean a dragon or serpent. Dragons are often seen as giant snakes in paintings from the Middle Ages.
But snakes do us a lot of good. In positive magic the Simbi and Simbi himself are great Voudon magicians. Although shy, both can be coaxed into the Voudo ritual.
Flying Nightmares protect against nightmares, and come in both snake and dragon forms. They are lightweight and can be hung almost anywhere.
Snakes in Native American cultures can bring great wisdom as spirit guides.
Snakes in jewelry are reputed to protected against snake bites, physical harm and evil spirits. A lovely bracelet or necklace can bring the magic of the snake into your life.
Whether or not you use snakeskin products is an ethical question you have to face yourself. Traditionally the skin and body held magical powers. Wearing them passed these powers onto the wearer. As for the witchy connection? Well as Goddess symbols they often came up in trails. Of course by the time of the witch trails, they were no longer sacred animals, but the devil's kin, often suckled by witches on blood. And yes, 'godly' people swore it was true so they could burn a woman alive and take her property.
God/dess Sacred to: Dambala, Erzuile, Set, Lillith, Tiamat, Quetzalcoatl
Color Association: green, white, rainbow
Magical Working: shedding habits or people, growth, regeneration
There's one on you...
Well besides being a symbol for many a goddess, she was clever too. So she often became the symbol of independent women or men. Both could house, feed, and protect themselves. Both could fight, flee, or mate. Much as they pleased too.
In North America Spider is clever. Male or female, young or old. Spider is often the male creator. After all, he seems to fly, and create his web from within himself. But mortals beware Spider is a savvy trickster, often springing his enemies' own traps upon them.
The most common and wrong analogy is that both spiders and women spin webs to trap men. Nonsense Remember back then guys didn't admit that adult dreams were normal, hence blaming to woman or man they dreamt about. Plus, what a great excuse for infidelity no good Christian woman would dare refute.
Today's witch may well have a spider totem. But no she does not send this or any other familiar out against people. The spider, if she chooses, works with the witch, and encourages her to investigate the crone or other twilight paths.
God/dess sacred to: The Fates, Spider (Africa), Spider Woman(North America), Loki
Color Association: black, any spider color
Magical working: finding hidden knowledge
The vulture was once a sacred bird. Any number of African and Egyptian Goddesses were seen as having vulture forms. And quite a few Gods fell for them too. Perhaps these tales combined and confused in Europe and America with a horror of the vulture eaten the dead on gibbets and the field of war, for now she wings her way out every Halloween.
You can see vultures on treat bags, cards, and as props, though her popularity comes and goes. In real life it is vultures that save the rest of the world from living in a disease infested wasteland. Without vultures to clean up the dead, meat would rot and go on to spread infection.
In a mystical sense, the vulture may show up when you need to stop grieving or let go of an unhealthy object, habit or relationship. The vulture knows the Crone and is a faithful companion, helping Her cleanse the soul of past wounds. Look to vulture for bravery, tenacity, and the strength to rise above grief.
God/dess Sacred to: Oshun, Nekhbet, Mut
Color Association: black
Magical Working: dealing with grief, underworld work
She is one awesome kitty cat. You see in England it is the black cat who brings good fortune and white cats misfortune. Why? Well Roman invaders really hated local Goddesses, a lot of whom had sacred white cats. You can find white cat decorations for Halloween, though they are rare. Not too many people include her, but as a symbol sacred to many a moon Goddess, she is a perfect companion to Halloween décor. I have several Halloween themed white cat decorations, and put out white cats as well. Luckily for her, most in modern England love all cats, regardless of color. And here in the US the white cat is lucky. Of course all cats are sacred to Bastet, so any color brings luck to your home.
God/dess Sacred to: Bastet, Isis, Diana, Freya
Color Association: green, white
Magical Working: magical healing, good luck
What do wolves and witches have to do with Halloween? Well in the old days, wolves were sacred animals and totems. Come the Burning Times, and suddenly the witch, mostly male, could turn into a wolf or even a werewolf. You can laugh if you like, but entire packs were destroyed to hunt wolves and suspected werewolves were sent to their deaths.
Wolves and werewolves are on just about everything Halloween. Evern the tiniest trick or treater can dress as a wolf, wolfman, or werewolf. Oh, it was though witches turned into werewolves at death, and some folks feel evil folks become magical werewolves if they kill a family member or die evil.
Most likely the werewolf is a shaman misunderstood by Christian invaders. And the poor wolf went right along with him. Like the wolf with the pumpkin? This fun guy can be found here.To tell the truth, thanks to modern day wolf hunters you are more likely to find one that looks like this guy.
God/dess Sacred to: Dis Pater, Odin, The Great She Wolf, Loki Fenrir, Odin, Angrboda
Color Association: white, grey, brown, black, red
Magical Working: magical healing, loyalty, strength, courage
Wicca Books - More to read
So many books so little time. Or so long the craft, so short the life. Here are five more books to set you on your way. I of course am not responsible for anything alarming, or gasp! Enlightening, you might read.
Liked the animals? Want more or less? Better yet, leave your own Wicca, witchy, or pagan thoughts.