Familiar wicca

Familiar wicca DEFAULT

Familiar

Spirituality

This article is about the supernatural entity that assists in the practice of magic. For other uses, see Familiar (disambiguation).

"Familiar Spirits" redirects here. For the book, see Familiar Spirits (memoir).

A late-16th-century English illustration of a witch feeding her familiars

In European folklore of the medieval and early modern periods, familiars (sometimes referred to as familiar spirits) were believed to be supernatural entities that would assist witches and cunning folk in their practice of magic.[1] According to records of the time, those alleging to have had contact with familiar spirits reported that they could manifest as numerous forms, usually as an animal, but sometimes as a human or humanoid figure, and were described as "clearly defined, three-dimensional... forms, vivid with colour and animated with movement and sound", as opposed to descriptions of ghosts with their "smoky, undefined form[s]".[2]

When they served witches, they were often thought to be malevolent, but when working for cunning folk they were often considered benevolent (although there was some ambiguity in both cases). The former were often categorized as demons, while the latter were more commonly thought of and described as fairies. The main purpose of familiars was to serve the witch or young witch, providing protection for them as they came into their new powers.[3]

Since the 20th century some magical practitioners, including adherents of the Neopagan religion of Wicca, use the concept of familiars, due to their association with older forms of magic. These contemporary practitioners use pets or wildlife, or believe that invisible versions of familiars act as magical aids.[4]

Definitions[edit]

A story of "a priest who for the space of 40 years employed a familiar spirit", illustrated in Elizabeth Iof England's copy of the Histoires Prodigieusesby Pierre Boaistuau

Pierre A. Riffard proposed this definition and quotations[5]

A familiar spirit – (alter ego, doppelgänger, personal demon, personal totem, spirit companion) is the double, the alter ego, of an individual. It does not look like the individual concerned. Even though it may have an independent life of its own, it remains closely linked to the individual. The familiar spirit can be an animal (animal companion).

The French poet Charles Baudelaire, a cat fancier, believed in familiar spirits.[6]

It is the familiar spirit of the place;

It judges, presides, inspires Everything in its empire; It is perhaps a fairy or a god? When my eyes, drawn like a magnet

To this cat that I love...

A. P. Elkin studied the belief in familiar spirits among the Australian Aborigines:

A usual method, or explanation, is that the medicine man sends his familiar spirit (his assistant totem, spirit-dog, spirit-child or whatever the form may be) to gather the information. While this is occurring, the man himself is in a state of receptivity, in sleep or trance. In modern phraseology [spiritism], his familiar spirit would be the control [control spirit].[7]

Mircea Eliade:

The Goldi [Nanai people in Siberia] clearly distinguish between the tutelary spirit (ayami), which chooses the shaman, and the helping spirits (syven), which are subordinate to it and are granted to the shaman by the ayami itself. According to Sternberg the Goldi explain the relations between the shaman and his ayami by a complex sexual emotion. Here is the report of a Goldi shaman. "Once I was asleep on my sick-bed, when a spirit approached me. It was a very beautiful woman. Her figure was very slight, she was no more than half an arshin (71 cm) tall. Her face and attire were quite as those of one of our Gold women... She said: 'I am the ayami of your ancestors, the Shamans. I taught them shamaning. Now I am going to teach you... I love you, I have no husband now, you will be my husband and I shall be a wife unto you. I shall give you assistant spirits. You are to heal with their aid, and I shall teach and help you myself...' Sometimes she comes under the aspect of an old woman, and sometimes under that of a wolf, so she is terrible to look at. Sometimes she comes as a winged tiger... She has given me three assistants—the jarga (the panther), the doonto (the bear) and the amba (the tiger). They come to me in my dreams, and appear whenever I summon them while shamaning. If one of them refuses to come, the ayami makes them obey, but, they say, there are some who do not obey even the ayami. When I am shamaning, the ayami and the assistant spirits are possessing me; whether big or small, they penetrate me, as smoke or vapour would. When the ayami is within me, it is she who speaks through my mouth, and she does everything herself."[8]

