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LeAnne Miller

Something about.. familiars

June 13, 2007 | Comment icon 1 comment
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"By the pricking of my thumb, something Wicked, this way comes..." -- William Shakespeare. They may enter into your life when you call, or just at the exact time when you are in need of them--and their services. They can disappear from your life with no warning--if you no longer need help or guidance. Also, most of them may decide to stay with a person for many years, depending on their own thoughts and feelings about the person being helped. They are also capable of manifesting in the real world, as well as having the mystical capabilities to travel to--and manifest in--the astral planes. When they arrive in the astral world, their assistance, guidance, and helpful services are mentally and telepathetically sent to the person, and the person's subconscious and mental capabilities process all these helpful 'suggestions,' and thoughts through dreams, visions, and meditations. Who (or What) are they? Inquiring minds are likely still curiously wondering. Similarly persecuted (when discovered) alongside the individuals they aided in healing rituals as well as being 'sent' to spread gossip and disease among enemies of the wise (cunning) men and women they worked (and often lived) with, these assistant magical beings were more popularly known as 'familiar spirits,' or 'familiars.'

By and far, for the most parts of past historical and fantastical accounts, familiars were primarily recognized as magical helper beings to the witches and shamans they kept company with. Even author, D.J. Conway, in his book, Astral Love: Romance, Ecstasy and Higher Consciousness (1996, Lewellyn
Publishing) includes descriptions of astral encounters with 'familiar spirits.' " Astral animal familiars are favorite companions of shamans and witches. They can be very helpful in the practice of Magick and the development of psychic senses. If you form a deep friendship with a particular familiar, it will also act as an additional guardian for both your physical life and astral excursions. Familiars are also a lot of fun (p. 76)." Additionally, from what most people believe the know about familiars, and their purpose in being with a specific Magick practitioner, it is generally presumed that most pagans, witches, shamans, and other magic workers openly invite a spirit--in the form of a familiar--to share in his or her rituals and practices, some think that a familiar spirit will automatically arrive to assist the person. This is not necessarily right to automatically assume, as most familiar spirits are unique (& uniquely created) to have thoughts, ideas and personalities all of their own; and will make intelligent decisions on who they help in magick workings. This is supported by the writers who contribute articles and information to the Internet website at Concerning the subject of familiars, the contributers include that: " Sometimes, familiars are attracted to people who have NO desire or thought to call or attract a Spirit to him or herself. And though they usually take the form of animals in one typeor another, sometimes, familiars will enjoy taking on a human form." The article entry goes on to say that the form a familiar chooses to take may also be a message in and of itself; and the form may be totally unexpected. In addition, a familiar spirit can fulfill many different roles in your life, teacher, friend, healer or assistant. If the familiar spirit chooses to appear in your life in an animal (or 'pet-like') form, always err on the side of caution, for they should NEVER be treated as an animal (or pet), as they are highly intelligent, independent individuals who should be respected, honored, and accepted for their suggestions, assistance, and sage counsel in all manners of magickal workings. Throughout the daily interactions and relationship ups & downs which are nat ural with all friendship based relationships, a progressive psychical and spiritual bond will develop and your new friend will likely show a clear interest in your ritual work.

One primary aspect of attempting to work with familiars is to learn and know the most important rule of all; A practitioner of Magick can never SUMMON a familiar spirit. The practitioner should only be openly willing to politely *INVITE* one, or more familiar spirits to any magickal workings and/or power rituals. According to The Encyclopedia of Witches & Witchcraft, compiled and edited by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, in concerning the topics of witches, witchcraft, and familiars, one of the articles states: Witches do not believe the familiars are demons or spirits in animals form, but are simply animals whose psychic attunements make them ideal partners in Magic. Some witches believe that familiars are NEVER pets, and should not be treated that way. Familiars are manifestations of animals who volunteer to work as familiars and they are Karmically attracted to witches. Witches who do not have familiars send out psychic 'calls' (or invitations) to draw in the right animal--or more. It is also mentioned that: Familiars reputedly are sensitive to psychic vibrations and power and are welcome partners inside the Magic Circle for the raising of power, the casting of spells, scrying, spirit contact and other magical work. In addition, they also serve as psychic radar, reacting visibly to the prescence of any negative or evil energy, whether it be an unseen force or a person who dabbles in the wrong kind of magick. Familiars are also given psychic protection by their witches.

