Choosing an Animal Familiar

Aug 22nd, 2018 | By | Category: Articles


Maybe it’s my hillbilly roots, but I’ve always thought an animal being fed and cared for by a human should earn her keep. My first shelter adoptee, a grown tortie hybrid, was chosen because she had claws and I needed to deal with a rodent problem. The first few weeks she did nothing but eat my food and sleep in the windows, so I had a talk with her, explaining that she needed to start catching mice or it was back to Cat Welfare. The next day, she gave me a present.

Earlier on my blog, I explained the concept of a familiar, which quite possibly is different than what you think it is. Today I want to explore how to choose an incarnate animal familiar. The animal familiar is a magical worker for the Witch who earns her keep.

Basically there are three things you need in such a familiar: psychic ability, ability to bond deeply with you, and ability to fit with your lifestyle.

A spider who walks into your house of her own volition is a no-fuss familiar who will feed and care for herself. You can develop a bond with such an animal, but it will take some effort. She may not be around when you need her, and chances are she won’t be very expressive, so your psychic powers will be tapped from the start.

A dog will readily bond with you, but psychic ability in dogs varies dramatically. Like humans, some are gifted and some are almost tone deaf. Your own intuition will be needed to choose a good candidate, and since one of the purposes of having a familiar is to develop your intuition, this might be difficult for a beginner. Still, you may get lucky.

Horses are highly intuitive animals and they bond easily with humans, but you have to go outside to commune with your horse. This might be a deal breaker for spell work for some Witches.

Domesticated birds live indoors and bond readily with humans, and I’m told they are quite psychic. (I’ve never owned one.) The challenge with a bird is that if you adopt a solitary bird (more on that later) your time and energy commitment will be huge, possibly making the relationship more difficult than some marriages. Getting a caretaker to step in when you can’t be available may be difficult, and the bird may not accept a substitute. If you are away from home for long hours or you travel, it’s not going to work.

Cats generally fit with the long working hours and erratic schedule of a single person. They are usually not high maintenance, and they are reliably psychic. The challenge is the bonding issue. You want a strong bond with your familiar so she will obediently carry out your directives in spell work, and you need a strong bond for the familiar to help you with your divination. If you choose a cat because you don’t have to pay much attention to her, you should be aware that “you get what you pay for,” and your kitty familiar will be useful to you in proportion to the time and care you give her.

I like cats in the Siamese or Siamese hybrid realm as familiars because they bond closely with one person, and they are intelligent and psychic. The caveat is that they are emotionally needy, highly energetic, and cannot be left alone for long periods. They demand almost as much energy as a dog, though they don’t require long walks in blustery weather. A cat will seek less attention if she’s allowed to wander outside as she wishes, but this is dangerous for the cat and destructive to wildlife.

Some people boast of their many familiars, but having just one familiar is usually best. You want to be developing the strong symbiosis of the one-on-one relationship, and your familiar should be bonding primarily with you, not with another cat or dog. For the same reason, you want to be the human who usually feeds and grooms your familiar. If a dispute arises with a roommate or romantic partner, you want your familiar to take your side.

I do not have experience or extensive data on rodent or reptile familiars. Perhaps readers can share in the comments.

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