[6.1 Spoilers] Famulus Text

1: Introduction

Famulus is a result of many years’ teaching in private circles.  As it became vogue to hire tutors around the year 1785, powerful members of the community gained a certain prominence, not-insignificant profits, and found themselves wrestling with a great deal of frustration.  This frustration stemmed from the fact that one tutor would teach one thing, which the next tutor would have to correct or account for.  They exchanged correspondence, to find out what had been taught and why, and opened discussions on how things might be done better.

No subject had quite held much importance or drove more heated discussions than the familiar ritual.  A lifelong bond between a human and an Other, a connection forged between them and fed with power to be made permanent.

The word familiar comes from the Latin famulus, meaning servant.  It came to refer to household and family, and over time, transitioning to the French familier, it came to mean ‘intimate, on a family footing’.  In all of these meanings, description, ritual and word are linked.  The familiar becomes family, the bond is intimate, and there is an implication of servitude.

Even after two hundred years of discussion and refining of this material, several ideologies and approaches stand out.  These details are discussed in separate chapters.  Each chapter that follows is annotated by a set of case studies.

In chapter two, we discuss the familiar itself.  What it is.  The limitations.  The diversity in approaches, which will be expanded on in subsequent chapters.

In chapter three, we discuss the bond.  The key points, early approaches, modern approaches, universal constants in the human-Other relationship, and the shape of the relationship before and after the ritual is enacted.

In chapter four, we look at the social contexts and environment.  Differences in familiars by region, microsocial factors, macrosocial factors, and cultural factors.  Both the practitioner-familiar relationship to the outside world and the outside world’s relationship to the practitioner-familiar relationship will be discussed.

In chapter five, we look at the familiars themselves.  Corporeal and non-corporeal beings, beings from a delineated subtype with a pedigree or subcuture and Others who are unique and standalone.

2: The Familiar Itself

Depending on the practitioner and the practitioner’s ideology, the familiar may be seen as a slave, servant, another party in a long-term business arrangement, a friend, a life partner, their other half, or some combination therein.  These varied factors contribute to some wild misunderstandings and points of contention between families, and even between practitioner and Other.  We hope, in the writing of this text, to reconcile some of these differences of perspective.

The well-chosen familiar is an asset to the practitioner, and sets a practitioner above a peer who is otherwise equal in footing.  In all things a practitioner might do, the familiar can influence the outcomes.  In times of warfare they may be guardians or assistants, and even the weakest familiar may be a reservoir of power that the practitioner can draw on to bolster themselves or suppress the effects of injury.  In dealings with Other, the familiar may be a voice or messenger, and they signal to the Other that the practitioner can work with their kind in some capacity.  Familiars may be assistants in the crafting of magical items, a second set of eyes, a means of travel or accessing realms the practitioner wouldn’t easily be able to access, a repository of information, and a buffer against harm or influences much like those the Other employs.

The familiar gains much the same: protection from those that would hunt it, a reservoir of power that preserves it, a spokesperson when dealing with humanity, standing among Others for its ability to relate to humans, helpers in their tasks, a means of transportation to places of Man that some Others cannot enter, as well as the ability to enjoy some of the graces and protections that mankind does.

As an established relationship, to be covered more in the next chapter, each will bleed into the other by way of the connection that connects one to the other, ceasing to be a closed circle and instead becoming an open figure eight, one open circle threading into the other.

This facet of the relationship is perhaps the primary reason that we do not see all practitioners undertake the Famulus ritual as a matter of course.  To both ends, the bond does diminish the Self and open it up to influences, granting a sum total greater than its individual parts, each entrusting the other with new, open vulnerabilities.

The connection also serves to make the practitioner more Other, and the Other more mortal, often represented by the animal form.  Many turn away from the bond to preserve their self and humanity, keeping these things as a grounded foundation from which to practice, as opposed to plunging into the deeper metaphorical waters and trusting an Other to help them to breathe.

In old traditions, in the post-Solomon reformations, God was arranged above king, who was arranged above lord, above man, who ruled over animal, who were declared above Other.  We know this redefinition of the anno Domini provenance was in part an effort to redefine the realm of man and mark out borders on a cultural and linguistic front.  Put in simpler words, mankind, in order to both survive and thrive, declared a new order of things and placed Other at the lowest point.  The familiar relationship originated in an era where this was the common mindset among men both practitioner and innocent, and the traditions established then include the translation of Other to the nearest step in the chain, in what was often viewed as ‘raising them up’ to be animals, close but still subservient to man.  In this, the tradition of giving them mortality through animal forms was established early on.

As a general rule, the familiar will assume an animal form that suits them, suits the master, and, while not necessarily decided beforehand, seems sensible in retrospect.  Larger animals often correspond with stronger familiars, and there is a strong correlation between the predatory Other and the predatory animal, or attention given to associations, such as the rabbit to the moon, or the cat to darkness.  Some variations do exist, or may even be automatic for certain Other, as detailed in chapter five, but the animal tradition was established early and holds true today.

The human-Other relationship extends further back than those early traditions, of course.  At the same time, such relationships were informal, often driven by times of necessity, and, according to old texts, often ended in the demise or subjugation of the practitioner or the practitioner’s wily escape from Other clutches.

