In European folklore Familiar Spirits were supernatural entities who assist witches and cunning folk in their practice of magic. They would appear in numerous guises, animal or humanoid.When they served witches they were often thought malevolent, when working for cunning-folk they were often thought of benevolent. More info at my Review of Cunning Folk And Familiar Spirits: by Emma Wilby. http://bit.ly/WslUw2
Because mandrake contains deliriant hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids such as atropine, scopolamine, apoatropine, hyoscyamine and the roots sometimes contain bifurcations causing them to resemble human figures, their roots have long been used in magic rituals, today also in neopagan religions such as Wicca and Germanic revivalism religions such as Odinism.
The first thing you should do is begin a conversation with nature, the old gods, and the land spirits (spiritus loci). It doesn't have to be some great lengthy dialogue filled with thee's and thou's. Just talk normally. Introduce yourself to the air and wind, to the rain and water, to the sun and flame, to the earth and trees. Let them know that you are desiring to work with them.
In many societies, healers or shamans function as intermediaries between the physical and spiritual world. Illness is thought to be caused by a loss of the soul from the body and the shaman’s role is enter that world and retrieve it so body and soul are whole again. The use of “spirit guides”, powerful plants or totemic animals assists the shaman in the spirit world. This image from 1906 is of a Tlingit Healer. Photo credit: National Anthropological Archives.
The Witch of St. Kilda - 1840. St. Kilda boast the last recorded sighting of a Great Auk in the British Isles. It was made in 1840, when islanders on Stac an Armin suspected it was a witch and the cause of a tremendous storm. The last breeding pair are believed to have been spotted (and promptly killed) in 1844 by sailors on a rocky outcrop on the island of Eldey off Iceland. And the last recorded sighting was in Newfoundland, Canada, in 1852.
In popular imagination the animal most associated with witches is the cat. But in tradition it wasn’t the cat at all who served witches as familiars and messengers: it was the rabbit. Witches were also on occasions said to have transformed themselves into rabbits. Rabbits are clever, fast, coming and going as if by magic. They are associated with sex, fertility and the moon, classic tricksters, representing the triumph and joy in life, and success, the primal stimulus for magic and witchcraft.
A Norse legend, tells that Freya, the goddess of love and fertility, rode in a chariot pulled by two black cats. The latter were actually her swift horses that had been possessed by the devil. The cats served Freya well for seven years, and at the end of this time were rewarded by being turned into witches – disguised as cats!
pamphlet was published attributing magical powers to Boy, the famous war poodle of the Royalist Cavalier Prince Rupert of the Rhine. The crowded title page notes that the fearsome canine was only felled thanks to the counter-acting magical powers of a "Valiant Souldier, who had skill in Necromancy":