Thursday, February 13, 2020

Meet the Hedgewitch's Cats and Why They Aren't Familiars

I adore animals and have been deeply connected with them from a young age. It's part of the reason I gave up eating meat as well. I just couldn't bring myself to eat the same creatures I loved so much. I've had many companion animals over the years, from frogs to hermit crabs to turtles to hamsters to chickens. However, my absolute favorite animal companions have been my cats over the years, and I have been privileged enough to have shared my time with several. At the moment, I have the joy of tending to three, beautiful grey cats that I adore beyond measure. I'd like to introduce you to them today and discuss why my cats, while great, are not familiars.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar is my big love machine who spends most of his time giving me kisses. When my husband left me in 2017 he took both of our cats with him. He had them for 2 years before we met, so technically they were his, but I will never forget how empty I felt losing my two cats of 8 years. I honestly think that was the worst part of everything that happened. Two days later my mom and dad took me to a pet adoption event at a local pet store. My dad said that if I had something to love I would have a reason to continue living. I was in a really dark place and my parents were legitimately concerned that I may take my own life. They weren't wrong. I did not want to adopt a new cat. I did not want to be responsible for another life when I couldn't care for myself. But I went and I am glad that I did.

When we arrived, we headed straight back to where the cats were, tucked away from the dogs and much of the noise. They had a lot more cats than normal that day and while most people were crowded around all the kittens, I caught sight of a scrawny, beat up, grey-haired cat with so much love in his eyes. He tried desperately to get everyone's attention, but he wasn't a kitten. He was scared up, ear torn, eyelid mangled so it's always showing, stitched on his stomach from a fight, undernourished, prickly to touch, and FIV positive. I looked at that cat and placed my hand against the cage and knew, this cat was waiting for me. He was here today for me and no one else.

I still went around and visited the other cats, my parents thinking I would want a kitten instead of an adult cat, but I kept looking back at Oscar who was watching me. After talking to all the kitties, because who can pass up loving on all of them, I went straight back to Oscar and said "This is my cat. I want this one." Again, my parents thought I would want a kitten and were shocked I settled on this "ugly" cat. The rescue let me open the cage and hold him and he meowed and purred at me the whole time. My parents fell in love too because what wasn't to love about this sweet boy?

I think the rescue was surprised he was adopted so quickly. They said they had picked him up off the street 2 weeks prior and that he was in rough shape. Before I could bring him home he needed to have his stitches removed, but other than that he was good to go. I picked him up later that day and he spent the next several weeks following me around talking to me about everything he had been through and how thankful he was. I had to move his food bowls into rooms with me so he would eat and drink because he only wanted to eat and drink if I was in the room.

Slowly he put on weight, his fur softened, his scars faded, and he settled down. I wake up every morning with him resting on the pillow above my head giving me kisses. Every. Single. Day. He loves giving me kisses and snuggling and being part of the family and he loves his grandparents too. Everyone loves coming over to see Oscar because he is so friendly. You'd think after going through so much he would be untrusting, but he is the exact opposite.

You see, I knew the moment I saw him from across the store that he was meant for me. I felt it in my chest and the pit of my stomach. It was a warm, comforting feeling. Bringing him home saved my life and I saved his. I've never had a cat as amazing as Oscar, and everyone he has ever met dotes on how sweet he is, how they didn't like cats before they met my Oscar. The vet's office eats him up every time I bring him in. He is so easy going, except when I run the vacuum and loves sleeping on all of my chairs and couches and eating lots of kitty treats. If I associated him with anything magical it would be the element Earth for he is grounded, stubborn, and my rock.

Jane Austen

I adopted Oscar in June of 2017. That same December a couple of days before the end of the semester, a small grey kitten wandered up to the courtyard of the school I work at and some students found her playing in the bushes. She was playful and sweet and the students, not knowing what to do, brought her to the English teacher across the hall from me. They knew she loved animals and had taken cats before that had wandered up to the school. She called me over to see it before her daughter picked it up to keep it at home for the day. One of the girls that found the kitten wanted to keep her but needed to ask her parents first. I loved on that little kitten all the way up until she was taken away and told my coworker that if the girls couldn't take her, I would. I had a place for her at home and knew my big, loveable Oscar would love a sibling.

