I have been trying to add more educational posts to my website, not just as a resource for myself but also to help those who are on their journey. There is a lot of information out there and I am a research junkie. And with so many years discovering so much, I want to be in a spot that allows me to share information to those curious souls out there. Honestly, I am wondering if this is more of a problem being this way - always researching, but I enjoy diving deep into various topics and learning as much as I can about them. I say - get curious, stay learning!
I recall starting my journey and not knowing where to start. I wanted a mentor, but it never truly worked out. The first place I relied on, after seeking ANY spiritual friend who was into the woo woo stuff, were the local libraries/ bookstores/ metaphysical shops and finding various books on different subjects. I found blogs, websites, online journals, and such to help me understand myself a bit more thoroughly. It can feel a bit overwhelming trying to figure out what is what and where you fit in the spectrum. Now we have YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram as just a few other ways to connect with others who are into the same things that we are interested in, or who can at least make us feel not so alone in the world. We can find our own communities!
As an avid animal lover, and with my history and background being in the veterinary field, I have always tried to have some sort of pet (typically a dog), in my household. I am also married to an avid animal lover, so we have to fight the urge to fill our space with as many animals as we can. My familiar, Ryder, recently passed and I wanted to share a spell to help with the grief, transition, and loss.
WHAT IS A PET FAMILIAR?
So let us start off with some vocabulary, first (from Wikipedia):
"In European folklore of the medieval and early modern periods, familiars (sometimes referred to as familiar spirits) were believed to be supernatural entities that would assist witches and cunning folk in their practice of magic. According to records of the time, those alleging to have had contact with familiar spirits reported that they could manifest as numerous forms, usually as an animal, but sometimes as a human or humanoid figure, and were described as "clearly defined, three-dimensional... forms, vivid with colour and animated with movement and sound", as opposed to descriptions of ghosts with their "smoky, undefined form[s]".
When they served witches, they were often thought to be malevolent, but when working for cunning folk they were often considered benevolent (although there was some ambiguity in both cases). The former were often categorized as demons, while the latter were more commonly thought of and described as fairies. The main purpose of familiars was to serve the witch or young witch, providing protection for them as they came into their new powers.
Since the 20th century some magical practitioners, including adherents of the Neopagan religion of Wicca, use the concept of familiars, due to their association with older forms of magic. These contemporary practitioners use pets or wildlife, or believe that invisible versions of familiars act as magical aids."
RYDER - MY FAMILIAR
Due to the growth and understanding of witchcraft, many practitioners describe their pets as their familiars. I felt this way once we got my dog Ryder home from the Houston SPCA. I had another familiar a few years before him, a retired Military Working Dog (MWD) named Bonn. I have always had a deep kinship with larger animals, and the unusual ones. I worked in Biomedical Research and loved working with Non-human Primates in the lab settings. I adored doing behavioral work and helping create as comfortable of a space for our animals with our enrichment programs, which I specialized in and had won many awards for changing the way the Department of Defense treated animals in their care and in our research programs. So, my animal love has gone deep - and I have always tried to help animals in any way that I can.
Animals typically live a much shorter life span than humans do. It is an unfortunate truth when getting a pet, or taking an animal into our care. Ryder was estimated to be about 3 years old, and was a hair's breath from being euthanized. At 85 pounds, he was a large dog and many people don't want big animals in their homes. We saw him and instantly knew this was the big guy we were taking home with us. October 2013 was a big month for us. We had just bought our home, moved into it, and we both quit smoking - and now we had our first dog together. Ryder lived an amazing life with us.
He moved to 3 different states with us, traveled a lot of the US with us, and lived an exceptionally long life for a dog his size. He survived a blood cancer in 2018, and even though his anxiety was the worse I have ever seen in an animal, we still did everything to make his life comfortable and help him through any issues he may had had. We estimate he was about 12 when he passed. This dog was like my shadow. He couldn't be comfortable unless he was right next to me or could see me. This meant bathrooms had to become off-limits so I could get a bit of privacy, and I can't even count how many times he would almost trip me from trying to be underneath me at all moments.
He was my big boy. I am glad I could give him the last 9 years extension on his life. We miss him and I am so grateful we took a chance on him. He frustrated me, he made me anxious at times, and I loved him through it all. And life without him feels weird and quiet, and a bit lonely. He dried my tears many times, especially in the last 6 months since my BFF passed - you can read about her HERE.
On 2/21/2022, Ryder was going to be euthanized at home, but decided to do things his own way and passed at 4:44 PM with only a bit of sedation to keep him comfortable. We were able to hold him as his heart stopped, telling him how much we loved him, and how much we would miss him. I miss his soft, little bat ears, I miss his big paws, and his smelly mouth. I wish I could hear his jingling collar as he followed me up and down the stairs, or even feel him wake me up my nudging me each morning. We miss you so much, big boy.
Now, I want to help those who practice and also want a way of honoring their familiar/pet with a small ceremony and also a way to ease the transition for your beloved. This helped me immensely.
Death is a guaranteed part of life, if we are living. Our pets and loved ones may be something we have to learn to lose and may not have the best way to process our grief over the loss. After all, grief is the price we pay for love - and I have found that losing something or someone we love that we may struggle to figure out what to do to help the transition and our acceptance of the loss.
WHY A FAMILIAR RELEASE SPELL?
This is a spell to help your familiar transition and release from your care. I find that when life hands me things outside of my control, I can adjust and accept better if I can do something on my own to honor where I am at.
I decided to add this to my Books of Shadows journal and tried to add a few paw prints of his, but he was notorious for not liking anyone touching his paws and hated when I tried to put ink on his paws. I liked this smeared print of his, since it was definitely HIM.
