Divine Feline

The Divine Feline is written by New York Times bestselling author  Ame Dyckman. Divine Feline's portrait is drawn by Steelgoddess ♥

Greetings, human kittens! Allow me to introduce myself…

Except, I can’t. This is all very hush-hush, you know. Familiars just don’t give “Everything You Need to Know About Familiars” lessons...

...until now.

It was decided last night at our Monthly Familiars Meeting. Votes were cast by every local paw and claw and wing and fin, and the outcome was unanimous: we familiars agreed that the more you wee witches are taught now, the better magickal partners you will make when you grow up.

I was elected to educate you. Perhaps it was due to my eloquence. My articulation. My simply divine nature.

Or maybe it was because I’m the only one who can type.

No matter. Back to the introduction! For the time being, just call me… The Divine Feline. (Ooh, I love the sound of that!)

Click HERE for a mask template (adapted from The State Library of Louisianato print, cut and decorate! 
Now welcome, kittens, to your first lesson:

Ready for the definition? Okay, here goes: A familiar is an animal or spirit companion who shares a close bond with a witch and aids their craftwork. (And, in the case of us black cats, you can add, “--with style!”)

While the details vary from magickal relationship to magickal relationship, traditional duties for a familiar include assisting with their witch’s:
  • Spellwork (by lending energy during a ritual). 
  • Astral travel (by acting as a grounding beacon or alternate Sight vessel). 
  • General psychic development (through the use of nonverbal communication). 
  • Happiness (because we are marvelous!). 
Familiars come in two main categories: physical and nonphysical. Physical familiars are animals--like me! The most common physical familiars are cats, dogs, toads, and owls. (Not that anyone could ever call a cat common, of course!)

Nonphysical familiars are spirits. They like to appear as thought-images when you’re meditating or dreaming, or work through other animals, people, or objects. There are three types of nonphysical familiars: astral, discarnate, and elemental.

An astral familiar is an animal spirit, often a former family pet who’s passed to the Summerland. (Yes, we animals have a Summerland too--and nobody minds if we scratch the couch there!) It can also be the spirit of a type of animal you’ve always felt connected to. These are sometimes called “totem animals.”

A discarnate familiar is a human spirit, often a relative or friend who’s passed to the Summerland. These are sometimes called “guardian spirits.”

An elemental familiar is a spirit manifestation of one of the four material Elements: Earth, Water, Air, or Fire. Elementals are often kept within an object--a lamp, ring, gemstone, etc. (I tried to invite a local elemental to our Monthly Familiars Meeting, but he wouldn’t come out of his shell--literally!)

While the others have their good points, I’m sure you can see that physical familiars such as yours truly are the best category of familiar. On the one paw, we’re cute. (Okay, my fellow familiar Tyffin isn’t exactly what I’d call cute, but maybe he’s cute to other tarantulas.) On the other paw, we’re good company. And finally, unlike spirit familiars, you can always blame us for eating the homework you didn’t do.

The “traditional” physical familiars (cats, dogs, toads, and owls) are just examples of the many types of animal that make good familiars. Others that have been fashionable at one time or another include spiders (like ol’ Tyffin), turtles, mice, snakes, and “The Three Rs”--ravens, rabbits, and rats. But any animal, from a cricket to a crocodile, has the potential to be a good familiar for you as long as they adhere to both of these two important conditions:
  • They want to be your familiar. 
  • Your parents will let you keep them. 
Got that, kittens? Great! What's that? You want see me? My eyes will have to do for the present. Purrr-haps next time... but for now, click the mask above for a surprise from me, your Familiar Friend--the Divine Feline ♥

So, think you're ready for Lesson Two--How Do I Get a Familiar? When you feel you’re ready for a familiar, and your parents/guardians agree, there are two ways to go about getting one. But before we talk about those, let's do something much more important--have a look at me!


Alright--if you can manage to tear yourself away from my beautiful image, let's talk about your familiar options--there are two... Making a familiar of an animal you already have. Getting a new animal to be your familiar. Making a familiar of an animal you already have can be the easiest of the two options, if your current pet wants to be your familiar. How will you know they’re interested in the job? The answer is: Ask them. That’s it. Easy-peasy, piece of kibble. Just look them in the eyes and ask. You can ask out loud, or in your head. Just be sincere, and see how your pet responds. If their answer is positive, congratulations! A celebration is in order! (I suggest sharing a can of tuna fish, but the exact refreshment choices are up to you.) But if their answer is no, that’s okay--you still have a wonderful pet, and your perfect familiar is still out there, waiting for you. 

