The Black Cat Conundrum: Familiars in Witchcraft

As sort of a precursor to this post, I would like to point out that yes, I do own a Black Cat.  He’s maybe 20 lbs (really big…but not necessarily overweight…), and entirely black except for random hairs of white scattered throughout.  Because of those white hairs, his name is Bubbles.  It made sense to me when I was ten.  I *also* have a gray tiger-kitty, he’s striped gray-white-black, his name is Bongo.  I have a dog, who is probably the closest thing to a familiar, who is a doberman/german shepherd mutt of some sort, named Elvis.  I have another dog, Winnie, who is as dumb as a pile of bricks, but lovable – she’s a lhasapu-beagle mix. We also have, caged, a leopard gecko named Caleb, and a cockatiel named Charlie.

As witches, or as pagans, or as any sane minded individual, we grow very easily attached to animals which sit with us at night, beg us for food, shit in our shoes, and are generally pains-in-the-butt whenever you don’t want them to be.  My first ever online username, still used today in a lot of my endeavors, was petlover.  I love and respect my animals, and what I have with them is a special connection.  But what makes an animal more a familiar than a pet?  I think it can be summed up in the level of “involved” that the animals get into your spiritual life.

Do they attend ritual with you?  Or sit quietly outside the door, waiting for you to finish?  Do they always stare at you knowingly?  Or nudge you at just the right time during a meditation?  Wake up in the middle of the night to patrol for things that you know only they can see?  When you talk to them – do they answer back?  Are they intelligent?

The funny thing about animals is that they don’t exist as we do.  When we draw the magical circle and recite our words, and put our walls of energy up – our cats, and sometimes our dogs, can pass right through without disrupting the energy.  This has been commented on by at least a few people I know, and I have seen it myself.  Cats are known in Egypt as sacred – and they are meant to pass between the worlds with ease.  Some Egyptians, as I’m sure you all know from history class, would even embalm their cats.

It is no wonder then, that you would choose an animal to help guide you between the worlds on your journeys as a witch.  It is no wonder, also, then, that throughout common history up until recently, the monotheistic world decided it appropriate to change that which was most sacred – cat – into something most feared and, at times, despised.

Yet, you can’t just go out and buy a cat, or a dog, and expect them to be your companion in your endeavors.  Some of my animals don’t fit the criteria to really be familiars.  I think, in terms of finding a familiar, a kitten, or a puppy is probably most easy.  You train them from early on to be your friend, and what to do around candles.  Because, let’s be practical, no one wants to go to the vet with a singed animal and shrug, “They shouldn’t have touched the candles!”  The rest – however far you take it – is up to your relationship with the animal.  Out of my animals, only two of the four free-range are really in that sort of relationship with me to be considered familiars, or craft working partners.

It is much like working with a coven, or a partner in the craft: a fellow high priest or priestess.  The bond that develops is one that cannot necessarily be described.  Be warned, however: the deeper you love, the deeper you feel the loss – whether you are going on vacation, traveling away from home, or one of you is passing from this world into the next. Be warned, also, that many times, after a familiar has passed on, you will have recurring dreams of them.  I still dream of my first close companions.

A familiar is not a demon rose up out of the ashes – at least in my experience.  There is no bloody summoning ritual in Wicca to get an animal which you will control and bend to your whims.  Perhaps you’ll find a cat, or a dog, someday, in the middle of nowhere, with no explanation or tags, and that animal will become your familiar.  But I’m sure much of what we need by familiars can be fulfilled with a pet store, constant love, and affection, and careful meditation regarding the issues at hand.


27 responses to “The Black Cat Conundrum: Familiars in Witchcraft

  1. Great! My cat IS a monotheist: in his opinion he himself is the only god in universe – or at least at our home. I noticed this when he startet to drink water from the calice on my altar. Finaly he broke the figurines of go and goddess by throwing them off the altar…

  2. Hello I have a question. For the year and a half I have been followed by a raven. This creature has never been hostile, however the Raven does not get close to me. The Raven prefers to sit at a distance and watch me no matter what I do. The thing that scares me a little is that Ravens are a social bird, yet when I see the Raven He is always alone. I say I have been followed because it does not matter where i go I constantly see him. When I go on roadtrips I can see the Raven flying away from the car but in the direction I am going. The Raven always makes it to whereever I am going. The Raven even was with me during winter, a time when ravens and all the ravens in my area have left for warmer climates. My question is why does this Raven follow me, and what is it trying to teach or tell me?

  3. Hi. Ravens are generally associated with the Mother Goddess’s crone form, Hecate – at least in my tradition. I know that in New York, where I live, there are often black birds – ravens and crows – which are present regardless of the season.

    You say the creature is always there. Is it in collective reality? Do others see it? Or is it in your individual sight only?

    My best advice to offer would be to meditate on the animal. Ask it to speak to you, to tell you what message it brings.