Descriptions[edit]

Among those accused witches and cunning-folk who described their familiar spirits, there were commonly certain unifying features. The historian Emma Wilby noted how the accounts of such familiars were striking for their "ordinariness" and "naturalism", despite the fact that they were dealing with supernatural entities.[9]

Familiar spirits were most commonly small animals, such as cats, rats, dogs, ferrets, birds, frogs, toads and hares. There were also cases of wasps and butterflies, as well as pigs, sheep and horses. Familiar spirits were usually kept in pots or baskets lined with sheep's wool and fed a variety of things including, milk, bread, meat and blood.[10]

Familiar spirits usually had names and "were often given down-to-earth, and frequently affectionate, nicknames."[11] One example of this was Tom Reid, who was the familiar of the cunning-woman and accused witch Bessie Dunlop, while other examples included Grizell and Gridigut, who were the familiars of 17th-century Huntingdonshire witch Jane Wallis.[12]

An Agathion is a familiar spirit which appears in the shape of a human or an animal, or even within a talisman, bottle or magic ring. It is strongest at midday.[13][needs context]

Relationship with sorcerers[edit]

Using her studies into the role of witchcraft and magic in Britain during the Early Modern period as a starting point, the historian Emma Wilby examined the relationship that familiar spirits allegedly had with the witches and cunning-folk in this period.

Meeting[edit]

In the British accounts from the early modern period at least, there were three main types of encounter narrative related to how a witch or cunning person first met their familiar. The first of these was that the spirit spontaneously appeared in front of the individual while they were going about their daily activities, either in their home or outdoors somewhere. Various examples for this are attested in the sources of the time, for instance, Joan Prentice from Essex, England, gave an account when she was interrogated for witchcraft in 1589 claiming that she was "alone in her chamber, and sitting upon a low stool preparing herself to bedward" when her familiar first appeared to her, while the Cornish cunning-woman Anne Jeffries related in 1645 that hers first appeared to her when she was "knitting in an arbour in our garden".[14]

The second manner in which the familiar spirit commonly appeared to magical practitioners in Britain was that they would be given to a person by a pre-existing individual, who was sometimes a family member and at other times a more powerful spirit. For instance, the alleged witch Margaret Ley from Liverpool claimed, in 1667, that she had been given her familiar spirit by her mother when she died, while the Leicestershire cunning-woman Joan Willimot related, in 1618, that a mysterious figure whom she only referred to as her "master", "willed her to open her mouth and he would blow into her a fairy which should do her good. And that she open her mouth, and that presently after blowing, there came out of her mouth a spirit which stood upon the ground in the shape and form of a woman."[15]

In a number of accounts, the cunning person or witch was experiencing difficulty prior to the appearance of the familiar, who offered to aid them. As historian Emma Wilby noted, "their problems... were primarily rooted in the struggle for physical survival—the lack of food or money, bereavement, sickness, loss of livelihood and so on", and the familiar offered them a way out of this by giving them magical powers.[16]

Working[edit]

In some cases, the magical practitioner then made an agreement or entered a pact with their familiar spirit. The length of time that the witch or cunning person worked with their familiar spirit varied between a few weeks through to a number of decades.[17] In most cases, the magical practitioner would conjure their familiar spirit when they needed their assistance, although there are many different ways that they did this: the Essex witch Joan Cunny claimed, in 1589, that she had to kneel down within a circle and pray to Satan for her familiar to appear while the Wiltshire cunning woman Anne Bodenham described, in 1653, that she conjured her familiars by methods learned from books. In some rarer cases there were accounts where the familiars would appear at times when they were unwanted and not called upon, for instance the Huntingdonshire witch Elizabeth Chandler noted, in 1646, that she could not control when her two familiars, named Beelzebub and Trullibub, appeared to her, and had prayed for a god to "deliver her therefrom".[18] It was also believed that familiars “helped diagnose illnesses and the sources of bewitchment and were used for divining and finding lost objects and treasures. Magicians conjured them in rituals, then locked them in bottles, rings and stones. They sometimes sold them as charms, claiming the spirits would ensure success in gambling, love, business or whatever the customer wanted. This sort of familiar was technically not illegal; England’s Witchcraft Act of 1604 prohibited only evil and wicked spirits.”[citation needed]

