My Familiar

All witches have a familiar, even if they don’t realize it. Some are physically manifested like my own; others are on the astral plane. My familiar has been with me s a very long time. Now he is old and will leave me soon.

Knowing this does not change how he affects this witch’s heart. He has been my most faithful friend and companion for nearly 20 years. Since I was a young woman he has watched every step I have taken in my life, borne witness to every tear and transformation, every wobble on the path, my despair and my joy.

He was a great hunter. We called him “The Lizard King”. He loved to chase down lizards in Key West. He’d catch them and bring them upstair to the apartment and drop them out of his mouth onto the floor in the living room. This was when I allowed him to roam freely, when I thought an island full of cats would be a safe place for a cat to be a cat.

I was wrong. Precious small creatures belong in a safe environment where they can be protected. Although my husband differed in this opinion my vet did not so I brought my familiar and our other two cats indoors and kept them there safely for the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately, my familiars adopted brother, a big glorious Maine Coon mix, was the first to pass on the rainbow bridge when he was 7 years old. He had been with us only 6 years. He died from complications due to diabetes. Diabetes is very difficult to treat in humans but in pets it is nearly impossible. My husband tried valiantly, learning to give him insulin shots and monitoring his blood sugar daily but there was so much we didn’t know.

Our only girl kitty was another foundling adopted in Key West. She was a tame cat that had been caught and spayed then released. These cats in Key West all had a notch in their ears. She came to my back door at the cottage when rented on Catherine Street and demanded to be let into the house. She’d had quite enough of living by her wits in the jungle and told me in no uncertain terms that she wanted to be a house-kitty. My familiar never really liked her. They always had a somewhat tenuous relationship until they bonded when we moved to San Francisco. They spent time in a carrier together and then later were boarded in the same kennel while we waited for our movers to arrive. They didn’t end up friends but their tolerance was definitely raised.

She was an older cat and at the age of approximately 15 after many years with us she succumbed to thyroid cancer. We did not discover her life-threatening illness in time; had we known about the radiation therapy (which my familiar would have at the age of 14), we would have at least attempted to save her. Our vet had tried drug therapy and our only girl kitty went into renal failure.

My familiar who has been with me since he was rescued from the Humane Society in Akron, Ohio at the age of 4 months was the first kitty and now, my last.

He had indulged me by letting me give love to the strays we adopted but I knew he was happy for it to be back to just us again.These past five years have been tumultuous as he has aged. He had radiation therapy four years ago, which saved his life. He had a heart murmur even then but the vet did not seem too concerned about it. This year however he suffered a terrible ear infection which caused him to go deaf. While being treated for that the vet discovered that he had some kidney trouble and put him on a special diet. The diet seems to have worked and he is doing better now two months later.

Yet last night he was dehydrated and had to go the Animal ER in town. The vet mentioned his heart murmur and suggested that he may have heart disease. She said his kidneys were doing well considering his advanced age (18 in cat years, about 90 in human years). She suggested that after the holiday I take him to my regular vet to see about investigating the heart murmur and at least trying to get him on some kind of heart disease drug therapy. A cat as old as he is not one they would ever operate on or take pains to keep alive. Nor would I want any heroic measures taken. He came into my life with dignity and he will leave this life the same way.

I do not know how I will live without him, how I will even do something so simple as casting a spell. He has been in every circle I have ever cast. He has sat by me while I have written spells and crafted sigils and read magick theory, while I mixed potions and oils and made teas, categorized herbs, called down the moon, invoked the Goddess, the God, the Fae, the Elemental Guardians. He has been with me while I sat on my cushion and meditated, while I prayed and chanted and called to the Goddess Tara for her help. At my worst and loneliest moments he has been there and put his paw on my hand to tell me he understood, that I need not look any further for love and compassion for it was with me through him; always.

A part of me will die with him when he goes. It is the best part of me, which is tied inexorably with him; one spirit between two entities; he my animal spirit, my original nature. I am his human counterpart but I am humbled by his enlightenment and his wisdom. He will continue to guide me toward all of the things I cannot remember about myself.

Yet that doesn’t offer enough consolation. Even that I will see him again in another form someday. It is his face and big green eyes that have penetrated my soul at its deepest level and no matter how many times and lives we share it is those eyes that will haunt me all of my days.