you desire a spiritual connection with the animal world, but think
the experience is available only to the spiritually evolved or
gifted-don't despair. A "familiar" is simply a living
creature having personal and spiritual meaning to you, and the
experience is available to anyone who seeks it. No need for otherworldly
experiences or altered states of consciousness. Personal awareness
and desire are key, not revelation. A gradual opening of your
mind and spirit to the animal world goes a long way toward enriching
your life and adding another level to your spiritual practice.
people describe enjoying a spiritual relationship with a particular
animal, but the nature of that connection differs greatly from
person to person. Some describe their familiar as a "spiritual
teacher," while others choose words like "companion"
or "messenger." A common misconception is that familiars
appear only in the form of animals commonly associated with magic,
such as the cat, wolf, toad, or eagle. True, these animals seem
to enjoy some measure of popularity, but there is no "rule."
Such a belief creates a narrow perception of familiars and leaves
some spiritual folks feeling left by the wayside. Just as we are
all different, there is no "one" way to discover your
animal familiar and no "right" way to honor or experience
If the idea of having a spiritual connection with an animal feels
foreign or strange, try thinking of animals as members of your
family. As human beings, we are mammals and already part of the
wondrous, intricate web of living creatures that roam the earth,
fill the oceans, and speckle the skies. It's easy to lose sight
of the similarities between ourselves and other members of the
animal kingdom, especially for those of use who live and work
in large cities, separated from most animals. However, thinking
about our similarities is a great way to raise our consciousness
and feel more in touch with them.
different animals, individual human beings have unique natures
that guide life choices, such as the number of people we live
with or our preference for city or country living. Just as animals
are instinctively driven to live in certain environments, we also
choose "habitats" that meet our spiritual needs and
desires. These choices include the type of home we prefer as well
as what we surround ourselves with-such as art, music, and furnishings.
like any species, we depend on one another, but the amount we
socialize differs between individuals. Some people prefer life
in highly structured social communities while others prefer more
solitary wandering. Our dietary habits also vary widely. Some
of us are carnivorous hunters, some vegetarian foragers, and yet
others a combination of both. We also show a penchant for particular
climates, some people longing for the heat and solitude of the
desert while others seek the ebb and flow of the ocean.
about your lifestyle choices: your home, diet, and social connections.
These things offer hints about the animals with which you share
common traits. When you start to think about familiars this way,
it becomes easier to find meaningful connections. Which animals
seem to be in your "family?"
Most of us know someone who has an extraordinary connection to
a particular animal. Perhaps we have an aunt who collects feathers
from every bird imaginable or know a photographer with an uncanny
ability for capturing images of butterflies in flight. Although
these strong connections do occur, many people experience more
a few minutes to think about animals you generally feel "kin"
to. Think about pets you have kept as companions and what they
brought to your life. Which did you feel particularly close to?
How did they come to you? Were they orphaned? A gift from a special
person? Did you have an instant love affair with them? Did they
arrive unannounced at your home and refuse to leave?
can also take a walk through the rooms of your home or flip through
your photo albums. Does one particular animal reappear often?
You might also look at your favorite movies and books. Do any
of them feature a particular animal character? Many connections
between humans and animals are subconscious until effort is made
to bring them out.
Think in Groups
If you are still struggling to find an animal you relate to, try
to find a category of animal that makes "psychic sense"
to you. Consider the various groupings of animals and their most
fundamental characteristics, and think about them in relation
to spiritual principles of air, fire, water, and earth.
This is the warm-blooded group of animals humans belong to. We
give birth to live young and nourish them with our own milk. Most
mammals live in groups and demonstrate quite elaborate social
organization-much like us!
Spiritual Dimensions: Mammals are typically associated with earth
qualities, but, depending on their habitat and individual characteristics,
may also embody other aspects.
The cold-blooded group of lung-breathing animals has protective,
scaled skin and are often very colorful. Many reptiles shed their
skin, or re-grow body parts lost to injury or assault. Cold-bloodedness,
normally given a "bad rap," embodies the nature of the
adaptive, and suggests responsiveness to environmental changes.
Reptiles lay eggs and are not particularly doting parents.
Examples: Lizards, turtles, snakes, crocodiles, and alligators.
Spiritual Dimensions: Depending on the individual animal, reptiles
may represent earth or fire. Their changing and adaptive natures
reflect spiritual growth and healing.
These egg layers feature feathers and lightweight, hollow bones.
They have no teeth and high metabolisms-eating a tremendous amount
of food and producing much heat. They are known for having beautiful
voices and their unique ability to "speak." Complex
behavior is found in migration patterns, courtship, and incubation
behavior. Birds are often associated with oracles and predicting
Examples: Songbirds, seabirds, carrion eaters, birds of prey,
Spiritual Dimensions: Birds belong in the realm of air, the intellectual
and realm of the spirit.
The word itself means "double life." Amphibians have
cool skin that is usually slippery, making them hard to catch!
They have four limbs and no scales. They have toxins in their
skins, and are often brightly colored.
Examples: Salamanders, newts, toads, frogs, and caecilians.
Spiritual Dimensions: Creatures of both earth and water, these
animals are highly adaptive, and embody many of both characteristics.
These egg-laying residents of water do not breathe air. They may
inhabit either fresh or salt water. Some make their homes close
to the surface while others exist in the darkness of the ocean's
Spiritual Dimensions: Water. Realm of the emotional, the subconscious,
and the instinctive.
The collective mass of insects on our planet outweighs the mass
of all other species combined. These creatures have no backbone,
and many-such as the bee and the ant-demonstrate elaborate social
organization. They are also known for their ability to undergo
incredibly dramatic metamorphoses.
Spiritual Dimensions: Because insects are found in almost every
corner of the planet, they may be associated with any of the elements.
A careful look at their individual characteristics will offer
hints about their spiritual natures.
Are you someone who hates to get animal hair on your clothes?
Never had a pet or enjoyed bird watching? Do you feel nervous
around dogs and cats? Don't assume this means that you are unlikely
to have a familiar! Quite the opposite, in fact. Often, we fear
or avoid those things we repress in ourselves or those things
we most desire, but are unable to accept. Examine your fears,
aversions, and dislikes of animals; you may be surprised what
you find there and how much you can learn about yourself!
Honoring Your Familiar at the Altar
There are many ways to increase your connections with the animal
world, and one of them is to include them on your altar as part
of your everyday spiritual practices. Again, there is no right
or wrong way to do this. It is simply a way to turn your mind
and spirit to the ways of the natural world and become more attuned
to the animal kingdom. If after thinking about animal familiars
you feel an attraction to a particular animal, you might find
some pictures or representations of them to add to your altar
or your home. Such items might include statures, artwork, sheep's
wool, feathers, turtle shells, birds' nests, or snakeskins. You
might also want to find poems or songs about the animal, and commit
them to memory. If possible, find recordings of the animals' sounds
and listen to them, noting the emotions that their noises evoke.
connected to the animal kingdom happens through conscious intent,
meditation, and desire. There are so many things animals can teach
us when we have eyes to see and ears to listen them. An early
step to exploring spiritual relationships with animals is simply
raising your awareness about them. Going to the library on a quiet
Saturday afternoon and searching for folktales and information
about specific animals is a wonderful way to increase sensitivity
and enjoy an emerging sense of oneness with creatures of the animal
(From Llewellyn's 2008 Magical Almanac)
Image from The Well Worn Path Divination Deck. Like it? Buy