The concept of Familiars can be found in European Folklore dating back to the early Medieval period. Familiars have appeared throughout history in multiple forms but often being in the form of an animal such as cats, dogs, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Some cases even describe them in human form or humanoid form. Others even describe them as being faeries.
Familiars are described as being companions to witches and assist them in their magickal work. In early times, familiars were feared to be lesser demons that fed from the blood of witches and assisted in malevolent magic. They were even considered to be imps, bestowed upon witches by the Devil. Many cats were killed around the time of the Black Plague which only brought more death in Europe. The cats would eat the mice and rats carrying the fleas that spread the Plague. The mass murder of cats caused an increase in the flea population leading to more deaths. Almost poetic justice.
How do you choose a Familiar?
Familiars are not chosen; they choose the person. Typically, a strong link or connection is felt between the person and their Familiar. This can be with any animal the person feels an affinity to but in modern times, is typical a household pet. These pets are treated as a member of the family and are often considered magickal partners.
However, some people do not discover their Familiar in the physical realm but instead accumulate pictures, statuary, or other research of an animal or creature that they feel strongly drawn to. This can be a Familiar that has reached out to you from the astral plane.
You may also have more than one Familiar. It is not uncommon to have a connection to multiple Familiar Spirits as they all may have a different function in your life to better assist you.
Magickal Workings with Familiars:
As partners in the Craft, Witches tend to treat their Familiars with respect, love, and wisdom. You can learn a lot from having a Familiar, such as patience, love, understanding, partnership, respect, and gratitude. These creatures can not only teach us about ourselves and our own Craft but also about nature and the Universe.
They can assist you in ritual or with spells by bringing with them a certain mood or tone you wish to set within Circle. They are able to enter and exit the Circle without breaking the energy surrounding you. Sometimes, they allow you to use their fur, scales, and nail clippings within your magickal work.
Familiars are beneficial mentally and emotionally. They provide stress relief and help keep people emotionally balanced. They tend to know our moods and will often act on a course of judgement to put their partners (us) in the right frame of mind so that we can continue with our path.
Familiars can also assist us on the astral plane. Since they live between worlds, they can enter with us on our shamanic journeys. In this plane. They may appear in a different form or even be able to speak. They can guide us to the answers we seek in our Craft.
Honoring Your Familiar:
Familiars are our partners, not our servants. The idea of a Familiar and their role in the Witch’s Craft has greatly changed over time. At first, Familiars were believed to be servants to Witches, doing their bidding without hesitation. Since the New Age, that thinking has changed. It is accepted that we show our gratitude towards our guides and honor them. This can be as easy as giving them love and attention during the day.
I, personally, spend time with my Familiar every morning and every night. I give him love and affection, I brush his fur, I brush his teeth, I keep him fed and healthy, etc. I also keep a small statue on my altar just for him. You can even work with Familiar Magic which helps strengthen your bond. Brown is the traditional color for Familiars if you wish to use candle magic. There are also stones and herbs that show your appreciation. Go out and buy your kitty a new toy or some catnip. Or you can get your dog a new rawhide.
Protecting your Familiar:
Most people look at the Familiar as their protector. They are protectors but they also need it too. You can place protective amulets or charms on their collar. I actually enchanted my Familiar’s collar so he would be protected even when I’m not home. I also have a certain space for him in the house where he can go to a be protected. You can do this by enchanting their bed.
Collar (blank or with symbols)
Bowl of Water
Incense such as mugwort or St. John’s Wort for protection and calming
Begin by creating a salt and water protection Circle around you (and your Familiar if present). You may cast any Circle you wish. At this time, state your intention within the Circle and light your candle and incense. If you have chosen a blank collar, you may wish to draw your own protection sigils upon it or you can simply proceed with the next step.
Pass the collar through the four elements. Sprinkle the color with the Salt of the Earth and state your intention.
Pass the collar over the flame, but not too closely, and state your intention
Sprinkle the collar with the water and state your intention.
Pass the collar through the smoke of the incense and state your intention.
The collar has no been imbued with the power of protection from the four elements and is ready to be worn by your Familiar.
I would like to introduce my own Familiar as I find him quite the character. His name is Salem, a 2 year old Tuxedo who rescued me from the animal shelter.