Witch Pitcher, c. 1891-1898, Creator unknown (German), Porcelain, Gift of Nella Moss, 1936.4.930.
Pitchers collected in the nineteenth century often featured fanciful designs or characters. This pitcher, manufactured in Germany, features a witch–a woman in a pointed hat with a crow and a cat by her side.
In Euro-American culture, accusations of witchcraft were typically aimed at women who were outcasts. Witches and witchcraft have also long been associated with animals. “Familiars”–animals who were thought to assist witches in their practice of magic–were common fixtures in witch trials and accusations.
Crows were often seen as familiars as they scavenge on dead meat, and are affiliated with the afterlife or realm of the dead across many cultures.The cat, on the other hand, appears quite late in the history of Euro-American witchcraft. Cats were a common close companion, particularly for the “aged, antisocial, and isolated,” and were often used as corroborative evidence of practicing witchcraft in 16th century Europe. Hence, our modern stereotype of a witch as an “old crone,” with only her cat as company.