    It may also be your totem – a signal of good luck, or that you’re along the correct path. I often see mine – a Red Tail Hawk – before I leave for any large trip or momentous occasion, as well as when I’m having an off day, or a really on day.

    I hope that helps!

  4. That interesting about them being there year round. When I say the creature is always there I mean that it is everywhere. Everyone can see him. When my girlfriend and I started dating she thought I was nuts, but now she wholeheartedly believes and finds it just a tad creepy that a “wild animal” in her eyes would follow just one person. Thank you for the advice I will have to try that if i can find a place to meditate. You are saying that it could be my totem; do totems usually pick the person? Your red-tailed hawk, when did you first start seeing it? Does the creature come to you if you call it? Is it a companion during rituals and other times of magick use? Did he/she have a message? If so what was it? Does it bring you new information constantly if you listen to him/her? I dont mean to pry. I have just seen this Raven of mine so long without contact that the bond you share with your Red-Tailed Hawk seems facinating, and I want to learn all I can about creature bonds.

  5. Totems pick the person usually, yes – we don’t get to look through a book and go, “Ooh! A Dolphin! That’s my totem!” This isn’t to say you can’t have more than one totem.

    The red tail I’ve been noticing all of my life, and it is always a memorable occasion. It is not always the same bird. The few times I’ve asked to see the animal, I do usually get positive results, whether it is seeing the animal or the remains of its last meal or a feather (lol).

    I do not often see the Red Tail during rituals – but I have seen other animals during rituals – like coyotes – which hold significance as well.

    Usually, the red tail speaks to me of comfort. But it also speaks to me of duty – where I am along the path and where I must go.

    Treat the animal with respect – begin saying hello to it. If you like the animal, a way to keep it with you and open the lines of communication is to find out everything you can about it. What are its habits if its in a group? Begin decorating your surroundings with images – carvings, statues, pictures, computer desktop.

    The more you immerse yourself in a totem’s imagery, the more you’ll get out of the connection.

  6. Pingback: Eclipse Energy « Pagan Pages

  7. Crowdel – I’m sure there are plenty of instances of your familiar protecting you. My dogs and cats both often stare, hair raised, at something I cannot see.

    D – black represents mystery and the sacred, and cats represent the feminine and the sacred. Be thankful you have been blessed with the presence of such a wonderful companion, especially one as noble as a cat, to cross your path.

  8. acutally, i am having a similar situation like that with the Raven.

    For the past month I have seen this cat everywhere. I open my apartment door and he/she is there, i go to my car (which is never in the same spot, and I actually changed cars 2 weeks ago) and I see him or her. This happens almost every day. I feel like this cat has chosen me as an owner, and I have no say in the matter. Just yesterday I went to get into my car and he came up and started cuddling next to my feet and purring (not meowing). I looked at him and said, “pumpkin (my name for him cause he is light grey with orange spots) i need to get into my car” so he stops. and then he goes and sits behind my car. as if he doesn’t want me to leave!

    I am not pagan (however, i am not close-minded and i am open to ideas), but my best friend is. she told me that I have a familiar. What do i do? What does this mean?

  9. Well, it seems indeed that the cat has adopted you. I would suggest adopting the cat before it kills you while you sleep.

    lol, cats are great companions, and regardless of spirituality, they often look at you in such a way that you can almost hear them speak to you. What do you think the cat wants to tell you?

    Cats can be friends, they can be sisters and brothers, they can be children. If you’ve taken the time to search out a resource like this on the web, chances are that you have an idea of what the cat wants to tell you – you’re just not sure whether or not to accept the idea that the cat is talking to you, or the cat represents something in your spiritual path that you have to figure out.

    Advice remains as ever: meditate on the cat. Spend time with the animal. If it doesn’t have an owner, maybe you should let it into your life. They make wonderful companions, feet warmers…lol

    Is the cat perhaps representative of something else that is staring you in the face, but you are not letting into your life?

    I hope I’ve helped a bit 🙂

  10. you have helped a lot thank you…and randomly in the middle of the night last night -like 3 am-(while he was meowing loudly under my window, which is next to my bed) i grumbled, “samson, go away…i will feed you tomorrow.” the strangest part? he went away…i’m positive the cat is a he, and i have never-even thought of that name for him. and yet it came to me in my dead sleep.

    everyone else in my life agrees with you, the cat has indeed chosen me. i am most likely adopting him this weekend or within the next week!

    thanks for all your help, and i will still be visiting this page to hear other people’s updates too…

  11. I just recently had a cat “adopt” me, she’s all black and seemed happy enough to be outside.
    I just hope she can get along with my current kitty. And I’ve named her “pagan”, and she seems to like it.

