This week, we lost a beloved family member, my mother's cat Hannah, who was twenty years old.
With all the strays that have come to us, and the older cats we've adopted from other people over the years, Hannah was unique in that she was the one who was adopted from her feline mother shortly after being weaned, lived two full decades in love and abundance, and peacefully left this world in Mama's arms.
As my friend Seth describes it: "a life loved to completion."
Driving home, pulling into Mama's neighborhood, a tiny bright orange fox crossed the street right in front of us. This was only the second time in my entire life that I've seen a wild fox in person. In suburbia, it's not a common occurrence. No one else in the world saw it but the two of us. Only minutes after leaving the vet, the timing was special.
One of my life long friends and animal lovers, Catherine, shared the meaning of Native American fox medicine. It meant a lot to my mother, who interpreted the sighting as Hannah's confirmation that she had safely made her transition.
This is the happiest ending any of us will ever get. And boy, does this reality suck when you're living through it. It feels like a bill that has finally come due on years of joy.
It's worth it.
In honor of all our "angels with fur," here are some of my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about familiars.
What is a Familiar?
Some of our pets are guardians incarnated in animal form.
In Wicca, the elevated relationship between human and animal souls is called a familiar. This is not to be confused with an animal totem or a "spirit animal."
In a literal, tangible way, there are no relationships on earth that teach us more about the benevolent spirit entities who attend us in this life than our animal familiars. Not all our pets or domesticated animals are familiars — the designation is special and unique.
The cat familiar is the most popular or well-known — the "classic" — but this spiritual relationship is not limited to pagan faiths or to any particular species of animal.
When you connect to an animal as your familiar, your love elevates her spirit to the human sphere of consciousness. You willfully lift the soul of your animal companion up to our level. You know the ones you’ve done this with — they stand out clearly among your pet/caretaker connections; they become more human than animal.
As a kid it greatly disturbed me that most Christians tried to teach us that animals do not have souls. There could be no doubt to me, that, if there are souls to be had at all, period, by any living entity, then animals have souls. And familiars have a spirit markedly different from wild animals.
Like a spirit guide, ancestor, or guardian angel might do for you, you become the patron of this creature’s spirit. Unlike a human child who emerges from your physical body, but has an independent soul — and so only requires a temporary dependence — you bring your animal familiar into your spiritual body. You lend a piece of your aura to her — she actually becomes part of your soul.
Your animal familiars are the most obvious, visible form of “guardian angel.” They may even be the only kind of spirit guide that manifests a form you can easily perceive.
When she leaves her physical body behind, her spirit remains tethered to yours in a unique way.
You are here to learn how to love, how to transcend suffering, and how to experience joy.
Your animal familiars are pure, unconditional love incarnate. They are “sure things" -- their love transcends human judgment. Anyone — no matter their physical appearance, personality, handicaps, abilities, talents, grace, or lack thereof — can have this relationship.
The miracle you have manifested with your familiar in this lifetime is one of your greatest love lessons learned. It can never be reversed. It will never go away. She is your guardian and guide for good. Her form will one day change, but then she will become a small piece of your love — your power — that is no longer bound to the physical world.
Image credit Matt Richards via Creative Commons on Flickr