The Calhoun Motte texts are the unfortunately poorly translated -in language and narrative both- diaries of Locke, believed to be a nickname of the Lady Calhoun.  She is, at the opening of the texts, married to a loutish monster of a knight who was given the titular motte for his deeds in battle, a castle on a hill at the edge of deep woods.  For much of the run of the texts, Locke befriends slaves and trades her knowledge of practice for theirs, starting with a charm taught to her by her mother.  She bears her husband two daughters, and the first of the daughters is beaten so badly that she succumbs to the long-term effects of the beating a year and three days after the fact, while the second is strangled by him, left diminished in mental faculties, and later ordered killed when she raises her voice at him, unaware of what she is doing.  She then bears him a son, and he is finally glad, and raises the son to be the same sort of monster he is.

Locke, in the embellished version, engages in flirtation and dalliances with the Forest King, deep in the woods, and must go to great ends to hide her pregnancy and child.  This is, however, believed to be details stolen from another tale, about another woman and Other.  What we do believe is that she, after weeks of daily beatings by her son, fled out to the woods, and struck a deal with the Forest King, marrying him.  Together, they overturned the Motte, freed the slaves and embattled servants, and slew both son and husband.  At the story’s end, the Forest King states that as he spared her life, he must now take it, and she argues valiantly against the end.  But, as Others of old often did, he refuses.  Her last diary entry, allegedly, is written as she prepares to go give over her life.

Depending on the tale, it ends differently, with the rare version saying that this obligation to give over her life is a test.  In others, she says he is no different than her husband was, and either curses the Forest King and his new Motte, or a melancholy settles over him until the end of his days.  In reality, both the embellished version and our own texts suggest that the Motte was managed for a single winter season by the Other, who pretended to be a human noble, then was sacked by allies of the boorish knight in springtime, its inhabitants slain down to the last for consorting with Other.

Locke’s story does include one of the old forms of human-Other relationship, established through another type of bonding we are very familiar with; marriage.  The effects that are described in the texts and various versions of the story lend something to this.  From the time of the marriage, Locke demonstrates some of the Forest King’s native abilities, turning wood aside and going untouched by animal.  Her existing capabilities as a practitioner are stronger, as she uses taught practices with ease, such as the ability to walk among hunting hounds who would otherwise tear her to pieces, cowing them.  Finally, the Forest King gains the ability to enter the Motte through the gates, paving the way for his followers to charge in after.

Some speculation has been directed at the link between the death of Locke and the summary decline of the Forest King, an Other of unknown type.  In virtually all versions of the tale that have been seen in circulation, he dwindles after killing or eating Locke, and finds himself unable to stand up to the knight’s old wartime companions and the armies they lead.  Though they were not strictly master and familiar, some of the same factors may stand:

When one suffers, so does the other.

The mechanism of this suffering varies, and can be temporary or great, depending on a multitude of factors, including the type of Other and the balance of power.  For Locke and her Forest King, however, it seems to hold true, and may well be the intended ‘moral’ of the tale, reflected in Locke’s diary entries, for those who know of Others and practitioners.

Terrence Hegh is not an anecdote drawn from ancient times, but a relatively modern example of the unconventional relationship.  Awakened, Terrence was forbidden from taking a familiar without family approval.  Driven by a fascination with the sea, in part due to his belief that he could reunite with a drowned lover if he could find her body, Terrence met and forged a deal with a Selkie, Graeme.  Every seven days, they met on the shore and mingled blood, each teaching the other one thing.  Functionally, the effect was similar to that of a familiar bond.  Both men carried on this way for some time, slicing their arms and holding the wounds to one another, each answering questions for the other.

Terrence eventually reached the point where he could draw on the Selkie’s power, and took to the water.  Graeme, however, felt he had much more to learn before he could traverse the cities of man, and felt betrayed in the deal.  He found and hid the body of Terrence’s lover, hoping to extort the rest of the information he needed from the young man.  When Terrence found the body, the Selkie guarded it, keeping him from approaching.  Terrence tricked the Selkie, giving him ‘a book with more information than he had shared in all their conversations’, a farmer’s almanac, and told him it had to be kept dry or it would be useless. Stuck with one hand held above water, the Selkie could not swim after Terrence without losing his prize.

Terrence was ultimately interrupted by the Selkie in the midst of the ritual to revive his partner.  Death energies carried him to the edge of death, where he was left suspended, turned into a brine ghoul.  The Selkie, too tired to withstand the onslaught of the loose energies, was slain.  Before he could come to his senses, Terrence devoured the waterlogged corpse of both Selkie and lover, sealing his fate as a lonely undead creature.

It seems that for every tale one might find of these deals ending well, there are fifty or more that ended poorly.  The Famulus relationship is in itself familiar.  It is a tradition-established practice, known to most Others, known among practitioners, and even among some of the general public, including the idea of the witch and her black cat, or Macbeth’s Paddock and Graymalkin.