  12. “the deeper you love, the deeper you feel the loss”…

    So very true… I had a little black and white cat show up at my house when I was 18 and demand to be let in. She became my familliar. Whe I lost her, I was devistated. It was like a piece of me had been ripped away.
    I am now 26. I went into a local animal shelter and was accosted by a small black and white female cat. My Whisper came back to me… I can feel it.
    Blessings to all

    ~Sorcelle and Phoenix

  13. Ok, so I’ve got a question… for the past 6 years I have seen a black cat in my home, doesnt matter where im living, its still there. I have seen it at night when im going to sleep, watching me from the other side of the sliding glass doors that led from my room to the living room, ive gone into a bathroom and its siting on the ledge of the bathtub or jumping into the tub… now the home of those siteing, i had not cats at the time… I currently live in my great grandmothers home (who passed away last year) and I am constantly seeing the cat in my room and going from my room to the main part of the house… We do have cats at this home, but they are not in my room/living area (when you enter the front door of the house, theres 2 more doors… one goes for my room/living area and the other is for the main part of the house that my grandmother lives in). I have only ever had one black cat in my life as a pet, unfortunatly I had to “put him down” last year due to him becoming very sick. So what does these sighting or this black cat mean? Would he be considered my familiar?

  14. I was chosen by a cat 4 years ago and he lives with me still today. He is highly possessive of me and I often joke he is in love with me since he often hates any man that’s interested in me. He also rather embarassingly humps my dirty clothes…but that aside we do have a special connection and it goes further than just human and pet. He becomes frustrated when my attention is diverted away from him for long periods of time and is sometimes miffed if I am called away from home expectedly. He’s extremely intelligent and I always know what’s on his mind. He becomes disturbed if I am unhappy and requires attention at certain times of the day, including a formal greeting when I return home each day. He simply must sample any food I am partaking of even if it’s extra hot vindaloo, or a tomato. He chose me and he also chose the apartment we are now living in. Am I insane? Or just a noob when it comes to special companions?

  15. I’ve been searching a lot lately for a cat. I’ve never put much thought into the whole ‘familiar’ thing just because I figured it would present itself when/if it happened. Then we went to the humane society the other day (three rooms full of cats) and I don’t even know how it happened, but the second room we went into, there was a beautiful, grey tiger cat with big green eyes like I’ve never seen. She started nudging my hand and rubbing on me. Needless to say, I was hooked. I don’t even know how I knew she was a female. I just did. Then when we went up to do the paper work for adoption, I found out that she had a name already. I had been thinking up names (Bast was one of my choices) and lo and behold, her name is Luna. I LOVE the moon and when I found out her name is Luna, I went off the deep end. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting to hear if they’ve approved us for adoption, but I believe she was adopting me. In the mean-time, I’ve been reading up on familiars and praying hard that I get her.

  16. Im Shanice and there’s a pregnant cat,constantly hanging around my door. I dont know why cuz ive always been scared of cats. And when shes not at my door,shes in my backyard, 1 day she was in my backyard, it came to mind to feed her,then i thought,no she might not leave. What do u think that mean?

    • Hi Shanice. I’m not sure what part you want me to analyze. If you’re scared of cats, this might be a sign to open up to them. But, if you’re not ready to commit to caring for that cat and her babies, please don’t start feeding her. You’ll put her in a worse position than she already is.

  17. I was recently adopted by a stray cat which i believe to be my familiar. I also adopted an orphan birdy but the cat killed it. Last nite i recieved a message through automatic writing. The entity told me a name it wished to be called and it mentions a blackbird. Could the message be from my cat lol?

  18. hi i started reading about wicca some tym last year and was very interested i lite candles ive bought evrything for an alter but neva got around to doin it scared to take da first step february 2011 i drive into da diveway n out of nower a couple day old charcoal grey/white kitten follows me i new we wer conectd in sum way so i took her in up til dis day i dont know why shes with me….

  19. Hi! I’m new to this site, but not new to Paganism. A while ago, while I was out with my sister in law, a black kitten (with white hairs) managed to find me. The moment I saw her, I knew she was mine. I believe that she protects me, she is always close to me, cares for me, and whenever someone comes near the house that she doesn’t like, she warns me. She’s too opinionated to be called a pet. I believe that she is my familiar, my guardian, because she communicates with me so well. I know her, just as well as she knows me and what I’m feeling. Not long after I found her, another kitten (a sunshine colored tabby cat), found me. She is close to me as well…My question is: Since I haven’t practiced in 5 years, can I still receive familiars, and is this a sign to start practicing again?

  20. I have a question, I am a new Pagen, but I adopted my cat from the animal shelter. for some reason I had this feeling I needed to go to the shelter, so my daughter (1 year) and myself went. As soon as I seen Milo, I knew he was the one. The bond we have with each other is un real. However, he is not black. he is orange tiger. Are Wiccan’s cats ‘supposed to be’ black? I know that’s a stereotype but I cannot find anything about it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s