May 6, 2014 in Spirituality
Our relationship to animals as companions goes all the way back to the dawn of man. ¬†We kept them for reasons of protection, warmth, healing, and of course companionship. The¬†earliest of our furry friends was the dog, who for a few scraps of meat would fight the most¬†vicious of all enemies in protection of the clan. They became our most valued friends which we¬†taught to work, hunt, and stand guard, asking little in return for their sacrifices. Wherever man¬†would roam, his canine companion would be faithful at his side. Over time, selective breeding¬†has brought many different types from the early domestic wolf. Some are large enough for¬†children to ride, others small enough to fit into a woman’s purse, but all remain devoted to their¬†loving human caretaker and will fight to the death if necessary to protect their beloved humans.
As time passed, cats became valued as pets as well. Their unique ability to rid a home¬†of pests is unparalleled to this day. In the early days, when food was so very hard earned, an¬†infestation of rodents could decimate a food supply creating potentially deadly consequences.¬†The cat became an essential member of the family, and would vigilantly patrol for any tiny¬†intruders in exchange for an occasional bowl of warm milk.
Our Magickal connection to cats seems to begin in ancient Egypt with the cat goddess of¬†fertility Bastet. Her cult practiced for nearly 4000 years. The cat is also the sacred animal of¬†Freya, who is the Norse
and Teutonic goddess of love and fertility. Both of these beautiful¬†goddesses became demons when Christianity began its cleansing, and the cat, too, became¬†demonized and began to be looked upon with fear and hatred. The Celts of Gaul (present day¬†France) also believed the cat to be evil. Their priests, the Druids, held the belief that cats were¬†humans who had been transformed into a feline form by evil sorcery. They believed that fire was¬†the only way to release the spirit, so on Samhain eve they lit bonfires and tossed wicker cages¬†with cats locked inside onto the blaze. The association of cats with witches began in Rome with¬†Diana, the queen of witches. Her brother, Lucifer (the morning star god of enlightenment) had a¬†cat who she changed places with. She became pregnant, and sent her daughter, Aradia to earth¬†to become the teacher of witches. It became commonplace for Magickal practitioners to consort¬†with animal familiars, who were most often cats.
During the dark ages, many lovely women were hunted down by professional witch¬†hunters, and tried by a church court, too often to be found guilty of witchcraft and killed for their¬†crimes. What you may not have known, however, is that her familiar spirit, the cat, was treated¬†just as badly. The inquisitors hunted and brutally killed cats to the brink of extinction. They were¬†believed to be actual demons given to the witches who signed the devils Black Book. It was¬†believed that the devil would assign an imp, a low level demon, to assist the witch in her magic.¬†The demon imp cat would do the witch’s bidding in exchange for a little bit of her blood mixed¬†with breast milk. Some witches “confessed” to actually breast feeding their familiar! These feline¬†demons were burned alive, roasted to death, hung on a crosses, tossed from the church belfry,¬†and placed in casks then stabbed to death with swords. Their pitiful cries were said to be “the¬†language of the devil within the body of the holy father”. After a cat burning, the bones we’re¬†collected to be made into talismans to protect against evil and to ward off bad luck. It was the¬†cat, however, who came out on top in the end. With very few cats left in Europe, the rodent¬†population spiked, and the great Bubonic plague swept across the continent. When it was¬†discovered that it originated in rats, it was quickly decided that the cat is a friend we cannot live¬†without. Amid protest from the church, cat killing became outlawed and cat numbers thankfully¬†recovered.
Nowadays, a witch and her familiar are not considered evil by most. Familiar spirits¬†could be cats, dogs, birds, monkeys, pigs, snakes, or any kind of animal that chooses you.¬†Furthermore, you don’t even have to be a witch to enjoy a magical animal familiar. I have begun¬†to notice that many people have a familiar spirit for a pet, and don’t even realize it. So, what is a¬†familiar? I will say here that not all pets are familiar spirits. A witch and familiar share a bond far¬†deeper than that of the average pet/person relationship. It is a deep spiritual psychic connection¬†that can last many lifetimes. My personal familiar is currently in the form of a cute little terrier,¬†but I remember him when he was a Cockatiel, and also when he was a dog before. Our¬†connection may go back even further. He is my truest friend and teacher. I owe him more than I¬†will ever be able to repay.
