and The History of a Familiar
October 4this traditionally the day when many groups celebrate the Blessing of the Animals in honor of the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis’s love for animals is well known, so it makes sense to celebrate the animals in our lives on his feast day. Here at 4Winds I always do an Animal Blessing for ALL the creatures who share this space with me and that includes my familiars.
Working with animals is something most spiritual people do. Even if they don’t share living space with the animals, they certainly honor and respect the influence the animals have on the world. Witches have long been with associated with familiars, but what is a familiar? Familiars are awakened intelligences and are with you to work. They are not pets, but the boundaries overlap. View a familiar animal as a working partner and you are getting there. Yes, we take care of them and in many ways they are pets, but the relationship goes past that with an awakened intelligence. I’ve talked about my little cat Katchina many times. She is definitely a familiar, as well as a treasured part of my life. Here’s her story.
My sister had a cat named Chicken Little. When my sister moved home to spend her last days with her sons and our mother, Chicken Little refused to go with her. She disappeared. After nearly two weeks she appeared at my backdoor, smelling of cigarettes and cheap booze, and pregnant. Six weeks later she gave birth to four kittens in the spare bedroom, three little boys and one little girl. The girl was the spit and image of her mother. I watched the kittens be born, so Katchina and I knew each other from the very beginning. Katchina was five weeks old when she crawled up in my lap and told me her name. At that moment she wrapped herself around my heart and became my familiar. She started sleeping with me that first year by curling up in my arms. Here it is nineteen years later and she still does that. I had the opportunity to watch the mother/daughter relationship between Chicken Little and Katchina. Chicken Little always treated Katchina slightly differently than she treated the boys. It was obvious that her little girl was special to her. The two of them were close right up until Chicken Little passed at the age of 21.
Katchina has been with me through good times and bad times. She always knows what’s going on with me emotionally. If I am upset, she comes and sits with me. What does she do in those moments? She gives me love and reassurance. She reminds me to keep my faith and courage. Katchina has a calm energy and she can calm down every creature in a room, if she deems it necessary. She can be a tough task mistress, too. One of her nicknames is the bedtime nazi because she will announce when it’s time for me to go to bed. She makes that announcement loudly regardless of who else might be present.
Recently I had an emergency issue with my own health and for the first time in all these years I left the house with no explanation to Katchina. I was simply gone for the next six days. During my hospital stay friends stepped in and took excellent care of my housemates, my cats. I was most concerned about Katchina. Those incredible people took care of her and she thrived while I was gone. Then I came home and she was happy, for a few days. Then she looked Death in the face. Apparently the whole “mom being unexpectedly gone” frightened her so much that she had PTSD. After I was home for 4 days, she stopped eating. She ate nothing for 5 days, and since I struggle keeping weight on her, it terrified me. She has been my heart and soul since she was 5 weeks old, but I was prepared to let her go, if it was her choice. She continued to drink water and then she stopped doing that. I normally don’t step in if a living creature has made their decision, but I could not let her die of dehydration, so I gently forced some water on her. She perked up, so I did it again. She got even more active and began to send me messages that she wasn’t ready to go and needed some assistance with food. So, again, very gently, I gave her some baby food mixed with broth. She began to improve. I did that for 2 days, then she began to eat on her own. Now she is once again, thriving.
I do not know how much time Katchina and I have left together, but I do know that I treasure that little creature. I treasure all the creatures that share my home. I treasure all the creatures that live here in my forest. On October 4thI will once again stand outside and ask for the animals to be blessed. Included in that request with be a heartfelt gratitude that Katchina is still here with me.