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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Familiars a.k.a. Animal Spirits

Do you have an animal spirit?

Today, we are able to boast about our beloved pets through social media, posting pictures and videos of our four-legged friends.  It is also not uncommon for people to post pictures of spirit animals, fantasy creatures and beasts.  You may believe that you have an animal as a spirit guide, or perhaps you may think that you have a  spiritual connection or a deep bond with your pet.  It is believed that a familiar can be corporeal (flesh and blood) or incorporeal (a spirit body).  

Your familiar can be your closest companion, offering emotional support, knowledge, or aid in physical healing.   It can be an insect, a mammal, a reptile, a bird, or anything else to which you find comfort (or fear).

Through Medieval times, (and before) the belief that familiars existed for good or bad reasons, were broken down into two categories: Those that served witches; and those that served "cunning folks".  

Witches were thought to produce evil forces, and their familiars were often classified as demons.  (Think of the quintessential witch with her black cat, or flying bats or pet wolf).  Every witch was believed to own an animal that served as some type of malevolent familiar.  The familiars were shape-shifters that could easily turn from human to a demonic-like creature at the witch's whim.  The witch's familiar was considered to be as threatening as the witch, perhaps even more so, with its ability to be a supernatural being who shift its form without notice.  They were natural spies or perceived as a danger because they could easily cause harm - or raise hell - when least expected.

Cunning folks were those who practiced what was called White Magic, were healers who concocted herbal healing potions, created charms and were served by benevolent creatures who conjured fairies to aid them.  They commonly were sought to expel evil spirits, and drive out black magic.   They were useful people who kept under the radar of authorities because they were known to be "good".  Their familiar was the otherworldly spirit helper who could shapeshift between human and animal form.  Cunning folk were also known as blessers, charmers, wisemen and wisewomen.

Kaaren Christ of Llewellyn Journal explains, "A “familiar” is simply a living creature having personal and spiritual meaning to you, and the experience is available to anyone who seeks it. No need for otherworldly experiences or altered states of consciousness."

Since the 20th Century, a revival of having a familiar or an animal spirit or guide has occurred, and the concept of having a pet or an invisible spirit is actually quite common.

Personally, I have only owned cats.  Sgt. Pepper (a.k.a. "Kitty") was a [mostly] black female that was rescued from a horse farm and our family had her for 17 years.  Sebastian, I bought at a local animal shelter.  I brought him home because his paw stuck out of the cage and touched me several times... there were over a dozen cats from which to choose, but I thought that his reaching for me meant something.  He was a 23 lb. cat, that was a true character, a real man of a cat, and I had him for 14 years.  Now, we have the stray "Puddy McGillicuddy Goodwin" and she's been here about 2 1/2 years.  I don't know her age or from where she came, but she is the most loving cat I've ever owned with the sweetest disposition and she is very social.   All of my cats have been black and white. 

In this respect, I have a handful of creatures to which I am drawn.
From his book, "The Once Unknown Familiar", Timothy Roderick breaks down the traits and characteristics of these animals.

CAT:  Mysterious, independent, intellectual, inventive

Influences:  Magical visions, independence, strengthens one's psychic potency, ability to move between the worlds with ease.

Personality - the cat personality carries over into the entire cat family - lions, tigers, cougars, etc.  So apply the powers and the personality traits listed here to the entire feline family.   The cat personality is highly independent.   Cats have ways of getting what they want, one way or another.  The won't often thin of how their actions affect others, but they generally don't intend malice.  Cats are born mysterious and can evoke spiritual aid without much trouble.  They are trickster-teachers who might just take a swipe at others in order to teach them a lesson. They can revert to being wild creatures without much notice.

BEAR: Nurturing, loving, maternal, strong willed.

Influences - Promotes healing, motherly love, guardian of emotional strength and mental stability

Personality - Bears can't help but intimidate others who may not know them,, but in truth is that they can be very nurturing, open-hearted and playful.  Bears are highly intelligent and their curiosity is easily piqued.  A bear always knows what everyone's weaknesses are and will strike in the soft underbelly if threatened. 

DRAGON:  Powerful, grand, wise

Influences:  Magical adeptness, mastery of self-control, reveals the hidden knowledge of ancient mysteries, evokes aid of salamanders, mastery of the element of Fire.

Personality - The dragon is a very wise being.  Usually the person with the dragon personality seems like an "old soul" capable of inspiring those who are seekers of higher truth.  The dragon guards it jewels of wisdom jealously, giving them only to those who prove themselves worldly.  

ELEPHANT:  Justice-oriented, people loving, dominant

Influences: Longevity, memory enhancement, restful sleep, impervious

Personality - Elephants are wonderful individuals.  They are just in their dealings and can't stand situations of imbalance.  They will go out of their way to correct an out of kilter situation.  They are take-charge individuals and frequently take positions of leadership either in their field of work or in their community.  

RAVEN:  Innocent, playful, joker

Influences: A prankster, begins new ventures, success, power to make the right choices, reveals future lives

Personality - Animal equivalent of the Tarot Trump card, The Fool. Ravens can be quite profound in their philosophical thinking, yet they present themselves in such an unassuming way that it is difficult for others to get the raven's message.  They are life-affirming and prefer simplicity in all matters. They are problem solvers and can handle even the most difficult people with success. 

Though, I don't recommend it, you can go online and take a quiz to find out who or what your animal spirit is.  I don't recommend it because everything I looked at was fluff and foolishness.  If you wish, you can find out what your animal spirit is, by thinking about to what creatures you are attracted.  

It is as simple as that.  Have you dreamed of a certain animal?  Are you frightened by it or do you love it?  What is it doing?  Is it your companion or a threat?

Just think about what animal you are drawn to, or perhaps dreamed of or love to look at, I personally do not believe that I have a "familiar" or an animal spirit that guides me, that I know of!  But, it is a very personal choice!