April 7, 2014

Blogging From A to Z Day 6: F is for Familiars

For the month of April I will be participating in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Learn more about the challenge by clicking here. Each day (except Sundays) I will be posting a theme based on each letter of the alphabet. This blog is covering paranormal topics for the month. To read my automotive blog posts for the challenge, click here.

Familiars or familiar spirits are a type of spiritual guide that witches or cunning folk keep around. These guides actually help or assist with the practice of magic. Most often, familiars are portrayed as animals, but sometimes they can appear as human or a humanoid. Some believe that the familiars possess the body of an animal, while others believe they merely take on the look of a particular animal.

Cats were often popular familiars, at least when it comes to folklore, which is why you always see pictures of witches with a black cat nearby. In actuality, many occultists do feel that animals are more sensitive to the spiritual realm that is all around us, especially cats and dogs, although some other animals are preferred by certain individuals. Some use these animals as guides, others as a warning when malevolent beings are nearby.

Of course, as is the case whenever the subject of magic comes up, there are those who feel that familiars are really demonic forces that are trying to lead away innocent souls to hell. I wouldn't argue that there are no mischievous or even evil familiars, but I think most are not used in harmful ways. They are more similar to a guardian angel since they act as a spiritual guide and protection. Some people even think that familiars are actually fairies.

One of my favorite books of all time, Bless Me Ultima, portrays an owl familiar, although the term is never used in the pages. The Crow movies and comic books also make use of a familiar in the plot, as do the Harry Potter books and movies.


Holli Moncrieff said...

Always loved the idea of familiars. As for animals, they certainly react to things we can't see. Two of my cats will stare at our staircase for a long time, moving their heads as if they're tracking something. Their eyes are as big as saucers and they look scared by whatever they're seeing.

It's kind of creepy.

Robin said...

I, too, think that animals are much more aware of the spiritual realm. They don't have anyone whispering in their ear that it isn't real. I think small children are also more attuned.

I don't know that I buy an animal amping anyone's "powers," but I absolutely believe that they see things we don't.

David P. King said...

Great pick for today. Can a fish be a familiar? The kids say theirs has superpowers. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The Crow came to mind as I was reading this...

Nicki Elson said...

Ohhhhh, it's all connecting now. The only time I heard the term familiar was in the Hellsing manga but now I see how there are actually familiars all over the place.

randi lee said...

I've never heard of familiars, but I really like the idea. Thanks for introducing them to me!

VR Barkowski said...

More sensitive to the spirit world? I'm not sure, but animals are definitely more sensitive to natural phenomena. When I lived in California, I always knew when to expect an earthquake (even the tiny mag 3s) because before they'd hit, my cat would wander from room to room, and my dog would start barking with the rest of the dogs in the neighborhood for absolutely no reason. Same in Georgia when a storm was approaching. The jump from sensitivity to natural phenomena to sensitivity to spiritual is a small leap. In fact, maybe it's no leap at all.

VR Barkowski

Tony Laplume said...

And the cat familiar in Charmed.

Crystal Collier said...

I'd love to see a sloth portrayed as a familiar. Now that would be epic!

Lexa Cain said...

I like to think of animals as helpful familiars - certainly not demonic entities. I love the pic! :)

mshatch said...

I always wanted a familiar *sigh*

Anonymous said...

I didn't know they were called this. that's one new word for me today. Appreciate the post because I love stuff like this since i write stories. Wish I could click on a LIKE button! Anywho, following you through email :)

Steven said...

Holli, my dog has barked and even full on snarled/growled at invisible things before. The snarling and growling is very uncharacteristic for him, so it was very creepy.

Robin, sadly we are discouraged from paying attention to things others insist aren't real just because those people are afraid.

David, never heard of one, but who knows?

Alex, hence why I mentioned it :)

Nicki, glad to help make connections!

Randi, I always love to educate others.

VR, naturally spiritual phenomena would be part of the natural world.

Tony, yes, although I never watched the show.

Crystal, that would be... interesting.

Lexa, animals certainly have been portrayed as all sorts of spiritual beings, good and bad.

Marcy, you're not the only one.

jgifederizo, like I say, I aim to educate!