As far back as I can remember, I’ve had an affiliation with cats.
But it wasn’t until my own cat—Millie—spoke to me, that I knew my connection to felines was deeper and more rooted.
Millie is my familiar.
A cat, or a “familiar,” as they are known, is traditionally the companion of a witch. The familiar and its owner have a psychic bond and instinctively know what the other is thinking. They will live and/or work beside each other and have an intuitive understanding that they belong together. They share a “familiarity.”
Have you thought about the bond you have with your cat? Do you have an unspoken connection? Do you sense things about each other that no-one else seems to be aware of? Perhaps you were ill or upset and your cat comforted you? Maybe your cat has been your familiar all along?
I discovered my familiar in a way I didn’t expect when I bought a weaver’s cottage, in the Pennine hills of England, built in 1809.
Back then, weaving on looms was carried out in the attic and the spun and woven yarn was exchanged with local merchants for a few coppers. Life expectancy in 1809 was little beyond 40 years. Many infants didn’t make it to their second birthday due to smallpox or thyphus.
These were the days prior to the Industrial Revolution, before the “dark satanic mills” of Lancashire were built. Sanitation was poor. There were no toilets and kitchen facilities were basic. Household waste lay in open gutters attracting mice, rats, and the inevitable—cats.
I viewed the cottage on a rainy night. The cobbled streets were empty and the inhabitants remained behind curtains, only wisps of wood smoke giving away their presence. The street lamp gave little illumination in the dark alleyways and my eyes played tricks on me. I squinted, then gasped!
A cat jumped over a moss-covered stone wall and disappeared. I was being watched.
I knocked on the tiny door by bending under the stone lintel. A silver-haired lady with a friendly smile invited me in as the sublime fragrance of essential oils swirled around me. We glided between quirky beamed-ceiling rooms, peering into nooks and crannies, pointing at the tiny opening leading to the attic and she showed me a blocked up doorway, the height of my shoulder where the previous occupants would have passed through.
I sensed movement behind me and I realised that Sylvia and I weren’t alone. Yes, of course, she had a cat—we’d already met.
Sylvia was an intriguing woman and a homeopathist. Her home was filled with crystals and images of fairies. She was a witch—of that I am sure—with her familiar by her side, and I knew that night I would buy her cottage.
Later that year the sale completed and I moved into the cottage with my boyfriend. Even before I’d furnished the rooms, I knew I would have a familiar, and began searching for the kitten that would grow with me.
A family member suggested having two kittens and I travelled over 50 miles to collect them after reading a newspaper advertisement. I wasn’t given a choice as two black felines, one male and one female, were thrust into my arms. It felt like a rescue operation and the cats seemed to have chosen me.
Toby, the male, adjusted nicely, but Millie didn’t take to being indoors and soon bolted through a high window. I didn’t expect to see her again as she disappeared over the cobbles in the alleyway by the abandoned merchants workshop.
I searched for her and cried as the days passed by. Eventually I gave up hope. Fate had chosen Toby to be my companion, who spent most of his time in the window seat with the garden view.
But on the morning of the fifth day I heard Millie’s cry. I ran to the kitchen door and there she was! I hugged her and told her I loved her and after that, she never ran away again—in fact—she never left my side.
I loved meandering through the local alleyways, seeking out hidden gateways behind ivy-clad walls, finding stone steps worn down by clogs, Millie following behind me. That’s right, she came for walks with me, followed me wherever I went.
One night, Millie came to me in a dream. In paw sign language, looking into my eyes, she asked, “can the ginger cat stay?” She stood on her back paws next to the bed, using her front paws to express her words. I recorded the scene in my diary, and what a wonderful dream it was!
But my boyfriend John, wasn’t happy. He came home from work one night and announced that he was going to board up the cat flap as he was sick of the ginger tom cat that kept leaving fur on the sofa. “What ginger cat?” I asked.
For two weeks a tom cat had been coming in at night, curling up on the window seat with Toby and leaving around 6 a.m. when John got up. I looked at Millie whose wide, penetrating eyes seemed to enter my soul. Millie had found me in dreamtime and asked me a very important question.
I truly had found my familiar.
On one of our afternoon walks we approached a builder who was renovating a neighbour’s house. “Funny lookin’ dog you’ve got,” he remarked, and I stopped to chat and to tell him how Millie loved to walk with me.
He described how the occupants of the house had been unable to catch their ginger tom before moving out prior to the building work commencing, and how the cat stayed, awaiting their return. I glanced at Millie and basked in joy at the deep connection we shared.
Later, sitting in the garden, Toby and Millie close by, I wondered how many others since 1809, weavers included, had stayed for a while, just like the ginger tom.
We are animal lovers by nature but discovering our familiar is a wonderful gift from the feline worId. Imagine the fun, the secrets, and the knowledge we can share with them.
When we connect intuitively with our animals, our souls merge with theirs and our lives are truly enriched. Take a look at your pets. How “familiar” do they feel to you?
The doorways, alleyways, and gateways surrounding my cottage felt familiar too. It was like I had lived there before, in 1809—timelines merging. Toby, Millie and I go back much further, of course. Toby on the windowsill and Millie at my side.
A true familiar chooses her companion every lifetime, through dreamtime. Every time.
Author: Shelley Dootson-Greenland
Image: Author’s own; Unsplash
Editor: Lieselle Davidson