The Witch’s Familiar

Familiars are another complex side of witchcraft that has been grasped at by many since ancient times. Often times, the stereotype of a witch also includes an animal servant of some kind, like a cat, crow, toad, etc. Though these animals are often associated with witches due to a various amount of reasons, including shapeshifting and illusions, it is not the animal directly which the witch took interest in. It was the spirit housed in the animal. This spirit we known now as a Familiar. 

Familiars in folklore serve two major roles, with an a varying amount of other roles as well. Those two important roles are guiding the witch in their journey and acting as a faithful servant to the witch. It is a companion to their witch-partner. Other roles it serves as is a means of protection to its mate, a watchful set of eyes, an aid in magic, and an assistant in flight/travel. 
One of the common misconceptions about familiars is what they actually are. Many believe them to be a magical animal. They believe them to be an animal graced with the task of helping a witch. However, the original lore on familiars contradicts this. A familiar is not an animal, rather a spirit. Most often in European folklore, it was a demon in the shape of an animal. 
That particular piece of lore may be taken in two ways. 
The first is that the familiars appears to be an animal even while in spirit form. This is what I most often find to be true. The animal that the familiar appears as often reflects the witch it has chosen. Some familiars even change their animal form from time to time, which can become rather confusing. 
The other way to look at that is that the spirit is possessing a physical animal and using it as a living spirit house. This too is known to happen. Any instances of physical familiars is explained by this. 
In addition, familiars don’t just come as animals. Plants have been known to serve as familiars and servants to witches as well. This is shown in the creation of the Alraun, which is a ritual that goes all the way back to old Germany. It is a specially treated root in the form of a human. The spirit inside the root will act as a familiar to the witch who treated it. Often times, many witches prefer to use mandrake roots for this purpose, but there are many options for this. Dandelion roots are excellent for this purpose, as are many kinds of tree roots. I was once in possession of an alraun made from an Eastern Hemlock root. Alrauns, however, are not the only way of keeping a plant familiar. 
Familiars may also be spirits of the dead who have come to serve and aid the witch. Often times in stories of medicine people and shamanic workers, this is the spirit of a dead shaman who has passed their power down to the newly initiated shaman. This too appears in tales of witches, as their ancestors pass down their flame and serve them in death. Spirits of the Mighty Dead may decide to bond to a single living witch and serve and guide them. 
The other kind of familiar is the faery familiar. This kind is often mentioned by witches in areas where fairy faiths were once practiced. One account tells of the Devil kissing the witch and injecting something into her mouth, and when she spit, a fairy came out. These familiars have also accumulated the reputation of being lovers (very befitting of the fair folk). Instead of being simply fed with blood, they were fed by another method (a fairly obvious reference, if you catch my drift). 
Though the actual nature of the familiar is dubious, it appears in many forms; sometimes animal, sometimes plant, sometimes human, sometimes faery, and sometimes in folklore, demonic form. Familiars to outside eyes can appear to be quite horrific things. This ties in with it being known as a demon appearing in the likeness of something natural, or actually physically possessing something/someone. 

The familiar does not only appear in European folklore. In Africa, witches are said to have servants of Jackals, Hyenas, and Hamerkops. In the Americas, witches were said to often have servants of (and shape-shift into) foxes, owls, hawks, lizards, and toads. Of course, in Europe comes the classic witch animals, like the cat, dog, crow, toad, snake, hare, boar, deer, etc. 