Outside of witch trials, more benevolent familiars were believed to exist, serving wizards and wise (cunning) men and women who were magicians or village healers. The familiars helped diagnose illnesses as well as sources and origins of curses and bewitchments and were invited to divi nation rituals and were also useful in helping to find lost objects and treasures. Some witches also used the term 'familiar,' to describe thought-forms created magically (through meditation and strong creative visualizations) with the strongest motivations to *wish* the thought projection to have a 'real' life and which would manifest into a form choice and be 'born' into the real, physical world. The "Tulpa-Familiar" would then be able to travel between the physical & astral planes of existence, and could wreck havoc and chaos, or help and protection to all he was "Sent" to.

Adept magicians would conjure up these helper spirits with detailed and elaborate rituals, and then, would lock them up in bottles (providing the basis for tales of Djinn fire elemental spirits), gems, stones, rings, (this supports the reasoning--historically-- of King Solomon summoning the Djinn slave spirits/workers and keeping them as his own prisoners in his magic ring--only allowing them little freedom outside of their ring-prison, in order to build his royal temple--after, which, he would then recall them back into the ring, until he called them to work on his next project). Additionally, it was also noteworthy to recall that in the earliest of the era of the Middle Ages, familiar spirits and other demons were kept under control by ritualistically trapping and binding them into books, magick mirrors, charms, and jewelry pieces. The magicians would then, sometimes, sell the jewelry and gemstones as charms, claiming the spirits would ensure success in gambling, love, business, or whatever need the cutomer wanted it for. This sort of familiar--technically--was NOT illegal; for England's Witch craft Act of 1604 specifically prohibited ONLY evil and wicked spirits.

In Guiley's, Encyclopedia of Witches & Witchcraft, this statement is supported by the following: "...It was believed that familiars could be bound or imprisoned in magical figures and rings; in which the magicians of the school of Salamanca and Toledo and those of Italy made and passed to younger familial generations (p. 120)." Even one of the topmost experts learned in Witchcraft lore, legends, and histories, Thomas Heywood, is noted as stating: " Every magician and witch has a familiar spirit given to attend them which are sometimes visible in the form of a dog or cat.....These kinds of familiar spirits as such are kept in rings hallowed, viols (was this the word vials?), boxes and caskets." The Witch's familiar, which was constantly with her, was supposed to take the shape of a cat, dog, or a great toad, and so, the black cat became associated with magic & witchcraft. Although, in the United Kingdom and most of Europe, it was (and is) the White cat which is feared as an omen of misfortune and considered a harbinger of extremely bad luck--to be avoided at all costs. Throughout eons of histories of witches and witchcraft, through oral tales and tradition stories, familiars were said to be given to witches by the Devil, or bought, or inherited from other witches. A witch, therefore, could have several familiar spirits working with and for her at one time. In dealings with questionable magickal practitioners, some familiars were dispatched to bewitch people and animals into sickness and death. They (the familiars) would also loyally defend and protect their witches. In return, the witches gave them the thing they craved the most---blood.
In addition, Rosemary Guiley, in Witches and Witchcraft, offers more support to the historical aspects of the roles of familiars. " During the witch hysteria of the Middle Ages & Renaissance, the obsession with familiars was more prevolent in England and Scotland, where they (familiar spirits) are mentioned in numerous trial records; especially those trials attended by the witch hunter-slayer, Matthew Hopkins. The Witchcraft Act of 1604 made it a felony to consult, covenant with, entertain, employ, feed, or reward any evil and wicked spirit to or for any intent or purpose. But, the MALLEUS MALEFICARUM (1486), THE MAJOR witch inquisitor's "Bible/ handbook," offers no instructions concerning familiars in the interrogations and trials of witches. The Book Does, however, acknowledge that an animal familiar "..always works with her (the witch) in everything." It also advises inquisitors never to leave witch prisoners unattended, because the Devil "..will cause her to kill herself." The Devil might accomplish the act through the 'Sending' of a familiar (Guiley; 119-120). In addition to all of the 'helping capabilities' (and/or strife-inflicting afects) in assitance to the magician or witch it accompanied, familiars could also turn invisible or simply vanish from sight--at will--and disappear at anytime of his or her own choosing. Also, there was a specifically unique talent exhibited by most familiar spirits; this characteristic was having the adaptable capability to assume more than one shape or form. According to the French magistrate (and Expert Demonographer), Pierre LeLoyer, (who authored the notable work, Discourse and Histories about Specters, Visions, and Apparitions, of Spirits, Angels, Demons, and Souls that appear ed visibly to Men,) -- translated from the French title in The Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology (vol. 1 A-L) edited by Leslie A. Shepard. (under entry-LeLoyer, Pierre). Le Loyer states: " Familiar Spirits were those who came at stated times and could not only converse but were visible in the various forms they assumed." Socrates is said to have had an 'attendant spirit' of this kind (while others claimed it was a demon (daemon/daimon). Sertorious even claimed to have trained, to obey his call, a white fawn, which he said was a gift from the goddess, Diana; who then, conveyed to him (through the fawn) her wishes, and revelations which she wanted said and done. (This could also be illustrated as the Biblical occurrence of God communicating to Moses through the Burning Bush).