It is, in practice, best to modify the existing Familiar arrangement than to attempt to construct it from scratch.  Draw on the familiarity and the supports provided by convention, lest the deal be unbalanced and the ending premature and tragic both.

Rest assured, even in holding true to the ritual, there are a great many shapes the ritual may take, and more possible outcomes in dynamic than this text could hope to cover.  Some include:

Tyranny on the part of the practitioner, who holds the power and controls their other half.  The familiar may be feeble, chosen for that reason, but its power is not the goal.  This is the old way, but not the oldest, exactly.  Discussed further in chapter two.

Elevation of the incomplete or weakling familiar.  Familiars who are incomplete, either as a fixed state or because they need something to finish themselves will be able to use the master as scaffolding.  In this process, they often match themselves to the master and build themselves up as a complement to them.  The cost, again, is in power, the benefit not control but a familiar in easy lockstep.
Discussed more in chapter five.

When the practitioner is referred to as Master the implication is that they are the one in control, with the majority of the power, if only by a small amount, and the ability to direct the familiar, deciding on their mutual course in things.  This is the most common modern form of the relationship, to the extent that many practitioners casually refer to the practitioner in the relationship as the Master, rather than the practitioner, and refer to the Other as servant.  While it sounds far from egalitarian, Others are often simpler existences, and often have less in the way of complex motives.  Those that do have complex motives often have the benefit of extended lifespans, and either miss little by maintaining the Famulus relationship because their plots span centuries, or they can carry on with their business in the background, which may resemble…

Loose familiar relationships are ones where the practitioner and familiar may resemble other types of relationship, but will most often resemble the Master/servant, Proportionate, Parallel, or Casual relationships, with one key difference.  In this relationship, the pair are detached, each leading their separate lives, but may make contact or touch base with one another regularly.  The familiar could easily be in another city, working on its own affairs or on goals aligned with the practitioner’s.  Such relationships are often dependent on the Other and the practitioner’s type of practice, using the ability to travel or summon the familiar quickly.  In other cases, the relationship takes this shape because of the practitioner’s needs; the alchemist chooses a familiar comfortable with cauldron and workshop and trusts them to handle things while he is away on business, or the heartless chooses a familiar to procure sacrifices from distant places.  This often sacrifices the ability to quickly exchange power between the two, but if the two are aligned in intent and disposition, it can be akin to having two sets of eyes and hands in two separate places.

Proportionate practitioner-familiar relationships are often carefully managed by necessity, striving to strike the right balance that does not veer too far one way or the other.  A strict relationship, this may come about because of the demands of the recalcitrant Other, or because the Other is of a type that cannot readily keep itself from taking over the practitioner, a reality discussed further in the next chapter.  By striking a balance, one party is typically being protected.  They must make preparation and take extra safeguards with matters that others may ignore or think about once a year at most, such as extended distance from one another, drawing on large amounts of power, or undertaking a major ritual.  Such a relationship, even if not clearly defined at the time of the Famulus ritual, will be very controlled, with keener awareness of where the practitioner and Familiar stand in respect to one another, which can be a benefit.

Parallel relationships are somewhere between proportionate and casual, and strike their balance by having practitioner and Other as opposites or as matched roles, where each has their field of dominion.  A learned practitioner who is poor in a fight may choose an Other that is aggressive and comfortable with killing, or a practitioner comfortable with industry and the urban may choose a familiar of the natural world.  Both can grow with some confidence they will not occlude the other, both gain some familiarity with the other’s ‘world’, and they may cover one another’s weaknesses.  As a drawback, however, translations of power are rarely easy, and even drawing on one another’s power may be costly.  Careful selection of Other is critical, for reasons that should be obvious.  Originally a result of necessity, looked down on by some, the parallel relationship has seen a surge of interest since the early 1800s, redoubled in the mid 1900s, and in many circles today, the selection of an especially good match may be something of a status symbol.  Touched on in chapter four.

Casual practitioner-familiar relationships are dangerous to the point of irresponsibility, but have seen some growing popularity among young practitioners as of the writing of this (2018) edition.  The familiar is chosen not for power or purpose, but for affinity with the practitioner.  The benefit, of course, is that one enjoys an easy friend and bond.  Do not undertake such a relationship with an Other thinking it may be easier or may allow one to ignore some of the warnings and restrictions.  Just the opposite.  If one does not mind the dangers and pitfalls, the Other will, oft to one’s detriment.

Subverted practitioner-familiar relationships are ones where the familiar controls the relationship.  The result of choosing a motivated Other with a great deal of power, the subverted relationship is, essentially, the end of the practitioner’s free life, and any freedom they are granted is at the Other’s whim.  The benefit, if it can be called that, is to have more power at one’s fingertips, but such power isn’t even necessarily at the practitioner’s disposal.  This relationship defined the pre-Famulus era.  Touched on in the next chapter.

Collapsed or Failed practitioner-familiar relationships are something of a worst case scenario.  A result of choosing highest-order Others, a failed proportionate relationship where safeguards are breached or balances tipped over, the Other’s power floods the practitioner and destroys them.  If anything remains of the man, it is a shell.  Touched on in the next chapter.

