I have been intrigued by the topic of the familiars for a long time, reading several sources and forming my own perception on the matter, and when I thought I had a solid idea, I came across Familiars in Witchcraft: Supernatural Guardians in the Magical Traditions of the World, by Maja D’Aoust. I can say it changed what I had thought so far, and for the better.
In the beginning, I expected this to be book about the figure of the familiar for witches and neopagans, one that included exercises to meet one’s familiar, maybe a short recount or narrative about the author’s experience with her own, but it turned out to be more an academic research on the subject that goes over different cultures and mythologies and their views on the matter.
Despite this and the research behind it, Familiars in Witchcraft is easy to follow and understand. It compares a fair amount of myths and, with little to no effort, the reader can get a good understanding on how each myth is related to the subject. Maja D’Aoust selected a good portion of the world’s lore in order to do this.
We all tend to think on the familiar as a spirit that tends to take the form of an animal, real or mythical, which serves as a guide for the witch. We also know that it is a type of friend, not only a teacher. Yet, the figures we explore in Familiars in Witchcraft is how these beings can be something else than just animals and how they interact with a witch more than just as friends and teachers.
Maja D’Aoust explains how a familiar and similar beings could be lovers, spouses, even deities, and how different cultures coincide in that traditional methods of meeting them include sex, celibacy or interaction with the dead, either on their own or combined, or more commonly known methods such as sleep deprivation and fasting. Although I may not agree with all the conclusions the author shared, or advise practicing this or that method, she has a point and knows what she’s talking about.
However, I do have a problem with the tone the author used in some segments, explicitly attacking some religions, Abrahamic faiths most of the time. I don’t anything against comparing and sharing a point of view, but it does bother me when it is done out of context or when it is unnecessary, since they added nothing to the book. Had these comments not been included, I would have enjoyed Familiars in Witchcraft much more.
All in all, I still encourage readers to give this book a chance. Maja D’Aoust may get a bit out of topic in the last chapter, but it provides several interesting ideas and proposals. She explains how divination and connection with the divine could be a part of philosophy, giving historical examples of this. Tempted to give you a clue of the names included, I will only mention Socrates. Go grab a copy if you want to know why he is related to the topic. You can be sure it will be a good surprise.
About the book:
Print Length: 160 pages
Publisher: Destiny Books (July 9, 2019)
Publication Date: July 9, 2019
About the Author
Maja D’Aoust, known as the Witch of the Dawn, is a practicing Witch and scholar of alchemy and occult lore. After completing her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, she studied Oriental medicine and acupuncture and later earned her master’s degree in transformational psychology with a focus on shamanism, the I Ching, and ancestors. She is the author of A Witch’s Bestiary: Visions of Supernatural Creatures, co-author of The Secret Source, and creator of a Tarot deck, The White Witch Tarot. She lives in Los Angeles.
About the Reviewer
Bader Saab is a digital journalist and solitary, eclectic witch interested in the darker side of magic and divination. Besides reading and writing, Bader also enjoys studying the Gothic subculture, which he belongs to, learning new languages and making endless lists of movies, music and the like. He can be found on Instagram as @saab.bader.