Mystic Magic: Familiars

Photo by Grace Cavanaugh

Grace Cavanaugh ~ Editor in Chief

     Recently, I have been asked a lot if my kitten, Cozzy, is my familiar. The short answer is no, and the long answer is something that I had to look into.

     Familiars, classically, are a witch’s pet that helps out with their spells and other workings. In Harry Potter, they were owls, cats, or toads. In A Discovery of Witches, there was a dragon familiar, a golem familiar, and a cran familiar. Yet another book, A Secret History of Witches, had familiars that were cats, horses, and foxes.

     Possibly Netflix’s show Sabrina has the closest approximation to what a witch’s familiar was considered. In the show, Sabrina calls upon a demon to be her familiar and receives a black cat named Salem. According to Learn Religions, a website, familiars were thought to be “small demons which could be sent out to do a witch’s bidding.”

     Now, though, in NeoPaganism and Wiccan beliefs, a familiar can be either a spiritual guide or an actual breathing animal. A lot of witches do not believe in making your pet a familiar, however; instead, an animal will come to you, if you are meant to have a corporeal familiar.

     This does not mean that you go to the kitten room of the local humane society and choose the first cat that sniffs at your toes. What it means when it says “if an animal has appeared in your life unexpectedly” like on Learn Religions, it is talking about a dog or cat showing up on your doorstep, rather than you seeking one out.

     Like with all magical things, one must first rule out the mundane. If you are leaving food out for strays, of course cats are going to flock to your doorstep. Is it time for the birds to migrate back? Then the flock of geese probably is not a sign. Do not jump immediately to the magical before you look at other explanations.

     Some traditions have rituals that you can perform in order to draw a familiar to you. As I have not researched this particular part, I have not attempted to call upon a familiar. Do I have a suspicion about certain animals that have been showing up a lot recently? Yes. Am I going to be doing more research before I do anything about it? Of course.

     So, after this long-winded explanation, no. My adopted kitten from the humane society is not my familiar, but he sure is very cute.

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