Familiars have always been recognised as a witch’s companion, an animal bird or creature that helps the witch with magic, it is not necessary to be a witch to have a familiar. Many people have pets that they feel intuitively linked to, non-witches are also able to have an astral-bodied creature that is unable to make contact in the physical realm. When people collect pictures or statues of a particular creature, they are actually subconsciously communicating with that creature and it is their familiar. A familiar is not owned by its companion, it uses freewill and intuition when its decision is made. Documented In ancient texts there was hysteria associated with familiars and some extreme and strange ideas, people thought that the familiar fed from the witch’s blood. Those who feared witches and witchcraft perpetuated these rumours. A cat or dog familiar will be very protective and if someone enters the home of the witch who the familiar feels shouldn’t be there, they will stare at the person until that person is so uncomfortable they leave.
Over the centuries familiars have taken many forms, but no matter what their form their task is to assist the witch, the familiar helps with different types of magic, and helps direct manipulations of natural energies contained in stones, herbs, astrological aspects and in the four elements. There is the magic of spirits and the summoning of the energies of non corporeal beings, there is magic that needs the assistance of beings and magic that doesn’t.
The familiar, whether astral or physical, can help to enhance the witch’s power, they are healers and guardians who can warn the witch of danger, or in the extreme defend the witch. Witches understand their spirituality to a greater degree by connecting with their familiar, the familiar brings strength, love, kindness, understanding and beauty into the witch’s life and is an utterly loyal companion
Familiars are given psychic protection by their witches, they are sensitive to psychic vibrations and power, and they also visibly react in the presence of any evil or negative energy. Sorcerers around the world have familiars in the form of spirits, they set tasks for the familiars and send them to do their bidding. In New Guinea sorcerers use snakes and crocodiles as familiars, in Malaya the familiar is often a badger or owl, and familiars are passed down from generation to generation. The creatures of the jungle are the familiars used by the witches in Africa, the monkey, lizard, jackal, bat, leopard, snake and toad. For their familiars, the Zulu’s used corpses and re-animated them with magic, these familiars are sent out at night to scare travellers. In Shamanism the initiates find their familiar by manifesting an animal, bird or reptile shape, if the familiars are sent into battle and they die, the shaman dies also. The shaman’s familiar stays with them until their death, they then disappear. Among the Eskimos the familiar is embodied in an artificial seal.
A witch chooses an animal as a familiar because animals are more in touch with nature, unlike many humans, witches respect and revere the earth and nature and are at one with their environment. When a witch chooses a familiar they have an intuitive rapport, and the animal helps the witch to be more in tune with nature. The psychic senses of animals is stronger than that of humans, thus enhancing the witch’s abilities. The familiar benefits being connected to the witch by gaining an enlightened view of reality, enhancing its energies and abilities. The familiar is a mediator between the ordinary world and the magical world, and together with the witch they form a power, allowing them to perform magic in the material realm and the otherworld. The witch and the familiar are committed allies, and as the familiar is part of a group animal consciousness, the spirit energy of the entire species is contained within one form. The familiar helps the witch connect to a higher power, or consciousness. The important qualities in a familiar are, patience, protectiveness, kindness, and to be loving.
A familiar can be drawn subconsciously or consciously, if an animal, bird, or creature comes to the witch subconsciously it arrives without any planning, either on the physical or the astral plane, if it arrives consciously the witch then chooses an animal specifically. Astral familiars choose their companion very carefully, they come and go as they please, although they are no less protective. Some witches acquire several familiars, while others have one or two
The familiar aids the witch in creating inclement weather and in spell casting, it has also been said that the small creatures that became witch’s familiars were faries, elves, dwarves and pixies. The familiars transported witches to the Sabbat, humans have been transported into the fairy realm with the assistance of familiars. Witches were able to remain undetected by holding their Sabbats in the astral realm, they were aided by their familiars and the use of flying ointment smeared on their skin. Familiars assisted the witch, inducing a trance and aiding them to reach an altered state of consciousness. Frogs were often used by witches to aid them in going to and from the spirit realm, there was a magical connection between them.