Types[edit]

Familiars are most common in western European mythology, with some scholars arguing that familiars are only present in the traditions of Great Britain and France. In these areas, three categories of familiars are believed to exist:[19]

  • familiar spirits manifesting as humans and humanoids, throughout Western Europe
  • divinatory spirits manifesting as animals, Great Britain and France
  • malevolent spirits manifesting as animals, only in Greece

Prince Rupert's dog[edit]

Prince Rupert and his "familiar" dog in a pamphlet titled "The Cruel Practices of Prince Rupert" (1643)

During the English Civil War, the Royalist general Prince Rupert was in the habit of taking his large poodle dog named Boy into battle with him. Throughout the war the dog was greatly feared among the Parliamentarian forces and credited with supernatural powers. As noted by Morgan,[20] the dog was apparently considered a kind of familiar. At the end of the war the dog was shot, allegedly with a silver bullet.

Witch trials[edit]

Most data regarding familiars comes from the transcripts of English and Scottish witch trials held during the 16th–17th centuries. The court system that labeled and tried witches was known as the Essex. The Essex trial of Agnes Sampson of Nether Keith, East Lothian in Scotland in 1590, presents prosecution testimony regarding a divinatory familiar. This case is fundamentally political, trying Sampson for high treason, and accusing Sampson for employing witchcraft against King James VI. The prosecution asserts Sampson called familiar spirits and resolved her doubtful matter. Another Essex trial is that of Hellen Clark, tried in 1645, in which Clark was compelled to state that the Devil appeared as a "familiar" in the form of a dog.[21]

The English court cases reflect a strong relationship between State's accusations of witchcraft against those who practiced ancient indigenous traditions, including the familiar animal or spirit.

In some cases familiars replace children in the favour of their mothers. (See witchcraft and children.)

In colonial America animal familiars can be seen in the witch hunts that took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. Familiar spirits often appear in the visions of the afflicted girls. Although the 1648 law that defined a witch as one who "hath or consulteth with a familiar spirit" had been suspended ten years earlier, association with a familiar spirit was used in the Salem trials as evidence to convict suspected witches. Sarah Good was said to have a yellow bird who sucked between her fingers. Ann Putnam in particular was supposed to have frequently seen the yellow bird in her afflictions. Tituba was said to have seen strange animals that urged her to hurt children, which included a hog, a black dog, a red cat and a black cat.[22] “During the Salem witch trials, there is little account of the practice of animal familiars, although one man was charged with encouraging a dog to attack by way of magical means. The dog, interestingly enough, was tried, convicted, and hanged.”[23]

The witch's mark added a sexual component to the familiar spirit and is often found in trial records as a way to convict a suspected witch. The mark was most commonly an extra teat found somewhere on the body and was suspected to be used to suckle the familiar spirits. An example of this can be seen in the Salem witch trials of 1692. For example, Ann Putnam told Martha Corey that, "There is a yellow burd a sucking between your fore finger and midel finger I see it."[24]

Legacy[edit]

Folk tales[edit]

Historian Emma Wilby identified recurring motifs in various European folk tales and fairy tales that she believed displayed a belief in familiar spirits. She noted that in such tales as Rumpelstiltskin, Puss-in-Boots and the Frog Prince, the protagonist is approached by a supernatural being when they are in need of aid, something that she connected to the appearance of familiar spirits in the Early Modern accounts of them.[25] She believed there to be a direct connection between the belief in and accounts of familiar spirits with these folk tales because "These fairy stories and myths originate from the same reservoir of folk belief as the descriptions of familiar-encounters given by cunning-folk and witches".[25]

Historiography[edit]

Recent scholarship on familiars exhibits the depth and respectability absent from earlier demonological approaches. The study of familiars has grown from an academic topic in folkloric journals to a general topic in popular books and journals incorporating anthropology, history and other disciplines. James Sharpe, in The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: the Western Tradition, states: "Folklorists began their investigations in the 19th Century [and] found that familiars figured prominently in ideas about witchcraft."[26]

In the 19th century, folklorists fired the imagination of scholars who would, in decades to come, write descriptive volumes on witches and familiars. Examples of the growth and development of familiar scholarship are found in Folklore, which consistently contributes articles on traditional beliefs in England and early modern Europe.