The tale of the pigeon of Mohammed--which was said to have been the Angel, Gabriel--that appeared to whisper in his ear--is a similar myth. Some people also considered the Scottish Brownie to be a descendent of the 'familiars' of the ancients and it was typical of the brownie, that for whatever work or services he performed, he would take no reward. This concept would also later support the strong cultural beliefs by many peoplewho know and understand values and manners customary to magical faeries/elves/nature spirits etc; that when a human person'feels' that a helper spirit of this sort has worked in any manner in his or her life, it is a strong taboo to voice her or his "Thank you" towards the helper spirit; instead, before retiring to bed, it is non-verbally customary to lay out a type of 'meal' (offering/libation) to the spirit helpers, to visibly acknowledge their appreciation of the spirit's influence in their life throughout the day. This meal could consist of most things, however, the " fair ones " better preferred, fresh bread, berries, (most fresh fruits), and the favorite treats of freshly churned butter, and fresh, cold milk. To keep the home spirits happy and satisfied (nutritionally), was to practically guarantee good luck and happy times for the self of the magician or witch, and friends and family; for as long as the familiar spirit was happy, satisfied, and not longing to pack up and move on too quickly. It seems an easy theory to reconcile of how the term, 'familiar,' from 'familiar spirit' came about also. That for as long as a witch kept inviting certain helper spirits to her home to join in her magickal practices and rituals, that while one or two specific helper or nature spirits showed up and continued showing interest in the magick, and the person doing the rituals, that someone possibly one day observed that some of the spirits were arriving so often and staying around her and her family and home, and could have said " the spirits were coming so often, that she or he was staring to recognize the spirits as 'familiar' magic partners; and it could be that the term just *stuck* from then?

Sorcerers and Shamans around the world have helpers in the forms of Spirits. Dispatching the familiar spirits on errands to harm or kill, is called "Sending." The physical shape of a familiar varies from land to land, country to country, culture to culture, and from contemporary to primative societies and tribes. New Guinea sorcerers rely on snakes and crocodiles, while in Malaya, the familiar is usually an owl or a badger passed down from generation to generation. And for the African Dinka, familiars manifest as black cobras and hyenas. Incidentally, to observe the various forms the familiar spirits choose to take on for themselves, there can be seen one primary (and primal) connection between them all; this primary connection is that every form is that of a powerful animal, in other words, ...a predator.

So, whether Wiccan, Druid, or follower of The Left Hand Path, one individual, whther beginner or adept magician or witch, has to always be vigilant and mindful when working magicks. Especially when willingly inviting other magickal beings and creatures to boost the powers of your circle. Because it should always be remembered that no matter what form they may appear as, familiar spirits can be either good OR bad. And until your 'familiar' becomes more familiar to you, keep diligent in your ethics and any magickal workings--while remaining openly attuned to allowing your 'new' helper to observe (and possibly become interested in) your work;since it could prove beneficial for both witch or magician as well as with any or all Familiar Spirits. After all, You must always.....Be careful of what (orwho) you wish for........

--- LeAnne Miller.

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Comment icon #1 Posted by little_dreamer 16 years ago
Sorry about the loss of your pet. But it probably was a freak accident. Don't blame yourself for what happened.

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