An altered state of consciousness or trance state, allows the witch to astral project, when this happens the witch’s consciousness leaves the physical body and is able to travel where and as they choose. As fairies live in a spirit realm, a witch often used a fairy as a familiar, this allowed the witch a doorway into the otherworld, witches and fairies were often connected and worked well together. Familiars are powerful healers and are messengers between one world and the other, they are wonderful and loyal companions for a witch. The three types of familiars are, the physical, the spirit and the artificial. The physical familiar is a pet, animal or creature, the spirit is a conscious entity that exists within the otherworld, beyond the land of the living. Magic also is used for the creation of an artificial familiar.
When the witch is astral travelling the familiar is able to protect the witch on many levels, the familiar can also protect the home and personal property, and project energy to be used for healing and spell casting. Witches and familiars are mutually,and naturally drawn to each other, each emitting an energy that draws the other. A witch communicates with their familiar as friends communicate with each other, and the witch sees the familiar as an equal, as they believe all life forms are. Many witches have a physical pet and form a strong psychic bond with them, they both gain a great deal from the relationship.
Once the witch and the familiar have found each other it is time for the bonding to take place, the nature and the form the witch’s familiar takes holds a key to power for the witch, and has a transforming influence on the witch’s life. Once a connection has been established the merging of the witch and the familiar can take place, the witch can communicate with the familiar and direct the spirit consciousness of it. The relationship of familiar and witch is mutually beneficial, each absorbing the imprint of the other’s nature, the familiar is imbued with human understanding, this allows the familiar to reach a higher level of consciousness. Once the bonding has taken place the familiar reveals its name to the witch through telepathy.
The familiar assists the witch in a variety of ways, when a distance needs to be covered by the familiar the witch will use the Seal of Carrying Spell, this will transport the familiar wherever the witch needs it to go. Where healing is necessary, the familiar is mentally directed in the work needed to be done, the area being healed will glow with healing energy and will reveal a specific colour. The familiar works for approximately twenty minutes, the witch also projects healing energy, once the healing is complete the familiar is called to return by summoning with the Seal of Calling Spell. After the familiar has finished its task and returned, the witch then sends it energy from a crystal by visualising the crystals energy entering the familiar. On behalf of the witch the familiar carries the energy of a spell to a person or a place, it obtains information from the inner planes physical or astral, or its takes on the role of guardian. The familiar is visualised in a variety of ways, and when working with the witch accepts the form the witch visualises, which is often a creature with wings. When the familiar is sent off to perform a task, the witch mentally sees it enter the Astral Gateway and sees it soaring in the direction of the point where it is needed. The witch mentally travels with the familiar, seeing the entire journey until the finish point is reached. The witch mentally travelling with the familiar takes place for exactly one year, after this time the familiar is then advanced enough in the procedure to then be able to travel alone.
While dreaming the witch and the familiar communicate and pass on information to each other. Over time the witch learns the capabilities of their familiar, the familiar takes on the role of guardian when the witch astral projects, is in deep meditation or during dream work. While the witch is involved in the realm of magic, practicing witchcraft, spirits are often attracted from the otherworld and sometimes attach themselves to the witch’s home and sacred circle, then do not want to leave. Others stay for a certain amount of time and then leave at their leisure. This is not an acceptable situation and a witch needs to be alert to it, at times another witch can send something that you do not need or want. When practicing witchcraft there are witches who play by the rules and those who don’t.
The familiar has a heightened sense of intuition and uses this ability to heighten the senses of the witch, due to their attunement with the other realm they have an acute sense of hearing. The familiar aids the witch by acting as a warning bell in its role as guardian, the familiar is thought of as the guardian of the home. Witches often work with spirit and use astral or artificial familiars as guardians. To remain in the material dimension the familiar requires a physical form, the witch has a statue for the familiar to use.
To protect the home and allow it to be a place of safety, comfort and tranquility, a place where the witch can recharge, statues representing the familiar are placed on the windowsill in each room in the house. The witch will charge the statues on the night of the full Moon, they first anoint the statues with fragrant oils, they then invoke magical energies to charge the statues. If a witch wants their familiar to travel with them, they charge an amulet that has an image of their familiar on it and carry it in their purse or pocket. If the witch should need their familiar while they are travelling they are able to readily call on it. If the witch’s familiar thinks the witch is using an inappropriate magical procedure, they will telepathically let the witch know, and will become quite restless if the witch doesn’t immediately respond to them. Once the witch responds to their familiar, they work together on making an adjustment to the witchcraft. The witch can also learn from their familiar, and by studying their creature they are able to learn and adopt some traits which will be beneficial to them.