So how do you find that new animal that’s destined to be your familiar? You have two choices: seek or call. If you choose to seek, you’ll go and actively look for your animal familiar. With your parent’s/ guardian’s permission and help, you can: 
  • Visit your local animal shelter. 
  • Go to an animal adoption day at your local pet supplies store. 
  • Investigate a “free to good home” listing that particularly catches your eye. 
  • Take a walk in the woods and see what you find. 
As you interact with a prospect, repeat the “Do you wish to be my familiar?” exercise above. And when you find “the one,” you’ll know it. If you choose to call for an animal familiar, you’re asking a familiar to come and find you. Think of it as placing a sort of extrasensory want ad: Young witch seeks animal friend for assistance with craftwork. Some (astral) travel required. House-trained a plus. 

Before you begin, find a quiet spot where you can meditate and focus your energy. If you have a preference for a certain type of animal, (say, oh I dunno… a cat), you can hold a representation such as a picture or figurine in your hands to help direct your thoughts. (But remember the first rule of calling a familiar: you are to love whatever comes to you. Be sure to remind Mom of this if your call is answered by a skunk.) Then, once you feel ready, select a word or phrase that reflects your wish (it can be as simple as just thinking, familiar!), hold it in your head and heart until you feel it form like a bubble, then let the thought go. Imagine your call floating throughout your neighborhood, your town or city, and beyond. And then, wait to see what shows up! 

And speaking of showing up, I can hear my witch at the door! (I can’t let her know I can type, or she’ll make me write this year’s Yule letter to all her friends and relatives!)

Greetings, human kittens! It’s your secret ally known as The Divine Feline, sneaking onto my witch’s computer to provide you with insider tips on all things Familiar!

So, how did you fare with your first two lessons, What Is a Familiar? and How Do I Get a Familiar? By now, it’s likely you’ve already discovered your ideal magickal partner, or they’ve completed their journey to you. (Unless, of course, your destined familiar is a tortoise, in which case… well, just try to be patient.)

But if you’ve successfully found each other, it’s time for the next lesson: What Should I Name My Familiar? And the answer? You should name them the perfect name. Lesson completed! Maybe there’s time to order some Fish Crunchies before my witch gets home…

What? Now you want to know how to come up with that perfect name? Okay, my petite Pagans, I guess my Fishy Crunchies will have to wait…

Here I am with my pal Will Shakespeare--he was good at coming up with names: "I come, Greymalkin!"

To find the perfect mystickal moniker for your familiar, you can allow the name to reveal itself to you (through meditation, divination, dreaming, etc.), or you can research lists of names with magickal significance until you find one that clicks with you. What sort of lists? Well, here are a few categories to get you started:
  • Names of Gods and Goddesses: Always popular are Anubis, Brighid, Diana, Freyja, Hecate, and my personal favorites, the cat/lioness goddesses Bast and Tefnut. And of course, for familiars with a bit of a “playful” streak, there’s Pan, Puck, Loki, Robin Goodfellow, etc. 
  • Names of Literary Characters: Here you’ll find possibilities from the mighty Aslan to the mini Frodo! There’s wizards (Merlin, Gandalf), fairies (Oberon, Titania), and even some familiars you might recognize (Crookshanks, Pigwidgeon), etc. 
  • Names from the Garden: Many great names can be found right in your magickal garden! Those with a nice ring to them include Hawthorn, Juniper, Mugwort, Mandrake, Meadowsweet, Pennyroyal, Rowan, Saffron, Willow, Yarrow… ack, I have to stop! I’m getting the urge to nibble on the houseplants! 
  • Names from Witchcraft Trial Transcripts: Oh, it was such an awful time, but the familiars then had fantastic names! There was Bidd (a ferret); Elimanzer, Grissell, Greedigut, Jarmara, and Vinegar Tom (dogs); Hiff Hiff (a mole); Newes (a polecat); Pyewackett (a cat); Sacke & Sugar (a rabbit), and several more. And you recall my familiar friend, Tyffin the tarantula? His is a transcript name, too! (The original was a lamb, though. Still, they’re both sort of fuzzy, so it works--you don’t have to stick with the original species assignment!) 
When you’ve found a name that seems right to you, it’s time for the Big Test: trying it out on your familiar. Look into your familiar’s eyes and say the name out loud. If you get a positive reaction (purring, wagging, licking, etc.), you’ve found your familiar’s name! But if you get a negative reaction (hissing, growling, turning their butt to you)--well, you’d better keep looking!