We hold that if it must be done, it should be done in an orderly, established way, with a clear label and agreement between master and Other.  One should educate themselves on the benefits and costs, including that simple reality that by taking one step closer to being partners, each moves a measured distance from their Self, the world they inhabited, and from the security that comes with being a closed circle.  It can easily go to ruin.

When disaster befalls master and familiar, the problems typically start at the bond.

3: The Ties that Bind

The familiar bond has many parallels to marriage; marriages may be arranged, happenstance, the result of long courtship, or they may be the product of practicality or need.  They may take a number of shapes afterward, as touched on in the previous chapter, including partnership, servitude, or friendship, and the circumstance in which the bond comes about does not always indicate the nature of that bond after, though it can certainly play its part.

In trying to encapsulate this bond, we find it difficult to impossible to sidestep these clear and sometimes uncomfortable parallels to marriage.  While such a ‘marriage’ to an Other may be distasteful, depending on the Other and practitioner, it still behooves the practitioner to keep this parallel in mind.  Many if not all questions about the possibilities, arrangements, and consequences of the familiar bond can be quickly answered with a comparison to common betrothal.

For example, one of the first considerations and dangers one faces in forging a relationship with an Other is the question of what happens with a vast power differential.  If one chooses a very powerful Other, then what unfolds?  To answer this, we can compare it to a marriage: would you wish to marry someone who had all of the resources and influence in the relationship?  Even a good relationship can go sour over time, and that is doubly true when that relationship is with something that isn’t human, with a different mindset, priorities, and perspective on the world.  Once it sours, the practitioner in an unbalanced relationship that does not favor them has little to no recourse.  Their familiar holds the pursestrings, has the final say in all decisions, and through the familiar bond, is permanently bound to the practitioner.

What’s more, the disproportionate relationship means that when the Other passes from this world, or is bound, rendered powerless, or taken to pieces, the practitioner suffers the full weight of that defeat, and will be extinguished in kind.

A healthy connection between master and familiar is, most often, an equitable one, where power is exchanged both ways, in a constant negotiation, overt or unsaid.  In a working relationship, the connection becomes a conduit by which powers, ability, and even Self can be lent from one to the other.  Through this, the practitioner may access talents, use the familiar as a battery, or use the familiar as a means of turning power of one sort to the familiar’s power.

Aloysius takes a Champion for a familiar, Adonis Johnson, a moderate-tier Animus that had spent his prior existence wandering the world to find the best people to fight with.  Johnson’s roots are in the incarnate, serving Battle, but he himself is essentially physical and could be mistaken for human.  His expression of power is through his innate awarenesses and talents, and should Aloysius feed Johnson with power, the familiar would exaggerate his ability to assess enemies, sense raw fighting potential, would fight better, and would be better able to rise to any challenges.  That same conduit of power can flow the other way, serving Johnson’s power by assisting him in his duties even though he is ‘free’ of those duties so long as he is a familiar will give the Animus power.  His underlying purpose is to remind the great fighters that anyone can lose, so defeating the powerful will serve to fill the well of power that both Aloysius and Johnson draw on.  Should Aloysius require it, he may draw on the connection and express a few Champion powers and abilities like those described above, albeit through the lens of Aloysius as a person.

Following the ritual, both are tied together, their assets pooled.  Power can be withdrawn from their joint pool of power, and equilibrium will be found over time.  If both are at full capacity and the master draws a third of the familiar’s power for a specific effect, the familiar will be weakened, but in the hours and days after, the balances will automatically settle until both are missing a sixth of their power, not accounting for natural replenishment or other expenditures.

The effectiveness of this power draw and translation of power can vary, depending on the familiar.  Aloysius’ familiar is focused on battle, combat, competition, and aggression.  Drawing power to do something in the midst of a fight, to do something aggressive, or for the immediate purposes of a duel would be very efficient.  Doing so to power and draw up an illusion or for the avoidance of combat entirely would be an expenditure with a very poor exchange rate.

The nature of the familiar impacts this, as well.  A spirit, for example, would care more about subject matter than the circumstances of a situation that an incarnate-related Animus would dwell on.  For a complex spirit knit together of deer, owl, and rabbit, for example, an illusion of any of those animals would be very efficient, but an illusion of fire would be a steep payment, if the familiar were paying the tab.

The translation of Self can itself be an advantage, but may just as easily be something negotiated or ruled against as the relationship is established.

Walter knew from an early point in his studies that he would be interacting with the Faerie court of Dark Summer.  While many practitioners who deal with the Fae will have some protection from inveiglement and traps, Walter’s situation was a poor one: a deceased father gainsaid in former deals, the family’s assets stripped and deals outstanding.  He had no means to get those conventional protections of a practitioner of Faerie arts.  He ended up taking a glamour-cursed partner, a girl enslaved by Dark Summer, doomed to become a monster every evening, so she could be slain time and again by her endless pursuers.  While she was not especially strong, and her power was limited to some transformation and translation of normal power into Glamour, her experience with the Fae enabled Walter to either use her as liaison, or to draw on the connection and alter his self to be temporarily Fae-like.  By becoming more like one of them, he was able to assume some protections.  Should all else fail, he could adjust his Self with that temporary monstrous visage and strength.  His partner, in turn, gained a reprieve from being hunted, and could hold onto enough of Walter’s humanity that she could avoid transforming on some evenings.