The familiar is both a part of the witch and not. It is a spirit which is separate, but when it bonds with a witch, it has found its mate that it will likely serve beyond death. It becomes a part of the witch. Familiars can, however, be passed from witch to witch upon death or renouncing of power. There are stories of witches passing their familiars down from family member to family member. 
While familiars are faithful to their masters, they must choose who their original master is. They cannot be picked out by the witch. 
Familiars are not to be considered the same as servitors. Unlike the servitor, they cannot be created or deconstructed. They are given to the witch at specific points in their journey. I’ve found that they come when first truly beginning your journey. Sometimes that means when latent skills awaken, sometimes it means when one dedicates themselves to the Crooked Way. Sometimes it’s not until after the Spirit Death (which can be a long time).
How do they come? 
Lore gives us three ways. One is during a time of crisis. One is during a normal moment of mundane task. The last is being passed down by another witch or a spirit. Often times, this spirit is whatever deity the witch has a close relationship with. For most traditional witches, this is the Man in Black. 
Not all familiars are so forthcoming, though. Some want to be found before they come to their witch. The witch has to search them out. To find the familiar is to find a connection to the Other, the spirit world, and the wilderness. You have to go to a place that embodies all three of those things. Then you have to make a call to it. It can be an incantation, a song, a spell, or some other noise. Then you watch and wait. You’ll know it when it appears. 
Some also advise that you cross the hedge to find yours. I say why not both? Go to a wild place that is undisturbed by machinery or man’s hand. Stand in a river’s ford. Sit by or in a hole in a tree. Lay on a great stone. Then cross the hedge into the spirit world. Call for it there. 
Assuming that the familiar appears as an animal, it won’t always be the animal you’ll necessarily want. Not everyone can have crows, wolves, toads, cats, etc. If everyone did, we would all be the same. Remember how I said that familiars reflect us as witches? Don’t be upset if yours happens to be a robin or a rat. The animal or plant to come teaches a lot about who you are as a witch. There isn’t a ‘better’ familiar to get. The one you get is the best fit for you, even if you might not think so in the beginning. I know one witch who hated spiders until they got their familiar. Can you imagine how that meeting went?
They might appear in person, in a dream, in a vision flash, or some other method. Sometimes they leave physical signs, sometimes not. It can get confusing at times, but if you’re unsure, divination usually helps. 
The first familiar you acquire is the one that sits at the core of who you are as a witch. It is your fetch-mate. It is the one who will guide you through your trials, teach you witch knowledge, and be a faithful servant after you’ve learned. As you progress on your journey, you may acquire more familiars. They too will teach you important lessons and stick around to attend to you. 

Working with the familiar spirit is one of the more intimate moments as a witch. The bond shared between a familiar spirit and its witch mate is often extremely close. So close, in fact, that until a spirit house is found, familiars will often reside inside of their witch. Folk tales tell of witches utilizing their familiars by spitting them up out of their mouths. Images of witches throwing up crows, hares, and owls were common in European folk lore. 
Familiars can be used to spy, plant spells, fly, aid in magic, and many other witch affairs. Witches in folklore learned how to watch through their familiars eyes to spy on people. They also had them carry hexes, charms, and spells to those they wished. When traveling to spirit worlds or Elphame, witches would ride on the backs of their familiars. Witches riding wolves, birds, hares, and many other creatures have appeared in old drawings and images for a long time. The familiars also acted as guardians to their witches, protecting them in times of peril. All of these uses carry into modern times and what witches use their familiars for now. 

Familiars are befuddling little beasts, but they cannot be separated from witch lore. Even the mere myth of them plays an intrinsic role in the lore and history of witches.The companionship of familiar spirits and witches holds true in modern times. Nurturing that connection often helps the witch exponentially. 

Serengeti is stretching her arms,
Where the landscape of wings set me free.

I’ve dreamed of the hoofed animals, 
the Wildebeest, Topi, and Waterbuck breed 
throughout the wet season.

All the empty things in me
are now inhabited by the vast veldt prairies

My soul is now migratory 
where spotted hyenas, jackal, and Thoa
walked amongst the shrubs 
and savannas of Grumeti River.

Commiphora welcomes me
but I am a treeless grassland
allegorical scenery for 
the heart that was once filled with the evergreen.

D C de Oliveira


I’ve been asked several times what I think about The Lion Guard. I have to admit that I got curious and, despite my old-ass age and despite it being a cartoon airing on Disney Junior, I watched the whole season. My opinions are a bit conflicting, so it’s better if I explain myself in terms of pros and cons.

