RealPagan- Paganism for the Real World

A pet is not a Familiar. In fact, I don’t like the word Familiar in the context of a magical animal companion. This is a situation where words and definitions are not being properly used. It’s incorrect and is full of the vitriol from the trials where countless numbers of men, women, and children were put to death for the imagined crime of Witchcraft.


Ages ago, when the word first came to be associated with the animal companions of witches, it was done so by inquisitors and not the accused, the witches, themselves. The accusation of having a Familiar was added to the charges leveled against a person and in many cases, was enough to have innocent animals killed alongside their tortured owners.


The true definition of “Familiar” is a spirit who assists and serves the witch. It was believed that this discarnate spirit was housed in the body of an animal companion to provide a disguise for it so that the witch could call upon it as needed without attracting undue attention.


Even more sinister than this was the belief that a Familiar was a demon given to the witch by the devil to assist her. In both cases, a Familiar is not the animal, but an otherworldly spirit in animal form.


Obviously, the belief in a Familiar when understood in this context should be clearly seen for the medieval superstition it was. Yet, folks today who have a beloved pet, maybe even one who is attuned to and enjoys experiencing ritual with their witch, use the label of Familiar. Most who use the term don’t really believe that there’s some alter-ego lurking within Fluffy or Fido, they just like saying, “I have a Familiar.”


No, you don’t have a Familiar. You have a pet, a friend, a companion, or an extra member of the family. When faced with the truth of what a Familiar is, most modern Witches wouldn’t dream of kicking out the soul of their pet just so that an otherworldly discarnate being could dwell their for the sole purpose of serving the Witch. Yet this is EXACTLY what the word Familiar means.


The Familiar is not the animal companion, it is the spirit that dwells within the animal companion.


I have three cats. Violet, my oldest, is a cuddle-bug who absolutely adores being in ritual with me. She’s highly sensitive and will come from another room when the magic starts flowing because she’s drawn to it. In most cases, she just finds a spot to lay down and half-closes her eyes, soaking it up like she’s laying in a sunbeam. According to lots of practitioners and many recent books, she fits the description of a Familiar. I trust her in circle, she definitely knows when magic is being done, and she even turns her attention to whichever quarter has been opened. The other two cats keep to themselves when I am in circle. The only exception to this is when Bastet is invited. All three of them will then become eager and excited, darting to and from the room like hyper little kittens. I don’t use the term Familiar to describe any of them. I’m more likely to call them “my kids.”


A more accurate understanding of Familiar would be a Spirit Guide or personal Angel. This is truer to the meaning of the word than an animal companion that houses this particular being.


If your Spirit Guide lives in your pet; if you ask your pet’s advice, trusting it as a higher being; if you invite your pet into circle with you for ritual worship; or if you get messages from your pet guiding you in your life or work, then your pet is a Familiar. (Or you should find out if you should seek psychological therapy.) If your pet doesn’t do these things, then it’s a pet.


There are some ceremonial ritualists who might actually work with animal Familiars, but I don’t, and no other Witches I know have animal companions who are actually spirits living in the bodies of their pets, called upon to serve them.


So, do you really have a Familiar?


I think not.

Tags: animals, familiar, pets

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Zactly, Strata :)

They are real, but in terms of a Spirit, not the automatic union of a pet and practitioner. I think of them more along the lines of what Shawn described in his first comment: they can be formed, or constructed as a thoughtform. Or they are a companion Sprit (the example I gave of a Spirit Guide seemed to fit this in popular understanding)

They definitely exist, but as an entity unto themselves and not as commonly thought by being an animal companion.

Thanks everyone for the comments. I appreciate that you took the time to read and respond to my posting.

And thank you for the enlightening additions, Oakthorne. Much obliged. I don't disagree with what you said, I just might need to do a bit more clarifying so that my honest intention is made more understandable.
At the risk of being a bit redundant Brilliant post Serpent!!! as well as all the reply to this. so really interesting lines of thought. I'll have to show this to my wifey when she get home from work. She and I were just having a chat about this very subject a week or so ago when we got a new little member to the four legged part of our family . We both get a kick out how at times the word an meaning of "Familiar" is miss used and miss understood. I know by what I have seen here today we not off our nut in our way of thinking. The critters that live with us are not our pets they are more like kid that never leave home won't get jobs and sit on the couch all day but that not with standing we would not trade any of them for the world .... mmmm well na.
We have 2 dogs and a cat and a half, an a cat in training(kitten) We do not use then as such in any of our working there time when one of our older males will join us other times not, it up to them.
I myself tend to work more with wild bird an toads and frogs if they are so willing The only way Familiar could be used in the same sentence with our "pack" is Familiar with getting in to thing there not suppose to, Familiar with make me have to shampoo my carpet "way" too much(dogs)an our new wee one is getting far to familiar with being able to climb from the back of my legs to the top of my head in under 3 seconds(those little claws are bloody shape)
Part of our family yes Familiar nope
Your mention of birds and amphibians, Daniel, reminds me - this is one of the reasons that the classical witch's familiar is depicted as one of these animals, because they were always near enough to people, and usually around (particularly at the edge of the woods, for instance), but they weren't "part of the family," as it were.

Also, I apologize to Serpent if I was being contrary to a point she didn't make. :)
This is a wonderful post. It clearly defined what a Familiar was and I shall never falsely use the term. :)
There are three dogs that live in the house. Two of which love me and associate with me most of the time. One of them could possibly be a Familiar, but I doubt it. I haven't started to practice yet, so I can't be sure of how my pets will react when I start to use magic.

Thank you and blessed be!

Yes true Oak so true
Oakthorne said:
Your mention of birds and amphibians, Daniel, reminds me - this is one of the reasons that the classical witch's familiar is depicted as one of these animals, because they were always near enough to people, and usually around (particularly at the edge of the woods, for instance), but they weren't "part of the family," as it were.

Also, I apologize to Serpent if I was being contrary to a point she didn't make.
I like this post. My IQ was upped a couple points. :P

Anyway, I myself just got a little kitten and I wouldn't call him my familiar... Though he does act like a little demon (when he climbs my bare legs, bites my hands, and crawls into the refrigerator when we aren't looking and gets trapped =.=) but I think he's just my little smidgeon that I got lucky enough to find in a flea market. (Oddly enough, I'm the one that gave him fleas. O.o).

Though I haven't attempted to cast a circle since we got him (been too busy worrying my hind-end off about him) I feel connected to him already, but that's most likely because he likes to sit on my shoulder and up under my chin and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. :)

I adore this post. I'm so excited, I'm learning more already! *mini-flail*
I have two lovely pet cats and have never thought of them as familiars. They are very sensitive to the atmosphere when I work, both appear to find it soothing.
I also have a "spirit" cat that pays us regular visits, but as to if this will prove to be a familiar only time will tell.
I had two cats, and not only were they not familiars, one was a Buddhist.

Reply to Discussion



© 2011   Created by Sangraal

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service

Sign in to chat!
The Pagan Top Sites List