A Creative Ritual for Abundance Using Tarot Instead of Your Normal Tools

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As someone with an artist mind, I am always trying to find creative approaches to writing rituals. This is what led to writing my first book, “Casting Creative Magickal Circles”. Although, the formalities found in the book are all for casting of the magick circle, I have also written full creative rituals (hmmm future book). A few years ago, I was working with a small band of ill-equipped Wiccans in New Jersey, where we alternated hosting and presenting rituals utilizing their own tools and items. When It came to my turn in the wheel, I had this dilemma of not wanting others to use my tools. So, creatively, I wrote the ritual using alternatives. Knowing that many of the tools used in Witchcraft or in this case Wicca can also be found as symbols within most tarot decks, it was a sure alternative. Since it’s not so much about the tool as it is about the symbolism that triggers our minds when in a ritual state.

All that is truly needed for this ritual is a tarot deck that has traditional type images of the suits of pentacle, cup, wand, and sword, however, any other items such as candles, incense, stones, etc. can be added.

Preparation: Locate and pull out these cards in order, placing the cards in this order from top to bottom.

Ace of Swords (will be used as an athame)

Ace of Pentacles (North, Earth, Abundance)

The Sun (East, Beginnings, Joy)

Ace of wands (South, Fire, Energy)

Death (West, Change, emotion)

The Emperor (Male, God, Leader)

The Empress (Female, Goddess, Mother)

The World (The All, the Collective)

Ace of Cups (Bounty, Abundance)

Tarot Ritual of Abundance

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Starting in the north where abundance is an attribute. With cards in hand turn over the first card (Ace of Swords), slowly walk clockwise around your space visualizing protective and loving energy creating a circle and then expanding into a sphere around your space.

As you walk say or something similar:

“I cast this circle with love and protection,

As it grows so does the Earth,

Together as one in joy and abundance.”

When you return to the North place the card on the altar,

Saying: “So mote it be”.

Starting again in the North, Place the Ace of Pentacles down on the ground or on the altar in its direction saying or something similar:

“I call upon the spirit of the North and of Earth,

I welcome you to this circle.

You bring me the bounty and stability in my

Ever-changing world.”

 

Moving to the East, place The Sun card and say or something Similar:

“I call upon the spirit of the East and of Air,

And welcome you to this circle.

You bring me victory and new beginnings in my

Ever-changing world.”

 

Continuing to the South, placing the Ace of Wands saying or something similar:

“I call upon the spirit of the South and of Fire,

I welcome you to this circle.

You bring me the spark and motivation in my

Ever-changing world.”

 

Lastly, place the Death card in the West saying or something Similar:

“I call upon the spirit of the West and of Water,

And welcome you to this circle.

You provide change and empathy in my

Ever-changing world.”

 

Returning back to the North, Place The Emperor card on the right side of the altar saying or something similar:

“I call to the Father God, leader of the ever-changing world, who without will see no abundance.”

 

Next place The Empress card on the left side saying or something similar:

“I call to the Goddess, Mother of all, who without will not grow.”

 

Place The World card in the top center saying or something similar:

“Hail and Welcome to All that is represented here and in my ever-changing world”

 

Once you feel comfortable and connected, place the Ace of Cups in the center of the altar with a focus of abundance in your life and say or something similar:

“In this ever-changing world I live, I am connected to its ebb and flow, it’s ups and downs. Its shortcomings and richness’s. Today I am in need of abundance, so that tomorrow I may give in return. As the Earth replenishes its lows, let my cup spill over so that I may do the same.”

“As above, so below let abundance flow. So, Mote it Be!”

 

At this time, you may want to add any aspect of ritual that your tradition calls for.

When you are ready, Thank the God and Goddess and return the cards to the deck in reverse. Staring in the west, moving counter clockwise, say or something similar:

“Farewell spirit of the West

I thank you for your presence

May you continue to nourish my heart”

 

Return the Death card to the deck. Move on to the South saying or something similar:

“Farewell to the spirit of the South and of Fire,

I thank you for providing the passion for my spirit to move forward”

 

Return the Ace of Wands to the deck, continue to the East and say or something similar:

“Farewell spirit of the East

I thank you for your attendance and

Bringing me victory to start anew.”

 

Return The Sun card and move on to the North,

“Farewell spirit of the North

I thank you for your presence

May you always provide me with abundance.”

