What is a Familiar?

August 9, 2018

Familiars are spirits which help witches with their magic. The term has morphed in common usage to mean any beloved pet owned by any person. In the strict magical sense of the word, this is incorrect.

A familiar can be an incarnate spirit or an embodied one, as long as the familiar is dedicated to the witch or magician. It does not have to be an animal and can be a plant or a stone. It is never a person. The magical relationship between a witch is a conscious one, actively employed.

There is a strong psychic bond between a witch and her familiar, and the familiar may help a witch with divination. It may magically carry out a witch’s bidding. It may carry messages to otherworldly realms. If you don’t do divination, cast spells, or communicate with the dead, you don’t have a witch’s familiar. That would be like saying you have a barber when you never cut your hair.

It is possible to have more than one familiar, but in practice that is difficult, and many witches move sequentially from one familiar to the next. Having a familiar takes a lot energy. Maintaining any close relationship takes energy. In addition, there is the energy expended keeping the familiar in check. An effective familiar will try to steal your power, so be attentive.

Photo: Jana M. Cisar/US Fish & Wildlife

First Harvest Blessings

August 3, 2018
Goshawk nest in birch tree. Photo: Jensens

Well, the goshawks, reportedly, have flown the nest. The trail is open and people report traveling unmolested. Not sure when I’ll walk that path alone again.

I heard reports last month of two other trails in the county where Northern Goshawks were threatening mountain bikers. The prevalence of goshawks in the Adirondacks has been a matter of speculation for years, with one theory being that they are too shy to give an accurate count. But now it seems that for one month out of the year they are more than willing to make their presence known. I wonder if numbers are recovering or if we’re having an irruption. Time will tell.

Here are some fun facts I learned about the Northern Goshawk.

1) They have such strong talons and are so aggressive that they’ve been known to pierce bicycle helmets in attack.

2) They hunt starlings, which is a major point in their favor. While starlings are famous for their accomplished singing skills, in North America they are an invasive species. Starlings are loud and obnoxious in large groups.

3) Goshawks kill a lot of Blue Jays and keep that native species in check.

4) They like to consume their prey on the ground and don’t have a lot of enemies (unsurprisingly).

5) People are more likely to be attacked when hiking solitary, although this year groups, including groups with dogs, have been attacked.

Things are returning to normal in the village. People are reporting nuisance bears who have learned to open garage doors, but that’s an ongoing problem, and at least the bears run away when they’re confronted.

Well That Was Interesting

June 29, 2018

Last Friday I had a frightening wildlife encounter, the most upsetting in my life so far. I was not harmed in any way, only badly shaken. A friend of mine, upon hearing about the episode, said, “Oooouuuu! You can write about this!” It is a testament to how unnerving the experience was that a day later it still had not occurred to me to write about it, ever. Maybe I will, next week or next month or someday, but I’m not ready to revisit it yet.

People who have read my books must be wondering, “What would it take to shake her up?” Trust me however: I have been humbled. Stay tuned.

Gone Fishing

June 15, 2018

… or the vegan equivalent thereof.

Rainbow Trout. Photo: Ryan Hagerty/USFWS

Indie Shaman Review for Divining with Animal Guides

May 18, 2018

Thea Prothero writes: “The book is brimming with wisdom and exceptionally well researched; this in turn guides the would-be diviner to access the natural world form a uniquely well-grounded and refreshing perspective.”

Indie Shaman is always a recommended read. The theme of this issue of Indie Shaman is “Shamanic Lands: The Otherworld,” and there are many in-depth articles about the worlds of the ancestors, from a breadth of perspectives and modalities. I have an article in this issue titled “The Weasel Underground.”

The Gods of Bling

April 12, 2018

In Mesopotamia, spotting a raven was once considered good luck. It was a sign of rain or a sign of a financial boon or a sign that luck had changed for the better. After the Great Flood, the hero Utnapishtum released three birds from the ark to see if it was safe to come out. It was the disappearance of bird number three, the raven, that signaled that the rains had ceased.

It’s easy to understand how the association of ravens with treasure arose: they are curious creatures who like to collect things. They are especially drawn to objects that shine, so ravens have probably collected quite a few coins. They are not hoarders, however, and quickly lose interest in their bangles. They will readily relinquish treasure. Seek out the raven for valuable windfall.

Learn more about ravens and signs from Divining with Animal Guides.