An Animal Familiar

photo by @theverbalthing

photo by @theverbalthing

By Samantha Pearson

When my partner and I brought home two of our cats in February 2015, I didn’t expect one of them to become my familiar. At the time, I had lapsed into a months-long period of restless depression fueled by a crappy job and leftover, unresolved feelings from an abusive relationship that left me completely out of touch with my craft. Reading tarot, especially, felt insurmountably hard. Although I had an altar space established and carried certain crystals with me, I hadn’t practiced in so, so long.

Tommen brought magic back into my life in a big way. Though I felt a bond with her immediately, I didn’t realize how much she would affect my practice until she was big enough to crawl onto my altar space. Curled up between candles and dishes of herbs, Tommen would settle in for lengthy naps and leave behind a warm, comforting energy that made it easier to connect with my magical and sacred objects.

Once she began sleeping on the altar, it felt easy to approach that space. My tarot deck felt lighter in my hands and my pendulum, which had been still for months, finally began to swing freely over the palm of my hand again. It felt like coming home, but in an entirely new way — never before had I shared that type of energy with an animal. It was thrilling, but the warm, comforting nature of it was unmistakable. Without ever intending it, I’d found and adopted my familiar.

I have been practicing witchcraft in some form for over a decade, and have read for years about the power of having an animal familiar. The true power of that didn’t really hit me until Tommen reintroduced me to practicing magic. It was as if her presence had cleansed any negativity from the sacred spaces in our home. It was incredible.

Adopting this cat — this fluffy, incredibly energetic being whose main goal seems to be holding all of my attention all of the time — did huge things for me. Tommen is incredibly in tune with my emotions. Whenever I suffer from bouts of anxiety (as I am wont to do, due to PTSD, generalized anxiety, and PMDD), Tommen climbs the walls. She cries. She scratches at me until I allow her into my lap for a cuddle. She is as much therapy cat as she is familiar, and I love her for it.

When it comes to practicing magic, Tommen is incredibly in tune with my craft. On days when she’s all over the place and I can’t seem to figure out what she wants, she scratches at decks of tarot cards until I sit down to do a reading. It may sound hokey, but this feels like her trying to communicate with me, and it works.

Once I’ve read the cards, Tommen relaxes. The first time it happened, I couldn’t believe it, but we’ve gone through this together at least two dozen times since, and every time the pattern repeats. Tommen is aggravated; Tommen scratches at a deck of cards; I do a reading; she calms completely.

She exudes that same calm when I do readings for myself or others, as well. Tommen settles down beside my deck, puts her paws on certain cards during large readings, and often goes to sleep as I work. Her restlessness fades when I lay out ingredients for spells or supplies for rituals. She settles in, keeps me company, and enhances the clarity of whatever I am doing.

I’ve opted to take her input when I practice. I light the candles she sniffs or bats at, leave jars of salt or bundles of sage wherever she’s moved them with her roaming paws. Her involvement not only improves the energy flow of whatever I’m doing, but keeps me from being completely drained by the end. Having her around helps me maintain some semblance of balance; before we brought her (and her sister) home, I often came out of rituals or readings feeling emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted. Since I do much of my spellwork alone, this can be really detrimental.

In the two and a half years since we brought Tommen home, we’ve moved, my altar space has changed (multiple times), and I’ve fallen into old patterns of not practicing for weeks on end. However, these periods don’t last as long as they did before. They can’t, because Tommen doesn’t let me stay away for long.

Whenever I feel myself starting to lag from the everyday shuffle of work-commute-housework-errands-work, Tommen scratches at a tarot deck. She knocks over a candle. She sits on my altar space and yells. When your familiar is demanding that you engage with your craft, you can’t say no. You can’t beg off for being too tired. It took me a while to understand why she did these things, but now that I do, I’m grateful.

 

Samantha Pearson is a freelance writer, editor, and social media manager residing in southern New England with her partner and three cats. She likes Shakespeare, space babes, bikes, and dismantling the patriarchy. She also loves vegan food. Her work currently appears on Rogues Portal, SheKnows, Shakespeare & Punk, and The Tempest. For more, follow her on Twitter/instagram @theverbalthing!

Emily Dickinson