Needless to say, the end of the school day came around and the kitten ended up going home with me. She rode in my lap the entire drive home, purring up a storm. I didn't tell anyone what I had done until I was almost home. I called my mom and said, "Guess what I got today!" She rattled off a couple of things school-related and when I finally told her I had picked up a kitten, she was flabbergasted and asked if I was sure. Of course, I was sure! Like Oscar, this small kitten was meant for me; she had told me so. The Universe knew I wanted and needed another cat and sent me one. Then she asked if I had told my boyfriend, who she knew was sleeping at home with Oscar. Nope...I hadn't said a word to anyone; I had just done it.

When I arrived home, I gingerly carried this tiny kitten upstairs and into my bedroom where my boyfriend was, low-and-behold, asleep with Oscar tucked under his arm. I sat down on the bed which awoke them both and I said, "Look what I got today." Miles squinted at me, looked down, blinked a couple of times, and when it finally sunk in I was holding a kitten his eye grew big and he scooped her up. Oscar was less than happy with me, but after about a week the two of them were inseparable.

When I brought her home, I wasn't entirely sure Jane was a girl. I was hoping she was a boy and that I would get to name her Charles Dickens, but alas the vet confirmed what I already knew; she was, in fact, a girl, so Jane Austen it was, named after my one of my favorite authors. If you haven't noticed there is a theme here...

Jane is inquisitive, playful, intelligent, and vocal. Out of all three of my cats, she puts the boys to shame when it comes to outwitting them and problem-solving. She keeps me on my toes and I am constantly having to introduce new toys to keep her occupied. While much smaller than her brothers, she is the queen among cats, and they follow her lead wherever it may take them. Despite her inquisitive nature, Jane is also a lap cat. She will spend hours sitting on my lap while I am on my computer or reading a book but is wary of being pet without her consent. She is also incredibly respectful and is cautious not to disturb my stuff, no matter how tempting it may be. She always wants to partake in my magical practice, but I am sure to keep the cats at a distance when burning incense to keep them safe. Instead, she usually sits outside my door, waiting patiently for me to finish. She is my sweet girl, and most certainly a gift. Jane is my Fire, full of passion and love.

Charles "Charlie" Dickens

I know you're not supposed to have favorites, but I definitely have a favorite and its Charlie. If you were to ask me why, I wouldn't be able to fully explain it, because I'm not really sure why I am so drawn to Charlie, but I am. He is also the weirdest cat I have ever owned. If I didn't know better, I'd say he was probably a dog in another life.

After getting Jane, I quickly realized that my plan to give Oscar a sibling had somewhat backfired. Jane was full of energy and Oscar wasn't. While he loved cuddling with his baby sister, he wasn't very interested in being attacked, chased, or otherwise bothered by this rambunctious kitten. That's when I realized I needed a younger playmate for Jane, which was perfectly fine with me! I don't particularly like even numbers, and knew that three cats was probably best for me. Everyone tried to convince me I didn't need any more cats, but deep down I knew there was one last cat that was supposed to be in my life right now. So I waited...somewhat patiently...for the right cat to come along. I knew that when the Universe was ready, I'd know.

About 6 months after bringing how Jane, another co-worker, sent me pictures of a bunch of kittens her friend had found under their porch. Low and behold there was a little grey and white kitten among the litter. I looked at his tiny face and knew at that moment this was the cat I had been waiting for. My boyfriend was completely against getting another cat, but when I showed him the picture of the kitten he looked up at me and said "Yeah...this is your cat." A couple weeks later, after he had been fixed and healed and grown a little more, we made the hour trip to pick up this adorable little furball. The family had aptly named him Ash, for his grey color, and he weighed less than 2 pounds. When I picked him up he hissed at me. I gave him an inquisitive look and he immediately settled down and started purring. I told him his new name was Charlie and kissed his little forehead. I fell in love with him instantly and haven't stopped kissing him and holding him since I brought him home. I know he did too.

