Monday, August 16, 2010

Familiars Part Three - Servitors.

In every nearly every article or book I've found concerning the Familiar in the practice of modern "Witchcraft Revivalists" there is made some sort of mention of a "created" familiar. Back in my youth, and hell - to this day, we called this a "servitor".

Servitors, as my mentor reckoned them (and thus how I "learned" them), are entities, either created whole cloth by the Practitioner, or assembled from the energetic remains (or "cloned" parts) of other entities. These entities are created specifically to carry out a single task, and be resorbed, dismantled, or destroyed.

Some practitioners extend the life of a servitor indefinitely, but this has it's risks. The longer an entity exists, feeding or being fed upon various kinds of energy, the greater chance it has to escape the Will of the person/s who created it. It would still be attached to that person, however, providing a rogue link to the Practitioner that could backfire spectacularly, or provide a point of entry for unwanted energies.

The key difference between the "servitor-familiar" and the Familiar-Spirit is that one is created (the servitor) and one is a pre-existing spirit, who is usually given to the witch by either another witch, or the sabbat-lord.

How this effects the entity is in it's range of influence. A servitor cannot (initially) do anything you cannot do yourself. Familiars, by nature, are designed to do things that the witch can never do on their own. So, expecting one to work as the other is ineffective at best.

When Categories Get Fuzzy.

My favored servitor/s, the baneye, were out of my hands about a year or two after I first created one. These little beings were part fish, part pig, part bird, and covered in eyeballs. They were inspired by an old woodcut illustration, and spawned to keep a look-out, and fend off any unwanted trespassers. They would replicate when more of them were needed, and slowly re-devour each-other when times were less hectic, designed to be a self-sustaining alarm system on "the astral".

Today they breed on their own, and have varied forms. Some are the original "pig-sized" servitors, while others are epic war-mount size. Still others are simply swarms of single eye-balls on nerve endings which serve as rudimentary legs. Not a single one of them, however, is beholden to my command alone. How did this happen? I made the mistake of lending one of them to a being in the between-world. He made his own tinkering modifications to his new little pet, and they changed. All of them. Permanently.They are now more his children than mine, and though exceedingly good at their job - have minds very much their own.

"I Don't Want to "Drive" Anything With a Mind of It's Own."
- my uncle, on the topic of Horses.

These instances of Servitor going rogue, or being "lifted up" are sporadic. You can't count on the being you've willed into existence being favored by your gods, guides or guardians, and to suggest this as a common mode of practice sets the practitioner up for disappointment.

Beyond this, when you create a servitor it is created with specific things in mind. You want the being to be a part of you, wholly under your control, and able to be recalled (or totally dissolved) when the operation is complete. Allowing this link to yourself out of your hands has heavy consequences.

Early in my "career" as a practitioner, I created a servitor designed to collect knowledge and energy, and bring it back to me. This was supposed to manifest as both startling internal revelations, and happening upon just the info I was looking for in books, or articles.

At some point, he simply went missing. Against my better judgment, I did not "nix" the Servitor, convincing myself he was just off on a mission that was more difficult than I'd realized. One night, I thought I sensed his presence outside of my room. Unfortunately, it was not "just" him. Either he had consumed the wrong thing, or the wrong thing had consumed him, and resulted in a "brundlefly" - something that was neither being, both beings, and exceedingly worse than either alone.

The "other" being was a decidedly malevolent one, and over the course of many months consumed it's way through my servitor, and came after me. Through the servitor it had access to me in a way it shouldn't have. I should have dismantled my servitor the second it went missing. Instead, I treated a servitor as though it were an independent entity and suffered the consequences.

I Created it... I think...
...It's possible I didn't... it could have been pre-existing. I got distracted.
AKA "Adhesion"

Occasionally, when creating a servitor, people get lazy. They internally visualize what they want, but they do not pull that out of themselves and give it form. They sort of let it coalesce, or "show up". Sometimes these are Servitors, sometimes they aren't.