Pros: first of all, I loved the design. All of it. Characters and sceneries. Ah, the good old 1990s 2D animation! Of course, the quality doesn’t reach that of the original movie, but nonetheless the background paintings and character design were great – we know, after all, that when it comes to character design Disney is the best. The voice acting was great, too! Then, what a lovely bunch of bad guys! I liked how Janja wears his spiky mane backwards like a true gangster, I liked how Cheezi bears an amazing resemblance to Ed, I liked the jackal couple, the cunning committee of vultures… And, not surprisingly, the villains songs are the best. And then, Jasiri! I think she’s the best character in the show so far. Her design is beautiful, her tough and mocking attitude balanced by her good heart make her downright adorable, and the message she carries (Sisi Ni Sawa) is one of the most important things to preach to children. Also, I thought that making up the Guard with different animals was not a bad idea in this sense. Another thing I appreciated was the accuracy as far as the animals’ behavior is concerned (the aardwolves being shy and nocturnal termite-eaters, the honey badger being a little pest and his immunity to snake venom, the zebras being the predators’ favorite dish, the cheetah’s strong sense of independence, etc.), and the fairly more significant presence of other species than what was shown in The Lion King movies and in the Timon & Pumbaa TV show: I found all this potentially edifying for kids, and I hope the producers and writers will continue on this line. Last but not least, I loved the usage of that awesome language that is Swahili: maybe the catchphrases were a bit too much repetitive, but surely the choice of names was damn clever.

Cons: “After all, hyenas are scavengers…” Again. We know it’s not always true; actually, accredited research has shown that this behavior is most of the time attributable to lions. Speaking of hyenas and their enduring bad image in the human mind, it’s shocking how this cartoon criminalizes this species. Okay, it’s a cartoon and bad guys are needed and who better than hyenas, jackals, and vultures if the protagonist is a lion? I get that. But the blind, senseless racism against these species, no. That, I don’t like. Despite the sporadic positive messages like Jasiri’s, the selective racism – or classism is predominant and it is also expressed in the settings: the sunny, luxuriant Pridelands versus the barren, dark, creepy Outlands; the beauty and wealth are reserved to ‘good’ animals, while the ‘bad’ ones (the POOR, the STARVING) are exiled in the ghetto without any clear reason. The song from the pilot, “Tonight We Strike!”, is about a fair rebellion of the outcasts against the privileged Pridelanders, yet it is represented as a vicious, despicable act, without specifying the fact that who is excluded from the sharing creates chaos as a natural reaction. In the same way, that ridiculous Kupatana thing was nothing else than a pathetic, fake pietism towards the outcasts. This leads me to the question of the Circle of Life, which is rightly depicted as the natural balance for survival and preservation of life; but the Guard also has a fanatical attitude towards it, as if it were a goddamn Reich! Like, “You, filthy hyena, you’re ugly and evil, no I don’t care that you have to eat and survive as well, you don’t respect the Circle of Life so you’re out!”, and “You, beautiful zebra, you’re every carnivore’s yummiest dream, I can save you from the hyenas and you can live in the Pridelands, and no don’t worry about me getting hungry and chewing up your stripy ass, it’s the Circle of Life!” To quote Fuli, see what I mean? I know, I’m almost 30, I have an education that has given me the skills to read between the lines, and all this may sound like a bunch of philosophical details kids will never catch. Maybe. But some of these ideas should be rethought, because kids do acknowledge the message, at least subconsciously! Never underestimate the kids’ powers of reception, guys. They notice everything. Their little minds are huge containers and their memory is fresh and amazing. We don’t want wrong stuff to get to them, do we?

That would be all. This is not the first time Disney subtly expresses such ideologies, after all. Anyway, as a cartoon freak and artist, I’ll gladly watch the next season. I think I’ll watch cartoons as long as I’m alive.