In the first decades of the 20th century, familiars are identified as "niggets", which are "creepy-crawly things that witches kept all over them".[27]

Margaret Murray delves into variations of the familiar found in witchcraft practices. Many of the sources she employs are trial records and demonological texts from early to modern England. These include the 1556 Essex Witchcraft Trials of the Witches of Hatfield Perevil, the 1582 Trial of the Witches of St. Osyth, and the 1645 Essex Trials with Matthew Hopkins acting as a witch-finder.[28] In 1921, Murray published The Witch Cult in Western Europe. Her information concerning familiars comes from witchcraft trials in Essex in the 16th and 17th centuries.[29] Within this book Murray dedicates an entire chapter to the familiar spirit. Her detailed contribution to the topic included several court cases and accounts from Europe in which she finds mention of familiars.[30]

Mary Beth Norton's In the Devils Snare published in 2002, discusses the Salem witchcraft crisis of 1692. She frequently references familiar spirits as she explores the trials of the Salem witches.[31]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the 1997 book series His Dark Materials, each character has a dæmon which are explained to be physical manifestations of the soul put in place to help their human counterparts and have the ability to shape-shift up until the human enters puberty, at which time the animal form becomes fixed and permanent.
  • In the visual novel Fate/stay night, servants are familiars of magi in the Holy Grail War, summoned by the Grail.
  • Familiars are featured in the TV series Supernatural episode titled "Man's Best Friend...with Benefits".
  • In the TV series Charmed, the Halliwell sisters are gifted a familiar cat. Other witches have also been shown throughout the series with familiars in the form of cats and other animals.
  • Familiars are featured in the Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Sabrina's familiar is a goblin, which takes the form of black stray cat.
  • The 2018 film Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald features matagots, explained to be spirit familiars.
  • In the manga Sugar Sugar Rune and its anime adaptation of the same name, the two main characters each have a familiar to help them become a Queen. Chocolat has a frog named Duke, and Vanilla has a mouse named Blanca.
  • In an eleventh-season episode of The X-Files, titled "Familiar", Mulder and Scully encounter a familiar demon which takes the form of creepy children's television show characters.
  • In What We Do in the Shadows, vampires are often depicted as having human servants, perhaps under hypnosis or the promise of being transformed into a vampire, but they are explicitly called "familiars".
  • The tabletop role-playing gameDungeons & Dragons features familiars for wizards, sorcerers and warlocks.
  • In the video game Thayer's Quest, Thayer is attacked by familiars outside the Castle of Crystal.
  • A 1989 book by author Alice Walker is called The Temple of My Familiar.
  • In the Anime and Manga series, Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun, the main character, Iruma Suzuki enters the demon world, where every demon has a familiar.
  • In the TV series Twin Peaks, Mike claimed Bob was once his familiar.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^Wilby 2005, pp. 59-61.
  2. ^Wilby 2005, p. 61.
  3. ^Wilby 2005, pp. 74-76.
  4. ^Chauran, Alexandra (2013). Animal Familiars for Beginners. Jupiter Gardens Press. ISBN .
  5. ^Pierre A. Riffard, Dictionnaire de l’ésotérisme, Paris: Payot, 1983, p. 132; Nouveau dictionnaire de l’ésotérisme, Paris: Payot, 2008, pp. 114-115.
  6. ^Charles Baudelaire, The Flowers of Evil (1857), “The cat”, 2.
  7. ^A. P. Elkin, Aboriginal men of high degree. Initiation and Sorcery in the World's Oldest Tradition, 1945, 48. A spiritist medium allegedly loses consciousness and passes under control of some external force (called a “control spirit”), for the supposed transmission of communications from the dead, or messages for an individual or a group.