Eventually, you’ll find the name that you both love. And when you do, celebrate! This celebration can be as elaborate as a traditional naming ritual, or as simple as merely sharing a snack and some time together. And speaking of a snack, where did I see that cat treats webpage?

Oops! That’s the front door--my witch is home from the store already! And… I know that noise! It’s the rattle of a can of Fish Crunchies! She remembered! Aw, it’s so nice to be appreciated! Until next lesson, kittens! Have a divine time until we meet again--your familiar friend :)

Greetings, human kittens! It is I, the familiar code-named The Divine Feline, typing on the sly while my witch is out to provide you with an insider’s view of all things familiar. Now that we’ve covered the basics (What Is A Familiar?, How Do I Get A Familiar?, What Do I Name My Familiar?), it’s finally time for you and your furry/feathered/finned-whatever! friend to discover the marvelous, magickal ways you can work together! How exciting! My tail is twitching and I’m grinning like my famous Cheshire cousin over today’s lesson: How Do I Communicate With My Familiar?

A strong communication link is the defining trademark of a fabulous witch/familiar relationship! With practice, patience, and plenty of positive reinforcement, you and your familiar will be able to understand each other verbally and non-verbally (psychically). (I define positive reinforcement as the bestowment of a handful of Fishy Crunchies, but to each his own, I suppose.) 

An important note: whether you’re attempting verbal or non-verbal communication with your animal familiar, remember to approach them for practice only when they’re relaxed and happy. (Just as you don’t always listen your best when you’re tired/hungry/feeling cranky, neither will your familiar!)Now, let’s take a peek at some examples and exercises you can try!

Verbal Communication 
By now, you and your familiar have probably experienced, at least a little bit, how verbal communication works. You call them by name they look at you or come to you, right? They meow or bark or cheep, and you fill the food bowl or get the leash, right? Voilà, verbal communication!

You can increase your verbal interaction skills by repeating simple requests (“calm,” “stay”) getting increasingly specific with your wishes and their duties (“please bring me the large white candle,” “please don’t lick the salt I laid down for my circle”) as you make progress. (But, anytime you make physical requests, always keep in mind the physical limitations of your familiar’s form. My friend Tyffin the Tarantula can’t fetch anything larger than a cupcake candle--and even that takes him awhile.)

When talking to your familiar, use your normal speaking tone, and avoid using baby-talk and cutesy phrases. (Unless, of course, you’re telling them they’re “Mr.-Mystic-Pretty-Kitty.” That’s okay. Uh, I mean, for cat familiars who like that sort of thing…) And remember, verbal communication goes both ways. If you continue to respond appropriately when they voice what they want (“feed me”/”walk me”/”pet me”/”play with me”) they’ll do the same for you--take it from me!

Non-Verbal (Psychic) Communication 
With dedication and hard work from you both, you and your familiar can ultimately achieve an amazing extrasensory bond that transcends both sound and distance. (I know! Amazing, isn’t it?)

So, how do you achieve this level of awareness? The answer is practice, practice, practice! Here’s an elementary exercise to get you started:

It’s traditional for your familiar to be facing East when you attempt psychic communication exercises, but if they’re already resting peacefully along another compass point, it might be best not to move them. (Lounging on my window perch, I face North--and I loathe to be relocated once I’m all paws-tucked-in and comfy!) To begin, look your familiar in the eyes and project a word phrase (for example, “Blink if you hear me,”) or an appealing image (“Fresh salmon!”) and see if your familiar reacts appropriately.

When you do have that “they heard me!” moment, it’s your turn as the “receiver.” Praise your familiar, then immediately ready yourself for whatever they send back to you. As when it was your turn as “sender,” what you get from them could be in the form of a spoken phrase, or as an image. Just open your mind and see what you get!