For much of human history, the benefits that Aloysius and Walter now enjoy were not possible, and most relationships between practitioner and Other were patronage, with the Other handing out limited power at a disproportionate cost, or subverted bonds, where the Other tied themselves to the practitioner in what was ultimately a parasitic or domineering role.

Parallels can be drawn to possession, where there is a link, albeit a very short one, and the Other occupies the body of a practitioner, an aware, or an innocent.  This was the closest convention, and many deals with Others were seen as doomed ones.  The earliest relationships were made between strong practitioners and the weakest Others, and served to insulate the practitioner against the possibility of being strongarmed into other deals.

As civilization sprawled and the most dangerous Others were dealt with, the nature of a master-familiar relationship took comfortable hold, and other possibilities arose, such as the parallel arrangement, or the careful proportionate dynamic.  These would often happen out of necessity, knowledge was handed down, and they saw more common use.

Catherine was forced to establish a careful relationship with a Bedlam Belle, otherwise known as a Moonstruck or the unsavory term Lunatic, in 1690.  Infected with contagious madness that could spread if conditions were met, the Belle was prone to disturbing the construction of levies, dams, and bridges.  As her influence spread across their small town, she bid others to do the same, and had some effects on reality.  Catherine lacked the knowledge to bind the Belle, got little help from Other and practitioner, and could not convince the Belle to be bound, nor could she slay the girl that had been taken in by the church, using its protection.  The familiar relationship was a compromise, and Catherine bound the Belle to herself, in a proportionate dynamic.

Catherine’s life from that point on was an ordeal, as the Belle jockeyed with her for power in their dynamic.  She moved inland, which distressed the Belle and turned it hostile, and whenever it rained or if she spent too long looking into water, her own sanity would slip.  With her passing of pneumonia at 46, the Belle was freed, and bid three families to drown themselves before passing herself, as a carriage was driven off a bridge and she died in the crash.

Catherine Gresham served the practitioner community admirably by telling others what she had learned and how to tailor the proportionate relationship to be easier to manage, but her contributions and sacrifice went unnoticed in her time.  She is but one example among countless, that have contributed to this ever-evolving arrangement and bond.

Today, constants have taken hold, and the established structures of the relationship allow for easy application of the parallel, proportionate, casual, and the loose relationship.  The division of assets, transfers of power, the dynamics when one is strong and the other weak, the nuances of the deal, and the protections afforded are secure in a ritual many families perform with gravity and significance.  The bond cannot easily be broken, and when it can, it remains easier to simply slay both master and familiar.

The biggest danger one faces is the collapse of the relationship through the bond.  Know that Others who spread or extend their influence may naturally extend their influence across the bond, corrupting or taking over the practitioner.  Others that possess are much the same, and the bridge between master and familiar may easily become an elastic band, snapping possessing Other to practitioner, giving them the easiest of avenues.  Indeed, some Dark Riders, Dark Passengers, or Jockeys specialize in tricking hosts and potential masters into establishing a connection or creating an avenue, only to seize firm and permanent control.  Know what Other you are dealing with.

See chapter five for more discussion of the dangerous Others.

4: Familiar and Unfamiliar Dynamics

The Familiar is primarily a Western convention, originating in English speaking areas, but as in many things Western, cultures spread and bleed into one another.

Within modern, Western culture, the current attitudes toward Familiars are in a reasonably healthy place.  Families of standing will often choose the Master-servant relationship, and may arrange familiars for youth, but many others have some free choice, leaning on comfortable establishment.  There are some hazards to watch for, but it is largely the fault of the practitioner when things go wrong.

On an individual level, practitioner to Other, the choice of familiar may bias certain Others to or against the practitioner.  The Fae-goblin dynamic is an easy one to cite, but certain Others may be so comfortable with chaos that a practitioner tied to a familiar of Karmic Law and associated influences may disturb or unsettle them.

In practice and in Practice, this makes negotiation harder.  Summonings may be resisted, Others may sense the practitioner coming from further away, as senses tuned against certain opposition are alerted, and even mundane magic items may squirm, after a fashion, in the practitioner’s possession, slipping from their ownership more easily or refusing to function properly.

In the broader, subtler sense, power among practitioners is expressed in several subtle ways, including standing, karma, strength of Self, and connections.  When the familiar relationship is poor, these things are tested, and this can impact one’s place in broader society.  If the familiar is a fish out of water, metaphorically speaking, then they are tested and both suffer.  Demesne, appropriate accommodations, and attention to the Other’s needs or means of interacting with the world can bolster this.  Having any familiar at all removes one from conventional society by a certain measure, and the scale of that measure depends in part on how acclimated the Other is with humanity.  To take an Other who knows nothing of cars into society will have its influence.

Again, in conventional, non-practitioner society, having an animal with you for the long-term can raise questions, especially if people notice the Other’s long lifespan relative to its assumed mortal species.  A practitioner without a familiar can potentially hide their practice from their partner or colleagues, but one who has a familiar risks hurting the bond through neglect if they attend to mundane life, and vice versa.  It becomes inevitable that some things must be shared.