There are two basic types of familiars. The first type is one that has a very similar¬†personality to that of your own. The second type has a personality that is very different from¬†your own. Let’s call the first type, matching, and the second type complimentary. If the familiar¬†that has chosen you is that of the matching personality, then he will intensify your strength by¬†addition of a matching magical energy. This type should be present as often as possible¬†whenever you are practicing your craft as his energy will greatly improve the results. He will be¬†a great healer if you are sick or hurt, and will help you to always be firm in your resolve, making¬†it easier to stay on a chosen track. He should be lovable and it is a really good idea to let him be¬†admired and fondled by as many people as possible. He is an extension of yourself, so all¬†energy directed toward him comes to you! Often this type will also look like their human¬†companion. When this occurs there can be no doubt about the relationship of witch/familiar.¬†Similarities in looks as well as personality lead to a magical lycanthropic state where the person¬†becomes animal and the animal becomes person. Our inactive, or sleeping, psyche roams¬†abroad in animal and your familiar performs your subconscious desire with or without human¬†direction. His attention is attuned perfectly to you, and your wish is his command! So, as always,¬†be careful what you wish for!
The second type, complimentary, is the exact opposite of you in personality. If you are¬†shy, for example, this type would be very outgoing, you are meek, he is aggressive. This type of¬†familiar comes along when you need to modify personality traits about yourself. It is customary¬†to be chosen by your familiar, and I have been told that even when you think you have chosen¬†the animal, it is actually the animal who has chosen you. However, if you are choosing a familiar¬†who is the complimentary type, is is best to chose one who looks rather demonic. This type¬†should not be fondled by anyone other that his human as it would be an insult to his human’s¬†personality, which is complimentary to his, thereby lessening the magical power of both the¬†witch and familiar. This type can be extremely helpful toward transformation, and having a friend¬†who is not shared with anyone else gives the relationship a special meaning for both of you. ¬†Birds are great familiars of this type as many species bond to only one person for life, and will¬†take the fingers clean off of any stranger. I once shared a special relationship with an iguana of¬†this type. She taught me about boundaries, power, and the joys of revenge. Like many of this¬†type she moved on when the lesson was learned, and her job was done. I feel so much¬†gratitude for her help and I often miss our long talks. I have a friend, a young girl all of 80¬†pounds, who has an enormous dog who is very protective of her. Everyone hates that dog, but¬†she loves him, and the hatred others feel toward him, keeps her replete with Magickal energy!
Now that we have explored the two basic types of animal familiar spirits, let’s look at¬†some practical everyday ways we can work together, to expand and enrich ourselves, our¬†Magick, and our relationships with each other. First, I want to mention the importance of¬†discipline, not only for ourselves but for all of our animal friends. It may seem limiting to keep a¬†dog on a leash, for example, but it is actually incredibly liberating for him to know he can explore¬†freely within the safety of his master’s protection without fear of going too far. It is absolutely¬†essential that any animal that you live with be taught limits. If the animal is your familiar spirit, he¬†may contain wisdom of the ages, but if he regularly destroys your new carpet, his gifts may¬†never be realized. In teaching our animal friends how to behave, we are actually teaching them¬†to become a little bit human. We, ourselves, once looked at the world through primitive eyes, but¬†the patient training our parents gave to us enabled us to walk and talk and think like civilized¬†people. It because of this that we can communicate with one another and survive in this world.¬†In the same way, our animal friends need to be taught to be human. The more completely they¬†are able to make this change, the more they will become free to serve you as your assistant and¬†companion. This is their wish, so in this way discipline is your gift to them. I have lived with my¬†familiar, Chopper, in his present form, for over eleven years. By applying discipline, he has¬†learned hundreds of words, and rarely needs correction. My wife, Maggie’s familiar is a cat¬†named Billy, who is a gifted healer. He has lived in his present form for almost thirteen years,¬†and has an even bigger vocabulary. He never scratches the furniture, but prefers long periods of¬†meditation, and talks on philosophy.
Each person will attract a familiar spirit that is unique to his/her own needs. How you¬†learn to understand
their language will also be unique, and will require self discipline. When¬†Chopper was just a pup, it was very difficult to understand what he was saying. He talks with a¬†strange language mixed with sounds, body movements, particular types of breath, and¬†telepathy. Billy, our cat, has a much more complex language, which incorporates each individual¬†part of his body, all of which say different things in different ways, in addition to the ways that I¬†have already mentioned. My Iguana friend, Brooklyn, made few sounds, but said a lot with her¬†posture, color, breath, and again telepathy. The best way to learn their individual language is to¬†spend time with them. This will be inconvenient at times, like when you are reading and your¬†beloved cat jumps onto the page, but just as they need discipline to know that jumping onto your¬†book is not always helpful, you also need to be disciplined in knowing that the cat may know¬†that it is time you did something more meaningful with your time. Perhaps he has something to¬†teach you.
