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Fetish and Spirit Keeping - Modern Evolution of an Ancient Tradition

Nov 02, 2015

Alternative Title:Working Magick With Demon Familiars - The Lazy Way to Power

Originally published in the Anthology of Sorcery 2: Revelations, Edited by EA Koetting, Published by Become A Living God, 2015 

Dedicated to Bune - personal update to this essay to come soon!

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Working with a familiar, looking through the historical lense of a mostly Christian rooted demonology, is sometimes a practice of witches, sorcerers, conjurors and cunning folk.  Familiars, in the folk traditions of the British Isles, were seen as capable of being both assistants to the benevolent cunning folk, and evil spirits who carry out the malevolent intent of their masters, black magicians.  In this case, they were often referred to as fairies for the benevolent practitioner, and demons for the feared and reviled practitioner of the Black Arts.

 

Though what remains known of the tradition in modern times often points to familiars as being embodied in an animal that accompanies the witch, such as a cat, or a toad, 17th century magicians and healers were in the practice of conjuring benevolent familiar spirits, binding them in objects, and selling them as charms meant to bring great success to their keeper.  

 

16th century records speak of Mandragoras, familiar spirits given to sorcerers by the devil, who, when they are not doing their tasks for the sorcerer, live embodied in mandrake roots.  Mandragoras are demons who appear as small, black-skinned men, and help the sorcerer in his magick.  

 

An Agathion is another type of demonic familiar spirit who is bound by a conjurer and lives inside of a vessel.  There are also a number of demons in various grimoires who are described as having the ability to provide good familiars.

 

Keeping demonic and other types of entities as familiar spirits bound to vessels is likely a remnant of an earlier, pre-Christian magick.  Sadly, much of what little remains of this tradition has been demonized.  With witch hunts, and burning books, the victors wrote the history and the art and practice of working with companion spirits and entities was nearly stamped out.  Nearly, but not quite…

 

If we take a side trip into a study of the tradition of fetishism in West Africa, we may have a better idea of the prehistoric roots of the natural tradition of working with spirits as a way to have contact with the supernatural in daily life, and to exert some magical control over your natural world rather than being a victim to its forces.  Reviewing a non-Christian, non-demonized view of the practice of keeping and working with familiar spirits can add to our understanding of this ancient, natural practice - one which opened up spiritual forces and powers to every person, with no priest, no authority or mediating influence.  It’s little wonder that a clear image of this practice was stamped out of Western history, as it really does put supernatural power into the hands of the people.

 

A fetish is an object with magickal energies and powers.  There are a few types of fetishes, the ones we are concerned with are those which are the dwelling places of unique spirits.  This type of fetish has its unique powers ascribed to it due to it’s being either dwelling place or occasional haunt of a spirit or entity.

 

“It is credited with mysterious power, owing to its being, temporarily or permanently, the vessel or habitation, vehicle for communication, or instrument of some unseen power or spirit, which is conceived to possess personality and will, and ability to see, hear, understand, and act. It may act by the will or force of its own power or spirit, or by force of a foreign power entering it or acting on it from without, and the material object and the power or spirit may be dissociated. It is worshipped, prayed to, sacrificed to, talked with and petted, or ill-treated with regard to its past or future behavior.” (Haddon, p. 72)

 

In the practice of animism, every object has a spirit, the spirit of the fetish is distinct from this also:  ”the spirit which is believed to occupy the fetish is a different conception from the spirit of the animistic theory; it is not the soul or vital power belonging to the object, and inherent in it, from which the virtue is derived, but a spirit or power attracted to and incorporated in it, while separable from it. The spirit of the fetish is also distinct from a god, as it can animate one object only, while a god can manifest his power in various forms.” (Haddon, p.77-78)

 

The fetish is home of a particular, individual spirit or entity, one who works with the person who has the fetish.  This spirit is bound to one object only, and can’t be conjured or shared by anyone else, differentiating the fetish from an object which is seen as a portal or vessel for a deity, saint, or other spirit which may be conjured and worked with by many devotees.

 

As well, anyone can have a fetish, as many as one can acquire, and if one is not happy with the spirit, they can find another.  This distinguishes fetishes from guardian spirits.

