The Witch's Familiar
In legend, a familiar or familiar spirit is a supernatural being that helps and supports a witch or magician. Traditionally, a familiar is an animal, but some are said to be humanoid. Familiars often have special powers of their own. When witchcraft is portrayed as a type of communication or alliance with evil forces in order to gain magical powers, a familiar may be considered a type of demon.
The stereotypical familiar in Western culture is the black cat. Because black cats are strongly associated with witchcraft, there are a number of superstitions regarding them. A black cat crossing ones path is said to be a portent of doom, for example. A familiar may be nearly any animal, however. Other common forms for a familiar to take are a dog, an owl, and a toad.
Familiars have always been a witch’s companion, though it is not necessary to be a witch to have a familiar. Many people have pets that they feel intuitively linked to...When people collect pictures, or statues of a particular creature, like the unicorn or dolphin, they are actually subconsciously communicating with that creature and it is their familiar.
A familiar is not owned by its companion...in fact, if you look at the life of a well-cared for familiar you would think it the other way around. The human is subservient to it's chosen familiar (or familiars) Nonetheless, A cat or dog familiar will be very protective and if someone enters the home of the witch that they feel shouldn’t be there, they will stare at the person until they are so uncomfortable, they leave...or even worse, they may become agressive towards someone they do not like or trust.
My dog would bark uncontrollably at my ex-husband...even begin barking as he would drive up the street. It took many years before my ex-husband felt welcome in my new home...my dog finally understanding that this man had no more control in my life.
Over the centuries familiars have taken many forms, but no matter what their form, their task is to assist the witch, and to help with different types of magic. A familiar can help direct manipulations of natural energies contained in stones, herbs, astrological aspects and in the four elements. They are healers and guardians who can warn the witch of danger, or in the extreme defend the witch.
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. 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 as one with their environment.
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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. Witches understand themselves 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.
A familiar can be drawn by 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 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 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. Again, it is common with non-witches and non-practising witches to have this bond with an animal...the difference between a familiar and a pet is sometimes nothing more than intention.
Many of the mythological deities had a familiar connected to them...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. Medusa had a black swan as her familiar...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 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, and 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 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 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 there is the shadow familiar which aids the witch with invisibility.
The familiar serves as a guardian while the witch is asleep and dreaming, as this is 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, aware of their healing and magical properties.
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.
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. Cats in particular need very specialized care for their well-being, and a well-cared for cat radiates loving energy, which actually stimulates hormones in humans. Cats at play can be delightful and release endorphins in their audience, lifting even the most heavy depression.