black animals A favoured shape-shifted form of the Devil and Demons, especially Demons who serve as the familiars of witches.
Dogs and cats were the most common black animals mentioned as Demons and familiars in the trials of the witch hysteria. Black birds, especially crows and ravens, were also thought to be forms taken often by Demons.
In the Chelmsford witches trial of 1566, Joan Waterhouse was accused of sending a black dog familiar with a short tail, the face of an ape, a pair of horns on his head and a silver whistle about his neck. In 1577, during a storm in East Anglia, a Demonic black dog tore through a church in Bungay, leaving behind two people strangled and a third “as shrunken as a piece of leather scorched in a hot fire.”
In 1945, a phantom black dog was associated with the alleged witchcraft murder of Charles Walton in the Cotswolds. Walton himself had seen such a dog, which metamorphosed into a headless woman, as an omen of death.
Black spectral animals in ghost lore are associated with witches (see Hecate) and Demons (see Wild Hunt). The best-known black dog in England’s ghost lore is Black Shuck, also called Old Shuck. Shuck comes from the Anglo-Saxon term scucca, meaning “Demon.” Black Shuck lurks about graveyards, lonely country roads, misty marshes and the hills around villages. Anecdotal accounts describe him as big as a calf, with glowing red or green eyes. Black Shuck follows travelers and also darts out on roads in front of automobiles that pass right through him.
Black Shuck is also a death omen. To see him means that one or a member of one’s family will soon die.