Familiars in Witchcraft

familiars

Furry Friend or Familiar?

An exploration of animals in the craft.

 

Every animal has its unique bit of magick. Most humans feel a powerful draw to their critter counterparts, and with good reason. Animals act out of pure instinct. A lion, for example, would never consult its lion friends before taking down an antelope. There’s something mystical about that pure presence- a source of inspiration for witches and mortals alike. But sometimes, it goes beyond that. Sometimes, an animal chooses a person.

You’ve probably heard of familiars or, at the very least, seen a depiction of them. But what is magickal companionship, and how does it work? Let’s explore.

what is a familiar

What is a Familiar?

During the witch trials of the 15-17th century, a witch’s familiar was said to be a demon in an earthly form, usually a gift from the devil. Nice one, witch trials. This line of reasoning was a convenient way to demonize any cat-loving lady in sight.

In actuality, a familiar is kind of like a magickal co-worker. This entity may or may not live in a physical body and has a spiritual bond with their witch. They serve to protect and assist with any magickal doings. Many witches report feeling more inspired to practice magick after finding their familiar.

horse

Does It Have to Be a Cat?

This one’s easy: nope! Depictions of familiars are often of cats, probably because of their ability to drive away mice and rats. If you were a medicine woman in the 15th century, having a cat to protect you (and your plants) from diseased rodents would be a wise investment.

Your familiar may be a rabbit, a toad, or a wild horse you’ve only ever seen in your dreams. So, basically, if you’re more of a dog person, no need to worry.

witches with pets

If I’m a Witch, Is My Pet My Familiar?

Pets as familiars can be one of those hot-button issues in the witching world. Some say a pet can never be your familiar, while others call every living thing in their house a familiar! Let’s land somewhere in the middle: Some pets are familiars, and some are not.

That doesn’t mean little fluffy isn’t an excellent addition to your household. In fact, it can be stressful to act as someone’s familiar, so just being a fun friend is a great gig. Magickal collaboration is something we shouldn’t force upon animals that aren’t naturally inclined toward it.

is my pet a familiar?

Signs Your Pet is a Familiar

  • They presented themselves to you. Like it or not, you can’t walk into Petland, point at the first furry face you see, and announce it as your familiar. When you get chosen by an animal, you feel it. They may even appear to you under mysterious circumstances!
  • They are drawn to your craft. If you find yourself with a pet by your side anytime you pull out your pendulum, you may have a familiar on your hands.

Some witches make the distinction between a familiar and a magickally inclined animal. It’s the difference between an animal who likes your magickal tools vs. one that seems to assist in your ritual work.

  • They respond to the question, “are you my familiar?” You could choose to ask if your pet is a familiar. If they respond in a unique way, that’s a pretty good sign. If they’re more interested in their food dish, they may be just a good pal.

nature walks

What if I’m Allergic to Animals or Can’t Have a Pet?

Maybe you’re not the most cuddly of people. Or you’d like to be, but animals make you sneeze. Maybe your landlord has a stuffy policy on living things that don’t pay rent. Whatever the case, there are plenty of ways to incorporate animals into your practice:

  • Find/create an enchanted object. Let’s say you feel a mystical connection with crows. You dream about a crow or have one that faithfully visits your windowsill. You can honor that connection with a piece of art, a fallen feather, a stuffed toy- anything that feels right. Place this item on your altar to infuse your magick with that familiar’s energy.
  • Go on Nature Walks. Spend some time outside and see if any animals present themselves to you. Animals prefer tranquil people, so this is an excellent chance to do some work on your meditation or journaling practice.
  • Work with Visualizations. Create a sacred, animal-friendly space in your mind. This may take a few tries and some experimenting with music, sitting position, etc., but eventually, you’ll be able to visit your familiar between worlds. You can use this time to ask for insight, do rituals together, or just bask in their brilliance.

familiar toad

 

Final Thoughts

Animals are beautiful creatures, and they make lovely additions to our lives. You can’t force a familiar connection. You may design a ritual to call to your familiar, but they will choose to connect at the end of the day. In the meantime, practice patience, and appreciate all the critters in your life, magickal or not.

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10 comments


  • Sunny

    I believe that my parrot, Kiwi is my familiar. I found her out at a local beach club, clearly someone´s abandoned pet. I bonded with her almost immediately and she always seems very drawn to my altar. She loves to sit on it, but she will not chew anything on it, which is strange for a parrot. She chews on pretty much everything but that. The only issue is that I can no longer burn candles, incense, or sage, but I suppose that´s a good thing due to my lung sensitivities. When she molts her long tail feather, I use it as a quill for spellwork and I can just feel so much energy coming off it. And also, she´s adorable.


