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Author Topic: Thoughts on Familiars  (Read 1792 times)

Matdredalia

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Thoughts on Familiars
« on: August 31, 2012, 12:57:17 am »
Hello, everyone! To most this will seem to be my first post as my quite old account seems to have been purged. I plan on making a new intro post soon but I'm away from my desk at the moment and wanted to post about this before I forgot. I apologize in advance for typos, as I'm on my phone.

Okay, to the point! I was going through the articles in one of my old Magical almanac's from 2009. There was an article on familiars in it and it got me to thinking. You see, in general, my studies and focus have been more on the spiritual and faith side of the coin, not the magic(k)al part. I have never worked with a coven (I live in the buckle of the Bible belt, and while members of my family consider themselves Pagan, none of them practice ritual and whatnot), and while I have performed blessings, dedications, small rituals for the Sabbats & Esbats, and even a couple harmony spells for a friend, for the most part, I've never really focused much on magic. To me, magic is basically praying with objects to focus your energy. I explain all this so you understand where I'm coming from when I ask this:

Does anyone else believe in familiars, and what do you think is their significance in your life?

My cousin, when she still had her faith, had a dog that she felt was her familiar. My cousin had a TON of animals, but amazingly, this dog wasn't hers. It was half-wolf and we're not sure what else, and it had been given to her mom by a friend who found it and knew my Aunt loved wolves. My Aunt babied it, nursed it, etc. and yet this dog attatched itself to my cousin like she was a T-bone steak. It would chase her for miles when she rode her horse (and outrun her). Their bond was incredible. But is that what makes a familiar? I've found a few bits around the net where people differ on a key point: some believe the animal's magical prowess and contribution makes them a familiar, others believe its the bond between animal and human.

Personally, I'm unsure. To me, as I said, magic is praying with things the help connect you to the divine. So, to me, I believe an animal's ability to help you connect to the divine through your connection to said animal is what would make them a familiar. However, in recents years I've focused very little on ritual (something I'm changing for my own peace), and as such never paid attention to how a certain little dog influenced that. I have had her nearby when praying, though, and I know she helps me to believe more strongly than ever, because she is a miracle. Her birth was a very strange happening and while I don't want to make this longer than I already have, she is very rare and special. I also owned her father & grandmother and these little dogs have always had a very special place in my heart. They also always seem to know when I need them. Her Grandmother was the only animal I'd actually considered as a possible familiar, as she appeared in my life in the strangest of ways, when I needed her most, and changed my life forever.

As I said, this little one is quite special. I consider her my daughter in every way that counts, and I would dive in front of a bus for her. I don't want to get too detailed but I probably will never have children, biological or adopted. So, my Furkids are just that--my kids. However, as much as I have loved every furkid I've ever had, she is the only one I've ever been this close to and shared such a human-like bond with. Only rivaled by her grandmother. She sleeps in my bed, she follows me everywhere (even to the bathroom like a child following their mother), and she will cry to be let out of our bedroom if I leave her with my husband during the night. If I leave my chair, she curls up in it, or takes *my* bean bag chair in our living room. She rejects my husband's bean bag chair unless I'm in mine next to her. She lays in my lap whenever I sit in bed doing fiber crafts or writing (she's NOT a small dog. She's Mediumish. Not large, but not-lap size, lol). She acts like a human, she has even tried to use a fork. She insists on having a pillow to put her head on, whether it be stealing part of my or my husband's or using one of us as a pillow. She gives hugs, and even tries to put her paw around me when I'm crying. While she's normally very quiet, she tries to hold conversations with me at times. She's innately kind to others, and is the most friendly dog I have ever known (it surprises non-Dog people when I tell them she's 1/2 Pit Bull). My husband often remarks that she resembles me in personality (I think she's way, way cooler), and we all joke about the fact that she insists on snuggling like a person. She will actually lay beside me in bed, rest her head on my neck, and put her arm around my shoulder. When I look at her, I find it impossible to believe that all the wonder in our world is just by chance.

This wonderful bond she & I share makes me wonder....if this isn't what makes a familiar, then what does?

