Magic, Occult, Ritual

Understanding Animism and Familiars

What is Animism?

There is a worldview that stretches back through time, from ancient religious views to modern day practices influenced by the traditions of ancestors around the earth. Animism is a beautiful and deeply meaningful concept that has always been present in my life but for a long time went unnamed. Animism is the concept that all beings are imbued with spirit, that so called “inanimate things” are alive with consciousness, and that the magic weavers have a responsibility to interact and care for them.

Animism is connecting consciousness and recognizing the sacredness in all things.

What are Familiars?

Familiars are those animals, spirits, stones, flowers, trees, herbs, mycelium, stars and ancestors that are closest to us. This closeness creates connections, connections that can foster reciprocal relationships steeped in ritual and care. Familiars are often a guiding light, a loving trickster, a kind spirit who is always by your side. These spirits help you to see where the mundane swirls with the spirit world. When we actively engage with the sentience of the world unseen, we open a portal for healing and magic. Witches recognize life where others see nothing at all, creating interconnectivity. Honoring the signals and moving forward on the path of exploring new insights is often sparked by a familiar, be it mushroom or yarrow, river or moonstone, pet dog, wild deer or the fluttering moth by the porch light.

woman's hand with rings on fingers in willow tree branches
Weeping Willow (c) 2018 Tiana


Witches recognize life where others see nothing at all, creating interconnectivity.

How to Find Your Familiar

If you are open to finding a familiar, the spirit will most likely reveal itself to you all on its own. The key here is to put it out there that you are open to a reciprocal relationship by making an offering of a song, object or energetic invitation. Your offering should be something of meaning and sacrifice to show respect. For the most part you will realize you have found a familiar in a sensation of knowing. Your familiar might surprise you. It may be tempting to want your familiar or animal medicine to present itself as something you believe to be really cool, majestic or powerful, but the spider in your window has just as much to offer as a Siberian tiger. A common spider is much more likely to be a familiar than an exotic animal you don’t have any experience with.

spider in web in a window overlooking a downtown city street
The Spider Outside My Window on a Full Moon (c) 2018 Tiana

A Tiny Household Familiar

Speaking of spider! I have a spider that weaves the most beautiful webs in the right window of my living room every night. She often weaves just as the moon is rising in the sky and sometimes I watch her. It reminds me to work on my creative projects, to enter into the same trace state she is in, that the web of creation will soon offer nourishment after the hard work has been completed. For her, in the form of dinner, and for me, soul nourishment. This spider that meets me night after night behind the glass of the window is a household familiar.

Familiars in the Worlds Seen and Unseen

Of course, I have many other familiars and looking back I can think of my first familiar, a backyard willow tree from my earliest memories. My first real animal familiar was an elementary school class pet, a small corn snake. I was its official caretaker. It even came home with me on holidays and for two years I was that snake’s closest companion. I offered it mice and it offered me teachings in a way that reflected a trickster character in a story. (Yes, it was once lost in my living room couch for hours, much to my Dad’s horror.) I collected it’s sheds, cleaned its habitat and protected it from harmful classmates nervous hands. I have had a few pet familiars but these days my familiars are less noticeable and exist in the world unseen. My familiars consist of herbal allies, trees, stones, ancestors and animal guides.

a red, yellow, and black milk snake slithering across rocky ground
Young Wild Milk Snake (c) 2018 Tiana


Connecting to Spirit Through Animism

Learning that the “imaginary” relationships of my childhood were actually rooted in ancient earth based spiritual traditions was a moment of integrating knowledge and practice. It’s a great feeling when you realize a secret you’ve carried around with you has existed out in the world reaching back through human history for thousands of years. Animism is connecting consciousness and recognizing the sacredness in all things. Yet, it is rooted in the mundane and the everyday rituals that carve out the way you live your life. It is the energy of all affecting one, and one affecting all. When we practice animism we connect to spirit in the consciousness that surrounds us all.



small yellow butterfly in a woman's hand
Cradling a Butterfly (c) 2018 Tiana




  • Tiana

    Tiana writes about a wide range of esoteric practices, including earth-based spirituality, ritual and tarot.

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