African Animals in Zulu
  • Isilwane: animals
  • Indlovu: elephant 🐘
  • Inhubesi: lion 🦁
  • Ingwe: leopard
  • Inyathi: buffalo
  • Ubhejane: black rhino
  • Umkhombe: white rhino
  • Ikhanka: jackal
  • Inkentshane: wild dog 🐶
  • Impisi: hyena
  • Ingulule: cheetah 🐆
  • Insimba: wild cat 🐱
  • Insele: honey badger
  • Ingungumbane: porcupine
  • Isambane: aardvark or anteater
  • Ivondwe: cane rat 🐁
  • Uchakide: weasel
  • Ingulube Yehlathi: wild pig 🐷
  • Unogwaja: rabbit 🐰
  • Initbane: warthog
  • Idube: zebra
  • Indlulamithi: giraffe
  • Imvubu: hippopotamus
  • Ingwenya: crocodile 🐊
  • Imfene: baboon

The rough sketching that went along with my Armello bender grin emoticon In there is Rooster, Sparrow, Horse, Cheetah, Bison, Jackal, Hyena, Flamingo, Fennec Fox, Owl, Chameleon, Toad, Tree Frog, Crocodile, Alligator, Snapping Turtle, satinette pigeon, Beaver, Koala, Wombat, Giraffe, Elephant, Elk, Moose, Goose, Bearded Vulture, Armadillo, Llama, Camel, Raccoon, Salamander, Ring Tail Lemur, Red Panda, Pelican and Hippopotamus :D

thwackerjack  asked:

Why are jackals/foxes/hyenas/hounds/wolves distinct from one another but lions/tigers/panthers/cheetahs/leopards/cats are all cats. Are dogs really not popular/beloved enough that players don't want dog tribal as much as cat tribal? Or is it because dogs are known as "hounds" in Magic, which isn't as resonant as "cat".

I think we have vernacular working against us. A lion is called a cat, but a hyena isn’t called a dog or hound.

  • Danny: In civilized society, we have rules. It is the unspoken glue that separates us from jackals and hyenas.
  • Steve: Jackals and hyenas?
  • Danny: Animal Planet, whatever. The point is, rule number one: if you get someone shot you apologize!
  • Steve: Sorry.
  • Danny: You don't wait for a special occasion-
  • Steve: Sorry.
  • Danny: - like birthdays or freakin' Presidents' Day.
  • Steve: (completely calm) I'm sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Okay, man? I said I'm sorry. I'm sincerely sorry. That's what I was trying to tell you. Last year. When this conversation first started.
  • Danny: Your apology is noted. Acceptance is pending.
  • Steve: You let me know now.
  • Danny: Yeah, I'll let you know.
The Lost World [Sentence Starters]
  • "Oooh, ahhh, that's how it always starts. Then later there's running and screaming."
  • "You might show a little more respect, the man saved our lives by giving his."
  • "I love you. I just don't... need you right now."
  • "No, you'll be back in five or six PIECES!"
  • "Just follow the screams."
  • "Don't worry, I'm not making the same mistakes again."
  • "No, you're making all new ones."
  • "Why don't people listen to me? I use plain and simple English, I don't have any accent that I'm aware of..."
  • "It gives me the creeps, like it's not scared."
  • "You know, I have made a career out of waiting for you."
  • "It's so important to your future that you not finish that sentence."
  • "Stories of mutilation and death. Were you paying attention?"
  • "I've worked around predators since I was 20 years old. Lions, jackals, hyenas... you."
  • "Hey, you want some good parental advice? Don't listen to me."
  • "Do you see any family resemblance?"
  • "If you feel at all qualified, try turning the switch to 'on.'"
  • "I mean, it's not your fault. They say talent skips a generation. So, I'm sure your kids will be sharp as tacks."
  • "It's fine if you wanna put your name on something but STOP putting it on other people's headstones."
  • "Uh, where your going is the only place in the world where the geese chase you."
  • "We should've stayed in the damn car."
  • "I'll be right back. I give you my word."
  • "But you never keep your word!"
  • "That's the last time I leave you in charge."
  • "Don't go into the long grass!"
  • "I'm taking the kid. If you really want to stop us, shoot us."
  • "No, I'm not mad - I'm furious!"
  • "You know, it's very easy to criticize someone who generates an idea, someone who assumes all the risk."
  • "You seem like you have a shred of common sense, what the hell are you doing here?"
  • "Careful. This suit cost more than your education."
  • "Hang on, this is gonna be bad."
  • "Violence and technology... not good bedfellows!"
  • "What, like if you shot yourself in the foot? Don't do that, you would be dead before you even knew you had an accident."
  • "You like to have kids but you don't want to be with them, do you?"