When people envision a witch, they usually are with a black cat, owl, or other animal. In the days of the Witch Trials of Europe and North America, women accused of witchcraft were assumed to have a familiar, most often in the form of cats, dogs, owls, mice, ravens, or toads. These familiars were considered demons. Legends say that the familiar would feed on the blood of the witch, and in turn, the witch used the animal's power for casting spells. The familiar could shapeshift and spy on people, too. This is a fantastical stereotype of a magical being with "users" wielding control over nature and animals. The thought is so far off base that its laughable.
Around the World
The stories of magical spirits taking the form of animals is found throughout history in many myths, legends, and traditions. The concept of familiars can be found in cultures around the world, including Africa, Asia, Australia, Eastern and Western Europe, and North and South America. Historically, familiars were a type of guardian angel rather than a demon. This is animism. Animism is the belief that everything has a spirit, is in harmony with nature, and has earthly wisdom. The Norse had strong beliefs in land spirits, and the ancient Greeks and Celts believed in spirits of springs, rivers, hills, and forests. These spirits were honored with offerings and festivals.
A familiar or familiar spirit is a supernatural being that helps and supports a witch or other magical practitioners in their lives. The familiar often has special powers and may change shape or form throughout the course of a witch's lifetime. A witch’s familiar can be their closest companion, offering moral support, special knowledge, foresight, ability to see and hear spirits in unseen realms, and/or assist in physical healing. The spirit within the animal reflects certain qualities or characteristics that help them serve as guides and guardians of both the physical and spiritual worlds (a hedge ride). Your familiar will safely take you there and back, as well as protect you while you are there. You can have one or many familiars. These are spirits with whom you have an intimate relationship. You know them as your friends or family. Personally, I have four familiars, and handful of repeating messengers.
Ready to meet your familiar?