  8. ^Mircea Eliade, Shamanism. Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (1968), Princeton University Press, 2004, 72, quoting Leo Sternberg, Divine Election in Primitive Religion, Congrès International des Américanistes,1924, 476 ff.
  9. ^Wilby 2005, p. 62.
  10. ^Willis, Deborah (1995). Malevolent Nurture. New York: Cornell University Press. pp. 32, 52.
  11. ^Wilby 2005, p. 63.
  12. ^Wilby 2005, pp. 60-63.
  13. ^Bane, Theresa. (2012). Encyclopedia of Demons in World Religions and Cultures. Jefferson: McFarland. p. 21. ISBN .
  14. ^Wilby 2005, p. 60.
  15. ^Wilby 2005, pp. 60-61.
  16. ^Wilby 2005, pp. 66-67, 70-71.
  17. ^Wilby 2005, p. 77.
  18. ^Wilby 2005, pp. 77-78.
  19. ^M. A. Murray, Divination by Witches’ Familiars. Man. Vol. 18 June 1918. Pp. 1-3.
  20. ^William Morgan, Superstition in Medieval and Early Modern Society, Chapter 3.
  21. ^M. A. Murray, Witches familiars in England. Man, Vol. 18 July 1918, pp. 1-3.
  22. ^Norton, Mary Beth (2002). In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692. New York: Vintage Books. pp. 26, 28, 48.
  23. ^
  24. ^Norton, Mary Beth (2002). In the Devil's Snare. New York: Vintage Books. p. 48.
  25. ^ abWilby 2005, p. 59.
  26. ^Sharpe, James; Rickard M Golden (2006). Familiars in the Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: the Western Tradition. ABC-CLIO.
  27. ^Times, The (1916). "Superstition in Essex: A Witch and Her Niggets". Folklore. 27: 3.
  28. ^Murray, Margaret (July 1918). "Witches' Familiars in England". Man. Man, Vol. 18. 18: 101–104. doi:10.2307/2787283. JSTOR 2787283.
  29. ^Murray, Margaret A. (1921). The Witch-Cult in Western Europe. Clarendon Press.
  30. ^Murray, Margaret (1921). The Witch-Cult in Western Europe. London: Oxford University Press. pp. 205–237.
  31. ^Norton, Mary Beth (2002). In the Devil's Snare. New York: Vintage Books. pp. 26, 28, 48, 55, 64, 80, 140, 148, 158, 200–201, 205.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Davies, Owen (2003). Cunning-Folk: Popular Magic in English History. London: Hambledon Continuum. ISBN .
  • Maple, Eric (December 1960). "The Witches of Canewdon". Folklore. 71 (4).
  • Thomas, Keith (1973). Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century England. London: Penguin.
  • Wilby, Emma (2005). Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic. Brighton: Sussex Academic Press. ISBN .
  • Norton, Mary Beth (2002). In the Devil's Snare. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN .
  • Murray, Margaret (1921). The Witch-Cult in Western Europe. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Briggs, Robin (1996). Witches and Neighbors. New York: Penguin.

External links[edit]

Sours: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Familiar

What is a Pagan Animal Familiar?

In some traditions of modern Paganism, including the various Wiccan paths, the concept of an animal familiar is incorporated into practice. Today, a familiar is often defined as an animal with whom we have a magical connection, but in truth, the concept is a bit more complex than this.

History of the Familiar

During the days of the European witch hunts, familiars were "said to be given to witches by the devil," according to Rosemary Guiley's "Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft." They were, in essence, small demons which could be sent out to do a witch's bidding. Although cats - especially black ones - were the favored vessel for such a demon to inhabit, dogs, toads, and other small animals were sometimes used.

In some Scandinavian countries, familiars were associated with spirits of the land and nature. Fairies, dwarves, and other elemental beings were believed to inhabit the physical bodies of animals. Once the Christian church came along, this practice went underground -- because any spirit other than an angel must be a demon. During the witch-hunt era, many domestic animals were killed because of their association with known witches and heretics.