 

A fetish is of a dual nature, spirit and body- the physical vessel is seen as the body for the entity in our world, and as the connecting link for communication: “one of the fundamental conceptions of the West African fetish is that the spirit and the material object can be dissociated, and that, although the spirit is temporarily incorporated in the fetish, yet the two are no more inseparable than man's soul and body.” (Haddon, p. 87)

 

With a cross cultural survey one can find many other intriguing remnants of this practice of binding spirits to objects.  Working with personal and private supernatural companions and helpers has been a long-standing tradition practiced in many cultures throughout the world - such as the vampiric demon of Malaysia, the Bajang, conjured by a sorcerer who is strong enough to bind them, the familiar is then kept as a valued asset, fed and sent out on the supernatural errands required by the caster, and later kept in the family and passed down through the generations.

 

The wide variety of methods of binding spirits and vessels used throughout the scattered traditions globally underscores the diversity of the practice of keeping spirits as personal familiars, and that there is not a single right way or method of achieving this purpose, while the clear similarities seen through making a comparison of a variety of traditions also helps to provide a clearer context, definition and understanding of this practice.

 

One wonders why such a global phenomenon, practiced by both adepts and ordinary people alike, is one that is mostly swept under the carpet in the modern day occult traditions, and little known to the westernized world up until recent times.

 

In the grimoire roots of the western magickal tradition, demon after demon is listed with the attribute of providing good familiars to their summoner if requested, such as Sustugriel, a chief demon in the True Grimoire, noted for his ability to teach the art of magic, give familiar spirits which can be used for all purposes, and furnish mandragores.

 

It’s notable that most of the same grimoires which guide the practitioner to the demons which give good familiars do not also provide instructions on binding them or working with them after they have been received.  Grimoires are notorious for their misdirections, blinds and the information that has been purposefully left out.  Perhaps the art of working with familiar spirits had been kept underground for a reason.

 

One magical text that makes an interesting contribution to the practice of binding and working with demon familiars is the Right-Hand Path oriented grimoire, the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage.  In an intensive six month operation, the practitioner is guided through rituals where they make contact with demonic Princes and Kings, and bind them to talismans through the swearing of an oath.  After this, the operator proceeds to request a list of unique Ministering Spirits from ORIENS, PAIMON, ARITON, and AMAIMON, and finally, the operator then requests from them his four Familiar Spirits.  All of these personal demons are also also oath-bound to their own unique talismans.

 

While the technique of binding the demons through oaths, using talismans as vessels, may seem unusual, if practiced as described, it was likely effective.  The Sacred Magic of Abramelin provides more detail on the topic of binding and working with personal spirit companions than most surviving grimoires.  

 

It’s interesting to note that, in parallel with the fetish tradition, Abramelin affirms that having acquired their own personal familiar spirit, one can gift it to another person.  He says: “I myself having been sought by the Emperor Sigismond, gave him willingly the best Familiar Spirit which I had”.  As well, he advised:  “Of this kind of Spirits there s an infinite number, who at the time of their fall were condemned to serve man; and to each man there be four of them destined … and in the case of your giving one over unto some other person, you can no longer avail yourself of his services, but in order to replace him during his time of service, you may call upon some other Spirit. And should you wish to send away one of the said Spirits …, it sufficeth for you to make him some sign that he can go, and at once he will obey... But if you have given one away (unto another person), you will employ one of the common kind in his place.”  Further advice on transferring a personal familiar to another person:  “should you wish to give one over unto any person, see that such person be distinguished and meritorious, for they love not to serve those of base and common condition.”

 

The spirits that are conjured and bound as personal servitors by the operator are divided into two types by Abramelin, who calls them, Ministering spirits, and Familiar spirits.  Both the Ministering Spirits and the Familiar Spirits are given to the operator after being requested by the four Demonic Princes and eight Sub-Princes, as the particular spirits who best match the operator’s own energetic makeup and personality.  The personal spirits given by the Princes and sub-Princes are, in a sense, a manifestation of demonic order and efficiency.  The operator is instructed to call on their Familiar for magickal tasks first, and for those tasks which cannot be handled by the Familiar, one then calls on the correctly matched personal, bound Ministering Spirit.  In this system, where the operator achieves their own personal, well matched crew of oathbound spirits to serve them, they now seldom, if ever, need to call upon the Princes themselves.  Instead, the demonic magick is executed by the Princes through their Ministering Spirits which have been given to serve the operator, who having attained this peak of having their own personal bound spirits to serve them, is now “free to avail himself of their services under whatever form may be pleasing unto him.”

