Saturday, December 9, 2017

[Familiars 2017: Part 5] Maintaining a Bond with the Domestic Familiar

We've discussed familairship quite a bit this year.  After defining the various types of familiars, I explained what separates a domestic familiar from a pet and how you form a pact with your potential familiar.  I've also talked about how such an animal may assist the witch in their craft.  As you proceed forward, you might be wondering how to maintain the bond and pact you've formed.  This article will touch on a few key concepts of maintaining a domestic familiarship.

The Pact

I will bring the pact up time and time again because it is the contract of your bond with your familiar.  Your pact should fully outline everything you owe to your familiar and what they give you in return.  You should discuss what happens when one does not uphold their side and where the pact ends, the latter of which we'll discuss towards the end of the series.

The bottom line is that your discussion with your potential familiar, and the subsequent pact, should be fully fleshed out to encompass everything you need to know.  There should be no questions, no open statements and no loopholes to exploit.  A proper familiarship benefits both parties and covers all potential issues you two might face.

That being said, you may wonder exactly what your familiar might ask of you in order to maintain your bond.  Here's some examples!

The Basics

Most familiars will require the physical world basics: Food, water, shelter and protection.  These are things that your familiar might, though not always, struggle to get on their own and part of what makes a familiarship appealing to your would-be-familiar.  Just because your familiar is an otherwordly-sentient being does not mean that their basic care should not be met like a pet.  In fact, your would-be familiar will likely require it of you during your pact.

Medical Care

It's not like your snake or dog can walk up to the vet on their own and get checked out because they "haven't been feeling normal lately." Being in your care, however, you can notice when things seem off and when it's time to take them to the vet.  You can choose a proper veterinarian and pay the bill.  These are things your familiar simply cannot do.

On that note, and I have talked about this in the past, your familiar may not always know how to communicate physical illness.  Familiars have one foot in the spirit world and experience the physical in a different way from us.  Your familiar may even have a different view on death.  They might believe that their physical form just isn't that important. In such, they may struggle to tell you when they hurt or when things aren't right because their body just doesn't matter to them in the way ours do to us.  They need their vessel and it's up to us to care for it.

Physical illness may also prevent your familiar from linking and chatting with you through their spirit voice. Similar to how you may not feel up to spell work in the middle of the flu, your familiar might not be able to muster up the energy it takes to talk with you.

Medical care is an absolute must for any animal, even a familiar.  It's important that your familiar sees a vet regularly, gets its required shots and medications, and is treated for any ailment that may affect them.  If that's something you cannot provide, you do not need to be seeking a familiarship at this time.

Interaction within the Physical World

Earlier, I mentioned that familiars have one foot in the spirit world and one foot in the physical plane.  Similar can be said of a witch, which is why familiars tend to bond with those who tread down this path.

That being said, the ratio is less 50/50.  As a witch and physical human being, you likely have more of a foot in the physical world than the Other.  The opposite can be said of your familiar. Because of this, your familiar will rely on you for their interaction with the physical world.  Beyond simple medical needs, your familiar may seek out other witches, certain locations, friendship and more through their physical existence.  It will be your responsibility to provide this.

Emotional Support and Love

While many view the familiar relationship as a working relationship, I find that it's beyond that.  It transcends the love of an animal and its human.  The familiar-witch bond is incredibly strong and is rarely forged under the guise of an apathetic alliance.  If you're considering a familiarship, it's likely that you already offer a great deal of support and love for your would-be familiar.  If not, it's doubtful you have the makings of a true familiar.

While your familiar is wise behind their years and physical form, emotions are still a shock to their system.  They will need your assistance as a human being with a history of emotional experiences to help them process their existence in the physical world.  Along with that, they seek companionship and care and hope to find it within you.  You become their world, their sole purpose for living.  In that, they will struggle with true emotional pain when separated from you and will be emotionally attached to you in a way you haven't experienced with a previous pet.  Through the pact you forge, you will be required to help them through all of this.


Unfortunately, our human existence requires us to leave our familiar behind all too often.  In these cases, you can utilize a talisman to help connect you two spiritually over physical distance.  A talisman can be as simple as a locket with a taglock in it or as complex as a sachet filled with specific animal-friendly herbs and stones that related to your familiar along with said taglock.  A taglock is a physical piece of your familiar that helps connect their spirit to yours and can be something like a piece of fur, a lost whisker, moulted skin or other such easily given pieces of themselves.  Never, ever harm your familiar for a taglock.  In fact, that should be something written into your pact.  And, even with a pact in place, you should always ask for permission for a taglock and explain its purpose before proceeding.

Altars and Images

One way to further your connection with your familiar is to erect an altar in their name.  There really is no one right way to do this and your familiar should guide you through that they would like.  Typically, however, you'll want some sort of image of them - be it a photo, statuette, stuffed animal or other such physical representation - and a taglock that ties them to that image.  Anything you and your familiar thinks will connect them or better represent them should be added until you are both satisfied with its state.  From there, upkeep of the altar and offerings can be placed.  Speaking of which...


What do you think of when you imagine an offering to a familiar?  Do you think of a toy, a cat tree, their food bowl or other such item?  If so, you haven't gone quite far enough.  Feeding them on a regular basis and upkeeping their mental and physical health is part of their basic and emotional needs.  A cat tree or series of toys should be something you already provide your familiar.  Instead, an offering should be something more.  It should be something that connects with both their physical and spiritual form.  Anything from a trinket for their collar to a special meal on a special occasion to a candle burning on the altar can be an offering.

An example of an offering I give to my dog Artemis is his collar.  Now, he requires his collar legally as a resident of my state and city.  He also likes having a collar because it means he belongs - something he struggled with in the first few years of his life regarding abuse.  So a collar already means a lot to him, but it's not quite an offering.  Not yet, anyway.

Artemis is a water element.  He is healing, compassion, empathy, loyalty and trust.  He is the psychopomp, the veil between the worlds, the ocean breeze.  In such, I often theme his toys in this.  But because his collar is so incredibly important to him, I go out of my way to special-order a blue Asian-style ocean wave embroidered collar for him.  When it wears out, I order him another.  I could get him just any collar to fulfill his needs, but because his collar is more important to him than almost any other physical item I could give him and because he is a water element, I connect this and go the extra step to give him something truly special.

An offering should be just that: Something truly special.  It doesn't need to be something expensive, per se, but it should be something that you've put a great deal of thought and care into.  It could be something that crosses the other ways of maintaining a bond, but it should also go that extra step further, transcending the physical and crossing into the spiritual.

So now you know both what the familiar can offer you and what you need to offer in return.  I hope this article helps you in forming a cohesive pact with your potential familiar!  In the upcoming posts, I will expand on a few points about familiars, including rituals involving them and notes about having multiple familiars.  We'll then conclude the series with the death of the familiar and the end of the pact.  See you on the next one!

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