During the Salem witch trials, there is little account of the practice of animal familiars, although one man was charged with encouraging a dog to attack by way of magical means. The dog, interestingly enough, was tried, convicted, and hanged.

In shamanistic practices, the animal familiar is not a physical being at all, but a thought-form or spiritual entity. It often travels astrally or serves as a magical guardian against those who might try to psychically attack the shaman. 

Many people in the NeoPagan community have adapted the term to mean an actual, living animal. You'll encounter many Pagans who have an animal companion that they consider their familiar - even though this is a co-opting of the word's original meaning - and most people no longer believe that these are spirits or demons inhabiting an animal. Instead, they have an emotional and psychic bond with the cat, dog, or whatever, who is attuned to the powers of its human partner.

Finding a Familiar

Not everyone has, needs, or even wants a familiar. If you have an animal companion as a pet, such as a cat or a dog, try working on strengthening your psychic connection with that animal. Books such as Ted Andrews' "Animal Speak" contain some excellent pointers on how to do this.

If an animal has appeared in your life unexpectedly -- such as a stray cat that appears regularly, for instance -- it's possible that it may have been drawn to you psychically. However, be sure to rule out mundane reasons for its appearance first. If you're leaving out food for the local feral kitties, that's a far more logical explanation. Likewise, if you see a sudden influx of birds, consider the season -- is the ground thawing, making food more available? Not all animal visitors are magical - sometimes, they're just coming to visit.

If you'd like to draw a familiar to you, some traditions believe you can do this by meditation. Find a quiet place to sit undisturbed, and allow your mind to wander. As you journey, you may encounter various people or objects. Focus your intent on meeting an animal companion, and see if you come into contact with any.

Author and artist Sarah Anne Lawless says,

"[Animal familiars] select you, not the other way around. Everyone wishes their familiar was a bear, wolf, mountain lion, fox — all the usual suspects — but in reality this is usually not the case. In most cases an apprentice witch or shaman starts with smaller less powerful animal helpers and over time as their power and knowledge increases they acquire stronger and more powerful animal familiars. Keep in mind that the size of an animal does not reflect its power as some of the most powerful animals are also the smallest. In cases of true hereditary witchcraft or shamanism animal familiars can be inherited from a dying elder as they have a vested interest in you as family. Even though you cannot select one, you can seek them out and invite them into your life, but you cannot request which animal they will be."

In addition to familiars, some people do magical work with what's called a power animal or a spirit animal. A power animal is a spiritual guardian that some people connect with. However, much like other spiritual entities, there's no rule or guideline that says you must have one. If you happen to connect with an animal entity while meditating or performing astral travel, then that may be your power animal, or it may just be curious about what you're up to.

Watch Now: How Do I Find My Power Animal?

Sours: https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-an-animal-familiar-2562343
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Witch2-2-.jpg

In european folklore and folk-belief of the medieval and early-modern periods, familiar spirits, sometimes referred to simply as familiars, were supernatural entities that were believed to assist witches and cunning folk in their practice of magic.

Definitions[]

Familiars have been described as the alter-ego, spirit companion, or animal, that aids a witch.

The definition of a familiar may vary from person to person. Some people define a familiar as a spirit projection of the self; other people define a familiar as a separate spirit; and still other people define a familiar as a physical animal.

Relationship between Magical Practitioner and Familiar[]

Using her studies into the role of witchcraft and magic in Britain during the early-modern period as a starting point, the historian Emma Wilby examined the relationship that familiar spirits allegedly had with the witches and cunning-folk in this period.

In the British accounts from the early-modern period at least, there were three main types of encounter narrative related to how a witch or cunning person first met their familiar. The first of these was that the spirit spontaneously appeared in front of the individual whilst they were going about their daily activities, either in their home or outdoors somewhere. Various examples for this are attested in the sources of the time, for instance, Joan Prentice from Essex, England, gave an account when she was interrogated for witchcraft in 1589 claiming that she was "alone in her chamber, and sitting upon a low stool preparing herself to bedward" when her familiar first appeared to her, whilst the Cornish cunning-woman Anne Jeffries related in 1645 that hers first appeared to her when she was "knitting in an arbour in our garden".

