Allies - Animals

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005


In magical theory, it’s generally acknowledged that every individual possesses allies in the various realms: botanical, mineral, spirit, and animal. They share your essence and possess a loyalty and affinity toward you, and so are reliable magical partners. As an example, the Egyptian goddess Isis is affiliated with myrrh, bloodstone, a constellation of compatible fellow spirits, cows, scorpions, snakes, and crocodiles. She also has alliances with certain people, whom she protects but who are expected to offer devotion in exchange.

Alliances, as their name implies, are mutual relationships: obligations exist on both sides. These are not relationships to be exploited but are instead meant to be treasured and nurtured. It is a loving, caring relationship and as such cannot be forced or compelled on either side.

Because animals are closest in nature to humans, they are our most accessible allies. Different people possess different needs: some are fairly solitary, one or two allies may be sufficient, in the same manner that one or two human friends are sufficient. Social butterflies may require a crowd. Some alliances are life-long; others are transitory, ships passing in the night. It’s believed that every individual is born with at least one ally from each realm. (They accompany you through incarnations.) Other alliances may be forged as needed during a lifetime.

A familiar is an ally but an ally may not be a familiar. Familiars are generally understood to be exactly what their name implies: familiar. These are animals with whom one can share your home and daily life: ferrets, cats, dogs, hedgehogs, birds, frogs, and snakes. Extended contact need not be difficult or dangerous. Depending upon circumstances, a wild or potentially dangerous creature may become your familiar but they must choose you as, for instance, wild dolphins, which will occasionally form a friendship with a specific swimmer.

The possibility of familiars, then, is relatively limited whereas the world of animal allies is vast. What if domestic animals don’t fulfill your magical needs—your magic requires a komodo dragon or a snow leopard? What if your magic requires a velociraptor, a dragon, or a unicorn?

Because these animals may be accessed on a spirit level, animals with whom one could not normally have true contact become possible allies. Whether one possesses a relationship with a specific spirit-animal or with the spirit presiding over that animal is subject to interpretation and may vary.

How do you discover the identities of your allies? Various methods exist:

Consciously or subconsciously, their identities may already be known to you. Intense passionate emotions, whether positive or not, may indicate an existing alliance. If you just adore lynxes, well, there you are. Conversely, passionate fear may also indicate alliance. (Where there’s no relationship, there tends to be little emotion, one way or the other, just neutrality.) Arachnophobes, I hate to break the news…

Animals may reveal themselves to you. Magic scoffs at the concept of coincidence. If something reoccurs with frequency, pay attention: it may be a clue.

Alliances may be revealed through dreams. Do certain animals consistently appear in your dreams? These may be your allies. Animals that feature in nightmares may also be allies; the nightmares may be due to miscommunication. A fierce wolf lies in wait for you in Dreamland, consistently appearing in your dreams. Terrified, you run or hide. The wolf, who longs to assist you or at least travel by your side, pursues, unable to communicate with you in a manner that would soothe your fears. This is a stalemate, the consistently reappearing nightmare that makes sleep something to dread and avoid. Next time some creature or person pursues you in a dream, don’t run. Stop, turn, face them, and ask them what they want. (This takes practice. Don’t feel bad if you can’t immediately accomplish something that sounds so simple. Before going to sleep, verbally affirm your plan of action and eventually it will work.) Because it’s a dream, anything can happen; you may be very pleasantly surprised.

Allies are revealed through divination. Various divination systems, usually cards, are commercially available; many are wonderful and extremely effective. The one drawback to these systems is that they tend to emphasize animals from a specific locale (Celtic or indigenous American most typically) and by nature are limited to a finite number of choices. Remember that you do not have to be limited to a set number of allies and that one can incorporate various systems as well as other methods.

Alliances are revealed through shamanic vision. Traditionally visions have been incubated through ascetic practices such as fasting or extended solitude in a place of power such as a cave or mountain, although with the exception of the extremely experienced, these practices tend to be mentored and supervised. (Always make sure that you are safe and that someone knows where you are and when to look for you.)

Alliances are identified through visualization, of which various methods exist.

Allow yourself to be surprised. Although you may be sure you know your allies’ identities, hidden allies may shock you when they reveal themselves. Also, do not be disappointed. We long for alliances with dramatic, romantic, wild, powerful creatures that bolster our self-image and are dismayed when instead our allies are revealed as ants, slugs, and bees. Every creature has power and gifts to share. Ants teach important lessons about persistence; rats are the ultimate survival artists, and in many places are perceived as incredibly lucky allies to have. Negative perceptions are often cultural. If you have negative perceptions of an animal, explore and research different perspectives and you may be pleasantly surprised. Spiders and bats for instance, while ominous in some cultures are incredibly auspicious in others.

Alliances may also be earned. If you crave a relationship with a particular animal, earn it by showing yourself to be a true ally. If you long for a hippopotamus ally, for instance, work to protect the species and preserve its natural environment. Investigate and see what needs to be done. On the spiritual level, erect an altar (or build a website) in the creature’s honor or devote one to its presiding spirit or affiliated deity. Should your good works draw attention, the desired ally will signal to you by using one of the previously discussed methods.

See also: Familiars, Nahual.