I added my handprint and wrote him some notes to help his transition and also to help me process how I feel.
I did this before we had the vet scheduled to come over, and it was nice to speak with him - thanking him and letting him know that I was glad to have had him here with me for so long but that I understood that it was time for him to move forward.
I feel that me talking with him, explaining that I was thankful for his companionship and hope he could release easily without worrying about me, it may have helped him to stop holding on and being in so much agony. I think he deserved as much compassion and kindness as he gave me through the last 9 years that he gave all of us.
It was the only gift I could give him, to help him transition into the next life/phase without the stress over what will happen to me. He was in a lot more ease, and looked more comfortable - as though he was waiting for me to give him permission to transition.
I am glad I found this spell and was able to do something to help my beloved dog transition, as well as give me a way to help release his spirit.
FAMILIAR RELEASE SPELL
I found this spell HERE. From the Greenwitch Website:
"This Release Pet’s Spirit Ritual is an important ritual and so it calls for several ingredients and tools as well as some preparation.
A brown candle will represent your pet. Extra-virgin olive oil to dress your candle will make the transition peaceful for your pet and help you heal. A grey moonstone, jet, or malachite stone will help with the afterlife transition and facilitate your communication with your pet’s spirit. Marjoram will provide emotional strength needed for you to work this magick and eases the afterlife transition for your pet. Copal or sandalwood incense are effective for both afterlife transitioning and spirit communications.
This ritual takes a bit of time and preparation to perform properly. Therefore, it’s really important to do so when you are not rushed, tired, hungry, taking care of children, worried about work, or otherwise distracted.
It’s very important to remain calm during the ritual because if you’re upset, your pet won’t want to leave you and as such, he may not want to transition.
If you can, use a beeswax candle as it’s said that prayers and spells spoken over burning beeswax candles are taken directly to the ears of the gods, making them more powerful.
A photo of your pet is optional as it may either help you focus or it may make more difficult for you to do so. Go with whatever works best for you – there’s no right or wrong.
Tools & Ingredients:
a small brown candle
a candle-holder or fire-safe dish
a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil
a grey moonstone, jet or malachite stone
marjoram, a few sprigs of fresh or a small handful of dried
copal or sandalwood incense
a photo of your pet (optional)
Release Pet's Spirit Ritual
Gather all of the required tools and ingredients ahead of time.
Take a shower to wash off the day. You may also want to take a pre-ritual cleansing bath after your shower. The choice is yours. Afterward, put on clean, comfortable clothing.
Do deep breathing exercises if you’re feeling at all anxious.
Prepare your altar or sacred space for this ritual. You’ll need a small area that is clear of anything else and physically clean.
Place the candle-holder or fire-safe dish in the center of the area.
If you have a photo of your pet, place it on your place it on your altar or sacred space but at a fire-safe distance from the candle.
Place the candle in a holder or on a fire-safe plate.
Light it and say:
Faithful friend, I love you so.
The time has come to let you go.
Faithful friend, so true to me,
the time has come to set you free.
Forever you’ll be in my heart.
Our souls are joined; they’ll never part.
And so, I set you free, my friend,
for I know we’ll meet again.
As I will, so be it.
Allow the candle to burn completely undisturbed in a safe location. Allow it to self-extinguish. Once it has done so, your intentions and your pet’s spirit will be released to the universe."
Okay, I think that magic is really about intention and also what we have available to us at the time. I didn't want to leave my home to go get magical supplies so I just used what I had at home and these are the adjustments I made that still worked and I believe, made his transition much easier. My mind was racing, upset to have to come to this but grateful to have been able to provide him with as comfortable of a last few days and hours as I could. He enjoyed his favorite ice cream - Texas brand Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla, and a lot of his favorite treats - although he lost interest in all food (beside the ice cream).
As always, follow and trust yourself and what works for you. There is so much information out there, so find a method that allows you to feel empowered and peaceful in your practice.
I just follow what feels right, and in these matters I always recommend that you do what fits your own style and comfort level.
I only had a white tea light candle, I used Italian Seasoning Mix, and I wrote the spell down in my sort of witchy/journal Book of Shadows. I used black moonstone, and burned a bit of copal, although my dog always loved Nag Champa - so I also burned some of that for him, as it always helped him relax and sleep better. Even with my own modifications, it still worked and allowed my pet to feel comfortable letting go.
I find that witchcraft and spells are very DIY - do it yourself. So find what you can, do how you want, and just ensure your intention is what works the magic. I am grateful to have this piece of my heart in my journal forever. To understand the love we shared, and also to have him understand how much we all valued him and wanted him to go comfortably. Our love for him was bigger than our need of wanting him to be here - suffering and not doing well.
I am sure there are other spells or even things one can do to release their pets. I enjoyed this, and have continued to burn a tea light with a bit of Italian seasoning and olive oil to help continue to let him know we love him and honor him. I have a small little altar for him next to my work area to help him continue to overlook where I am at, smell his Nag Champa burning, and encourage me to keep going. I hope in the future, we can get some ash jewelry to carry him with us everywhere.
I will continue to share what I find, what helps, and also how to empower others to continue discovering their own magic.
Let me know if you have a different way of releasing beloved pets/familiars. I am always receptive to trying new ways or just learning from others. I hope that my suggestions allow you to find something that makes you comfortable, feel empowered in your own practice, and also know that it doesn't need to be too complicated. Find methods, suggestions, and tips that make you feel like you can do it easily, too!
And like I continue to repeat here, do what makes you feel best! You can do it!
Remember: practice - not perfect.
I love you. Always. All ways.
In loving memory of Ryder - entered our lives on October 6, 2013 and lived with us until February 21, 2022.