We made the drive back home, Charlie sleeping peacefully in my boyfriend's lap the entire drive. I was anxious to see how Oscar and Jane were going to respond to be bringing home yet another cat. I was most worried about Oscar after how he reacted to Jane, but when we finally arrived home, Oscar surprised me. Both Jane and Oscar were asleep on the couch in the basement. I slowly sat next to them and let Charlie walk over to them. Charlie sniffed Oscar and immediately began purring as loudly as a train. Oscar sniffed Charlie back and started purring and cleaning Charlie. It was the most amazing thing ever; instant love between the two of them. Oscar and Charlie cuddled on the couch most of the afternoon, Oscar guarding and protecting him from Jane, who was less than happy with the stranger.

Like Oscar had with her, it took Jane about a week to settle down and accept Charlie into the family, but once she did, they were the greatest of playmates. Charlie gave Oscar a cuddle buddy and gave Jane a spunky playmate. And for me, it gave me the biggest momma's boy in the world. He completes our little family and my heart couldn't be more full.

Charlie is my Air as he is extremely talkative but yet so flighty, his head always caught up in the clouds. He loves sitting in windows, watching the birds, insects, and wind blow through the trees. If we close a door, he cries incessantly until we let him in. Heck, sometimes he just cries because I'm not giving him enough attention. When I am on my computer, I have to pull an extra chair up as close to my chair as possible for him and him alone to sit in, otherwise, he cries. He has the loudest purr in the world and follows me everywhere, especially into the bedroom, office, or kitchen. He loves standing in the sink or shower, especially after the water has run, just to watch it drip down the drain. He also insists on putting all of his cat food into the water bowl before eating it and even places his favorite toys in the water bowl. Maybe he was also a fish in another life. Finally, he enjoys chewing on fingers, toes, pillows, and my expensive velvet tufted chairs, much to my annoyance, and we have yet to figure out why. Trust me, I've talked to the vet at length about this because he is ruining $250 dollar chairs! He is extremely quirky, to say the least, but I love him to death, even if he ruined my expensive furniture.

Why Aren't My Cats Familiars?

First of all, I don't believe pets can be familiars, which may ruffle some feathers. Familiars are spirits and my cats are not spirits. They are very much alive and remind me of that daily from the howling for food to the stinky poops in the litter box every morning. Spirits do not need to eat or use the bathroom, and therefore my cats are not familiars. Historically, familiars, also called familiar spirits, were shapeshifting spirits that aided witches in their magical practices. They would sometimes take an animal form, usually to "hide" or blend in. However, this was not the true form of the familiar, and even still they didn't need to "eat" in a traditional sense. Their eating took the form of feeding off of energy, whether it be the witch's energy or the energy of others. Either way, the familiar was not laying around eating cat treats all day and throwing his toys in the water dish.

However, I do believe my cats are magical companions. Jane most certainly is, with Oscar being a respectful watcher, while Charlie is just destructive. Everything is a game to him and that's fine. Jane recognizes there is energy in the objects I own and that I am able to manipulate this energy and as a result, she treats my magical tools with deep reverence. As I mentioned, she is exceptionally preceptive and smart. She puts the other two to shame. Do I ever involve them in my magical workings? Sometimes. If I am burning a bunch of incense, I try to keep my cats out to keep them safe. However, on some hedge riding trips and other general workings, I often let my cats wander in and out as they please. Despite Oscar's ambivalence toward magic, he is interested in hedge riding, mostly because I think he worries about me. I truly believe he can feel me move between realms, and often lays next to me to keep my body safe. If I travel too far, I often feel him licking my face or hair to get me to return. Oscar helps with my return journeys more often than not and does a fabulous job of it. I wouldn't trust anyone else to do his job.

So do I view my cats are familiars? Definitely not. Do I communicate with them and involve them in my magical work? Yes and yes. I love the relationship I have built with these three little buggers and I am glad I get to walk this life with them by my side.

