Familiar spirits have been described as “helpful spirits” by various cultures, but actual descriptions of familiar spirits vary greatly.
Many believe the word familiar comes from the Latin world familiaris, meaning household servant , to express the idea of a helpful spirit that obeys the necromancer or sorcerer’s commands. Today some still regard familiar spirits as being demons, or something evil, due to the reference to familiar spirits found within some of the translations of the Old Testament. But, those in the Bible who called up familiar spirits to ask them questions, were called sorcerers and necromancers; people who spoke to humans that are now dead.
Familiar spirits have also sometimes been described as having the form of a “black man.” This description sounds very similar to what many describe as being shadow people, or disembodied humans that have not crossed over unto the light. These would be equated to what most call ghosts.
Yet these are not widely accepted views, therefore it is likely that familiar spirits have been greatly misunderstood and misrepresented by many.
Another concept is that familiar spirits are guardians or guides. These are generally considered to be enlightened spirits communicate with us, not ghosts, which are considered earthbound spirits. They oversee our lives, as unseen observers who interact with us during our life journey. Such spirits bring truths, guidance and love to those whom they are ministering to. These spirits may be equated with spirit guides, angels, or even ascended family or friends who have transitioned from this earthly plane unto the light, what some may call Heaven. Such spirits have always been thought to bring truth, love, joy and peace.
But there is one belief that is perhaps the most popular in still today, regarding familiar spirits teaches them to be helpful animal spirits, taking the shape of cats, dogs, owls, snakes, wolves, etc. Familiar spirits such as these are believed to have magical powers, and may have originated from tribal societies being similar to totems. This belief is common amongst witchcraft and shamanism, and all magical belief systems. But is most popularly known from Wicca, which embraces the idea of familiar spirits in animals – but most notably cats and dogs.
It is an old wives tale that says,”If a black cat or dog takes up unbidden residence at your door, good fortune will follow!”
In the modern world it is safe to say that familiars may come not just to you but via adoption, placement,or when someone has to give an animal away due to unforeseen circumstances. No matter how the animal arrives to be with you, the idea is that the animal chooses whom it is a familiar spirit to – no the other way around. You can pray or meditate for a familiar to come to you if you are in need, or in want for companionship. A familiar should never be stolen, infact this will usually disrupt any bond that could be formed with the animal. This also is a violation of the animal, for it likely was very happy where it was living.
Witches and animal familiars, especially the cat, have long been associated in magic and myths. Both have also enjoyed a long history of being deified and maligned in many cultures. Not every cat is a candidate for a familiar and not all witches like cats. So dogs, too, aside from being man’s best friend, have journeyed with the Gods and are wonderful familiars. The Goddess, Artemis often traveled with a hound at her side. But as with cats, not all dogs are familiar candidates, and not all witches like dogs.
But there are those times, though, when a witch meets an animal and the magic is so strong the two definitely belong together. Bonding instantly is magical, however, the relationship must grow with love and respect.
There are rituals to strengthen this psychic bond:
“To be performed every evening, at the same time, in the same place….Adapt the cat to sit close by you, facing in the same direction you face which shall be the place where the moon will rise. Stroke gently but firmly with love in your hands until its purrs and your breathing are heard as one sound. Now you and the cat possess the same will, your eyes will see as its eyes see, and your thoughts will travel together. The time has come to work spells and cast enchantments for power is doubled through the agency of your familiar.” – Witches All, Grosset & Dunlap, 1977
This is quoted from an 18th century Book of Shadows, and are instructions for the training of the cat or dog to be a helper familiar for the purposes of occult use. Cats and Dogs are the most common familiars, many of us have felt an affinity for others of the animal world. The above spell still holds true for any familiar, with a few changes, no doubt.
Cats can be finicky, they also adapt, although they may not like the changes. So if you are a first-time cat friend here are some tips to aid you in your new friendship:
• Cat likes her food served in the same place and preferably at the same time each day. Cat will eat meat. Loves it. She needs other nutrients, however. So choose a good quality canned food and dry food to supplement her diet. Always keep a bowl of fresh water available to her. Watch her for she can easily become a Fat Cat.
• Prepare a comfortable resting area for Cat using a box or basket with a pillow or blanket tucked inside. Mint tucked under the bedding helps deter fleas and ticks.
• Cat is very fussy about being clean and will lick her coat many times a day. The fur accumulates in her intestines and creates hairballs which can make her ill. So brush Cat often.
• If you place a collar on Cat, be certain it is expandable. If the collar gets caught on something, Cat could choke. With an expandable collar, she can slip out easily.
• Cat does not like being followed. She will investigate any new premises until she feels comfortable that it’s safe.
• Cat will have at least three names and one is her secret. Sound familiar?
• If Cat lives indoors either provide a Cat Door for easy access to the outdoors or a kitty litter box that’s always in the same place. The litter box must be emptied about every day to keep her and you happy. Another indoor cat must is a scratching post or your furniture will be her target.
• Cats love a little catnip to roll in and chew. Fresh from your garden is perfection. Dried will do.
Dogs have special needs, and are happiest when the following needs are attended to. Here are a few suggestions to make sure your new companion has a good environment to adapt to:
• Dog’s rest area needs to be comfortable and large enough for his size. If he doesn’t mind, the mint will work here, too.
• Brush, brush, brush. Also check for ticks, fleas and other problems
• Dog’s diet is important. He’ll eat most anything and that’s the problem. Choose healthy dog food and treats to keep him happy. Dogs also appreciates something to chew. I suggest something other than your shoes or table legs.
• Dog needs exercise so plan to walk Dog everyday or allow him to romp in an enclosed yard. A Dog door should come with the yard.
• Identifying collars are slowly being taken over by tattoos these days. You’ll need one for a leash if you walk Dog.
• Dog is a devoted and lifelong friend. Treat him like one.