The concept of magical animals has resonated throughout history in myths of creation, tribal traditions, and across many religions. Familiars usually are small household pets that serve as a witch's companion. According to legend, familiars are sort of like guides, who take the form of an animal. They are loyal guardians and protectors sent to assist them with magic.
The folklore of a witch and her animal familiar is a well-known and often repeated tale. It's not uncommon to see images of a witch clothed in black with an evil black cat or toad at her side. This is an excellent archetype of magic users wielding control over nature, but it's a far cry from the beliefs that started it all. The concept of magical spirit creatures has resonated throughout history in creation myths, tribal traditions, and religions. Still, it's only relatively recently that magical animals and familiars became re-imagined as evil or dangerous companions. Historically, familiars or spirits were often seen as a type of guardian angel rather than an evil demon.
In Ancient Rome, a spirit guardian was a protector of a household or the nation. Classical Greek philosopher, Socrates, spoke of a personal spirit or daimon that he said guided his conscience, stopping him from making mistakes.
Native Americans believe in totem animals. These animal symbols reflect certain qualities or characteristics, serving as guardian spirits and guides of both the physical and spiritual worlds.
In the Middle Ages, familiars were described as low-ranking demons. Magicians conjured them in rituals, then locked them into bottles, rings and stones. They sometimes sold them as charms, claiming the spirits would ensure success in gambling, love, business or whatever satisfied the customer’s needs.
During the European witch hunts, familiars were said to be offered to witches by the devil. In essence, they were small demons that could be sent out to do a witch's bidding. Although cats were the favoured vessel for such a demon to inhabit, toads, and other small animals were also used.
In some countries, familiars were associated with spirits of the land and nature. Fairies, nymphs, and other elemental beings were believed to inhabit the physical bodies of animals. Once the Christian religion came along, this practice went underground, as any spirit other than an angel must be a demon. During the witch-hunt period, many domestic animals were killed because of their association with known witches and heretics.
Magicians conjured them in rituals, then locked then in bottles, rings and stones. They sometimes sold them as charms, claiming the spirits would ensure success in gambling, love, business or whatever the customer wanted. This sort of familiar was technically not illegal; England's Witchcraft Act of 1604 prohibited only evil and wicked spirits. In shamanic practice, the animal familiar is not a physical entity but a thought-form or spiritual being. It often serves as a magical guardian against those who could try to psychically attack the shaman. Modern Pagans and witches see them as creatures sensitive to psychic vibrations, extra-sensory perception, and magic, using them as magical helpers. It is believed they advise people on their journeys and tasks in life. Many people in the modern Pagan community have adapted the term to mean an actual, living animal. There are many Pagans who believe that their animal companion is in fact a familiar. They have an emotional bond with their cat, dog, or other pet, who is attuned to the powers of its human partner.
Not everyone has or wants a familiar. If you have an animal companion try working on strengthening your psychic connection with that animal.
If an animal has unexpectedly appeared in your life - such as a stray cat that appears regularly, for instance -it may have been drawn to you psychically. However, you should eliminate mundane reasons for its appearance first. If you're leaving out cat food, that's a more logical explanation. Not all animal visitors must be magical - sometimes, they're just visiting.
If you'd like to attract a familiar, you can do this by astral journey or pathworking. Find a quiet place and allow your mind to wander. As you travel, you may encounter various objects or people. Focus your intent on meeting an appropriate animal companion, and see if you can come into contact with it.
Animal familiars select you, not the other way around. Some people wish their familiar was a wolf, bear, mountain lion or fox but this is usually not the case in reality. In most cases, a witch or shaman starts with smaller, less powerful animal helpers. Over time, as their knowledge and power increases, they obtain more potent and more powerful animal familiars. Keep in mind that an animal's size does not reflect its power as some of the most powerful animals are also the smallest. In traditional witchcraft you cannot select one, you can seek them out and invite them into your life, but you cannot choose which animal they will be.
The cat totem wisdom tells you about timing in action and courage to explore the unknown. The cat carries many meanings, revolving around the balance between opposites, such as inner and outer, action and rest. It is strongly symbolic of the connection with what usually hides in darkness or the unknown.
The cat spirit animal is a good helper for those who need to find the courage to tackle lingering problems or concerns.
The owl is emblematic of a deep connection with wisdom and intuitive knowledge. If you have the owl as familiar, you are likely to have the ability to see what’s usually hidden to most others. The owl represents wisdom, good judgement and knowledge. It can help you to develop sharp vision, insight and intuition.
Ravens are commonly associated with magic as well as the power to manipulate physical appearances. The raven symbolizes your intelligence and the ability to learn quickly. It signifies mystery, divination and attraction to the magical and mystical ways. As a familiar, the raven will guide you in getting in touch with the mysteries of life and develop your ability to perceive subtle shifts in energy within both yourself and your environment.
The goat signifies confidence and stability, reminding you of the importance of building strong foundations. Having the goat as your familiar means that you are ambitious and intelligent. You are ready to step away from your comfort zones when there are big dreams that you wish to turn into reality.
With its heightened sense of awareness, the fox compels you to adjust and tweak your own senses, gather the information you need, and act swiftly on your decision. The fox symbolizes mental responsiveness. He implores you to break free from your comfort zone and remain flexible for whatever comes next.
The Hare is an animal which represents illumination, intuition, promise and balance. Strongly feminine in its energy, it will often come into your life when you need to look within and work things out. Time to calm down and take a moment!
The beetle walks the path many times and many ways. It represents stability, persistence, cooperation and devotion. Because of its devotion to goals, the beetle as your familiar links you with success.