Astral or physical familiars are companions to the witch during astral travels and during meditation, they help to guide and protect the witch in otherworld realms. The familiar is able to lead the witch to new and unexpected knowledge and spiritual understanding. Whether creatures of the earth or the astral plane, a familiar is a necessary companion for all witches, for many reasons. By having a familiar a witch is even more aware of the intrinsic connectedness between humans and all other creatures and the deep and abiding core of spiritual energy.
The familiar serves as a guardian while the witch is asleep and dreaming, as this is the time that the witch is most receptive to mental images that may be projected by others. Witches know that everything has a consciousness which attracts or repels, this is a magical energy within all things. For centuries witches have been aware and used the power of herbs and plants, they understand their healing and magical properties. Plants can be used by a witch as a familiar, and by growing it from a seedling it will contain the most power, the mandrake was the most popular plant used by witches. Plant familiars need special care, talking to the plant during the bonding process is most important, the plant familiar responds particularly well to Moonlight. By placing the plant under the rays of the Moon this activates the chemical properties of the plant and makes it more powerful, also making it more magical. The lunar energy activates the plant familiar, allowing it to awaken within the astral subconscious spheres. To use the plant familiar for healing purposes, the witch visualises and projects the familiar into the body of the person requiring the healing. The necessary healing colour will glow from that person and will concentrate upon a specific area of healing if needed. The familiar is seen removing the illness, as though plucking it from the person’s body, and when the work has been completed the familiar is summoned to return to the plant.
Talismans and amulets can have power added to them by a plant familiar, the familiar is summoned and projected into the magical object. The talisman or amulet can be carried by the witch for seven days, after this time it must be returned to the plant. The witch is able to affect the thoughts, emotions, inspiration or creativity of people with the assistance of their familiar, the best time for this is while the person is sleeping. The witch summons their familiar and projects it into the mind of a specific person. The witch sees the familiar enter the person via the crown chakra, it then stays in the person’s mind while they are sleeping, the familiar is then recalled by the witch and returns to the plant. The witch telepathically instructs and directs the familiar as to what the objective is regarding the person they are working with. Witches over the centuries have acquired knowledge of how to successfully use poisonous plants for healing and magic, they have an extensive understanding of the magical qualities of plants used for witchcraft. The relationship between witch and familiar is a committed and serious one and the bonds are ones of mind, body and spirit, the relationship is not taken for granted by familiar or witch.
When a witch’s familiar dies it is particularly painful for the witch, as is the end of a relationship with an astral spirit, as the connection between witch and familiar affects the spirit and aura. When the parting takes place of witch and familiar, any images or statues of the familiar must be buried and the ground treated as sacred. As the witch and the familiar deal with occult energies, their strengths surface enhancing their magical practices. The witch keeps a record in his/her Book of Shadows, of all the magical and healing work they have done together.
Familiars help witches with divination, the witch and the familiar would work together and each would enhance the abilities of the other, the method of divination used depended on the type of familiar used. Sometimes familiars came to witches in the form of a gift from a relative who had been guided to offer the familiar to the witch, and some familiars were inherited. The feeding of a familiar was very important and the witch made sure the familiar was well fed and well maintained.
