Friday, November 17, 2017

[Familiars 2017: Part 4] How a Familiar Serves the Witch

In past articles, I've discussed the different types of familiars before diving into the difference between a domestic familiar and a pet.  I then ventured into forming a pact with your familiar once you've identified one, including a description of the ritual involved.  But where exactly does one go from there?  How does a witch interact with her domestic familiar?  How does that familiar serve the witch?

I'm often asked what exactly a familiar does.  In truth, "serves" is a bit of a misnomer.  It's really more "assists."  What your familiar does for you should be something you and your familiar-to-be should discuss before confirming your pact through ritual.  You should know before "signing the contact" what exactly it is you get out of this partnership.  But what if you don't know where to start?

As it has been with this entire series, my experience with domestic familiars is a ton of unverified personal gnosis. Your experience may vary.


Familiars are your first line of defense.  Typically, this is one of the first exchanges your familiar will offer.  In trade your physical protection and a roof over their head, they will stand guard over your soul, shielding you from potential curses, hexes and ills.  They may even offer to guard your property from both the physical and metaphysical, depending on their capabilities.

Downside to familiarship?  Your pet may get metaphysically hurt.  Upside? You will never question if you've been cursed; you will know.

Of course, this puts your familiar at a certain risk.  It is up to you to cull this risk by maintaining shields and wards and protecting your familiar through spell work and astral travel.  You should work together on this, too.  If your familiar is hit with something, they should tell you.

Now this does not mean that, if your familiar is sick, they've been struck with a hex aimed at you.  As always, physical ills are a separate matter that require veterinary attention.  This is an agreement you and your familiar should make as well to ensure their safety.

Grounding and Stabilization

In exchange for your friendship and warmth, familiars will often offer emotional stabilization and grounding.  Now this may seem contradictory to what I've said before.  Having a familiar really does feel like having an extra metaphysical limb pulling at you and can be exhausting spiritually, but you should also be able to approach them to help ground that energy down - and your own as well.  Think of it like the poles of a tent: Tent poles pull at the material to keep it upright, but also root into the ground to keep it stable.

If you agree to grounding and stabilization in your pact, you might form a shortcut to doing so when you strengthen your bond during the ritual.  For most of my pets, I can place both hands on their body and fairly instantly ground.  Of course, they have to offer this to me.  Usually, it involves us both sitting on the floor with the pet sitting or lying in front of me of their own accord as an offer to ground.

The wonderful thing about this is that the familiar also acts like a filter for your energy, filtering it as you ground and cleansing it of any impurities.  This filtering creates stronger, stable energy that makes energy and spell work more intense.

Offering Energy for Energy Work and Magic

In exchange for food and water - the physical supports of energy - familiars will often offer their own energy to the witch for their magical practice.  If you find a void of energy or need additional energy to push through a spell, your familiar might come to your rescue.  Sometimes, I'm not even aware that I need that extra jolt of energy until I find an animal at my feet persistently nagging me.  They tend to be more aware than I of the cost of a working.

That being said, they may also ask for energy at times too, particularly if they're doing work of their own.  They've channeled my own energy along with theirs to help protect myself and the house in times of need.  I would rather they come to me when they need it than be unable to do the work they feel they need to do.

Providing Assistance and Guidance

In exchange for your care and guidance on how to interact with the human element of the world, familiars will pass on their vast metaphysical experience and wisdom to you.  They will tell you where you're going wrong long before you make the mistake.  They might pull a tarot card you need to pay attention to or knock a book over, yes, but they might also flat-out tell you what you need to know.  They may insist you perform a spell right now.  Or they may get in the way of you performing a spell you think you need, impeding it from happening at all.

But all of these hints are just the tip of the iceberg.  As you and your familiar strengthen your bond and that astral voice becomes stronger, louder and obtains a broader vocabulary, your familiar will become a wonderful educator in the metaphysical and craft.  Discussions with your familiar will broaden your horizon as a witch, creating new venues for magic that you never thought of before or imagined.  It's hard to tell specifically where your familiar will take you; all of that depends on you and your domestic.

Astral Travel and the Other

But just exactly how does the familiar have so much knowledge?  How is the domestic familiar able to ground, filter energy, protect, offer up energy and educate?  Simple: Familiars have one foot in the Other.  For familiars, they're neither here nor there, living nor dead, but some sort of in-between.

Familiars aid the witch thanks their liminal existence in three ways.  The first is that, having one foot in the Other, time doesn't exist in the way we experience it for familiars.  It doesn't run faster or slower but rather in a weird, undefinable amoeba that allows them to see the interconnectedness of the world around you.  This gives them the ability to see patterns you might never be able to see within the confines of the human perception of time.

The second is because of the first; familiars remember any previous lives lived because time just doesn't exist in a linear pattern for them.  Along with the connections they can perceive, their vast knowledge comes from an expansive recollection of experiences that led them to this point.  It's likely that the culmination of these experiences caused your familiar to choose to be a familiar.  It's also likely that your familiar, having seen the interconnectedness and having the experience they have from previous incarnations, chose to be your familiar.  This is why you can put a call out for a familiar, but you may not hear back.

The final bonus of their liminal existence is that they are able to connect with spirits and travel within the spirit realm almost effortlessly.  They will help you trance and will often trance with you.  They'll cross the hedge with you.  And it's likely they have connections across the veil formed prior to their physical existence on this plane, giving them access to a plethora of knowledge and assistance of their own.

Now that you know a little about what a domestic familiar can offer, you have a stronger basis for forming a familiarship!  These pacts can be extremely rewarding but, keep in mind, you must maintain your end of the bargain in order to maintain the partnership you've formed.  Next time, I'll outline ways you can upkeep and strengthen your familiar bond.

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