The second manner in which the familiar spirit commonly appeared to magical practitioners in Britain was that they would be gifted to a person by a pre-existing individual, who was sometimes a family member and at other times a more powerful spirit. For example, the alleged witch Margaret Ley from Liverpool claimed, in 1667, that she had been gifted her familiar spirit from her mother when she died. The leicestershire cunning-woman Joan Willimot related, in 1618, that a mysterious figure who she referred to only as her "master", "willed her to open her mouth, and he would blow into her a fairy which should do her good. And that she open her mouth, and that presently after blowing, there came out of her mouth a spirit which stood upon the ground in the shape and form of a woman.".

In a number of accounts, the cunning-person or witch was experiencing difficulty prior to the appearance of the familiar, who offered to aid them. As historian Emma wilby noted, "their problems… were primarily rooted in the struggle for physical survival- the lack of food or money, bereavement, sickness, loss of livelihood, and so on", and the familiar offered them a way out of that by giving them magical powers.

The Witch's Familiar[]

The concept of the familiar has been a vital component of various cultures throughout man's history. The Romans, for example, believed that each household was protected by a familiar whose job it was to keep the family from harm, and shamans and medicine men of various tribal traditions have long honored the spirits of animals for their wisdom and assistance in magickal workings.

Yet despite these positive influences, when we think of a familiar the most common image is that of the evil witch with her fearsome-looking black cat. This archetype, straight from the fairytales of our childhood, has its roots in the fear and superstition of the dark ages, and it bears no resemblance to the modern-day familiar.

Today's witches view their familiars in an altogether different light. For the modern witch, a familiar can be any animal with which the individual feels an affinity. While these animals are not considered evil spirits, they're far from being just a household pet and are treated as partners in the practice of magick.

Because animals are believed to be more sensitive to vibrations from the unseen world, they are useful to the witch as a kind of psychic sensor, indicating the presence of negative energy by their behavior. Familiars also bring added energy to magickal workings because of their close affinity with the spirit world and their attunement with their witch.

The finding of an animal familiar is a very personal thing, and often the witch will send out a psychic call to attract a suitable one. An immediate and overwhelming feeling of kinship between the witch and the animal usually signifies the discovery of the new familiar.

In some cases familiars are not confined to physical bodies. Although they play the same role as animal familiars, spirit familiars are more versatile in that they can move about more freely. The presence of these sprit familiars is often experienced as a voice, vision, or strong feeling of peace. If necessary, they can be associated with inanimate objects, such as a stone or piece of jewelry, to make contacting the spirit an easy task. Non-pagan history describes familiars as low-ranking demons in constant attention to witches for the purpose of carrying out spells and bewitchments. Familiars usually assumed animal forms. Cats, toads, owls, mice, and dogs seem to have been the most common, though virtually any animal or insect could be suspected. In the witchcraft trials, if so much as a fly buzzed in the window while someone suspected of being a witch was being questioned or tried, it was said to be her (or his) familiar. The inquisitors took the Bible to heart: those who had familiars were "an abomination unto the Lord" and should be "Put to death: they shall stone them with stones: Their blood shall be upon them" (Lev. 20:27).


Familiars were often equated with imps by the witch-hunters, and were said to be given to witches by the Devil, or bought or inherited from other witches. A witch could have several of them. Cats were the favored forms, especially black ones. The fear that all cats were witches' familiars was one of the primary reasons for the famous cat massacres that swept through medieval Europe. Familiars were given names like any household pet, which most of them undoubtedly were. Perhaps the best known familiar name is Pyewackett, the moniker the witch's cat in the movie Bell, Book, and Candle, and a name that dates back to Renaissance England. The famous witch-hunter Matthew Hopkins stated that the name "Pyewackett" was a name that "no mortal could invent".

