Familiars vs. Magickal Pets

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Photo by David Bartus on Pexels.com

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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Dont forget to check out The Hierophant opening October 31 2018

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The Art of Living a Magickal Life

(c) The New Art Gallery Walsall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Recently, I was asked to be the keynote speaker at Iron Garden. For those who don’t know who or what the Iron Garden is, it is an eclectic night-kind community found in NJ. I highly recommend checking out their website. This blog post is based of the speech I wrote for their event.

At first, I was a little reluctant about being a keynote speaker, not because of the atmosphere that Iron Garden employs, but because I had no idea what I was going to talk about. Of course, talking about the typical Witchcraft and Magickal topics would have been easy, but after looking at Iron Garden’s past events, I knew It had to be something special and different. it turned out that the very thing that brought me to this point, would also bring me to my topic. I like to consider myself a Witch, and an Artist by choice and intention, and an Author by divine persuasion and to my own astonishment. I’ve studied and worked hard in becoming a Witch and an Artist because this was the path I chose to follow. it’s what I wanted to do. Of course, I have had my teachers and guidance along the way, but It was all due to my intention.

Ten years ago, I never would have thought I would be or even wanted to be an author, let alone being asked to be a keynote speaker. The idea of writing books was never a life goal for me, it was my guides who thought otherwise. I truly thought they were out of their Divine minds, me, writing books. I was an artist not an author. Fast forward 3 years later, I have written three books, magazine articles, and maintain a blog. All while still creating art, although that has also taking a surprising spiritual turn as well.

I have a very busy and magickal life. There is not a second that goes by that doesn’t have a magickal component to my life. Even in my classroom when I am wiping snotty noses, I am connected to the magick of the universe. Maintaining this magickal life has become an art all its own. I can attribute everything I am and do to being aware and listening to my intuition, my deities, my ancestors, and who and whatever else decides to throw their mystical two cents in.

What does it mean to live a magickal life?

Living a magickal life means being constantly in tune with the spiritual world around you, it’s about listening and being open to your intuition and to the messages from your spiritual guides. It happens twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred sixty-five days a year. Does this mean you need to run around shouting “Love and Light to all” of course not, that’s crazy. So instead I talk to the dead and spirits of animals.

The image most people have of those living a magical life is often of a robed priest or priestess, dancing around a bonfire, under the full moon, or mixing exotic herbs in a mortar and pestle. While this can seem very exciting and theatrical, alas we are not Laurie Cabot.

Actually, most of the time life can seem pretty daunting and un-magickal, between caring for our families, going to work, going to school, cleaning the house, running around stubbing our toe on that box we have meaning to put away since January. However, all it takes is a shift in perspective to see how the mundane can become magickal. Magick can be incorporated into your daily life simply just by being mindful and putting a little extra effort into your everyday life. You don’t have to perform an elaborate ritual every day to be connected. It’s about being aware of the simple things around you.

One way is by paying attention to the natural world, the seasons, the phases of the moon and how the world around you affect the way you feel or how it may correspond to aspects of your life. By doing this you are actually tuning in to the energies of the universe, which can give insight to how life will be during those times.

Secondly, Take the time to get in touch with nature and the land you live on. Even if you live in a big city, there is nature all around you. Just take a second and connect with that weed growing in a crack of the sidewalk. He may feel just as lonely as you do or he may have advice on how to deal with that loneliness.

Another way is to listen to your gut, your intuition. This takes a little practice but once you understand the feelings, life changes for the better. In most cases your intuition is your first thought or feeling, the first thing that pops into your mind and trust me it’s usually not the most logical of thoughts.

Lastly, when you are doing something mundane, think about how you can use it in a magickal application. For example, when you’re baking cookies, consider what sort of magickal working you can incorporate into the recipe. There is nothing wrong with adding a little passion magick to a meal you make for a lover.

Another way I found that helps is to keep a sort of magickal schedule and routine. It’s about dedicating yourself to doing one magickal act every day of the week. I believe so much in this practice that I created an entire curriculum around its use. In my second book, A Modern Witch’s curriculum, which will be released in June that is based on a weekly schedule, whereas each day, week, and month has a theme.

Of course, as with anything, this schedule can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it and not only will it keep you connected but can open the doors to learning about your path and yourself as well.

There are also a few other practices that you can incorporate into your daily magickal life, such as regularly openly communicating with your deities and spiritual guides. Through daily meditation and devotions with your deities and guides you keep the lines of communication open. This is by far is more complex of the methods of spiritual guidance there is. It doesn’t happen overnight.