Spiders are used by witches as familiars because of their ability to spin and weave and this assists the witch in the casting of spells. The snake used as a familiar is able to connect with the underworld, the realm beneath the earth, snakes help the witch to concoct potent magic and are associated with the ancient gods and goddesses. The snake was often used in transforming spells because of its transformation when it shed its skin. The raven familiar was used by witches as it aided the witch when the witch needed to fly from destination to destination. The raven often gathered information for the witch, the raven is a messenger and a teacher-spirit, because of the raven’s feathers being black it has always been associated with the Underworld and night. The raven was a familiar who carried magic across great distances at night, and because of its colour blended with the night and was able to travel undetected. The imps, elves, pixies, goblins and fairies are classed as supernatural beings and as a familiar assisted the witch on many levels. The cat is a particular favorite for the witch because of its resourcefulness and independence, and when the right witch and cat meet each other they know instantly. Cats see very well in the dark, and as their eyes reflect light they are able to see things exceptionally clearly, in the dark the cat can alert the witch to the presence of another animal, human or spirit entity. The goddess Artemis often travelled with a dog familiar at her side, knowing that she had a loving and protective guardian. The bat as a familiar is very useful because of its acute hearing abilities, its night vision and its ability to work in darkness and in the dead of night. The bear as a familiar is extremely strong and doesn’t tire readily, it will fight to the death for the witch who chooses it for their familiar. The dog familiar has a particularly acute sense of smell, and can tell instantly if human or non-human beings are in close proximity, it is a wonderful guardian and protector for the witch. The falcon as a familiar has the gift of perception and acute vision, the ferret has lightening reflexes and can search and find anything. The owl as a familiar has piercing night vision, and is imbued with a wealth of knowledge, it is particularly adept in assisting the witch with spell casting. The salamander as a familiar sees and hears everything and is an extremely resilient creature. The toad as a familiar is particularly adept in assisting the witch with their healing practices. Some of the familiars created from dead materials are, bone which is associated with fire, crystal is associated with light and very resilient, metal has the quality of strength and the shadow familiar aids the witch with invisibility.
Many of the mythological deities had a familiar connected to them, and the word anima which means, possessing life and spirit, was used by the ancients to describe non-human creatures, and humans, it is the connection that links all creatures. The ancient cultures believed absolutely in the connection between humans, deities and animals. This was often revealed by statues and pictures of gods and goddesses with an animal, with an animal head or mask, or the god and goddess taking animal form. By the deities being depicted in these dual forms they were expressing their particular power, and in presenting themselves in this manner the mere mortals were able to relate to the deities. Although as time went by the people began to believe that the deity was actually contained in a particular creature. Egyptians worshipped and kept cats, crocodiles and bulls. Clans the world over revered specific animals and they were so sacred they could not be hunted or eaten, over time Emperors kept animals and birds to depict their connectedness with a deity.
The goddess Aphrodite had a swan familiar, the swan is associated with enlightenment, the white swan which Aphrodite had is akin to the Moon and is the symbol of romance, the black swan represents the Dark Side of the Moon. The swan acted as Aphrodite’s familiar and she was often seen riding on it. The Gorgon Medusa had a black swan as her familiar, her swan familiar was committed to her. Swans have been connected to the gods as well as the goddesses. Zeus turned himself into a swan and presented himself to Leda who became the mother of Helen of Troy. Apollo also had a swan familiar, and it is well known that swans have the ability to shape shift, they can also take human form. The Druids thought the swan represented the soul, and the swan as a familiar could assist its companion in travelling to the Otherworld. The swan is a wonderful familiar for witches, and because of its shape shifting capabilities and ability to fly higher than any other bird, it often aided the witch to transport over great distances. The Roman Sertorius had a white fawn that was given to him as a gift by the goddess Diana, the fawn was a messenger. Cornelius Agrippa had a familiar in the form of a dog.
There were masks to represent a sacred animal, the masks which represented the sacred animal came to be connected with witches. It was believed that those who wore a mask could be possessed by the spirit the mask represented. The mask was called grim or helm (helmet) by the Scandinavians, and it was thought that certain helmets gave the wearer entrance into the underworld, temporarily. When anyone wears a mask for any reason it is prudent to know what powers they are calling on by wearing it. Bird and animal masks have been used for centuries to form a connection between humans and animals. Mesopotamian healers dressed in the skin of a fish, and skull and pelts of animals were worn during healing and religious rituals. Ancient priests, priestesses and shamans, used masks, animal skins, skulls and pelts of animals to create a link with and call on the powers of particular animals. When practicing magic witches often donned a mask of an animal to take on some of the creature’s traits, and use them temporarily, a special psychic bond is formed with the creature. By the wearing of a mask it was easier for the witch to shape shift, ancient priests learned this skill from Otherworld deities they encountered during astral travelling.
When the witch adopts the consciousness of an animal, they are able to project themselves beyond human perceptions and awareness, and are able to view events with a new perspective and have a clearer and more precise vision. A wise witch will only adopt the traits of an animal for a short period of time, so not to have the animal’s traits lingering. Witches practice to become successful shape shifters, they work with many different creatures and learn how to successfully adopt their traits. Many witches work with a variety of familiars and they acquire a broad understanding of the traits of the animals. The witch is infused with the energy of the animal they are using, while they are spell casting and as the spell reaches its peak, the energy and power of the witch and familiar are released into the spell. When the spell is complete the energy of the animal flows from the witch back into the familiar, the witch and their familiar remain very still after the exchange has taken place, allowing them both to replenish their energies.