 

Take up the Ace of Swords, walking counter-clockwise and release the circle saying or something Similar:

“I release this circle of joy and abundance,

Out into the universe,

In celebration of the ever-changing world.

So, Mote it be!”

 

Return the card to the Deck and Ground.

 

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How to Write Your Own Guided Meditation from The Modern Witch’s Curriculum by E. Massey

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In “The Modern Witch’s Curriculum”, the month of March has a focus on meditation and healing. One of the activities the reader is asked to do, is to write their own guided meditations. Out of all the writing I do, guided meditations are my absolute favorite. As an artist, this is the perfect way for me to convey the images and worlds I create in my mind and put them in an expressive format. Writing guided meditations is not as hard as you might think, in fact, if you have been self-meditating you have already been creating your own meditations. All you need to do is put them down on paper.

Writing Your Own Guided Meditation

Before you begin have a clear intent or goal for your guided meditation. Get into the right frame of mind, I like to take a few moments to focus and relax as if I am actually going to meditate. This makes it much easier for you to visualize what you are writing about. You may want to plan out your script, starting with a bullet point list of events you wish to describe in the meditation. Another method is to get into a state of deep relaxation, and then allow the entire meditation script to flow. Personally, I allow my guided meditation scripts to gradually form in my mind as I write. Allowing my mind to create what is happening, like watching a movie unfold and then putting it down on paper. Everyone is different, so the approach you take is entirely up to you. You may want to add music or environmental sounds to your meditation. Music can make or break a guided meditation it not only adds beauty but it also helps to relax and depth to the overall mood of the journey. As you write your meditation, you may want to add in symbolic images. In a deeper state, symbolic guided imagery can be very powerful. Consider the specific purpose of your guided meditation, and then introduce symbols that represent that purpose and give deeper meaning to the journey. Be wary of sentence length. Allowing a moment for visualizations to occur. Then move on to the next sentence.

General Structure of a Guided Meditation

  1. Getting comfortable

Give the listener a little time to prepare for the meditation and to get comfortable.

  1. Start with a general relaxation

Spend five to ten minutes relaxing the body and the mind with visualizations and/or breathing exercises. You may want to use a countdown technique during or just after relaxation.

  1. Begin the Journey

Start by describing the environment that you will experience. Include all five senses by describing what can be seen, smelled or heard and touched. The more one can connect their senses to the environment, the more deeply they will become immersed. Be careful not to let the description drag on. Don’t spend too much time describing specifics; your imagination will automatically fill in any blanks.

  1. The Return

During the meditation you will become very relaxed and will have entered into a deep state of relaxation. Coming back to normal waking consciousness should be done gently and gradually. One common way is to guide listeners back to the starting point of the meditation. Once you have returned to the starting point, slowly bring your awareness back into the world around them. Becoming aware of their physical body and of their surroundings.

The “Modern Witch’s Curriculum” is available in both print and e-book formats on this website or through your favorite online bookstore.

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Guided Meditation: New Paths with Hekate

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Over last few months I have found myself focused on so many projects (check them out at the end of the meditation), I hardly know the direction I am headed. Luckily, I have a lot of support to help me through this and despite everything I am doing, I still manage to keep my spiritual connections strong. I may not be doing as much magickal work as I feel I should be, but Hekate has always been the one to assure me that I am on the right path. She has understood that my everyday devotionals some times gets puts aside for something else. From the beginning, she has shown me that as long as I acknowledge her in my everyday tasks, I  am good with her. I found this to be very different from what I was used too. Basically, what she has told me was “I have put you on this path, and it is your turn to do the work to continue, the time will come when you can attend to me.”  Don’t get me wrong, It is not that I have not done anything spiritually or magickally over the last few months, I have just slowed down from where I was before. One way that I attempted to stay on a routine is by holding ritual with my group. Unfortunately, the last few times we have had to cancel thanks to the crazy weather here in Pennsylvania.

This guided meditation was from the last full moon ritual that I wrote for the group. I had wanted to share it early but I wanted to wait until I had done it with my group, well that never happened so here it is…

Items needed before you begin: A silver bowl filled with water, Pen and Paper, Candle dedicated to the Goddess Hekate and your favorite incense for meditation.

Before you begin light incense and the candle dedicated to the Goddess Hekate.

Think about the direction you would like your path to take you, whisper this into the bowl of water, take notice of how your breath ripples the water.

Close your eyes, make yourself comfortable and relax. Breath in deeply through your nose, filling your belly, hold for a count of three and exhale through your mouth. Repeat 3x.

