Saturn's Allies.

"Both fairy and demon familiars could appear in a variety of animal guises ranging from apes, stags, horses, lambs, ferrets, dogs, cats and mice to birds, bees, spiders, grasshoppers, snails and frogs."
-Emma Wilby, Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits

"And when the old hag went out, Ambrose killed the wild boar, and took out the hare; from the hare he took the pigeon, from the pigeon the box, and from the box the two shining beetles; he killed the black beetle, but kept the shining one alive. So the witch's power left her immediately-"- James Frazer, The Golden Bough

A well known witch and familiar, the beetle in many cultures and by many varieties is known as a harbinger of omens both good and bad, as well as a master of the dark arts themselves.  Western European folklore, particularly that of Ireland, England and Germany paint the beetle as symbolic of death, the bringer of rains and the storms.

"In Maryland, it is believed that if a black beetle flies in the room or up against you, it is a warning of severe sickness, if not death."
Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World by Cora Linn Daniels

In some Afro-diasporic traditions, certain snakes are revered as harmless and are the totemic animals of shamans and healers.   Now, in America, often times the snake is considered a bad omen, as is messing with snakes.  Even some Southern hoodoo paints the snake as a bringer of death and doom, however this changes as you move further west, where the snake can represent sacrifice, healing, wisdom, creation and good luck (if one survives interaction with the snake).  Snakes have different meanings to different cultures, even the variety of snake; vipers foretell gossip, garter snakes foretell rain and good gardening, rattlers represent motherhood, defense and protection from enemies,

"Slow crawled the snail and if I right can spell, 
In the soft ashes marked a curious L:
Oh, may the wondrous omen lucky prove!
For L is found in Lubberkin and Love!"
Irish Popular Superstitions by William Robert Wilde

The snail in many mythologies predicts weather and luck depending on its shape, color and location.  They are remarked upon in old English and German folk medicine as having curative properties, and also regarded magically as able to predict future lovers.  White snail shells offer luck with the weather, golden ones offer wealth, and black foretells of dire circumstances to come but, in traditional lore, also could remove warts from the body and aches from teeth.

"Dried and powdered snails are fed to enemies to cause live things to grow in the body, and they are included in recipes for Goofer Dust.  Because snails exude mucus, they are also taken to be symbolic of women's sexual organs in love work"- Catherine Yronwode, Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic

Culpepper's Herbal assigned curative properties to cooked snails and snail water.  Here in the PNW, some local tribes regard the snail as emblematic of the famed "bug-eyed" Snail-woman, a witch who fills her spiral basket with children caught playing in winter.  She ensnares them with treats and devours them, much like the hag of Hansel and Grettle far across the sea.

"Snail, snail, put out your horns, I'll give you bread and barley corns."
-Cock Robin, and Other Nursery Rhymes and Jingles by Cock Robin 

"If you see a white spider, you will see a corpse."
-old folk-saying
Step into my parlor...

African American folklore gives us the spider as a story teller who teaches moral lessons and wise parables while Southwestern witchery depicts the spider as a Grandmother who helps, heals and guides mankind.  Whether a folk hero, Biblical sign or ill omen, the spider is a complicated ally.

"The spider is thought to be creative and a weaver in many cultures, weaving the deigns of life and fate.  It is associated with words and communication."
Symbols in Arts, Religion and Culture: The Soul of Nature by Farrin Chwalkowski

She is associated with fire, thunder, sun and stars in some cultures, and moon, water, femininity and rain in others, and her medicine teaches us to mind the forces beyond our control.  Patience to the spider.

  • Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World by Cora Linn Daniels
  • The Golden Bough by James Frazer
  • Symbols in Arts, Religion and Culture: The Soul of Nature by Farrin Chwalkowski
  • Cock Robin, and Other Nursery Rhymes and Jingles by Cock Robin  
  • Irish Popular Superstitions by William Robert Wilde
  • Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways (Pagan Portals) by  Mabh Savage
  • Watkins Dictionary of Magic by Nevill Drury
  • Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits by Emma Wilby
All photographs taken by Via Hedera, King County Washington.

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