There’s a mental checklist of things that people think of witches owning:
I can honestly say that I only have one of these things. And no, it’s not the warts! The one thing that isn’t easily obtained is the cat. The familiar. The creature that hangs around providing witty commentary and injecting comedy whenever they appear. It’s far from necessary to have one, but it can make for an interesting time.
There are a multitude of familiars in the media, from Iago in Aladdin to Hedwig in Harry Potter. I can think of a number of ones off the top of my head!
Artemis and Luna from Sailor Moon
Daemons in His Dark Materials
Jiji from Kiki’s Delivery Service
Califer from Howl’s Moving Castle
Greymalkin, Paddock and Harpier from Macbeth
Appa in Avatar: The Last Airbender
The cat from Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Not all of these fall under the traditional ideas of what a familiar is, but in the end, they are all animals that are companions to a magic-worker. Familiars don’t have terribly long roots in history – while mentioned in texts such as the Bible, most of what’s common knowledge about them comes out of the witch trials. They could be quite literally anything: dogs, cats, rabbits, mice, and even people! They could simply appear to a person, or be gifted by another. And always, they were a demon or spirit in disguise; A connection to the devil. They were believed to have powers of their own, which led to cat-killings across Europe. During the Salem Witch Trials, a dog was hanged on the belief it was a witch!
Today, many Pagans have taken the idea of familiars to heart. Familiars are much like guardian angels; They help protect, guide, share knowledge, and augment magical (and sometimes spiritual) workings. And, like the suspected familiars of old, can be nearly any creature! They aren’t always pets, though – sometimes, even though they might connect with someone on a magical level, they have no interest in them as an owner. Pets aren’t always familiars, either. Many Pagans have animals that they simply don’t connect with on that magical level.
Of course, some witches just aren’t able to have a physical familiar for whatever reason – they’re allergic, or they can’t have one where they live, or they just don’t feel like having a pet. If a witch decides that they want to have a familiar anyway, they can go looking on the spiritual plane. Meditation and visualization are big for this. I, myself have done so… and was no less than shocked when I realized the animal I felt called to was a pig! ^.^ I’m very afraid of farm animals, and was quite intimidated when I first came face-to-face with one in real life, but somehow it works. He and I get along quite well… though that’s a story for another time. Some witches end up with more than one familiar, since they can have different abilities/roles that the witch needs.
So what’s the purpose of this post? Well, to say that I’m in a position of looking for a familiar! Things will definitely get interesting at this point. I’m looking for a pet of my own to love and care for, but whether it will be a magical connection is never certain. I’ll hope, pray, and stay on the alert!