Monday, July 26, 2010

Familiar Spirits

In 1612, Alizon Device, grand-daughter of Old Demdike, came to trial for witchcraft. In the records of the trial she is supposed to have said that she was approached by a Familiar-Spirit in the form of a dog and that by the persuasion of her grandmother, allowed it to suckle on her blood (from just beneath her breasts), thus inheriting it as her own Familiar. Though the archaic use of English in the records is a bit much at the best of times, it's also apparent that the Familiar did not remain constantly with the woman, but came and go at rather lengthy intervals. The trial records also note some involvement of selling, or bargaining, one's soul.

In this same trial, a spirit appearing as an intensely lovely young man, or sometimes as a brown dog, is also mentioned. In this case, coming for both Alizon's mother, and brother.

When my eye looks toward this, and other accounts (though none so thoroughly accounted as the Pendle Trials, IMO), I see a trend and a deeper meaning in very white-washed confessions.

1: Familiars come and go as they please. You don't own them, and they aren't a "pet" who helps you do harm-none-wicca.
2: Familiars must subsist upon blood, spiritual essence (the aforementioned "soul") , your personal energy, or a combination of all three in order to remain effective. They will require more for bigger tasks - pray you can provide.
3: You don't chose one, it chooses you. Once it's chosen you, it won't leave unless you starve it, chip away at it's strength and THEN banish it. Or, if you simply piss it off hard enough.
4: Familiar-association runs in families rather strongly. Grandma may curse you to feed a quasi-parasitic being who can perform marvelous acts.
5: M., one of the first spirit-beings I ever met, fit precisely the role of a witch-craze-era Familiar, and I didn't really get it until recently.

A Brief Bit on Practical Experiences with a Familiar-Spirit

In the late 1990's I was approached by a spirit who appeared like an incredibly tall man with the mouth of a reptile, and the eyes of a reptile, and for hands he had the talons of raptors. To describe it in modern vernacular: His mouth was exceptionally thin and wide, his eyes were slit-pupil, and he had very long, curved, finger-nails which had pronounced cyanosis at the beds.

In exchange for showing me my past, all manner of hidden knowledge, and teaching me to foretell the future, he only needed energy. My energy. Obtained in dreams like a vampire biting a victim, and in the waking world associated with prickling pain, and often physical marks. He fed upon sexual pleasure as well.

The rewards -far- outweighed the costs, and he was a remarkably loyal spirit. Befriending and aiding friends of mine as well. Over time we grew incredibly close, and then something changed.

I can't tell you what changed, more than likely he simply got saturated on the energy I had to offer, or got pissed off because he no longer occupied the central place in my worldview (he was a bit of a primadonna). His visits became further apart, then stopped entirely. He still visits friends occasionally, but by and large I hear not a damned word about him, or from him. Perhaps he's passed into a partnership with someone else, and if so... they're damned lucky to have him.

Gaining a Familiar

You don't exactly just get to call one up and command it to do your dirty work. Firstly, it doesn't work like that, secondly anything that easy to boss around in that manner is probably not very "strong", and may be more of a drain than a boon.

There are, however, ways of enticing a being to consider a partnership. In Raven Grimassi's work he suggests using guided meditations to cross into a particularly fertile batch of otherworld and choose a being which becomes interested in your presence. This is a good starting point for the task, but I'd be very leery of accepting the services of "just anything" I meet on the otherside. I think it would be far more advantageous for both parties to develop a friendship through visitation. Though, the visitation can begin through meditative work such as the aforementioned work suggests.

In my night-flights I often see a small spirit that's similar to a Satyr or Faun, though rather small, and a little more goaty. Whenever I'm compounding incenses, or doing Work, he seems rather keen on what I'm doing and will often fetch some novel ingredient (usually at lightening speed) that is just what I need. Also, if anything is handed to me, he is the one to do it. If I must hand something to someone else, he passes it to them. In short, he acts as something of an intermediary, is a pre-existing spirit, and is interested in my work.

Were I to consider acquiring another Familiar-Spirit-Proper, this would be the one I would consider. He's never shown me malice, always seems interested, and is already involved in my goings-on. I would suggest that anyone else take a similar route: Gain a friend first, and then ask the friend for a partnership, rather than meeting a stranger and assuming intimacy.

Creating A Being

Yes, it can be done. The internets are filled with accounts and instructions on the creation of beings called Servitors.

