Familiars

The word “familiar” is one that is often heard in conversations about witchcraft, but what is a familiar? If you have ever seen a movie or TV show about witches, you will almost certainly have seen the image of a black cat either slinking along side its magick wielding master or mistress or turning into a witch itself, but if you look at the dictionary definition of “familiar” what does it say?

The definition given by Miriam-Webster says this – a demon supposedly attending and obeying a witch, often said to assume the form of an animal. This definition seems a little biased, no? That is because – like with many other aspects of magick and witchcraft – history has been written by the victors and the victors in this case were not fans of witches. But let’s get real, shall we…

A familiar is not a shape-shifting demon who bends to the will of a witch, but an animal – or plant – companion with whom a witch shares a special connection. My cat is a perfect example of a familiar. I fell in love with him the moment I saw him at the adoption center and I am still convinced that he was the one who adopted me, I just had to fill out the paperwork because I have opposable thumbs.

My cat loves participating in my magick, he sits in my lap when I pull cards or cast crystals, he meditates with me, he will even join me in a flame scrying session. He is not only a pet, but he is a confidant with whom I can share my innermost thoughts on different aspects of magick – and that is what truly makes a familiar magickal.

Familiars are by no means the most important part of being a witch, nor is it necessary or essential – but for many witches, having a mystical animal companion – even if it is just an iguana – can help that witch feel more comfortable when doing magic because familiars are often seen as protectors by their owners thanks to their heightened senses of sight, smell and hearing.

As I mentioned earlier plants can also be familiars! If you are allergic to animals or live in an area that does not allow pets, like an apartment or a college dormitory, a plant familiar might be the way to go for you. Any plant, from roses to Venus Flytraps, can be a familiar.

Plant familiars are also a wonderful addition to a home that already has an animal familiar. Plants are not only a wonderful way to brighten a room or season food, they help keep air fresh and clean, the humidity from some plants keeps wood from splintering from a dry climate, and there are plenty of house plants that have medicinal uses. Aloe plants are perfect familiars for healers since the inside of the plant is used to sooth burns. Witches who just want to brighten up their apartment with a plant familiar might want to go with a flowering succulent plant or an orchid. Whichever plant speaks to you the most is the one you should go with to be your familiar.

There are a few resources for finding out more information on familiars, both fauna and flora, like Raven Grimassi’s The Wtich’s Familiar and Ellen Dugan’s Enchanted Cat for books on animal familiars and Christopher Penczak’s The Plant Spirit Familiar for plant familiars.

There are many schools of thought on how to find your familiar, some believe that your familiar will find you, not the other way around, others believe that you have to call your familiar to you. The latter might involve a conjuring or visualisation spell. In my case, my familiar picked me, without a doubt in my mind. But there is nothing wrong with doing a little magick to help your familiar find their way to you. Also, please remember a familiar does not have to be a cat! While cats are heavily associated with witchcraft, by no means does your familiar have to be of the feline persuasion. If you are allergic to cats – or just don’t really like them – call whichever animal speaks to you the most, whether or not that animal has fur, feathers, or scales.

For those of you who are unsure about how to go about casting a spell to draw your animal familiar to you this is an example:
You will need:
White candle
Piece of paper
Something to write with
Something that is very personal to you (i.e a picture of yourself, a piece of jewelry, etc.)
A small bag or pouch
What to do:
NOTE – This spell is best performed during a waxing moon (from new to full). Always remember to never leave a lit candle unattended!

1. Take the white candle and place it where you will be facing north when you are looking at it. (North is the direction of Earth which is the element of growth and strong, grounded manifestation).

2. Light the candle, if you would like to say something over the candle as a blessing feel free to do so, I believe that magick is at its most powerful when it comes from the heart, which is why I am leaving this up to you.

3. After the candle is lit, write down your ideal familiar, you can draw a picture of the animal as well as write down traits you would like your familiar to have. Once you have done this, place the paper either in front of the candle or underneath the candle holder.

4. Place your personal item so that it is touching the paper and allow the candle to burn down either all the way or until you are ready to finish the spell for the night. If you are not planning on letting the candle burn down all the way, use a snuffer of some sort to put the flame of the candle out. I believe that blowing out a candle blows all of your intention away, thus making the spell ineffective.

5. Once the moon has gone full, or your candle has burnt itself down all the way – whichever comes first – take the paper, your personal item, and any remaining candlewax and place them in the pouch you have chosen.

6. You can keep the pouch with you and wear it like a necklace, or you can keep it by your bed and hold it every night before you fall asleep and visualise your familiar sitting with you on your bed and the two of you melding into a ball of light. (This light can be whatever colour you associate with happiness, calmness, or any other positive emotion).

7. Keep the pouch with you until you have found your familiar; once you have found your new animal companion take the paper out of the pouch and either bury it in your backyard, burn it in your fireplace or any other way you see fit to dispose of it (other than just throwing it outside). You can keep the candle wax to use in an oil diffuser to prevent the oil from splattering or you can bury that as well. Please keep your personal item as a charged amulet that carries both your energy and the energy of your familiar.

There is no right or wrong way to call your familiar to you as long as “ye harm none” in the process. Feel free to adjust this spell to your personal practices – cast a circle if that is typical for you, use an electric candle from the new moon to the full moon if you live in an apartment that has strict rules about open flames – magick is at its most powerful when it comes from your heart, as magick comes from within the individual doing the magick, not the spell or the tools used.

As I have already said, familiars can be animals or plants, you can have one familiar to many, you can even not have a familiar of any kind. A familiar can even be a pet rock, as long as you and your familiar coexist in love and light, you are doing nothing wrong.

Happy Casting and Bright Blessings to you and your familiar – if you have one.

~ Alanna

P.S. What is your familiar? Plant or animal? How did you find them? Leave a comment, I’d love to know!

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