 

While I have never relied on Abramelin’s writings or used his system of classification in my practice as a demon conjuror, modern day definitions vary somewhat from Abramelin’s categories of personal bound demons.  The demons that most conjurors bind and offer as personal spirits could be classified in the category of Abramelin’s Ministering Spirits.  

 

The term ‘Familiar’ itself has many definitions by different traditions.  The broadest definition is one in which the term ‘Familiar’ may be applied to any personal spirit or entity that has been conjured and bound and is in the possession of a person who works with them regularly as a personal helping spirit, or servitor.

 

The term Familiar, when used in this broad context, helps to explain why so many different traditions have valued the practice of working with a personal, bound spirit as an extremely invaluable practice in magick.  We can compare it to the difference between asking for a big favour from a friend versus asking a favour from a stranger.  Imagine you have a pressing need for a big bank loan, and don’t have the assets or credit in place to get it.  Who is going to go out on a limb for you, and help you in any way they can - an impersonal bank manager in a new town you just moved to, or a bank manager who has been your neighbour for 15 years, always says a friendly hello, keeps an eye on your house when you are out of town, and comes to your summer barbecues?

 

Established relationships are a powerful thing.  The bank manager who is your neighbour is familiar to you and is going to go out of his way to do whatever he can to help you when you require his services.  If he can’t help you, he would go out of his way to direct you to get the resources you need.  The bank manager who is a stranger to you is more likely to give you an impersonal no, and wish you the best of luck, as you are just one of many prospects who come to see him on a daily basis, and he has no personal investment in your life.  People are more likely to be unkind and unhelpful to strangers, without giving it a second thought.  People who are connected with and have feelings for a person are more likely to treat them kindly and bend over backwards to help them.  Relationship building has a similar power in working with spirits in magick.

 

Having a familiar spirit is having an ongoing, personal, working relationship with a powerful entity.  It’s like having an insider in the spirit realms.  This is the quickest and most efficient form of magick, and it’s why Abramelin advises that the operator always call on their familiar first.  The familiar is closest to you, and closely matched with your energies.  It will be far faster and easier for them to fulfill a task for you than it would be for you to perform a ritual and petition a powerful Demon Lord - one with many followers and devotees to divide his energy and attention among.  Demonic order is precise and logical, and it makes sense that the respectful approach would be to make use of these familiar spirits provided by the Demon Lords, rather than evoking them for something you can accomplish on your own with your personal demons.

 

Similar to Abramelin’s Ministering Spirits, many modern personal bound spirits need not even be by the side of their human full-time.  While some bindings may be forcible, and restrict the entity to their vessel, similar to the tales of genies trapped in their lamps, most bindings function as anchors, portals, and doorways, and do not constrain the entity to their vessel.  Instead, they provide the entity with a physical linkage to the world of the human, a binding which strengthens their abilities and presence in our world.  Bindings provide added power and clarity to communication and the spirit’s ability to manifest.  

 

There is a tremendous difference in clarity of communication and ability to manifest between spirits that are bound, and those that are not bound, and a similar range of differences between bindings of various qualities and strengths.  The better the binding, the more power the familiar will manifest in all things.  Bindings ultimately provide sheer richness, depth, and added potential to having a working relationship with a familiar spirit.  In lieu of bindings, most of those who have strong and successful working relationships with unbound familiar spirits likely have a natural psychic ability to form a powerful attachment with the spirit, using that attachment to empower and enhance their connection with their familiar.

