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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.