  • Mariah

    Ever since I got serious about learning & practicing magic I wanted a familiar. I even thought about adopting a cat but kept talking myself out of it & one day about a month ago a kitten started coming up to my apartment door & I thought “no way, did the universe hear me?” I said to myself if she came back again I’d take her in & she did & now my little Tituba is a wonderful addition. She doesn’t like the babies much but she adores our alone time. I found this article wondering how to tell if she’s my familiar & when I asked her she jumped on me & started kneading me. She also took a liking to a few of my crystals, so maybe she really is!


  • Erin

    I believe my cat Medusa is my familiar. From August until December 2019, I cared for my terminally ill father in law full time. While he lived with me at my home on 15 acres in the woods, we began to have a visitor: a dumped calico that liked to peep in the trash on the porch. When it finally became cold enough and it was sleeting outside, she finally let me bring her into the house. She has had no desire since to leave. She is very skittish around all things but me. She had the same bedtime anxiety that I do (she sleeps with me at night and wakes up frequently). I really believe she appeared at one of the most hard and stressful times in my life. Since she has arrived, I have had many more visitors: a cardinal visited me the afternoon my father in law died and I was home alone. My beloved, but very sick, dog died one month ago today. On the night she died, a snake was on my porch when I put my other dog out for her last pee of the evening. It climbed the stairs in front of me and looked at me in the eyes while I waited for my dog to come back upstairs. I really believe Layla sent that snake- she knew for a fact it would be hard for me to ignore :D


  • Audrea L Mann

    I believe in this full heartedly, I’ll tell you the story about my familiar. My familiar is my bunny 🐰 💕. I got him last year in August or September, I was thinking about my grandfather on the way to pick the bunny up, now my grandfather passed away in 2011. His nickname just so happened to be my bunnies name, now I never knew the bunnies name until after I got there. So the owner procedes to handle the bun and let me hold him. She then proceeded to tell me his name which is Bear 🐻, that bun has cuddled up with me since I had him, but that day I got him the first thing he did was give me a kiss. I was really surprised he took a liking to me really fast.


  • Kara

    I have ALWAYS has a strange but magical connection with animals. I can actually feel what they’re thinking or feeling themselves. They cannot talk, so you must be in tuned to listen to body language to listen to animals as they say WAY more with their gestures than we do (which is surprising and almost hard to believe) but besides the noise’s they speak amongst others like them, they say more with to ne with their eyes than my family and loved ones understand. I can feel their discomfort, I can hear their pleas for certain foods, I know when their water is empty, when they’re up to know good, or even when they’re lost I can hear their cries for help even though no one else can hear anything at all. I followed things sounds of the cries I kept hearing from my lost kitten a few years ago, and my husband was insisting he couldn’t hear anything and that my grief was causing me to hear sounds that I wanted to hear, not sounds that were actually happening. I totally disagreed, and followed ‘my nose’ as we refer to it (lol) and 3 blocks away I FOUND MY LOST AND VERY SCARED KITTEN hiding under The porch of a mortuary !!! My husband looked at me in complete disbelief and said, "how in God’s name could you have possibly heard, let alone followed, a sound that no one could hear but you!" It was at least 2 a.m. and extremely dark as it was the first day of a new moon. I still, to this day cannot explain it, but I swear on everything that matters to me, thaf cat was CALLING out to me- it was faint the further away she was, but The closer I got the louder the cries got which is how I found her I followed the sound and new when I was closer because her cries would get increasingly louder each time I got a Lil’ warmer… How crazy is that!? I wish I were making this up but I’m not. And it isn’t the first time I found an animal or object this way. I wish I understood what that was more but now that I’ve accepted MY identity as a witch I realized I was born as one and would be fighting nature if I continued to deny what I felt from a VERY young age! It only got stronger into adulthood and even more so once I became a mother. I have a family history of witches though they all practiced thing like palm reading, astrology charts, etc. They were all in denial of what they were in never called themselves a witch. Just simply eccentric or scientifically inclined lol…. Now my mother says she is one and we had an extensive family history of them… But as a girl hearing her admit that woulda been life changing and didn’t. So be strong and don’t be afraid to call it what it is as you could be inspiring future baby witches-!!! I share it with my Lil girl regularly and her imagination can only serve her well n long if she continues not too question it and deny it. I’ve had many familiars now, most recently out of 1 cat by choice, came a gray teen cat 2 years ago that showed up on my front porch and refused to leave my side ever since-! That is the first time a cat picked ME like that! Before her my familiar was a dog, and a horse before that….funny how that works!!!


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