 

Abramelin describes the magick, powers and abilities of the unique Familiar Spirits and Ministering Spirits that are bound by the operator as having infinite applications, and offers a partial list:

 

Scientific Information, Visions, Secrets of other persons, Healing of Maladies, Affection and Love, Demolishing Buildings, Discovery of Theft, Causing Visions to appear, Obtaining Money,

To know all manner of things Past and Future,To obtain information concerning, and to be enlightened upon all sorts of Propositions, and all doubtful Sciences, To cause any Spirit to appear, and take any form, such as of Man, Animal, Bird, etc., For divers Visions,

How we may retain the Familiar Spirits bond or free, in whatsoever form, To cause a Dead Body to revive, and perform all the functions which a Living Person would do, and this during a space of Seven Years, by means of the Spirits, To fly in the Air, and travel any whither, To cause Visions to appear, To cause Armed Men to appear.

 

Ultimately with the list of feats that the bound ministering and familiar demonic spirits are capable of, we can see that their powers are comparable to that of many of the most powerful known spirits of the grimoires, however there are important distinctions.  The Ministering Spirits and Familiar Spirits are given to the operator and operator alone, their name being revealed and recorded in their initial conjuration, at which time they are also bound to the talismans.  Now, instead of having to perform intensive rituals calling upon unfamiliar and unbound demons, the practitioner is free to utilize their established relationship with their bound spirits to work the same powerful magick.  And better yet, Abramelin advises that this masterful feat of casting powerful demonic spells at will can be accomplished with only a simple signal giving direction to the familiar, such as saying a few words to convey the intention, or simply touching the appropriate talisman and directing the spirit to the task.  

 

He says that a Familiar can even be directed subtly while the operator is in conversation with another: “And here it is well to observe, that if you use prudence, you can often reason with those persons who be with you in such a manner that the Spirits, having however been beforehand invoked by you, will understand what they are to do ...For they be of such great intelligence, that from a single word or a single motive, they can draw the construction of the whole matter... by their astuteness and subtlety they be so adroit that they comprehend by perceptible signs the wish of the person in question.”

 

It’s clear that acquiring the bindings of these personal familiar spirits is one of the main goals of the operation, and seeing the benefits of instant demonic magick that are obtainable, it’s easy to see why.  Now the operator is free to practice simple and demonic magick for the rest of their life, having now accessed the powerful shortcuts of working with bound demon familiars.  As a primary method of working magick with the bound spirits, Abramelin even expressly advises, “if you desire anything, command them aloud to perform it.”

 

As a practitioner, I do rituals and cast spells regularly and for various needs.  But it always amazes me when I have identified a need, decided to do a ritual for it, stated my intention aloud to summon all my power to manifest my goal, and the results manifest immediately, pre-empting the ritual entirely.  Having dozens of bound and powerful familiar demons around with my full permission to act in support of my will, there are times when they get the magick done before I can even cast for it.

 

Accessing demonic guidance instantly with precision is a dream come true.  There is no limit to what their guidance can be applied to and the benefits a keeper can gain in their life as a result.  Learning to communicate with their familiar in very clear detail will bring abundant and highly valuable hidden information to the keeper.

 

This naturally provides a huge boost in defense from enemies, protection, and baneful magick.  Many who keep powerful demons as familiars find that their enemies quickly run out of steam, and run into problems.  Revenge can be almost instant at times.  There are a variety of ways familiars can be used to gather intelligence about your enemies, from spying on them and relaying information back to you, giving warnings and direct information about events and dangers in advance, and communication of their secrets.  They can provide insights with elaborate details of what your enemies weaknesses are, what they have done or are planning to do to you, and how you can handle them, down to the exact spells or rituals to use and spirits to call on to help you.  They can alert you to enemy attacks and advise you in how to defend or counter-attack, help empower and strengthen your shields, help defend you against invasive negative entities and spirits, and spell out the hidden workings of your enemies to you, keeping you always one step ahead, prepared with defensive action, and avoiding damage that you otherwise would have sustained.

 

Guidance from your familiars can be accessed directly, through the use of a tool, or through purely unconscious and invisible means.  Direct forms include such methods as speaking to your familiar directly, using clairvoyant and clairaudient senses, or through soul travel with your entity.  With this method, one is able to hold a conversation with their familiar just like they would with anyone else.  This is an advanced method of communication, and it can also have its traps and pitfalls, as both the conscious mind and phantasms can get in the way of pure perception and interpretation of the energy.  