The common method of communication of all animals, especially our animal familiar¬†spirits, is telepathy. You don’t need to be a psychic to hear animals speak, but it helps. There¬†are times, when you will be able to see that your animal friend is sending you a message.¬†Perhaps he will start to look at you very deeply, or become very still like he is concentrating very¬†hard. When this happens it is time to become receptive. This is done by becoming still. Don’t try¬†to figure out what they are saying, just be still. Their voices will come to you as a sort of¬†knowing. It will not happen in your mind, but rather through your heart. You may not even be¬†able to put into words the message that you have received. Just let the knowing fill you, and if¬†you wish to respond, or question, it is best to do this telepathically as well, since spoken words¬†have a tendency to break the spell, closing your own receptivity. Your animal familiar spirit will¬†often use this method to guide you in times of need or to direct your activities together. Chopper¬†often sends power and confidence to me in this way. He has a unique way of knowing when I¬†need it. Billy works in the art studio with Maggie, and sends her critique, and inspiration.¬†It is nice to have a familiar spirit that likes to go with you places. Dogs are almost always¬†thrilled to go anywhere you go, but this is not common for most other animals who become¬†overwhelmed in strange environments. Studies have shown dogs to be even more similar to¬†humans, psychologically, than Chimpanzees. Additionally they have the ability to see things that¬†most humans can’t, although to a far lesser degree than cats whose vision is adept at seeing¬†many of the spiritual planes including auras, as well as being able to see in the dark. If you are¬†lucky enough to have an animal who goes everywhere with you, it is important to listen to them¬†along the way. So many times, I have stopped because my familiar wanted to, only to find the¬†place that he chose, to have exactly what I needed, a particular herb, a great meditation spot, a¬†particular tool, a teacher, or a grounding walk in a beautiful place. Your familiar spirit knows what¬†you need and where to find it, so pay attention to him when he says “Hey, let’s stop here and¬†look around”. If your familiar is home bound, he is still useful in directing your actions. He may¬†interrupt you when you are doing something and tell you it is time for a break. He may wake you¬†up and tell you it is time to get going. They help in so many ways!
Getting to know your familiar spirit takes a lifetime labor of love. All animals have a divine¬†nature, and the listening techniques should be applied to all animals you may encounter who¬†show an interest in communicating with you. But, how do you know if your pet is in fact your¬†familiar spirit? I have had many pets, most of which have not been familiar spirits. The¬†difference is the intimate connection you each feel for each other. It is the heart that will tell you.¬†It may be that you recognize him from a former incarnation, or it might be that you recognize an¬†inner knowing that cannot be explained away. There will be something about him that is special,¬†different. All pets will serve to enrich your life and broaden your perception, but a familiar spirit¬†will be your teacher, your assistant, and your best friend. They will keep every secret and show¬†you more than you ever dreamed of.
If you are open, and there is a need, a familiar spirit will come to you. Then begins the¬†Magickal experience, a lifetime of pure love perfectly balanced between the physical and¬†spiritual energies. Yours will be a friendship that could last for many lifetimes. Protect and care¬†for them as you would your own children, and they will, in turn, protect you and your whole¬†family from all sorts of dangers, seen and unseen. Love them deeply! Let them on the couch! If¬†he enjoys being hugged, hug him close. Let his love energy fill you completely. Feel his purring¬†all the way to your toes, feel the warmth of his ice cold nose. Do more of the things he enjoys¬†and less of the stressful stuff that weighs so heavily on your own psyche. The more time you¬†lose yourself in their happiness the more happy you and your familiar become. Your mutually¬†shared joy builds spiritual energies within both of you, strengthening your Magick, as well as¬†connecting you to a higher level of connection and understanding of each other. Play is¬†essential for our spiritual development and it is also a vital part of connecting fully with your¬†animal familiar. Have fun together! Act as silly as you want to! Love them like there is no¬†tomorrow! And though we all hate to think about it, the time will come when our beloved friends¬†pass from the world of form, and return to the source of all that is. When this dreaded day¬†comes, don’t worry about what everybody else thinks, just go ahead and weep. Your greatest¬†friend has gone from here. There is no reason to be strong. No reason to keep a stiff upper lip.¬†There is reason to morn and to remember all of the things you have been taught by your¬†amazing friend, and to think of all of the great times you had together. You may never see him¬†again, but then again, he may just come back to you. You’ll know him somehow. He won’t¬†necessarily look the same, but you will know him. And, he will know you!