One practice that I find the most rewarding is working with your ancestors. By building a relationship with your ancestors you can inherit valuable information about almost anything. Who better to get advice from then someone who has lived through it.

There are many ways we can reconnect with our ancestors, some of which you probably already do.

Some of the most common ways to connect with them is with use of:

Relics: these are personal belongings of the deceased, photos, written items by that person, even the cremated remains of loved ones.

Altars and shrines: Altars are a place to hold your collection of relics and to give offerings and whereas shrines are usually dedicated to one person and temporary at the time of death until they are moved to your altar. However, both are a place to honor and communicate with them.

Offerings: are how we feed the dead, we are not physically feeding them, we are feeding the link between us and the physical world and the spirit world.

Communication: conversations are a form of offering. At first this may seem a little strange, but once you do it after a few times it becomes easier. When starting out openly speaking to the dead I recommend you do this just before bed. You may find that you may receive answers to your conversations in your dreams

By connecting or reconnecting with our ancestors we bring the past and present together and bridge the gap between generations. They are and will become a foundation to your magickal life.

One of the most asked about of my practices is with working with animal spirits. Of course, this could be an entire blog post on its on as there is so much information. But what I will say is, if an animal spirit has something to say it will show up over and over again until it is heard. One rule of thumb that I follow is, if it shows up three times consecutively it has something to say.

Another question I am often asked is, how do you know if it’s a message or if it’s your imagination? There is two ways to answer this question.

1. Ask for validation. It’s ok to ask the spirits to validate your thoughts and questionings.

2. Be aware of possible causes. If you are constantly seeing a deer on your way home from work, is it because it’s in the evening when they come down out of the mountains to graze, or maybe it is hunting season when deer seem to be running amok?

I know of an acquaintance that swore up and down, backwards and sideways that her spirit animal was the red tail hawk and that they follow her everywhere and even circle her home. Ok, yes, she lives off a mountain where red tails frequent, however, they do not regularly circle, especially in multiples. Although, I had a feeling I knew what these birds were, I just left it alone. Until, one day we were together at an event, and she pointed out “her” hawks. I looked up and what do you think I saw circling above…. Yep, turkey vultures! Nope not a sign, just normal animal behavior.

Whether you are working with deities, the dead or animal spirits, the simplest way to connect to them is sending out your intentions to make contact.

And Although, these practices can take a little more work than the previous, they can be very helpful in making your life magickal.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t try. If you open yourself up to the endless possibilities, the possibilities for yourself could be endless.

Living a magickal life really is an art, it’s about being able to balance the mundane and the magickal. it’s living consciously and subconsciously, in harmony with the worlds around us and to the best of your ability. It’s about acquiring knowledge, not only about magickal practices, but about yourself and your own life.

 

 

The Modern Witch’s Curriculum will be available for pre-order in late May.

Nominate Author, E. Massey for a Witch Way Magazine Award

 

 

 

 

The Protests of Philly’s Pagan Pride and Guided Meditation: Spirit of the Wolf

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It has been a very busy last few weeks, I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write. Over the last few weeks, I have been facilitating private ceremonies, holding workshops, and attending various Pagan events. One of those events was the Philadelphia Pagan Pride, for which I am also a board member. If you are in the “Pagan Pride” community, you might have come across a few articles about this event. It has gotten a little focus due to a few “Christian” extremists protesting the event. I went back and forth in my head whether or not to write a blog post about the protest and its effects, but decided not to add to fuel that is their fire. Instead, I will only talk about some of the positive things I experienced and then move on to a meditation.
Unfortunately,, the protest started right next to my tent, which was for the children. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the tent wasn’t for the children. This tent was meant to be a sort of refuse for children to explore and learn about their spiritual interests and should not have been exposed to the ranting of negative remarks from a hate group. Although, I don’t believe that children should be shielded from such things, there is absolutely no reason for them to be involved in it. At the start of the protest, I had a few children working on various activities and they weren’t affected by it. Once it escalated, comments and questions had erupted from a few of the children, my nephew included. I decided to take the “teachable moment” and change the focus of negativity to something positive. It became a discussion of religious acceptance and similarities, rather than prejudice and hate (sadly, from both sides). Once the protest had ended, I witnessed an amazing sight; two of the children went around the event with sage in hand, smudging all the tents and area to remove the negativity of the protest. This was completely done without adult direction and solely on their own accord. For me, this made the event a success.

One’s spirituality can be a driving force for a multitude of emotions and experiences. Which is why so many religions find themselves in some uncomfortable situations. But what happens when these situations affect us on a personal level? By utilizing some meditative techniques we can learn how to better control our emotions in these situations. Such practices of breathing and quieting the mind can help us take hold of the responses our emotions can create. Having a regular meditation practice makes it easier to use these techniques during emotional situations.
This guided meditation employs the spirit of the wolf, who in many traditions is seen as a guide to spirituality. In our meditation we will visit the moon to get a better understanding of its energies within its various phases, all by means of the wolf.