Feel the room around you, acknowledge the glow of Hekate’s candles and scent of incense.
As you breath in, begin to visualize the smoke of the incense circling you, surrounding you. It begins to create a bubble around you. This bubble will protect your body on your journey.

The smoke begins fill the room, like a white mist rolling in, becoming more and more dense. Reflecting on the mist is cool white light.

Slowly the light grows brighter and with it the mist starts to disperse, fading away and leaving you standing on rocky terrain, in front of a cave mouth. It is night but everything is cast in a cool blue light. In search of its source you look up and see the moon in full glory. Returning back to your surroundings, to the right of the cave opening is a white statue of Hekate, she is bearing two torches and looking up at the moon. At the statues feet is a large silver bowl of liquid that holds a complete reflection of the full moon.

Wanting to take a closer look at the bowl, you approach the statue. Within, seconds a young girl wearing a white and gold tunic appears out of no where. She points to the bowl and tells you that this is where your journey will begin and where it will end. The bowl is your universe and you need to tell it what you want and that Hekate is only here to shed light on the path you are to take. She continues by telling you to whisper into the bowl, your one true goal or destination.

You thank the girl and she again pointing, this time toward the cave, and tells you that is where your path will start. You begin to walk past her into the cave, inside it is lit by torches hung on both sides of the cave, and you see that the cave narrows to a tunnel. As You walk deeper into the cave you notice that it begins to slope downwards. Soon the tunnel opens out into a cavern. Its ceiling is so high you cannot see it.  The walls and floors are spotted with crystals embedded in the rock, in the center of the cavern stands an altar bearing another silver bowl with a blue flame burning in it.  The light from the flame is reflected by all the crystals throughout the cavern, making it seem as though you are floating in space.

You approach the altar, but as you come close to it, the altar disappears and before you is the figure of Hekate standing in its place.  She wears a simple white tunic and a silver rayed crown. Despite the disappearance of the flame, the cavern is still filled with the light reflected by the crystals.

Hekate smiles at you and points to the far wall behind her.  Among the crystals you can see another silver bowl sitting in an alcove of the rock wall.  Without a word you know what you are being called to do. As you approach the bowl, Hekate’s voice follows you, and she says “This is vision bowl of the Oracles.  You may look into it and it will show you a path for you to follow.” At first glance in to the bowl you can see the full moon. This image fades and begins to show you, your path as it will be as of this night. Watch and remember.

After a while Hekate speaks again, and tells you it is time to go and hands you a piece of paper. She explains that you are to place it into the silver bowl at the mouth of the cave. You thank Hekate and walk towards the entrance you came in through and start to walk up the sloping tunnel towards the surface. Standing once more in the cave opening out in the moonlight with your paper in hand. Turning around you look again at the statue, and see that Hekate is no longer holding torches, but is holding the silver bowl with the blue flame from the altar that was inside the cave. You walk over and place the paper that Hekate gave you into the bowl. As the paper burns it turns into brilliant red light.

As you stare at the beauty of her statue, and consider how lifelike it is, you notice a white mist rolling in, becoming more and more dense, surrounding you and obscuring your surroundings, so you can no longer see the statue or the cave.  All around you is the mist.  And now the mist starts to disperse, and as it does so you see once more the walls around you, the ceiling above and the floor below.  You become aware of yourself in the room with Hekate.s candles once more.

Open your eyes when you ready.

After you have collected yourself, using the pen and paper write down the end goal you now have been shown by Hekate. Light on fire off the Hekate candle and drop it into the bowl of water. Extinguish candle when done.

 

Along with my newest book and class tour. Here is some of the projects I have been up too, click on the image for more information.

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Imbolc, A Festival of (Hekate, The) Light (Bringer), an adaptation from Casting Creative Magickal Circles.

