Advice for Witches: Taking Care of Your Familiar
From historical figures assuming them to be liaisons to the devil to modern pop culture referencing an iconic black cat alongside every broomstick-riding, pointed hat-clad storybook witch, familiars have faced their share of persecution and misunderstandings through the centuries.
Through various interpretations, witches’ familiars have been taken as possessions by demons, fairies, or other mystical beings, or even as spiritual beings in and of themselves. To the modern witch, though, a familiar is most often an animal companion with whom the human—the witch—has a special or particularly deep connection. This intense bond can form with a feline, as in the archetypal black cat, but doesn’t need to be. Witches can find their familiar in a dog, lizard, bird, rodent, or another animal entirely.
Not every witch has a familiar, and some non-witches may swear that their bond with a pet or companion animal is equally intense. But, if a witch considers an animal to be their familiar, there’s a particular responsibility attached. Much like a mundane pet, a witch’s familiar, however, independent, relies on their human for essentials like food, shelter, and protection. Here is some advice for witches on how to take care of your familiars.
Know them—specifically and as a species.
Many modern-day pagans believe that you don’t pick your familiar. Much like the personified wands of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, the familiar chooses the witch. No matter how enthusiastically your familiar approaches you, though, it’s important to do your research. It’s important to know how to properly care for the animal, especially if it’s a domestic pet. You feel drawn to that panther chameleon, but do you know what to feed it? Do you have the proper enclosure for it to have enough space? Have you found the proper temperature and lighting settings, or live plants to add to its habitat?
Even a wild animal you consider to be your familiar requires some level of research. If you want to gift something to your friendly neighborhood crows, your good intentions mustn’t harm them. Look into the species you feel connected to and, for extra caution, other local creatures that might encounter your offering.
Allow them freedom, but mitigate risks.
Often, the animal that a witch connects with seems to be “exceptionally aware,” or almost human-like in their consciousness. Joined with the depth of connection between a witch and their familiar, it can almost seem like your familiar is a small, furry (or feathered, scaled, etc) person. But that doesn’t mean they should be left to their own devices.
Like any animal, it’s critical that you respect their boundaries—don’t pet your cat as they hiss with laid back ears, for instance. But, ultimately, you’re responsible for the safety of the animals you adopt or bring home with you, as well as to follow any laws related to their care. Before you take your dog/familiar for a walk, spend some time on joyrideharness.com to find the best dog harness to keep them safe. No matter how much your pup reminds you of its wolf ancestors, he still depends on you—and leash laws still apply.
Use caution in your practices.
You might find that your familiar wants to have their nose in your magick—literally. Be diligent about making sure that any tools or ingredients you use around them are safe, and that any toxic portions of your altar or supplies inventory are out of reach and secure.
A high-quality witchcraft shop like MydnytBlu will sell a variety of products that can help you keep your familiar safe. Altar boxes can secure herbs, crystals away from cold, wet, noses, or prepared spell bottles can save the steps of assembling your ingredients, leaving less opportunity for your animal friend to come into contact with anything that might be detrimental.
There’s no rule that every witch must have a familiar, particularly in modern paganism. But, for those that do find a special animal companion, the responsibility of keeping them safe and happy in the magickal and the mundane is paramount. From a dog harness and proper food to safe supplies for your altar and offerings, being prepared and aware will help to ensure that your familiar is by your side for as long a life as possible.