Last Sunday night’s reading was fascinating for me. I hadn’t given much thought to familiars until Graciella pointed one out when we pulled the Wind- Viento Card from the Oracle deck. The little white dog that accompanies Graciella shows up in several of the cards. There is also a larger brown dog that sits by her side when she engages in divinatory practices. I was intrigued and decided to search for more information. I was captured by the concept of familiars.
I was initially dismayed to see that familiars are thought to be demonic. It’s probably because I have my own little white dog, who is my heart. There is nothing demonic about my four-legged, except for when she tries to bite my fingers when she’s had enough of human contact. She does this instead of walking away like most beings. I believe that since familiars are thought of in the context of working with witches that, of course, they would be thought of as demonic starting in medieval times. During witch hunts, cats were feared just as the wise women who were close to the earth, who used natural remedies that worked, and who were healers in every sense of the word. What could be more frightening in those times, just as to many today, than a woman who could bring healing change to the ill in dark times?
The reading I did revealed that familiars often choose who they will work with. It reminds me that my pup, Ginger, was sitting in a cage as we walked by searching for our forever pet. She made eye contact with me and barked, simultaneously hitting the cage latch. I knew immediately that she was mine. That we needed to listen and bring her home. She actually chose Chutney, our younger pooch, but that’s another story. Ginger would have preferred the chinchilla but Chutney resembled one closely enough as a teeny pup. Some other familiars come in the forms of toads, birds, rabbits, and ferrets.
Familiars have also been called fairies and their main purpose is to serve a witch or young witch, providing protection for them as they come into their new powers (Wilby, 2005). Fairies, wood nymphs, and such are thought of as more pure than animal familiars. It’s said that when separated from their human that they become weak or drained of their own energy. This reminds me of Peter Pan. Tinkerbell certainly lost her juice when she couldn’t flit about doing what she does.
There’s so much I still want to learn about familiars. Do you know something that you could share in comments below about familiars? Please do!
Below is a book to explore:
Wilby, Emma (2005). Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic. Brighton: Sussex Academic Press