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I have been so consumed with the store, organizing events, and finalizing my Salem tour that I haven’t had a chance to post something new on my blog. I am also hoping by the end of January everything will be put into place and I can return to finishing up “The Little Witch’s Curriculum” before the summer. This would put me around Imbolc. I can honestly say this is not one of my favorites of the Wheel but I do still celebrate it with my group. I also have my own specific practice for this time of the year. I use this “Festival of Lights” to burn off all of the last year’s candles to end or release their magick through one ritual. Although in my own personal practice, I don’t necessarily follow the “Wiccan” Wheel of the year as much as I used to, this year I want (need) to return back to having a more structured spiritual practice. This “resolution” for the year really wasn’t my idea, it was Hekate, who guided me to return to my beginnings. Despite an already cumbersome schedule, I do understand why and the need to do this. It isn’t so much for the religious ideals, but for the routine of ritual and practice. This homecoming would also include more Moon rituals and devotions, all of which would focus around Hekate in some way or another. Thankfully, I am not traveling this journey alone, I completely am letting her guide me every step of the way. Much of this new curve has rolled over into my group, which has been recently reinvented sort of speak as well.  However, we do still hold to The Wheel of the year and enjoy the celebrating of the Sun’s path around the earth. It just now has a foundation in Hekate’s mysteries.

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For this year’s group Imbolc, I plan to use this circle casting from my book “Casting Creative Magickal Circles”. I feel that this one can easily be altered to include the Phosphorus (light-bringer) or Dadophoros (torch-bearer) epithets of Hekate. The adaptations are shown in red.

Festival of Light Group Circle

Items needed: one blue(red) altar candle, one tea light candle for every participant.

Prior to your Imbolc ritual request that every participant brings one tea light to the ritual.

Before starting make sure that all participants have their candles in hand. When ready, begin in the east; the direction of the rising sun(light). Start by lighting the blue(red) altar candle saying:

“We come together in honor of the growing sun(Hekate’s growing light),

Round and round we are bound.”

Starting with the closest person light their candle off the blue(red) altar candle, direct each participant to light their candle off the person next to them. While chanting:

“Round and round we are bound!”

Continue clockwise until all candles are lit.

Once everyone’s candle is light, direct the participants to hold them up and say:

“Together we cast this circle of protection and love (light),

Round and round we are bound.

Gathered together to honor the sun (as Hekate Phosphorus, The Light Bearing Queen) .

With harm to none.”

Visualize protective and loving energy connecting each candle, then expanding into a sphere around your space.

Saying: “So mote it be”.

After the circle is cast direct everyone to place his or her candles on the altar for the duration of the ritual.

When you are ready to release the circle have everyone gather his or her candles. Depending on the length of your ritual some of the candles may have burnt out. Lit or unlit it will not matter for the releasing of the circle. When all participants have their candles in hand, direct them to turn facing outward away from the altar.

Say or something similar:

“We release our circle of love and light (Hekate’s light),

Out into the world.

May its light bring joy (enlightenment) to those in need.”

 

Direct everyone to extinguish his or her candles.

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Witch Cords: By Knot and Feather or Whatever

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Witch’s ladder found in England in 1878

Other than candle magick, Witch cords are my favorite type of sympathetic magick to use. Cord magick also known as knot magick, or a Witch’s ladder is a very old form of folk magick. Traditionally the ladder is made from knotted cord or hair, natural items and charms are knotted or braided with a specific magickal intention in mind. The number of knots and types of woven items can vary as well as the color and number of cords.

The first recorded evidence of a witch ladder was found in an old house in Somerset, England in 1878. A “rope” with feathers and other items woven into it was found in the attic space. However, this is not the only account of such cords used for magickal intentions. The Gospel of The Witches Author, Charles Godfrey Leland discovered that the Witches in Italy used a similar form of the Witch’s ladder, called a “Witches garland”; Which was made of a cord, and contained black hen feathers. It was said that a spell was uttered as each knot was tied and that the cord was placed under the victim’s bed, to cause the ill fortune. Another was mentioned in an article found In Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould’s “Curgenven”; published in 1893. In his account the ladder was made of wool, and white and brown thread, and at every two inches was tied cock’s feathers. It’s maker then would weave into it; ill intentions intended for the victim. The ladder was then thrown to the bottom of a pond.

This type of folk-magick can also be found in its simplest form, also known as “knot magick”. Knot magick was traditionally been used by sailors to bind winds and then untying the knot to stir up a wind. The “Old-wives tale” of using a square knot on a bandage would make a wound heal faster.

marksamcord.jpgDespite it being overlooked by modern Witches, cord magick is very effective and can be done anywhere, at any time, and with any items you have on hand. I often recommend it for those who live and work in non-accepting places. They can be simple or lavish in design, all depends on the Witch. One of the more attractive cords I carry on my online store, The Hierophant, was created by “The Staten Island Witch” Mark Eadicicco for Samhain. Whereas my cords tend to be more traditional in style. Whether of “knot” you choose to cast a more traditional one or a modern one, it’s all about the intention weaved within.