Culturally, outside of the West, the state of the Familiar arrangement has strong relationships to how ordered that society is and the state of the relationship with existing Others.  Russia, for example, has a population of dangerous Others and a strong authoritarian streak when it comes to management of familiars, and Tanzania once had a strong Other-practitioner relationship but has seen a stark shift toward an approach akin to Russia’s.

Danya is a cousin from one of the larger Volgograd families, and agreed to talk to us about his approach while he visited.  He describes a dynamic where he jockeys for position among peers of roughly the same age.  One individual can rise meteorically or fall from grace with a single action or mistake, akin to a crime family, but their work is largely in support of Volgograd’s health and assisting its poor.  They maintain a degree of peace between families by being a ‘bigger stick’, as Danya describes, picking out hostile Others from Norilsk and its environs, and capturing dangerous Others from the wilderness.

Danya took a familiar for the status and chose a goblin, but has made it a point of pride to ‘tame’ the goblin, renaming it Cagehead (translated), and exerting control over every aspect of its behavior and appearance until it no longer resembles a goblin.

Senegal and Namibia are more progressive and could be argued to have led the way in casual Other-human partnerships, with young practitioners courting familiars in a very casual manner that includes long-term bindings before they settle on a Familiar, if they don’t outright reject the practice of taking Familiars for cultural reasons.

Nadiesta is a student at UNAM, and awakened as a limited Binder.  While she has not taken a familiar, she has established a bond with the community of Others that imparts some of the benefits, a factor she has strengthened over time.  She hails from an area in the rural countryside where more were Aware than innocent, and where Others are predominantly open and positive in their relationships with humans.  In her grandfather’s time, colonialism reigned, and even in the wake of that colonialism, Namibia saw a great deal of legal argument and contention over who should rule it, only partially resolving during her parent’s childhoods.  Coinciding with this was the status of Others, which was volatile and ranged from the aggressive binding of even minor Others to trickery, and even being driven from areas en masse by broad-area effects.

In the end, many Others and Nadiesta’s family found a kind of agreement and sympathy.  The region had never had many hostile Others, and the ones it did have were bound in her grandfather’s day.  Nadiesta grew up with Other friends and they formalized their friendship in mutual bindings.  The precedent established there manages to shirk the dynamics established in chapter two, possibly by being strictly temporary, and has carried forward with Nadiesta as she attends University.  As she meets new Others, each prior binding paves the way for her relationships with them.  Others find her and work with her as a matter of course, and she can draw on the circle of Others keeping close to her in a similar manner to how a Master might draw on his Familiar, albeit to a far smaller scale.

In some places, such as eastern Russia, there is a tendency to adjust the relationship, binding the Other to the form of an object, in a grand and formal ritual that blurs the line between the Implementum and the Famulus rituals.  It remains a measure that offers a wealth of control, but does without the companionship or easy negotiation.  As a practice it may have its roots in the same sorts of binding that occur among goblins, but the process was spearheaded by elite families who have not shared the particulars, mimed thereafter by others.

In western Russia and scattered places in Europe, the Other may be translated to a place, in a hybridization of the Demesne ritual and the Famulus ritual.  As a process, this instills that place with its own awareness and power, at the cost of it having less of an intuitive link to the practitioner.

These two forms of binding are not established and are far weaker together than the archetypical Familiar and Implement or the archetypical Familiar and Demesne would be, if both were taken apart.  The established approach does offer simplicity, as well as minor benefits such as not needing to manage or talk to one’s familiar, or having a demesne that can withstand and fight back against intrusion, in a practitioner community where such invasions may be common.

In Japan, relationships range from the Casual to a standardized variant on the familiar, where the practitioner opens up several spaces and binds two or three familiars at once.  This dynamic is tyrannical on the part of the practitioner, who assumes shrewd control, but among the Others it is often parallel or complementary, with Others balancing one another out and absorbing the brunt of effects for one another.  The process is somewhat fragile, and the nature of the practitioner’s relationship to the familiars resembles a chess player with his pieces; if he topples, all tied to him suffer.  Even a single blow can be telling in the outcome of contests.

This careful arrangement of Familiar to self can change in different cultural contexts.  What a Familiar connects to or what things symbolically represent what may swiftly change for the world traveling practitioner, as they run into new spirits with different ideas.  For those maintaining Parallel relationships, this can be a sudden and drastic shift.  An example, from a tale shared for dark amusement:

Jason maintained a long relationship with his familiar, Anna, a twisted Wraith with the form of a haphazardly tattooed girl of twelve or so, who chronically smoked and drank.  By the terms of their loose, parallel arrangement, she wears a human form, sometimes without the tattoos, but carries on in her own way.  He benefits from her raw strength, and endures the occasional hangover that leaks over from her binge drinking.  They are parallel to one another, as he works for law and order, chasing down international criminals and Others, and she has a connection to the underbelly of society, a rebellious, criminal, and streetwise bent to her.

