In this post I hope to dispell quite a few misconceptions on the ideas of Familiars and Fetches, as well as give a basic understanding on how to find them and work with them; firstly I'll discuss the differences between the two beings, then moving onto how to find them/work with them.
In simple terms - the Familiar is a working spirit in service to the Witch (The Practitioner) whilst incredibly similar to the Fetch in many ways - the sole difference between the two is that the Fetch is personal and the Familiar can be personal; but most of the time is not. There are a lot of practitioners that will say that their Cat or Dog or other Animal that is their Pet is their Familiar - this is not true.
Mainly because during the 14th - 17th Century when the Witches Hunts were on, the villagers or towns folk would use any animal that followed an 'undesirable' around, they would mark it instantly as their Familiar and that they were a Witch (Most of the time it turned out that this 'undesirable' was nice to the animal and fed it or kept it near them to protect them from their neighbours and vandals) And let's be honest to be counted as an 'undesirable' all you needed to do was anger a neighbour or be disabled/queer (Queer as in strange, not as in LGBTQ)
This idea above has been carried through the ages and the 'belief' has been changed and morphed into what it is now - however there is lore/history that state some actual Witches did have pets following them - the towns folk would call them Familiars - the Witch would not call it their familiar.
So then, what is a Familiar and what does it look like? As stated above it is a Spirit that serves/works with a Witch/Practitioner - and as it being a Spirit , it's form is determined by itself alone/how it wnats to appear before you - most Familiars that have been recorded via Practitioners, Inquisitors/Courts have appeared in the shape of Animals or morphing between the two - sometimes Anthropomorphic - an Animal in the shape of a Human.
The Fetch is quite different, the Fetch is a Spirit but it is seen as your Shadow-Self, it is part of you/is you/the connection between you and the Beyond. According to different sources they are a bit more enigmatic than a Familiar because the Fetch is with you from the day you are born - whilst a Familiar can come into your life at anytime.
The Fetch is incredibly similar if not the same as the Norse Fylgia - they are Personal Spirits that reveal themselves to you and you should not go looking for them or misfortune will fall upon you. It is believed by many Witches within Europe that not everyone has a Fetch or the Fetch never stays for long, various testimonies from Past and Present Witches state that sometimes the Fetch will only appear a few times in their life - while to others it appeared when they were a child - stayed with them, then left or appeared as a child and returned much later and stayed for the rest of their life.
The Fetch has a very 'odd' relationship with their 'Witch' - as in it involves a lot of Hedge Work to understand them better, but this list bellow should give you an idea of how the Fetch interacts with a Witch.
- Fetch-Teacher , the Fetch will instruct the witch on their craft, and in this case can be seen as mentor given to the Witch by the 'Witch-Father' or 'Witch-Mother' in some beliefs.
- Fetch-Beast , a lot of trance work where you and the Fetch will travel as beasts through the otherside and do a great plethora of things
- Fetch-Mate , this is quite similar to God-Spousing, but in some practices/beliefs you are married to your Fetch , you are Husband and Wife, or Wife and Wife, Husband and Husband etc etc. There is a part where this blurrs where your Fetch is actually polygamous and is the personal spirit of a lot of other people and you are one Consort to the Fetch . Don't worry though, you can still be married to a real person - the Fetch is you - so essentially they are marrying your partner as well.
Working with and Finding these Spirits
Finding these two are very different, but here is a very brief list on how you can find these spirits/create a relationship with them - but bear in mind, Fetches shouldn't be found unless they reveal themselves to you.
- Summoning - you can summon a spirit and attempt to create a relationship with them, if they do not want to be your Familiar - leave it at that, the relationship is mutual first and foremost.
- Coming to you - a Familiar could seek you out because you have something they want/need (Not your Soul)
- Coven Familiars - if you're part of a Coven/Gathering there maybe spirits already in service to the Coven and the High Priest/Magister or High Priestess/Magistella or whoever runs the Coven can bestow upon you one of the spirits that aid them.
- 'Creation' - within some Traditions/personal practices there is an idea that you can create a Familiar much like you can do with a Servitor or Thoughtform.
- 'The Dead', as such, it is possible for your Pet to be your Familiar - once it has died and moved on, like most of the Deceased, they can chose to come back towards us to work with their loved ones - does happen from time to time and falls under the ideas of Necromancy and Ancestor Worship. ( However, please do not kill your pets so they can become your familiar )
- Divination, even though I have said multiple times you shouldn't actively try and find your Fetch - within some Traditions there is a belief that you can find your Fetch - within the book 'A Deed Without a Name' by Lee Morgan contains the Specific divination - I will not put in this post because it can be seen as plagirizing and it is way too long.
- Visions, different from Divination - the Fetch can give you visions and slowly reveal itself to you - you'd usually find these in Trances/Travelling the Hedge
- 'Group', whilst the Fetch is a Personal Spirit - there can be a Fetch that appears to a group of people as mentioned above under Fetch-Mate, some Covens work with a sole Fetch - a famous version of this is 'The Devil' or 'Nickie Ben' from the Trials and Testimonies of Isobel Gowdie - a famed Scottish Witch.
- Created, in some practices much like with Familiars - the Fetch is like a Servitor or Thoughtform given to them by the 'Witch-Father' or 'Witch-Mother'.
The specifc details to working with a Familiar or Fetch are very similar - it follows the same structure as any other spirit work you could come across. Simply after the relationship has been solidified most Witches would create a physical vessel for a Familiar or Fetch to act as their 'home' or 'bed' - as part of this relationship you'll have to feed this Spirit either with offerings and at times your own blood as well as a simple transfering of energy (Though the Transfering of Energy is more like a pick me up snack, better to go with actual offerings)
The Witch in question would pray to these spirits and release them from their vessel to go out and do their work - completing specific tasks for the Witch (They can't buy your groceries or do your laundry - they're spirits) In other practices the Familial Spirit would be placed inside a Vessel which has been designed for a Specific working purpose and hidden within the house to do the work - how offerings work this way is you'd have to do a Troyle Rite or a Red Meal/Spirit Meal , which is another topic all together.
However with Fetches , to work with them it involves Hedge Witchery (Travelling the Hedge into the Great Beyond) also called Spirit Flight , this where the belief of "I saw Goody Blah flying upon a Goat Last night" whilst the person never truly saw them - but saw their Shade/shadow travelling. Prayer and Vessels do work with Fetches , however they are a very Spirit Fligh t based working.
I do hope this post has been of great help and if you have any further questions, feel free to mail me directly or comment on this post.
Wicked Enchantment, History of the Pendle Witches and their Magic - Joyce Froome.
Popular Magic, Cunning-Folk in English History - Owen Davies.
Traditional Witchcraft, a Cornish Book of Ways - Gemma Gary.
The Black Toad - Gemma Gary.
Devils Dozen, Thirteen Craftrights of the Old One - Gemma Gary.
Liber Nox - Michael Howard.
A Discovery of the Impostures of Witches and Astrologers - John Brinley.
Cecil Williamsons book of Witchcraft, A Grimoire of the Witchcraft Museum of Broscastle - Steve Patterson.
Treading the Mill - Nigel G Pearson.
The Devils Plantation - Nigel G Pearson.
Witches, A Century of Murder - a Documentary found on Netflix.
To Fly by Midnight, the Craft of the Hedge Witch - Edited by Veronica Cummer
A Witch's Natural History - Giles Watson
MrShadowBwoy - youtuber - has a series of videos relating to Traditional Witchcraft and Familiars/Fetches -https://www.youtube.com/user/MrShadowbwoy/videos
Familiar Spirits on Wikipedia -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Familiar_spirit