the Bible, sorcerers or necromancers, who
claimed the ability to contact the dead were said to
have a "familiar spirit." Familiar
spirits are supernatural beings presumed, agreeably to a
very old belief (Lev. xix. 31), to attend magicians or
sorcerers, and to be at their beck and call on any
The word "familiar" in this
usage is derived from the Latin word familiaris,
meaning a "household servant," and was intended to imply
that they had spirits as their servants, ready to obey
their commands, which for some of them may have
been partly true - but the spirits were demons.
Familiars were mentioned in Shakespeare's Macbeth,
as the witches called their familiars. Many other works have
utilized familiars. The most common species identified as
familiars are cats, particularly black cats, owls, dogs, and
sometimes frogs or toads. In later cases, familiars moved to
more ethereal forms, often taking the shape of a "black man"
thought to be representative of Satan.