As they travel through Norway, however, they are forced to cut through the Undercity in Oslo.  A neighborhood the unawakened cannot enter, rife with Others, and a large population of hundreds of the dangerously Aware.  There, murders are a daily occurrence that do not even shut down affected businesses for the full day, most dogs are strays or attack dogs, and, pertinent to this anecdote, the lion’s share of children smoke and drink, with some doing hard drugs casually.  Jason’s partner Anna exists as a rebel, and in an instinctive effort to be a rebellious kid instead of following the status quo, she went above and beyond in finding a way to exceed the local youth in her extreme behavior.  Jason was forced to try and find her as she abandoned her usual habits and tracked down drugs and questionable drinks that would give even the local residents pause, passing on the residual effects to him through their connection.

Other things as simple as what a color means to a culture can skew a parallel arrangement or upset a sensitive balance between master and familiar.  Travel with care.

Variations on the Familiar ritual are numerous, and complicating factors abundant, but few boast the degree of establishment the Famulus ritual offers.  When new arrangements are seen, we know we must wait to see the long term outcomes, as there may be traps evident in even happy arrangements such as Nadiesta’s.

Further variations are expected to arise as attitudes toward Other change across the world.

5: Expectations and Labels

Others are too varied to label easily, but certain trends stand out among broad types.

Corporeal and Incorporeal Others:
Corporeal Others have a shorter road to travel when it comes to mortal form, and when they take animal form, may be more dangerous or comfortable with attacking a threat.  They heal quickly, can and do switch forms readily, and exhibit an easy resilience that does not test the bond.  Many are effective batteries and repositories for power.  The transfers of power, however, may be more limited, slower, or narrowed to specific subjects or courses.

Incorporeal Others, by contrast, tend to have a facility with the transfer of power, influence, and Self.  They may impart their strengths as an Other with ease, as a general beneficial effect for the practitioner, specific functions, or even as an offensive tool.  They are fragile, and make poor vessels for power, as their mortal form tends to be busy housing their incorporeal bodies.  The incorporeal Other as a familiar may be vulnerable to harm, crumpling or falling when struck and taking some time to draw the power necessary to return.  The degree to which this occurs depends heavily on their type, of course.

Elevated Others
When an Other is incomplete, it may be elevated:

The Single White Female type doppleganger seeks to mirror somebody in dress, behavior, and key facets of their lives, stealing romantic interests and even families.  She thrives through the established connection until ending her hunt in a climactic event where she destroys her target’s ego and body before stepping into her shoes, sometimes literally.  Most become restless or degrade over time without a ‘mirror’ to copy, becoming drab, neurotic, and detached, eventually pulling away to hunt a new victim.

Such a doppleganger is in an ‘incomplete’ state without her mirror.  Elevated, she fills in the blanks using the Familiar connection.  Depending on the terms of the deal, she could copy the practitioner, or fill in the blanks to complement them as an individual, becoming a perfect fit to them.

Elevated Others can include vestiges, dull echoes, creatures from the dreaming places, and the varied Hounds of War.  Some like the echo are stable in how unfinished they are, while others like the Hounds of War or dopplegangers will gain faces and names as they take lives.  The shape or nature an Other takes as it is elevated to something ‘complete’ can be controlled, but this kind of control requires more power, and may make the familiar weaker in the end.  Incomplete Others that have been Elevated tend to be decent repositories for power.

Detached Others, Summoned Others
Others who bear no concrete attachment to our world, including ones who may appear and disappear casually, those who exist rooted around a general place rather than where their feet are planted, and those who lurk around specific kinds of events will become familiars of a similar stripe.  Others who do not exist without being summoned, such as the typical Bloody Mary, will need to be summoned and held in place for the ritual’s duration.

They may be more fragile, with some banished for a time if wounded, but their ability to move from place to place will typically allow them to move to the practitioner’s side as they are needed.  A popular choice for the practitioner who seeks a loose master-familiar dynamic.

Others of Deals
Others with a facility for deals and facility with words will be reflected in a strong connection to the practitioner’s Self, and exchanges of Self.  Faerie are a common example.  They may grant some rhetorical ability, the ability to charm, or otherwise influence people.

Others of a Specific Line
Others of a consistent appearance, nature, and function will pick the same animals where possible.  This can be preferable to practitioners who wish to know what to expect, but they often have limited opportunities for growth in character or adaptation outside of their comfort zone, and this may lead to less affable Others for those who want friendly companionship or a Casual practitioner-Familiar relationship.  An example of this may be the Komainu, or the ‘stone lion’, a mass-manufactured guardian Other who protects and karmically benefits households.  Most are similar, though they may vary in size and shape, and a male Komainu will have a similar personality to another male Komainu.

Anti-Establishment Others
Some Others may inherently violate the Established expectations of the Famulus ritual due to their inherent natures.  This can include those parasitic Others touched on in chapter two, but also includes those who take object form by default, or Others who take no mortal form at all.  Others that exist as writing on a page may translate to become tattoos when not in their Other form, for example.