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Spirit of the Wolf Guided Meditation

Begin by lighting a candle and some incense. Turn off the lights. Close your eyes, make yourself comfortable and relax. Next begin to prepare for the meditation by breathing in deeply through your nose, filling your belly, hold for a count of three and exhale through your mouth. Do this three times, or until you feel relaxed, centered and open.

Feel the room around you, acknowledge the glow of the candle 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.

You find yourself sitting in the dark, outside on a hill.
You can feel the cool grass beneath you, but, the air is warm around you.
Crickets quietly chirp in the distance.
Although, you are sitting in the dark, you are not afraid….
Appearing before you is the spirit of the wolf.
He sits harmlessly before you.
Looking closer you can see that he is in spirit form rather than solid, yet his soft fur sways in the warm breeze.
He will be your guide on this journey and will take you through the phases of the moon.
Begin your journey by feeling and reaching out to wolf’s energy.
Allow it to mix with your own, you will become one with wolf.

Now, as wolf, looking up to the black sky, you notice a tiny sliver of light begin to appear, it is the new moon.
Feel and see yourself going toward the moon.
At the same time the moon also comes to you.
You and the moon meet and join together.. You are the new moon….
Take some time and feel the energy of the new moon.
It is of new beginnings and birth.
Allow yourself to succumb to its energy and let the moon show you what you need to learn at this time…….

After a moment, wolf calls you back and to let go of the new moon’s energy.
As you pull away, you begin to see the sliver of the moon begin to grow into a waxing crescent moon.
It’s energies of growth and love begin to surround you.
Allow the knowledge of where you are headed to enter you, let the moon show you what steps you need to take to grow at this time.

Again the wolf calls you back after a few moments, the images begin to fade and you are now overcome by the bright light of the full moon… The energies and power are almost too overwhelming.
It is time to open yourself up to them and be the full moon.
These powerful energies feel as though they are recharging you, like a battery.
You can feel your own magikal energies reach the highest they have ever been.
You are now glowing with pure positive energy.
The energy pours out of you in all directions and reflects off the clouds above and touches the trees and plants below.
As above, so below you are the full moon…

Just as you feel you are able to expand your energies around the world, the light fades into a waxing crescent moon.
It begins to draw back some of the energies you have just absorbed.
Along with some the full moon energies, the waning moon extracts all the negative thoughts you hide within yourself.
It takes your fears.
Your self created obstacles.
You can see all this pouring out of you in a long dark plume of black smoke…..

You are now floating in darkness, no sound…Total emptiness.
You are not afraid. You know you are protected by the spirit of the wolf.
This is the time to confront all the negatives that had poured out of you.
Face them, learn from them… This is the dark of the moon……….

After a moment, all the images begin to fade as you hear the cry of the wolf.
You have now returned to the hilltop, looking up, you can see all the moon phases in the sky.
Bid farewell to them, individually and thank them for their wisdom.

Eventually, the darken sky becomes day and before is the wolf.
Thank and honor his spirit.
You may also wish to take a moment to accept any wisdom he gives you.
Say your farewells.. Take 3 breaths, and open your eyes….

Birds, Snakes, and Airplanes. PT 1 – When Your spiritual path takes a new direction.

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When re-inventing this blog, I had no idea what direction I wanted for my first posting. There were so many topics I could write about. At the time, I had just returned from my local groups Beltane celebration, where they had conducted two rituals, one for adults and one for children. I thought this might be something I wanted to discuss and expand on, especially because this is where my expertise lies. What a better way to help promote my forthcoming book and classes. But alas, It just didn’t feel right. So I decided to dye my hair instead. I thought maybe the time away from my computer would have helped, but again I had no direction. Then it hit me like an airplane. Direction! A topic I myself and many around me have been experiencing. “What direction has my path led me? ” or more so “what direction am I supposed to go on my path? ” Continue reading

I “totem” so! – Respecting “Living Cultures”

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Cultural appropriation has been a phrase that has been showing up in many areas of social media,‭ ‬especially within the Pagan and indigenous communities.‭ ‬Just recently I was witness to an interesting conversation in a Facebook group that sparked the idea of this blog entry and thought I would write about it.‭ ‬I want to express that this post is based on my opinions on the information I have found viable on the topic and by no means constitutes,‭ ‬as factual study or anthropological theory.‭ Continue reading