Once you’ve mastered psychic communication when you can see each other, give it a try when you and your familiar are in separate rooms. Ultimately, you can work up to sending and receiving phrases and images over many miles! Really! It’s even better than cell phones! (I never can press those teeny little buttons right…)

Oh, hairballs! I hear my witch pulling up in the driveway already! Now I have to project “I was just napping! I was just napping!” and hope she doesn’t suspect what I’ve really been up to!

Greetings, human kittens. It is I, the witch’s cat with the pen name The Divine Feline, and this is where I usually dish up the inside scoop on all things familiar--when I haven’t been so terribly wronged, that is!

 What’s got my tail in a twist today, you ask? I’ll tell you--I’ve been banished from the kitchen! And (unlike the infamous Cheese Platter Sampling Incident of Beltane 2008), I actually didn’t do anything to deserve it! My witch is being so unfair! So, for today’s lesson, I thought we’d have a little chat about Appreciating Your Familiar...

Familiars have always been the cat's meow! An animal familiar is much more than just another mystical tool. (Does your athame or your scrying mirror give you a sympathetic head-butt when you’ve had a bad day? I think not!) An animal familiar not only boosts your spiritual side--they give your spirits a boost, too! In return, much like a cherished pet, we’re supposed to be treated as a member of the family. (At least!)

Appreciating the animal(s) in your life isn’t a new concept--it’s a practice seen in many enlightened cultures throughout history. But no other group could hold a candle to the kings (or should I say, pharaohs?) of animal appreciation, the ancient Egyptians. And what animal was the favorite of these obviously highly advanced people? Why, the cat, of course!

The Divine Feline and the Divine Sekhmet--purrrfect together! (Sekhmet Awakening by Sandra Stanton)

The Egyptians treasured us. Revered us. Adored us as the marvelous magickal beings we are! They worshipped feline gods (the cheetah-headed goddess Mafdet, lion-headed god Maahes, lion-headed goddess Sekhmet, and cat-headed Bast/Bastet), and constructed exquisite temples—even cities, such as the famed Bubastis—to honor them. They left offerings before art bearing our likenesses, and wore cat-shaped charms to bring protection, increased fertility, and good fortune. They celebrated cats for their ability to rid rodents from the granaries, their skill in dispatching poisonous snakes, and even brought their cats on hunting expeditions to retrieve fowl and fish.

It was illegal to export a cat from Egypt, and harming or killing a cat was punishable by heavy fines--or death! Cat welfare was so important, that when an Egyptian house caught fire, the rescuers would save the cats first! And, legend tells that when a Persian king sent his invading army marching into the Egyptian city of Pelusia, the Pelusians surrendered rather than harm the cats that the soldiers held!

Statues of cats were placed outside Egyptian homes to ward off evil spirits. And inside the home, family cats were adorned with collars and earrings of gold and jewels, allowed to eat from their owners’ plates, and showered with attention and respect. (Hmph. I’ll bet they were never shooed from the kitchen!)

And when an Egyptian house cat died, its family observed full mourning rituals--including shaving off their eyebrows to express their sorrow. They continued to grieve as their cat’s body was prepared for mummification, then placed in a little sarcophagus with food, milk, and anything else the cat might need in the underworld--even mummified mice to play with! Then, funeral rites were held as the cat was laid to rest in the family’s vault, in any of the numerous cat cemeteries throughout the land, or in the Necropolis of Bubastis. (In 1890, over 300,000 cat mummies were discovered there. 300,000!)

Well, it’s nice to see that someone knew how a cat--never mind a familiar cat--should be treated! Hiss! I don’t know what’s gotten into my witch, but I do know that I’m getting into that kitchen right now and finding out what she’s been up to!

Er, I’m back. And, I found out why I wasn’t allowed in the kitchen. My witch was making me a surprise Tuna Cake--my very favorite. (You take the recipe for a basic chocolate cake, and replace the chocolate with tuna. Delicious!) She makes me one every year…

…on the anniversary of the day I became her familiar.


Please excuse me, my mini mages… I have some serious make-up ankle-rubbing and purring to do. Give your familiars a big hug (you hedgehog owners can just smile and wave), and have a divine time until we meet again!

Divine Feline says: Remember to keep hydrated!  >^..^<

Yours truly, the witch’s cat a.k.a. the Divine Feline, has just returned safe and sound from a... little vacation. (I hate to admit it, but that absurd Kitty Door did come in handy. My witch must still be asleep. Or upset with me for running away. Or both.) Let's begin our latest lesson: Protecting Your Animal Familiar...