During the witch hysteria of the middle ages and renaissance, the obsession with familiars was confined mostly to England and Scotland, where they are mentioned in numerous trial records, especially those related to Hopkins. The Witchcraft Act of 1604 made it a felony to "consult, convene with, entertain, employ, feed, or reward, any evil and wicked spirit to or for any intent or purpose". But the Malleus Maleficarum (1486), the major witch inquisitor's handbook, offers no instructions concerning familiars in the interrogation and trial of witches. The book does acknowledge that an animal familiar "always works with the witch in everything".

There is scant evidence of familiars in early american witch trials. In the Salem trials in 1692, John Bradsheet was indicted for "inciting a dog to afflict". The dog was tried and hanged as a witch. Outside of witch trials, more benevolent familiars were believed to exist, serving wizards and wise men (and women) who were magicians or village healers. The familiars helped diagnose illnesses and the sources of bewitchment and were used for divining and finding lost objects and treasures. Magicians conjured them in rituals, then locked them in bottles, rings, and stones. They sometimes sold them as charms, claiming that the spirits would ensure success in gambling, love, business, or whatever the customer wanted. This sort of familiar was technically not illegal; England's Witchcraft Act of 1604 prohibited only evil and wicked spirits. Some familiars were said to be faeries. The name "Oberon" was a popular name for fairy familiars in England in the 1400s and 1500s.

Many modern witches have animal familiars, usually cats, which are their magical helpers. Some witches also have dogs, birds, snakes, or toads. Witches do not believe that the familiars are "demons" or spirits in animal form, but simply animals whose psychic attunement makes them ideal partners in magical workings. Some witches say that it is possible to endow pets with magical powers, and thereby turn them into familiars, though other witches don't believe that that can be done. Still other witches believe that familiars are never "pets", and should never be treated as such, but are animals who volunteer to work as familiars, and are karmicly attracted to witches. Some witches who do not have familiars send out psychic "calls", to draw the right animal to them.

Familiars reputedly are sensitive to psychic vibrations and power, and are welcome partners inside a magic circle and in other magical work. Familiars also serve as a psychic radar, reacting visibly to the presence of any negative or evil energy, whether it be an unseen force or a person who dabbles in the wrong kind of magic. Familiars are also sometimes given psychic protection by their witches. Some modern witches take some of their beliefs from theosophy, and consequently use the term "familiars" to describe thought-forms that are created magically, and are empowered to perform a certain task on the astral plane.

Sorcerers and shamans in cultures around the world also have helpers in the form of spirits. They dispatched those spirits on errands to heal, harm, or kill, which is called "sending". The physical shape of a familiar varies. New Guinea sorcerers rely on snakes and crocodiles, while in Malaya, the familiar is usually an owl or badger passed down from generation to generation. Throughout Africa, the wild creatures of the bush are said to be witches' familiars: For the Lugbara, they are said to be the toad, snake, lizard, water frog, bat, owl, leopard, jackal, and a type of monkey that screeches in the night. For the Dinka, they are black cobras and hyenas. The Zulus' familiars are said to be corpses dug up and re-animated with magic; they are sent out at on night errands to scare travelers with their shrieking and pranks. In Shamanism, a novice shaman acquires his familiar spirits, usually manifesting in animal, reptile, or bird shapes, when he completes his initiation. He or she may send them out to do battle in his or her place, but if they die, so does the shaman. Familiars usually stay with their shaman until death, then disappear. Among certain Inuits, the familiar is embodied in an artificial seal, not a live animal.

In closing, what I usually instruct in this area is that the student of magic who feels that they have found a familiar is that they should practice an exercise called "Trading Places" by Keith Harry. This exercise is simple enough to memorize and to practice, and though it was not written specifically for bonding with an animal familiar it was designed for becoming familiar with an animal, and inducing a mystical experience. I think you will readily discern its value in the acquiring of a familiar.

Sours: https://wicca.wikia.org/wiki/Familiar
History of Familiars and How To Find Yours

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Wicca familiar

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What Is a Familiar And How To Tell If You Have One (With My Cat) - Wisdom From The Cauldron

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