A long time ago, there existed a group dedicated to "role playing" characters in the setting of the Jim Henson film "Labyrinth". Here there were a myriad of fantasies played out from people switching genders, to one-night-stands with rock stars. But above-all, reigned the character of Jareth - A Fairly-like creature that shapeshifts into the form of a barn owl, and is the "Goblin King".

For those unfamiliar with the film (firstly, shame on you, go watch it) the plot of the film is that a hormonal, self-centered, teenaged girl - angry at a younger sibling, decides to "wish him away" (jokingly) to the realm of the Goblin King - called "The Underground". Unfortunately for her, he actually shows up, and takes the baby. The teenaged girl is given thirteen hours to travel through the massive, county-sized, labyrinth erected around the Goblin King's castle, in the heart of "The Goblin City" to retreive her little brother before he is turned into a goblin forever.

Scenes of the film depict the young girl, lost in a seemingly unending (and constantly shifting) labyrinth in the underworld (er... I mean underground!) set against intercuts of her baby brother at the center of a goblin reverie, lead by their king.

Jareth, as a character is beautiful, able to re-order space and time, king of his own realm and perfectly capable of doing absolutely awful things to get what he wants. In short - he is a Fae. The group of fans I had encountered were all spending so much time focusing on this character, his world, his traits... that something got a little hinky.

A few nights after joining this chat for the first time, while working a candle-spell at my open window, I saw a large barn owl swoop by. I chuckled to myself, and later mentioned the sighting to my newfound friends. Their reaction was instant - Stay away from the owl.

Understandably I was confused, it was just an owl. I live in the woods, and Barn owls are pretty common. NO, they said... this wasn't a barn owl, this was Jareth. I had to stay away from him, because the "real" Jareth wasn't as nice as he was in the movies. "The Real Jareth"? It was laughable. He was a damned fictional character portrayed by an already aging rock-star.

Except... As time went on things got weird. I would dream of this character, who was exceedingly like the film character - and yet clearly something far older. He had wants, desires, and motives of his own. And eventually his presence moved from interactions in dreams to people's lives getting very messed up when they said or did unkind things toward the character in the game.

Their devotion, their attention - their worship, had called something very real out of the aethers. Something close enough to that fantasy depiction that it could adhere to their wishes and desires, and manifest through an unintentional gateway. This being existed on the cusp - it was a real entity, using a fictional mask to get it's due.


Servitors can be lifted up to the status of a Familiar, but the process is mostly by chance, and very unpredictable. Existing entities can be "netted in" or adhere to thought forms and servitors, leading to very unpredictable results. Using a Servitor long-term can lead to unexpected results.

If you're prepared to accept the unexpected results, and suffer the consequences (and believe me, there'll be some suffering) - fine und dandy. But a very poor choice for new pagans, and it would be very irresponsible for someone to advise otherwise.


  1. This was a fascinating read! I've only just found your blog recently, but I love reading about your exploits in the mytho-magical world. Please keep writing these wonderful entries!

  2. It's interesting to see how servitors can evolve and change over time. In "Sigils, Servitors and Godforms: Part II" Marik suggested that servitors which do not perform as the magickian expected require discipline, whereas it was the experience of Fenwick Kaidevis Rysen that Fotamecus evolved (starting originally as a sigil, turning into a servitor then morphing into a full-fledged godform) - a process he allowed to occur.

    I can certainly see the application of this technique being used to create a familiar as well, or viewing any servitor as a type of (usually) temporary familiar.

    Great post!

  3. @Psyche (I wonder if you're GuidePsyche? Probably not.) Fotamecus is what I call "over-yeasting the dough". This may or may not require a bit of lead-in, but when you're making a dough you have to be careful not to over-yeast, lest the dough become an unstoppable blob that eats half your fridge overnight.

    You cram enough energy at a thing and it will evolve, you cram enough energy that's not your own at it and it will evolve far beyond your reach.

    But, yeah... if you start out with the goal in mind it can work. It just probably won't work as expected. If you put a being out there for everyone to mess with, eventually someone will mess with it who's views are counter to your own, and your "Familiar" might suddenly get a bit toothsome.

  4. No, I'm Psyche of and I've been using this handle online for fourteen years. Not sure who the other one is?