Protection magick is an important part of caring for your familiar year-round. But it is especially so at Samhaintide, when the boundary between the worlds is thinnest, and pranksters on both sides increase their midnight mischief. Yet fear not: there are several magickal means by which you can provide extra protection to your favorite animal friend.
  • Herbs and Plants. Numerous herbs and plants help protect their bearer and their vicinity from harm and deflect negative actions or spirits. Better-smelling alternatives to the old garlic necklace are basil, bay leaves, cinnamon, clove, comfrey, fennel, marjoram, and rosemary. Place a pinchful in a small square of white or red cotton cloth, and tie this teeny sachet to your familiar’s collar, or hang on or around their resting cage, aquarium, terrarium, etc. A word of caution, however: ALWAYS check with your vet, shaman, herbalist (or this powerful Google oracle I hear so much about) for possible toxic effects with your particular animal before using. 
  •  Shells, Bells, and Stones. Several natural items such as crystals, gemstones, and shells have protective properties—and they look fabulous when affixed to a collar, harness, leash, or lead. A round, white shell, or even the smallest bit of amber, black onyx, black tourmaline, clear or rose quartz (watch out for sharp points!), opal, peridot, sapphire, or turquoise can be especially effective. 
  • Cord and Color Magic. A nine-knotted red cord placed round your familiar’s sleeping area will provide protection, as will red ribbon-tied braids in maned/long-haired animals. (Tyffin got his leg hair braided last Samhain—it was a riot!) And, when the adult witches in your household perform their Samhain home protection ritual, ask them to burn a brown candle for your familiar alongside their red one. 

How about crafting some protection for your pet? Try these!

The Home Bottle Charm
Gather together:
a small bottle with a stopper or lid a piece of red thread or ribbon
a snippet of your animal’s fur (ask first!),
discarded feather, scale, etc.
a red candle or sealing wax (get an adult to help)
aluminum foil
black fabric or black paper

Concentrate on protection for your animal friend as you assemble and work with these items. Take the snippet/feather/scale, etc, and tie with the red thread or ribbon. Place into the bottle. (You may add any other protective or home-symbolic items—herbs, a tiny drawing, etc.—that you wish.) I don't know about you, but I feel safer already! Then have an adult help you seal your bottle shut with the wax. Wrap the bottle with the aluminum foil, then the black fabric or paper. Place your familiar’s protective bottle near the point where they enter or exit your home (or in the case of indoor animals, near a favorite outdoor viewing spot, or near their sleeping area). Recharge monthly or as needed by holding the bottle in your hand, and visualizing your familiar as safe and well. 

The “Hamster Ball” Protection Spell 
You don’t truly need anything for this one except your will. Hold your familiar or get as close to them as possible. Envision a sphere of white protective energy encircling the two of you. Then set your familiar down and slowly back away. As you do, see a smaller ball of white protective energy stretching around them from your main sphere. I'm surrounded by a hamster ball of love! When fully encircled, their smaller energy ball can separate from yours, and will help protect them at all times. (See? It looks like a hamster ball, doesn’t it?!) Repeat each full moon or as needed. (While not necessary, if this spell is new for you, you can encircle your familiar’s habitat or sleeping area with white wool yarn for the first seven days after casting this spell to strengthen it. Just make sure your familiar doesn’t have any—ahem!—yarn chasing and/or eating tendencies.)

♥ ♥ ♥ 

Charged with your intent, these charms and spell (along with good ol’-fashioned common sense, of course) will help keep your animal safe while indoors, while roaming outside… …or even on their long journey home after they get angry, switch off their psychic communication link, and run away because their witch forgot their vacation bag of Fishy Crunchies on the kitchen counter. (Hypothetically, of course.) Hear that? There was a creak upstairs. I think my witch is awake! Before I run upstairs and deliver multiple “cheer up!” head-butts, I leave you with this final bit of advice for your familiar this festival:

Their safest place, this Samhain’s dark, 
Is happily curled upon home’s hearth. 

Until next lesson… What is it now, Tyffin?! You interrupted my cool sign-off phrase! Huh? Oh. Sorry. I’ll add it now: Unless you’re a spider. (Rowr! They’re so touchy about that word, “curled.”) Until next lesson, kittens! Have a divine (and safe!) time until we meet again.

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