The names of familiars were recorded during the witch trials, as was the punishment their witch owners were given, some medieval familiar’s owners were witches and adept in the art of magical practices. Neighbors of the familiar owner would tell the witch-hunters that they saw the witch stroke their animal, and at the same time chant a curse against someone who then had a run of bad luck, they did this to avoid torture themselves. During this time anything that a witch did was thought to be the work of the devil, therefore the witch was cited as evil. Often those who accused the witch of wrong doing were the ones who consulted with the witch for healing, and for potions and charms for love and other matters. It was their way of seeking revenge if they were unhappy with the actions of the witch, or they did not get the expected results from the witch’s magic. People were often ready to point the finger at someone and accuse them, because anyone could be imprisoned by witch-hunters and tortured merely for associating with a witch. Once the witch was targeted the witch-hunters were able to torture and eventually kill the witch and often their familiars.
Witches these days use their familiars for healing and for benign magic, and they use their powers with care and caution. Modern day witches are reconnecting with their animal familiars and are developing a deep and meaningful relationship with them, in the physical and spiritual realms. There is a profound connection between creatures and humans, and through an understanding of each other they are able to work together with spiritual synchronicity.
Many witches consider the familiar on the astral plane is easier to work with than the physical familiar, it is because they have no restrictions physically, and they work with pure spiritual energy. All magic is first formed in the astral plane before it is manifested in the physical realm, the astral familiars have a more direct influence in the specific directing of the magical energies. Witches sense the presence of their astral familiars, sometimes the energy of more than one familiar connects at the same time, and it is not unusual for a witch to conjure with the assistance of more than one familiar. The astral or physical familiar helps increase the intensity of the witch’s rituals and gives the witch more clarity when making decisions. All witches take great care of their familiars whether physical or astral, and it would be most unusual for any witch to not have a familiar as their companion.
While most witches work with animal familiars, many also work with spirit animals, this is done by choosing a particular animal and taking into consideration its inherent energies. Each animal has particular characteristics that can enhance and empower all magical and healing work. By understanding the archetypal energies associated with each animal, you can align with the soul of the animal you choose and work together in harmony. You may wish to work with one particular spirit creature, or to summon the one with the qualities required to empower and enhance your work.
Alligator – Strength
Ant – Industriousness
Antelope – Speed
Bat – Intuition
Bear – Knowledge – healing
Beaver – Beginnings
Bee – Co-operation – community
Bird – Rising above – freedom
Butterfly – Transformation – love – balance
Cat – Tenacity – Heightened Psychic Awareness
Cougar – Leadership
Coyote – Quick thinking
Crane – Balance – dignity
Crow – Resourcefulness – magic
Deer – Wisdom – peace
Dog – Loyalty
Dolphin – Communication – harmony
Dragonfly – Creativity – skill
Eagle – Power – healing
Firefly – Illumination
Fox – Cleverness – discretion
Frog – Peace – love – healing
Goat – Diligence
Hawk – Awareness – honesty
Hedgehog – Protection
Horse – Transformation – change
Hummingbird – Beauty – movement
Lizard – Releasing
Loon – Communication – serenity
Mouse – Illusion – charm – charisma
Otter – Joy – balance – uplifting
Owl – Wisdom – healing – insight
Peacock – Self-assurance
Pelican – Abundance – fortune
Porcupine – Humility
Quail – Group harmony
Rabbit – Overcoming – protection – luck
Ram – Determination
Raven – Mystical exploration
Salmon – Persistence
Seagull – Freedom
Seahorse – Nourishing
Seal – Tranquility
Snail – Perseverance
Snake – Power – protection
Spider – Connection
Squirrel – Honesty
Swan – Nurturing
Turtle – Knowledge – healing
Whale – Intuition
Wolf – Loyalty
Spirit animals possess the knowledge and traits of their species and when you are in touch with your spirit animal you can ask the animal for assistance. It is believed that all animals have healing and inspirational powers and that you can bring their energies into you. The Native Americans believe that when a person is born an animal’s spirit enters into that person, it is meant to provide wisdom and protection.