Typically, the more modern “traditional” knot spells use nine knots. While constructing the cord; concentrate and focus your energy on your intent and repeated for each knot that you tie. Thus, your magick will continue to work as long as the knots are tied. Once your goal has manifested or is no longer needed, depending on the intent you should untie, cut and/or dispose of the cord. Tied with in the knots can vary depending on your intent, as would the color of the cords.

To make a basic modern Witch’s ladder, you will need yarn, ribbon, or cord in a color that matches your intent. Some Witches like to use three different colors, one or two for intent (i. e.: money and success), one to represent the knotter (or two in cases of love), and a third to bind (usually red) and nine items that are similar in correspondence (beads, shells, bones, buttons, feathers, stones or whatever you have on hand).

Cut the yarn in a workable length. Tie the ends of the three pieces of yarn together into your first knot. Begin braiding the yarn together, tying and knotting the feathers or beads into the yarn, while adding your energy and envisioning your intent. If you wish, you can say this variation of the traditionally used chant as the items are tied into the knots (not sure where the traditional one evolved from, but this is the one I have used in the past):

By knot of one, this has spell’s begun.
By knot of two, the magick comes true.
By knot of three, so it shall be.
By knot of four, my power is stored.
By knot of five, my will shall it drive.
By knot of six, this spell I fix.
By knot of seven, the future I leaven.
By knot of eight, my will be fate.
By knot of nine, what is done is mine.

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A Day of Thanks and Giving: Understanding the Truth About Thanksgiving and Celebrating it as a Pagan

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Since Samhain I have not had to time to even think about the upcoming holidays. With the opening of the online portion of my store, The Hierophant, setting up my 2019 Salem area tour (yes, I did say Salem, Woohoo!, and finishing up my 2018 classes I have been so consumed. So, I thought I take a moment to talk about what I have come to rename “A day of thanks and giving”. Let’s start with what is commonly taught about Thanksgiving, then what we know as the truth and why I have renamed it and a way we as Witches and Pagans can celebrate it with respect to others who you may be sharing a table with.

Thanksgiving as We Commonly Know It

Thanksgiving is a national American holiday, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. Originally celebrated as a harvest type festival. Since 1789, Thanksgiving has been celebrated nationally but did not become a federal holiday until 1863.

What Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World. It was a feast that had lasted for three days and was reported that it was attended by 90 Native Americans (Wampanoag) and 53 Pilgrims. Another reason for this feast was that it was a symbolic gesture of peace and thanks between the settlers and “Indians”, after an English-speaking chief named Squanto, taught the settlers how to survive. At this feast it was said to contain food that had been grown by the Pilgrims by means of “Indian” knowledge. Turkey, goose, duck, corn, squashes were all to have been placed on this recounted table of “gratitude”.

The Thanksgiving Story as We Should Know It

The real story began in 1614 when European explorers returned to Europe with a ship full of Patuxet Indians bound for slavery. In their efforts to capture new slaves from untouched lands, they had left behind smallpox which virtually wiped out those who had escaped capture. When the Pilgrims arrived in the “new world” they found only one living Patuxet Indian, a man named Squanto (who’s real name was Tisquantum) who had survived slavery and knew their language. He taught them to grow corn and to fish, and negotiated a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Nation which was short-lived.

Word had spread in England about the Eden to be found in the “new world” which caused others to arrive by the boat load. They seized land by any means possible, capturing strong young Natives for slaves and killing the rest. However, the Pequot Nation had not agreed to Squanto’s peace treaty and fought back. Making the lesser known Pequot War one of the bloodiest Indian wars ever fought.

pequot_warThen In 1637 the body of a white man was discovered dead in a boat. Blaming the Pequot tribe who had gathered possibly for their annual Green Corn ceremonies. In the early morning, while the tribe slept, armed settlers invaded and surrounded their camp . Upon ordering them to come outside, those who did were shot or beaten to death and those who remained inside were burned alive. The victory was celebrated with feast as a thank you to their God for winning over the savages and for the newly acquired land.

While many Indigenous people and historians, still debate over what exactly happened to what directly led to the creation of “Thanksgiving Day.”, the truth is it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, hell it wasn’t even turkey and buttered corn.

