Familiars (3)

by D.J. Conway

To most people today, a familiar is a Witch’s companion, a small animal ‘pet’
that helps the Witch with magick. The idea of the familiar is a very ancient
concept and is generally applied to such creatures as cats, dogs, ferrets,
toads, snakes, and some birds. Unfortunately, familiars have been given negative
connotations by those who know nothing about them and do not bother to separate
fact from propaganda.

Anyone can have a familiar. You may already have an actual physical familiar
living in your home in the guise of a pet. You can also attract an astral-bodied
animal familiar. This can be a particular creature that is impossible to have as
a ‘pet’ in the physical.

Most people have at least a little knowledge about the power of animals of the
Native American traditions. However, the Native American’s were not the only
ones who knew of and used the powers of familiars, which is what power animals
are. For centuries, European cultures called upon animals allies in shamanistic
rites. European shamanism eventually evolved into Wicca and Paganism.

*Types of Familiars*
There are different types of familiars. The first king is an actual physical
creature who lives with and has a rapport with a human. These familiars are the
ones who establish a psychic link with the human of their choice. They can
communicate their needs without vocalizing and are usually very good at

The second kind of familiar is an astral creature of animal form that attaches
itself to a human for the purpose of aiding the human. This type of familiar can
be a creature that cannot be kept in the house, and cane be drawn to the human
by the person’s intense rapport with it. It may also appear because of specific
need within the human’s life. Deceased pets sometimes return in this capacity.

The third category of familiars are elemental spirits or other world entities.
Although ceremonial magicians sometimes call upon such an elemental to inhabit
an object, such as a talisman, statue, crystal, magick mirror, or peace of
jewelry, most magicians do not command or imprison such beings. The mythical,
fantastic beasts such and such entities as faeries and brownies often work as
familiars and co-magicians in magick. Even if your circumstances prohibit you
from having a physical ‘pet’, you are never barred from having an astral
familiar. Common sense should tell you that having a panther or bear in the
house is impossible, if not illegal. Allergies may prohibit you from sharing
your life with an animal, but you can enjoy the companionship of an astral
creature safely and completely. The only restrictions are your own desires to be
friends with such a familiar, to learn from them, and to grow spiritually and

‘Benefits of Familiars’
The familiar {physical, astral, or elemental} can help you by strengthening you
magickal power. Some physical creatures do this by actually being in the room
whenever you work a ritual.

Familiars can improve your life by warning you of danger, or defending you when
danger arises. Animals, such as cats and dogs, can warn you when danger is
present by hissing, growling, and even refusing to enter a room if someone they
consider questionable is there. They will also awaken their owners during the
night to alert them to fires, intruders, or other potential disaster. Quite
often they, will refuse to enter an area that has a malicious, troublesome

An example of subtle warning is when a cat or dog leaves the room when a
particular person enters, or when the animal avoids a person altogether. The
animal may also sit and stare at the questionable person. If you listen to these
warnings, and are truthful to yourself about the person in question, you will
find in some way that the person is not compatible with or healthy for you.

Animals are also good healers. They seem to know when someone they care about is
sick. It does not matter to them whether the illness is emotional or physical.
They get as close as they can and send comforting, healing vibrations. When it
comes to strengthening the magickal power during a ritual or spell working,
there is nothing better than familiar. Some physical creatures simply cannot be
kept out of the room when magickal happenings are in progress. The buildup of
energy draws them like a magnet. You can tell if your ‘pet’ is a true familiar
if the power builds up even more with his or her presence. A very few pets, like
some people, siphon off energy, but this is rarer in the animal kingdom that it
is among humans.

A good familiar can also let you know by telepathy and subtle actions whether or
not you are using the appropriate type of magickal procedure. If you are not,
they sometimes become disruptive until you listen to them. Usually, only an
adjustment in viewpoint of the desired result is necessary to bring back their

Another benefit of familiars is learning certain techniques from them. By
studying a creature a magician can learn how to temporarily adopt some of their
traits which may be necessary to cope with a situation. For example, you may
find yourself wanting to make a stealthy exit from a crowded room. By
concentrating on the quietness of a mouse or the cunning of a fox, it is
possible to leave the room without being noticed. In a way, this is becoming

Physical or astral familiars are frequent companions during astral travels or
meditations. They are protectors and guides in otherworld realms. Often, by
following them, you are led to new sources of information and understanding,
particularly those of a spiritual nature. There is nothing evil about having a
familiar, whether they are creatures of the earth plane or the astral plane.

Non-pagans sometimes do not understand the companionships and working
relationship between Pagans and their familiars, and sometimes fear the very
idea of familiars. However, having a familiar makes one more aware of the
connection between humans and all other creatures, and the more intricate
connection between all creatures {humans and otherwise} and the universal source
of spiritual power.