Familiars 102: How to Work with a Familiar

booksandtails:

Okay, so you have a familiar– great! Now’s the fun part- working your craft with them.

Safety first!

Whenever working with an animal familiar- the first and most important thing to consider is their safety. Things I always consider when working witchcraft around my animal friends are:

  • Is anything in this spell toxic to this animal?

There’s a lot of little, totally innocent seeming herbs even kept in your kitchen that is best kept AWAY from your animal friends. For example- garlic, even in the smallest dose can be deadly for dogs and cats. And if your animal familiar is anything like mine- they tend to want to taste/stick their nose in it. A quick Google search of “type of animal, ingredient, toxic” will often bring up an answer- like “cat garlic toxic”. But always err on the side of caution- if you are uncertain, do not let your animal near it.

  • Burning things

While you can sometimes find candles and incense that is okay for some animals, do be careful when having anything that can burn an animal near them. Either keep the item out of reach or opt for something else- like an LED Candle. In the case of incense, always make sure your animal stays downwind (the opposite direction the smoke is blowing) of it, and make sure they don’t have any allergies or issues with it. If they start showing any signs of distress- coughing, sneezing, rubbing their eyes, remove it immediately.

Small animals, like rats and gerbils, are especially sensitive to smoke and it can really give them problems, so I avoid incense when near them. Most of your generic tea light candles and scented ones are going to be okay, if they are kept safely away from the animal and the animal is in no way in the path of the smoke from it. Some special notations are: birds are often extremely sensitive to smells and undiluted essential oils (which are often used in scented items) can give them severe respiratory problems. Reptiles have a similar problem with cedar-scents. In both cases (birds and reptiles) I try to avoid anything heavily scented around them to play it safe.

  • Is the animal comfortable with what I need them to do?

In general, your animal being comfortable is going to be best for them AND your spell. Just like you being upset can mess up a spell, so can your animal’s feelings! Sure you might have to rework a spell here or there to accommodate, but if you want your familiar to assist, you need to do so on their terms. Personally, I always ask the animal if they are willing to help me before every spell I work with them. And sometimes I choose not to ask them (curses, anything I’m afraid might rebound in a nasty way, etc) to make sure they stay safe. Always always always put their needs and health first.

Okay, so I’ve checked my ingredients and made sure my scented items are all a-okay with my animal friend. Now what?

Each animal is going to be different, given that they are all their own unique selves, but overall the following are my methods for working with familiars.

  • Your spell space

When working with your familiar, the area where you work your spell is probably not going to be normal. Since we are accommodating our assistants- we often must either choose a place they will come to us at or choose a place they are at.

Sometimes you’ll have an animal that loves to come get pets from you while you take a bath- great spell spot! Use those natural locations when the pet comes to you to create a spell casting area.

Get your ingredients together, then go to the place and wait for your pet to come to your call.

This might mean you are doing a spell in the bathtub, or in bed, but it gives you the bonus of having the extra energy of your familiar to help cast it- so it’s an equal trade off, I feel.

For those animals that either cannot (live in a cage/tank) or will not come to a certain location- take the spell to them.

If your cat loves laying in the middle of the hallway during the afternoon to sunbathe, you’ve just found a spot to cast your spell with him or her!

I always bring along something (a large book, box, TV tray, etc) to put anything burning or seemingly edible a top (let’s face it, most cats or dogs will try to eat just about anything) if I’m working on the ground with an animal, but otherwise, just work from there.

For our tank/cage dwelling friends- depending on their temperament and if they are able to breathe air (hi aquatic familiars!) you can always take them to your normal spell casting space. If not, camp out on the floor near their tank/cage and go from there.

  • Once you have the location figured out, your ingredients are there and you’re ready to cast your spell- do all your normal things.

If you cast a protective circle, call the quarters, invoke deities- whatever your normal method is- go for it. The difference is when you define your magical space, you are now giving the okay for your familiar to be a part of it.

Since I know my familiars might decide mid-spell that something else is far more important at that moment, I often note something along the lines of “May the boundaries of this expand as far as needed to encompass me and -familiar’s name-.” That way if my cat really needs to go get a snack, he can, and he’s still inside the big ole bubble of magic helping me out.

  • The help. During spells you are drawing from your own energy to fuel the outcome, so having a familiar means you have EXTRA ENERGY.

Think of it as that kick you get when your morning caffeine drink finally hits your system, but with magic. Sometimes I consider which familiar (if you have more than one) would be best for a certain spell. Rats, for example, are seen as good luck with money by some cultures, so I might use a rat familiar with a money spell. An extra cuddly dog or cat would be great for a love spell, or anything with warm, positive vibe. And you can bet your fish, frogs and other aquatic animals will definitely help any spells with water-connections.

When you are visualizing the energy from yourself, you can also visualize it from your familiar entering your spell. Sometimes I will touch or hold my familiar while casting the spell to help forge our two energies together into something stronger.

  • When finished, go through your usual post-spell methods (close the space, extinguish flame, etc) and give your familiar lots of love and praise!

All my familiars will vouch for the importance of post-spell treats, pets and love. Just like when you teach your animal a trick, rewarding your animal gives it a positive association with the activity. This way they will be happy to assist you again!

In short, working with a familiar is basically getting a nice helpful energy boost on a spell from a willing animal companion. Make sure they are safe, accommodate the ingredients and space to what works for them, and remember to thank them with love and treats afterwards! 

If you have any further questions about familiar work, feel free to ask!

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