National Day of Mourning

The National Day of Mourning is an annual protest organized since 1970 by Indigenous Americans of New England (although, others have joined in) on the fourth Thursday of November, the same day as Thanksgiving. Participants in the National Day of Mourning honor their ancestors and the struggles to survive today. It is also to educate Americans about the history of Thanksgiving. In an interview, Cedric Cromwell, the chairman and president of the tribal council of the Mashpee Wampanoag, said, “…it was a holocaust, and that holocaust must be shared and communicated so that we ensure that mankind doesn’t do that to each other again”. I found it interesting that he still sits down with his family on the day, but for him it’s meaning is about history and truth rather than the myths we have been feed.

A Day of Thanks and Giving

Although, I grew up under Native influence, we still celebrated Thanksgiving (for my grandfather it was always Turkey Day). For us it wasn’t so much about the “American history” it was more of a way for all of our family to get together, and for football. Not that anyone in family really was a die-hard football fan. It was just the American thing to do, I guess. It wasn’t until I reached high school that I learned the horrible history of Thanksgiving. For me this began the drop of calling it Thanksgiving Day, moving on to what my Grandfather called it “Turkey Day”. I’m still not sure to this day if he used this title because of its history or if that’s how he referred to it.  It wasn’t until years later that I used A Day of Thanks and Giving to denote Thanksgiving Day. For me, it means a day to give thanks to the earth and its bounty and to the people in my life by giving the means of food and good cheer. It also has a denotation of respect and honor to many of my ancestors.

father_knows_best_thanksgiving_1954Now that I am hours away from my parents, we do not spend this holiday together. However, I do spend it with my cousin, who was is the daughter of my first teacher. Although, she was raised within a Wiccan household, she is primary Christian based. Which means we say a prayer before we eat. There have been times when this has fallen on me to deliver. With respect to all those present I tend to keep the focus on the Harvest and family aspects of the Holiday. After the prayer we always share a round of things we are thankful for. The following is the prayer that I have used, and of course you can always tweak it to your family and situations.

Day of Thanks and Giving Prayer

We are thankful to Mother Earth for the bounty before us,

We are thankful to our Father who shines above us,

We ask for blessings be bestowed upon our friends and family seated here today

And to those that are not with us but are in spirit

We share this meal in love and respect.

So, it is, so shall be

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Familiars vs. Magickal Pets

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With the arrival of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina series on Netflix I am pretty sure that we will see a surge in the black cat and “familiar” craze. Known as Salem, in the original 90’s show Sabrina’s cat companion was a chatty campy fellow who became a fan favorite. This new series based on the comic books of the same name finds Salem’s role to be more feline and in-line with the Witches “familiar”, at least from what I have seen so far. I can honestly say I was not a fan of the original series, but I did give this one a try. I haven’t finished the season yet so my opinions may change and not because how Witches or anything else are portrayed like I’ve seen argued. WHO CARES! IT’S ENTERTAINMENT, WITCHES! Even If you haven’t watched the first season yet, you must have come across the teaser introducing Sabrina’s kitty friend which starts out as a spirit that she called upon. Which is a lot closer to the idea of a “familiar” than a talking cat who wants to take over the world.

Whenever the word “familiar” comes up I always end up cringing at its uses. I find that most people in the community tend to use the word for any household animal and pet. This is not to say that some of these animals couldn’t be considered a familiar. It seems to me that the whole idea has gotten misrepresented and/or misinformed over the years. There is so many meanings to the use of the title of “familiar” that it was hard to track down information. Especially in terms of what has become accepted and adapted within the Pagan and Witch community verses the traditional ideas on the subject. There is so much information I have come across that relates to the Christian theories of the middle ages and the days of the Witch trials. Whereas, “familiars” were “demons” or “Evil” spirits said to be given to Witches by the devil. These spirits took on various animal shapes (in some cases they were described just as non-human forms) that could be sent out to do a Witch’s bidding both magickally and mundanely.

The History in Witchcraft

Familiars, from the Latin “familiaris”, meaning a household servant, were mentioned even in the Bible, depending on which version you read. In the book of Leviticus (20:27) there are referres to the familiar and guardian spirits associated with various spiritual and magickal practitioners: “A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them”. With this punishment, there is no wonder why there was hysteria around Witchcraft.

