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(Its More Familiar Than You Think!)
A Circle fills the room with its special glow. Fragrant herbs perfume the air; candles light the night. And two small eyes glow up at you, knowing that they too are part of the magic.
People and animals have worked magic together in many ways, some of which were a part of everyday life. In agricultural lands, animals worked the magic of providing our survival through the winter. They provided food and materials used in all facets of the community.
Imagine a time before cars, trains and planes. People were somewhat bound to their homeland since walking cross-country seemed an endless journey. But then, on horseback, people could easily explore. Some say that the use of horses led to the major shifts in political and spiritual history, as one tribe invaded another with mounted soldiers, forever society and religion. For better or worse, horses changed the course of history.
Even in industrial times, we've worked with animals. You've heard the expression "a canary in a coal mine." Miners used canaries to detect problems with the air quality, oxygen level, and presence of invisible poison gas. Canaries were more sensitive to these threats and could alert the workers.
Magical animals are not unfamiliar to the myths of Old. For example, Odin used two ravens to fly around the world and report back all that they saw. Could this symbolic tale be rooted in a form of divination used at the time? In ancient Egypt, the scarab beetle was a symbol of eternal life. This lore is based on the way beetles rolled a ball of dung in which to lay their eggs. The idea of life from dung must surely relate to the eternal cycles of nature. Even the Christians assimilated symbols like the dove and the lamb. Animals as mythic symbols cross a wide variety of cultures.
In understanding these mythic animals, we must know the context in which they were viewed. For example, thousands of years from now, historians might not understand the exact emotions we attach to symbols when we say someone is a deer, or a jackass. Remember that next time you read the myths of Bast, or Cerberus, or even the American Eagle.
Today, most magical people think of familiars as their household pets, the little ones who provide joy, insight and companionship -- not to mention shed all over black clothing and robes! Animals in general are closer to nature than we are. They remember their instinctual ways easier than we do. Why limit this to pets? The animals around us in the field can share our magical moments? Did we encounter a gentle and curious deer along our first walk in the woods? Did geese fly overhead and squawk their applause for our lovemaking? How do these animal events speak to you? You can merely visualize your magical animal, like a totem guide or imaginary friend. (And you'll never need to pay for a vet!)
Whether in myth or reality, an animal's unique traits can teach us specific lessons in nature. Can we learn by watching an animal hunt? Protect its young? Weave webs? Float from one flower to another, tasting a mix of sweet nectars? Or nest and lay the fragile egg of new beginnings?
Don't limit your familiars to just animals. Why not a plant? Plants teach us about laying roots, growing wild, turning to face the light. Plants show us new ways to branch out, bear fruit -- or wither, fall and provide a subtle new start for others. Are we any different?
Why not have an object as a familiar? Are not all things in nature alive? Can an old gray boulder show us anything about weathering the tests of time? Can Granny's old wristwatch teach us about cycles?
Perhaps the most familiar idea comes when you know that you already hold all these special qualities within yourself. We too have animal ways, branch out like plants, and live the lessons of solid tangible form no differently than Granny's watch. Familiar means family, being One with another. Knowing you are One with all things makes everything seem quite familiar. And everything will look to you, knowing that it too is part of the magic.
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