 

Tools are very helpful in accessing precise and reliable demonic guidance, such as cards and oracles, scrying in a reflective surface, and the ouija.  Tools are very helpful in loosening the grip of the conscious mind and allowing the message of the spirit to come through without impediment.  In my practice, I recommend my clients dedicate a particular tool to their familiar, or to their head familiar, and use it with them exclusively.  This both helps one to develop mastery of the tool itself, and develop an increased bond with their familiar, enhancing their capacity to receive more and more direct messages from them.  Working with a bound familiar allows incredible intensification of the tool’s abilities to convey accurate information over using the same kind of tool with an unbound spirit.  For a beginner, developing the ability to consistently use a tool to access demonic guidance from their familiar may take time and practice, as Abramelin said, “for an Apprentice Artist doth not become a Master suddenly, but little by little.”

 

Unconscious and invisible demonic guidance is where your spirits are successfully communicating to you without your active involvement or awareness.  This can come through your intuition nudging you in certain directions, through synchronicities in your life, and moments when your attention is suddenly drawn to certain things - like a paragraph in a book you opened randomly, or a potent message that comes through a song on the radio.  Familiar spirits are able to manipulate chance and arrange unseen events in the ethers, and often they can use timing for a powerful yet invisible manifestation of their guidance or assistance in their keeper’s lives.  There are many times when familiar spirits have been able to manipulate timing in ways to protect their keepers or even save their lives, without the keeper ever having known that they had even been in danger - such as causing a delay of a few moments in order to prevent their keeper from getting into a car accident.

 

Though having powerful demon familiars at your side doesn’t make you Jesus, and won’t make you invincible, invulnerable, or give you instant superpowers, the range of enhancements that working with them can provide must be experienced to be understood.  From the moment I began keeping demon familiars years ago, my life immediately transformed for the better.  From the start I noticed that my evocations were intensified, my practice of sorcery expanded, my protection increased, and my psychic abilities heightened.  Even in the past few months that I’ve been working on this essay, I’ve experienced many of the heights of the benefits I’ve written about.  I’ve received secrets of my enemies, been shown their weaknesses, and their plans, in order to successfully evade attacks.  I’ve had spells for massive results manifest before I cast them.  I have been guided and warned in advance with details on daily life and business situations.  And I have gotten through a mysterious illness which may have destroyed my life, through the perfect demonic answers, connections, and solutions which were being doled out to me one step at a time in order to get the help I needed and progress towards a successful recovery, when allopathic medicine was a hindrance rather than a help.

 

I live in awe of the mysterious powers of my familiar spirits that I have been privileged to conjure, bind, and welcome into my life.  It’s hard to describe the layers and levels of enhancements that they provide in my life, from the physical level all the way through to the spiritual level.

 

When you have high-level bound demon familiars at hand, and have formed an intense bond with them, casting spells and enchanting anything with demonic powers, for any intention, is a fairly simple thing.  There’s often no need for complex ritual or ceremony, for example, though should you choose to do so, you will find that with the help of your familiars you will experience greater connection in the ritual, with easier evocation, and a boost of energy powering your rituals and spells, with a much greater success rate.  A high-level demon familiar can even greatly enhance existing patron relationships, and help their keeper to establish new ones, as well as provide energy and power to intensify their keeper’s communications with their patron.  Having bound familiars, alongside with having bonded with powerful demon lords, deities, and other high-level and publicly known entities, is the ultimate shortcut in accessing intense and unlimited demonic magick and powers in your life on a daily basis.


If your demon familiar is high-level such as a Demon Lord or a very high-ranking and powerful demon, it’s the same as having your own demon of the Goetia by your side as your personal companion.  The powerful and often near instant results dedicated practitioners of demon keeping experience with their high-level bound demon familiars underscores this truth and is the reason why elite demon familiars with quality bindings are coveted by those who know and understand their capabilities.  

 

References:

Magic and Fetishism. (Alfred C. Haddon, Archibald Constable & Co Ltd., London, 1906)
 
The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage. (Translated by S.L. Mac Gregor Mathers, John M. Watkins, London, 1900)

 

 

 

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