I'm really curious to hear other's thoughts (even thoughts of "familiar's don't exist") and am open to opinions of all sorts. :)

monsnoleedra

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Re: Thoughts on Familiars
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2012, 02:44:04 am »
Quote from: Matdredalia;71578
.. Does anyone else believe in familiars, and what do you think is their significance in your life? ..


This will probably piss off a lot of people but this is one area of my beliefs I do not waver on.  I believe that anyone who claims to be witch, Wiccan, General Pagan or such has deluded themselves if they think they have a familiar.

The notion of familiars in antiquity always dealt with non-earthly creature's, usually a form of Imp, that became bound to a magician.  In most instances via some form of Ceremonila or High Magics or those general schools.  Folk practices or "Witches" were never listed as having a familiar until well into the middle ages in any source I have found.

Even in the Witch Hunting craze of Europe it was acknowledged in the Malleus Maleficarum that the witches had a blemish upon their bodies to feed thier other wordly familiars.  I can't even think of any stories that really speak of the witches familiar.  Two of the most well known witches in European history are probably Circe and Medea but neither of them is connected to the notion of a familiar.  

The main thing being that familiars were always non-earthly creatures who served a magicain.  They were not ones pets or such nor even of this earthly realm.

Marilyn/Absentminded

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Re: Thoughts on Familiars
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2012, 06:28:49 am »
Quote from: monsnoleedra;71584
Folk practices or "Witches" were never listed as having a familiar until well into the middle ages in any source I have found.


Middle ages are good enough for me.  I was always fond of Agrippa's familiar, the black dog called Monsieur.  (or was it Dee's?  I get confulsed)

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And I die for the truth in my secret life

   In My Secret Life, L. Cohen

monsnoleedra

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Re: Thoughts on Familiars
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2012, 06:48:40 am »
Quote from: Marilyn/Absentminded;71601
Middle ages are good enough for me.  I was always fond of Agrippa's familiar, the black dog called Monsieur.  (or was it Dee's?  I get confulsed)

Absent


If I am correct in your referring to Henry Cornelius Agrippa then he was not a witch though he might have been a magican.  He did write four significant writings on Natural Magic, Celestial Magic, Ceremonial Magic and Magical ceremonies as part of his Of Occult Philosophy or Magic.   Yet that would still hold with the familiar (if he had one) being found in the Ceremonial and High magics schools not a traditional or folk witch practice.

http://www.esotericarchives.com/agrippa/

Holdasown

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Re: Thoughts on Familiars
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2012, 08:00:24 am »
Quote from: monsnoleedra;71584
The notion of familiars in antiquity always dealt with non-earthly creature's, usually a form of Imp, that became bound to a magician.  In most instances via some form of Ceremonila or High Magics or those general schools.  Folk practices or "Witches" were never listed as having a familiar until well into the middle ages in any source I have found.

The main thing being that familiars were always non-earthly creatures who served a magicain.  They were not ones pets or such nor even of this earthly realm.

 
This has been my impression too. A familiar is meant to be a teacher or mentor. A family pet is not teaching spells or giving ritual instructions. It's a creature or being on some other plane.

Marilyn/Absentminded

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Re: Thoughts on Familiars
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2012, 12:22:01 pm »
Quote from: monsnoleedra;71604
If I am correct in your referring to Henry Cornelius Agrippa then he was not a witch though he might have been a magican.  He did write four significant writings on Natural Magic, Celestial Magic, Ceremonial Magic and Magical ceremonies as part of his Of Occult Philosophy or Magic.  

Yes I know who he is.

Quote
Yet that would still hold with the familiar (if he had one) being found in the Ceremonial and High magics schools not a traditional or folk witch practice.

They are not mutually exclusive.  A magician having a familiar does not mean that a witch can therefore not.