Ask anyone who's Worked with me? They'll instantly comment on the Baneyes. One of my first magickal experiments in created entities, and the longest-lived. Having long-since evolved from a Servitor into their own, independent, self-breeding, race. They've also formed variations on their original design, becoming caste-like in nature (with large broodmares down to single-eyeball-on-an-optic-nerve swarms). However, I got lucky. I worked hard enough at shaping the initial generations that the beings aren't rogue, they have no desire to attack, only defend and maintain. Had I not been so studious, gods know what monsters my teen dabbling may've created.

The unconscious mind, the wellspring of our internal landscape, can be filled with self-defeating ideas. Creating a Familiar from a Servitor would likely be more fraught with danger than adopting a being from the otherside.

This will not be the last blog about Familiars. I intend to follow Mr. Grimassi's methods of enticing a Familiar (probably one of the smarter Baneyes at first) to get back into the saddle. And I'm sure my experiments will unfold here, across the months.


  1. I look forward to reading your experiences along these lines. It is not something I have tried.

  2. Generating a familiar from a servitor is... Hap-hazard as far as the process goes. But it's pretty straight-forward. You want to acquire something that can "fill" the servitor with life or some manner of essence. You might use your own blood, petition the elemental kings, or have a Goddess decide to fuck your life up forever.

    Any of these will suffice.

    On the other hand, you could just fire up the Stele of Jeu, let the Agathos daemon ride you for a bit, and command another spirit to follow you.

    Or you might ask one of the witch gods for one.

    I'm just full of clever suggestions to help get a few kids wrecked for life!

  3. Have you read The Daughters of the Witching Hill? It's a novelization of the Pendle witches, and I think some of the descriptions of interactions with their familiars are very well done.

    I think your numbered points are very important. Especially the first one. Spirits have an independent existence beyond our relationships with them, regardless of how intense and intimate those relationships are (just as we do). I have two very close spirits, one of whom could be termed a Familiar, but neither is at my constant beck and call, and both seem to have other stuff to do when I'm not directly dealing with them.

  4. @Harold - Part of the reason I'm embarking on it is that it's not a wide-covered topic. Searching the depths of Amazon, the internet, and the exceptionally vast librarything (2,000+ books)of a friend turned up only the fantastic work by Wilby (read part of it at the OU library, saving up for a copy), Grimassi's work (own it already) and a work on Familiars by Donald Tyson. There needs to be more frank, honest, plain-worded, accounts of working with this style of magickal interaction.

    @Faust - See, I could approach Mr. Horns and ask for one. Or Miss Cauldron-stirrer. However, I think I was already given one at the sabbat, my fine little goat-boy-friend.

    Now, if I ever pen a book on the topic, rest-assured I will have to step up to the slab and ask them what procedure others should follow for obtaining one if they aren't as nonlinear as m'self. The Baneyes (with which I think you have some experience?) have always worked flawlessly, but their scope is pretty much limited (by design) to defense, offense and observation. Guardians. Not "fetches", and certainly not "Goatboy, would it be within your power to ensure that a true, european, mandrake root about the size of my little finger finds it's way to me at a fair price?"

    Baneyes would eyeball me, snork-snork, and waddle back to watching for offensive magick and intruders.

    @Dver - Looking into the Pendle book, it seems interesting. The bullet points are the most important points of the whole thing, IMO. Especially that they must be fed, and you don't just get to pull one outta your butt.

  5. very well written and highly interesting.

  6. My main question about Goatboy: when you ask him for specific items, do they only come to you through surprising connections or do you sometimes receive items in more unusual ways?

  7. @Anon - Both surprising/unusual and very ordinary ways.

    I "put it out" that I was looking for info on Familiars, and on the same day received an e-mail recommending the Grimassi book, and a coupon for a goodly percent off from the same retailer.

    I've asked him for particularly dificult-to-find stones and they've shown up at stores I go to shortly thereafter.

    Herbs - well, I found a source for them shortly after asking, alas, I don't have the funds for those herbs.

    I think of magick like a game of chess - maneuvers and coincidences lining up to equate significant patterns.

  8. I certainly agree with you about the scarcity of anything on this topic outside of Emma Wilby's book. Most of the stuff I have read other than that is really referring to pets, not to familiars. It is really unexplored territory in modern witchcraft.