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During the Witch hysteria of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the fascination with a Witch and familiars was mostly found in England and Scotland. Being mentioned in several trial records, especially those related to “The Witch-Finder General” Matthew Hopkins. The Witchcraft Act of 1604 made it a felony to “consult, convene with, entertain, employ, feed, or reward any evil and wicked spirit to or for any intent or purpose.” The Malleus Maleficarum, the main Witch inquisitor’s handbook of the time offered no instructions concerning familiars in the interrogation and trial of Witches. The book does acknowledge that an animal familiar “always works with the Witch in everything.” In the confession of Elizabeth Demdike during the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612 , it was said that her familiar’s name was Tibb. Tibb was a spirit who could take the shape of almost any animal he pleased, and in one piece of her confession he had taken the shape of a black cat. This familiar spirit wanted to aid Elizabeth in the cursing of three local individuals, but when she opposed, he knocked her into a ditch.

In the Salem Trials in 1692, accused John Bradsheet was charged for “inciting a dog to afflict.” The dog was tried and hanged as a Witch. Although there were not as many mentions of familiars in the American Witch trails we can see that over the centuries familiars have taken many forms depending on what was seen as “evil” at the time. These were the cat, mouse/rat, ferret, hare, bat, snake, frog/toad, dog or bird. As time went on and we stepped into the more modern views of the familiar we find that the well-known “King of the Witches”, Alex Sanders, was reported to boast of the creation of a “spiritual baby”, who became one of his familiars.

Modern Views

In modern Witchcraft, wicca, and other Pagan traditions the “familiar” is viewed in an altogether different light. Whereas, a familiar can be any animal with which the individual feels an affinity toward. While these animals are no longer considered demons or even spirits anymore, They are treated with the same respect. Sadly, the consensus seems to also show they have even lost being a partner in one’s practice of magick. Many have adapted the term to mean an actual, living animal companion that they consider a “familiar”. Professing they have an emotional and psychic bond with a particular cat, dog, or whatever pet that have taken into their home. This is all well and good but denotes the traditional concept of the familiar and its potential and might be better suited to be called magickal or spiritual pets.

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Another common thought along the “familiar” thread is that they are connected to the indigenous practice of animal spirits, known to many modern practitioners as the cringe-worthy use of the term Totem (read my previous post on this topic). Although, I see the similarities these concepts are completely different. The concept behind “Totem” animals is that they are an animal spirit that has chosen to guard a specific tribe or family and “usually” do not do any type of spiritual bidding for any particular human. Then there is the idea of animal spirit guides that have been chosen or given through ceremony. They can also come to you in a dream or in real life with a message or to teach you a valuable lesson. Shamans and medicine men of various tribal traditions have long honored the spirits of animals for their wisdom and assistance in magickal workings and the mundane. Whereas with the Witch’s familiar, the animal is just the vessel for a spirit and will stay with the Witch for a certain time in order to help him or her magickally, to do his/her bidding, and then they may or may not leave. They can also be called upon or summoned into a Witch’s life just as we see in the Chilling adventures of Sabrina.

Finding and Working with Familiars

One of the best books on the subject I have come across is Raven Grimassi’s “The Witch’s Familiar”. Where he discusses the history and methods on obtaining and working with familiars in a more traditional fashion. He utilizes the concepts of meditation, journeying, and ritual to achieve this goal. He explores the ideas of three different types of familiars: physical, astral, and spiritual in a way that no matter what your take is on the subject, he covers it intelligently.

Whether or not you follow the ways Grimassi points out or your own, the bottom line is that familiars are magick users’ helpers who exist in both the spirit and the mundane. Depending on the Witch’s work, familiars can serve as gatekeeper, messenger and guide. There are many ways for a familiar and a Witch to work together. A Witch may send a familiar to complete a task or serve as guard during magickal work to protect and alert to the presence of spirits that may be harmful. The ways are endless.

Also know that not everyone has, needs, or even wants a familiar. I myself have found no use for them at this time, I just find the whole subject intriguing. If you have an animal companion that you consider a familiar but doesn’t fit the traditional ideas, many suggest working on strengthening your psychic connection with that animal.

If an animal has appeared in your life unexpectedly, such as a stray cat that sticks around, it may have been drawn to you psychically. However, be sure to rule out mundane reasons it has arrived. Do you leave food for them to eat? Is it that time of year? many animals tend to scavenge during the spring and fall. I truly believe that the best way to gain a familiar is through summoning one into your life. Also note that this is completely different from summoning and binding spirits for workings that can be found in many other Witchcraft traditions. Familiars are about connecting with animals that are used as vessels by spirits that are connected to you by other means. Those means are only privy between Witch and familiar and if you are lucky maybe it will be just as campy as the original Salem, and want to take over the world.

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