The idea of a familiar being a teacher and mentor is mostly found in SF and F novels.  Fairy tales and folk tales have them as helpers, servants, and, when necessary, surge suppressors.  The careful politeness and respect given today to everything from deities to wights to fairies to toadstools is pretty much ahistorical.  It's just the current fashion.  (mostly just lip service, too, if what I've seen and heard when people are not 'speaking for posterity' is anything to go by)

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« Last Edit: August 31, 2012, 12:23:35 pm by Marilyn/Absentminded »
I smile when I\'m angry.  I cheat and I lie
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And I die for the truth in my secret life

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monsnoleedra

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Re: Thoughts on Familiars
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2012, 04:02:24 pm »
Quote from: Marilyn/Absentminded;71647
 ..They are not mutually exclusive.  A magician having a familiar does not mean that a witch can therefore not.


No, it doesn't I agree.  Yet the likelyhood is that the association of a familiar to a witch is about as equateable as the early 1900's equation of all witches being green, pointed hats and having a black cat as a companion.

In many ways I honestly attribute the inclusion of familiars to hollywood films.  Yet it's not a required componet of films made elsewhere.  Then the proliferation of "Pagan" books where the author tries to add a bit more filler which seemed to be laking in the stuff from the 60's and 70's.

Quote
The idea of a familiar being a teacher and mentor is mostly found in SF and F novels.  Fairy tales and folk tales have them as helpers, servants, and, when necessary, surge suppressors.


Off the top of my head I can't think of any folk or fairy tales that have a familiar that is identified as a familiar.  But the inclusion of an animal in a tale doesn't make them a familiar any more than the assumption that all old ladies who have cats must be witches because they have a cat.

Yet I do agree that their role in older works is almost always servants or forced helpers.  About the oldest version of a familiar I can think of comes from the Arbabian Nights stories but then its a Jinn.  In which case I'm not entirely sure one could identify it as a familiar.

Quote
The careful politeness and respect given today to everything from deities to wights to fairies to toadstools is pretty much ahistorical.  It's just the current fashion.  (mostly just lip service, too, if what I've seen and heard when people are not 'speaking for posterity' is anything to go by)


I have to agree there.   The old tales are not exactly politeness and respect when you consider almost everything was presented as being a command and / or summons.  I think that is one aspect that makes me find faught with the current notion of ones cat or dog being a familiar.  When you do find stories where the familiar is clearly identified they are controlled and the magician has trapped and bound them to themselves.  Including the fact they are almost always other wordly the only exception I can think of is where its a daemon who was once a human and thier spirit is formed into the servant.  Somewhat like a zombie would be created and bound to a master to do its bidding I suppose.

monsnoleedra

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Re: Thoughts on Familiars
« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2012, 04:05:10 pm »
Quote from: Marilyn/Absentminded;71647
Yes I know who he is.
.. Absent


That wasn't about seeing if you knew who he was but checking to make sure I was thinking of the same person as you.  Agrippa as a name appears quite a few times in historical records from various locales and time periods.  So I just wanted to make sure.

wadjet

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Re: Thoughts on Familiars
« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2012, 11:52:40 pm »
Quote from: Matdredalia;71578
This wonderful bond she & I share makes me wonder....if this isn't what makes a familiar, then what does?

I have to agree with monsnoleedra; I think most people misuse the term "familiar". One doesn't have actual animals as familiars, they are spirit-beings.

I do also believe that some people can form a special bond with an individual animal, just like some people can form special bonds with people. (By "special" I mean more in a magical or psychic way.) Perhaps it is due to mean vibrationally attuned to each other, perhaps something else, I'm personally unsure. And certainly two individuals that share this special bond, be they human or animal, could work strong magic together.

EDIT: Coming from the POV of an animist, I should add.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2012, 11:53:27 pm by wadjet »

Catherine

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Re: Thoughts on Familiars
« Reply #9 on: September 01, 2012, 02:50:55 pm »
Quote from: Matdredalia;71578

I'm really curious to hear other's thoughts (even thoughts of "familiar's don't exist") and am open to opinions of all sorts. :)

 
It depends on what definition of familiar you're using.

In the modern usage of the word, I think it's pretty common. For example, I had a cat for 18 years. We were very, very close and even had a form of communication that freaked people out. She was always very interested in whatever I was doing, mundane or magical. Having her in the room with me when I was doing any kind of spell work did change things in a pretty significant way. Since she's been gone, I definitely notice a completely different vibe. However, I don't think she was a familiar in the original definition of the word.