Do you involve your pets in your magical workings?

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  1. What a touching look at your darling pets. While we do not presently share our lives with any cats, I've had the good fortune to do so at various points in the past and hope to again in the ethers of tomorrow. Right now we're a single dog family and our energetic, whip smart, caring as the day is long Bullador (half American Bulldog, half Lab) is the four pawed center of our home.

    I love Annie with every ounce of my heart and might, but - while I do feel that living animals can be familiar or otherwise powerful allies to our magickal workings - I've not once in seven years of sharing our lives with her felt that she was "my familiar" and I'm 100% okay with that. There is a romantic notion that all witches must surely have a Disney movie worthy familiar, but reality is not always quite that picturesque and that doesn't make our pets any less important and vital to our lives. As you've highlighted here superbly.

    ♥ Autumn

    1. Sounds like an interesting mix, your doggo. I've never seen a Bullador before. Going to have to look up pictures now. Haha!

      I agree with you on the romantic notion that all witches have familiars. Its okay to have an animal that isn't interested in witchcraft. I feel like so many witches are so keen on having an animal familiar that they put their loving pets in dangerous situations. I love my cats and can't imagine loving them less for not being magically inclined.

  2. You've managed to write about so many of my favourite things this week. First tea and books, and now cats. I love meeting other people's pets, and I myself have two grey and white rescue cats whom I adore. Mine came from a terrible hoarding situation where there were over 40 cats abandoned in a filthy house for over a year, breeding rampantly. Fortunately every cat was able to be placed into a new home and was given proper medical treatment and care.

    1. Aww! I am glad you have enjoyed the posts. I love meeting people's animals as well, especially their kitties. I'm glad your kitties and all the others were rescued and given the help and life they deserved. It pains me to see someone adore cats but then put them in a situation like that.

    2. I forgot to mention this on your introduction post, but I absolutely love the literary and historical names you've given your animals. The 40+ cats from the hoarding house were all named after British royalty, and I decided to keep the names Pippa and Phillip for mine. It amuses me when cats have 'human' names.

    3. I love it! I picked British authors for my cats and my chickens are named after the wives of Henry VIII. I originally I had 3 chickens, so I have Catherine, Anne, and Jane. Catherine ended up being a rooster so I gave him away to a coworker. He did well for a while, but she thinks a coyote got him. Breaks my heart because he was such a fun rooster, but that's the circle of life, eh? I am considering getting two more chickens this year and naming them Mary and Elizabeth after his two daughters. We'll see this April how I am feeling. Haha!

    4. It's a little morbid of me to say, but it sounds like the rooster met a fate similar to one of the royal Catherines (though I imagine he was named for Aragon, not Howard). Such is life, as you said. I'm a big Tudor history buff so the names of your chickens entertain me greatly. Of course, with the inclusion of a Mary and an Elizabeth you'd pretty much be out of names for any further Tudor-inspired chickens, haha.

    5. That is totally why I named them after the wives of Henry VIII. I thought it was hilarious. And yeah, I don't think I want more than 4 chickens, although in the future I wonder what names I will turn to. Chickens have such short lives compared to cats. :(

    6. I'd recommend going further up the Tudor line to the Lancasters or Yorks, though many of those women are ALSO named Elizabeth or Mary, haha. There are a few Margarets, though, and a Cecily and Bridget.

    7. What an excellent idea! I have an entire book on the Tudor family called The Tudors by Richard Rex that you would probably appreciate. Its a history book, but so fascinating if you are into that part of history. I ate it up!

  3. Lovely to read about your beautiful cats! <3 Animals can definitely give you a reason to live. As I've mentioned before, I used to have two cats. I didn't consider them familiars or involve them in any workings, but my boy cat occasionally hung around when I was reading tarot or angel cards, or doing something kind of magical, lol.


    1. I really believe they can sense the energy shift and just enjoy being a part of it. Cats are so smart. I love em!

  4. Your cats are so cute...!!! They look like a toys just for play and fun. Nice pets. boys toys


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