A familiar was traditionally any animal, typically a cat,crow, or rat, that a witch would have to help them in their workings. They’d do tasks such as aiding in spells and rituals, carrying a spell or curse to the witch’s target, and aid them on the astral plane.
These familiars weren’t always physical creatures. Often times they were summoned spirits that would do her bidding as well. These familiars were more than just servants, they were companions and best friend.
I’ve been getting questions asking if the familiars and totems were one and the same. No, they’re not. A familiar is a helpful companion, where as the totem animal is an animal in which you feel that resembles you spiritually.
Recently I’ve also come across questions in how do you tell if you have a familiar. From my experiences and discussing it with fellow pagans and crafters, I deduced that it’s a “love at first sight” sort of happening. Something you’ll just “know”. I’ve had many different kinds of animals and pets, but only had 3 familiars. You can have an incredible relationship and bond with an animal and still not have it be your familiar.
Basically it’s an animal that is magically inclined and it will choose you and will let you know it. If you don’t notice it or choose them too, then it’s not ment to be. It’s a bond that transcends an ordinary bond between human and animal.
In more recent years I’ve noted that fewer and fewer practitioners have been using the summoned familiars. The physical animal familiars, mostly pets, have been of a much broader array of species. Everything from insects and fish to horses and pigs and everything in between.
So keep your eyes open when you get a new pet, or even to the one you currently have. You might be surprised. My current familiar is my little white Merlyn, a shitzu maltese yorkshire mix (odd I know.) My roommate took me over to his friend’s house to pick out a puppy for my early Christmas present. I looked over all the week old puppies with their eyes still shut. I was instantly drawn to him. Soon as I picked him up and he snuggled up to me I just ‘knew’ that he was the one. Brought him home and it turns out that he was indeed my familiar. He’s been a major help whenever I needed someone to just be there. Also gave all my workings he was present at a largely noticable boost and all had turned out successful farther than I had anticipated.
I hope you are able to find a companion that fits your life style and that will help you in all your endeavors.