I do think that if I were living centuries ago, and I had interacted with her in the same way, people would have probably thought she was a demon of some sort! So, who knows? Maybe that's the sort of thing that started the whole idea of familiars in the first place?

That's not say that I think it's impossible for a daemon, or spirit of some kind to take the form of animal and get involved with a witch for whatever reason. But, I do think that those kinds of familiars, if they exist, are very rare.

Anyhoo, there's my .02

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Re: Thoughts on Familiars
« Reply #10 on: September 02, 2012, 12:11:02 am »
Quote from: Catherine;71830

I do think that if I were living centuries ago, and I had interacted with her in the same way, people would have probably thought she was a demon of some sort! So, who knows? Maybe that's the sort of thing that started the whole idea of familiars in the first place?


I think this is a very good theory.

Quote
That's not say that I think it's impossible for a daemon, or spirit of some kind to take the form of animal and get involved with a witch for whatever reason. But, I do think that those kinds of familiars, if they exist, are very rare.


I also agree with this -- except for some reason an image popped into my head of that (terrible) Anne Rice book, where the character had a weird spirit familiar that turned out to be his twin brother that died in the womb. Haven't thought of that book in years. Made me laugh. That's one other theory for spirit-familiars though, I suppose.

(Another common theory is that of reincarnation, of course, and having known each other in the past. This would work as an explanation for any type of familiar or close-bonded individual, I suppose, spirit or physical.)

Marilyn/Absentminded

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Re: Thoughts on Familiars
« Reply #11 on: September 02, 2012, 12:44:28 am »
Quote from: wadjet;71910
that turned out to be his twin brother that died in the womb.


I had one of those.  Not sure brother or sister since it was miscarried but either way it never offered to be my familiar.  Bad twin!

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And I die for the truth in my secret life

   In My Secret Life, L. Cohen

monsnoleedra

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Re: Thoughts on Familiars
« Reply #12 on: September 02, 2012, 12:02:38 pm »
Quote from: wadjet;71910
.. I also agree with this -- except for some reason an image popped into my head of that (terrible) Anne Rice book, where the character had a weird spirit familiar that turned out to be his twin brother that died in the womb. Haven't thought of that book in years. Made me laugh. That's one other theory for spirit-familiars though, I suppose.

(Another common theory is that of reincarnation, of course, and having known each other in the past. This would work as an explanation for any type of familiar or close-bonded individual, I suppose, spirit or physical.)


That's also the concept of the Family Guardian or spirit I think.  There not familiars in the traditional sense as they act for the good of the individual or family due to blood ties.  Especially in the sense of moving the person from one place to another to avoid injury or lesson death to a less serious injury they can recover from.  But you can't dispatch them or control them to do more than they are willing to do.

Green Thumb

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Re: Thoughts on Familiars
« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2012, 12:30:40 am »
Quote from: wadjet;71735
And certainly two individuals that share this special bond, be they human or animal, could work strong magic together.

 
Personally, my bond is with my first plant. A spider plant that the more stressed out or depressed I get during certain times the more blooms she puts out. My bond with her is more of big sister looking out for her kid brother while kid brother supplies all her nutrients and home.
I do not know if this is considered a familiar or just a close relationship with my plants (yep, I am one of those people who talk to their plants) but each and every one of my plants and I have a strong bond that keeps us all going in even the most dismal situations.
~E

spoOk

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Re: Thoughts on Familiars
« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2012, 02:17:16 am »
Quote from: Green Thumb;76685
Personally, my bond is with my first plant. A spider plant that the more stressed out or depressed I get during certain times the more blooms she puts out. My bond with her is more of big sister looking out for her kid brother while kid brother supplies all her nutrients and home.
I do not know if this is considered a familiar or just a close relationship with my plants (yep, I am one of those people who talk to their plants) but each and every one of my plants and I have a strong bond that keeps us all going in even the most dismal situations.

 
if having a close bond with an animal makes it your familiar,regardless of magical interactions,then I've had several familiars in my time.
Ize bel zafen.
Ize bel daleen.

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