The aforementioned Komainu are often created in matched pairs, and one could pick such a pair as their familiar.  In the same way, any set of linked Others that exists as an established trio could be included as three.  Such Others have a tendency to be very ordered, and the more chaotic, matched Others may be too dangerous to bind, taking over the connection to the practitioner easily.

In short, nearly every expectation and rule within this text has its exceptions, as Others are varied and subversive.

Divine Others
A loose category, encompassing those Others who come from a higher power, which may or may not be a god.  In this category, they may be Karmic Others, related to great spirits, or even be primevals.  Often tied to an imposing power source, the Other acts as a filter to control that power, and may be a wellspring of power, either legitimate (with permission from the deity) or illegitimate (a cultist tapping a volatile power through a cooperating familiar).  As a benefit, if Other and practitioner are depleted, the Other may draw steady power, helping both to recover faster.

The cost of this power is that there are often either expectations, or the need to avoid the consequences of being caught drawing on this power.  Such connections are often but not always an arrangement from the higher power, a powerful Other granted as a gift.

Practitioners who tap into these higher powers will often choose an Other that is a filter in this manner, or a sliver of their deity’s power, rather than risk a familiar relationship with something grander that is likely to collapse.

Familiars of Higher Orders
In chapter two we discussed Others who may prey on the connection formed by the Familiar relationship.  Others of great power are similar.  Should they have a significant enough power source, the differential between Other and practitioner may be the equivalent of a small room underground and below a sizeable lake, with the smallest hole drilled between them.  Pressure and the natural movement of water, our analogy for power, ensures that the spray will be violent and inevitable.

At the highest order are those Others who have few peers.  God, Great Spirit, Primeval, the heads of Fae courts, and the Architects or Devourers of Creation require great power and the firmest of hands to manage, and one mistake, even a scratch on the skin, may be the opening that collapses the Self under their effective weight.  Practitioners of Solomon’s peerage may manage this, but they are rare at best, and even they may only postpone the collapse of the bond.  For most, the ritual will not even be finished before the Other washes out and through them, turning them into a mere foothold into our world of Man.

30 thoughts on “[6.1 Spoilers] Famulus Text

  1. In Japan, relationships range from the Casual to a standardized variant on the familiar, where the practitioner opens up several spaces and binds two or three familiars at once.

    Gotta bind them all!

    Liked by 6 people

      • In fairness, the text outlines all approaches besides the standard Western European Famulus ritual as bad ideas. Ranging from the Russian hybridizations of Familar+Implement or Familiar+Demesne (“…far weaker together than the archetypical [rituals] would be, if both are taken apart…”) to the sniffing disapproval of “Casual” Familiar/Practitioner relations (“If you don’t mind the dangers and pitfalls, the Other will…”).


  2. “Elevated Others can include vestiges, dull echoes, creatures from the dreaming places, and the varied Hounds of War. Some like the echo are stable in how unfinished they are, while others like the Hounds of War or dopplegangers will gain faces and names as they take lives.”
    More hints that John is an unusually powerful Dog of War. I think he might be being considered for the role of Carmine Dog for a reason.

    Liked by 2 people

    • John’s unusually powerful because he’s unusually young, and the war he’s a Dog of is still ongoing. His war is a constant source of power for him. A Dog of War linked to the First World War is only really empowered by the Iron Harvest, and whatever they’ve gathered up from that war, rationed out over the last hundred years. Plus it’s noted they gain faces and names as they take lives, and it’s possible he’s killed a lot of people to stabilise himself.


      • I’m not so sure that this is the case. Presumably when Dogs of War form, they’re still faceless; I think that John’s probably just killed a shitload of people when he was in Afghanistan, and absorbed a heck of a lot of power and humanity from them.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I mentioned that in the last sentence, and the bit about being powerful because the Afghan War was mentioned by someone earlier on, in reference to trying to bind him I think.


    • It might be more than that though. The next line is “Incomplete Others that have been Elevated tend to be decent repositories for power.”
      What if John is a familiar that’s more independent, and got power that way. Maybe John is converting some of the power of the Carmine Beast. He would be efficient at it.


  3. I think this is the first time we’ve gotten more than a couple lines about the Practice outside Canada. I love it.

    Great chapter overall. It’s more reminiscent of Pact’s Pageses than Pale’s normal Extra Materials; the segment is quite flexible.


  4. At the highest order are those Others who have few peers. God, Great Spirit, Primeval, the heads of Fae courts, and the Architects or Devourers of Creation require great power and the firmest of hands to manage, and one mistake, even a scratch on the skin, may be the opening that collapses the Self under their effective weight. Practitioners of Solomon’s peerage may manage this, but they are rare at best, and even they may only postpone the collapse of the bond.

    No kidding. V thrff Wbunaarf pbhagrq nf n cenpgvgvbare bs Fbybzba’f crrentr.


  5. i truely love these chapters. gives a greater insight into how this world works, and is always written beautifully. thank you wildbow! 🙂


  6. Edit comment:
    “That same conduit of power can flow the other way, serving Johnson’s power by assisting him in his duties even though he is ‘free’ of those duties so long as he is a familiar will give the Animus power.”
    Problem with the text. Not sure if it’s just missing a comma, a word, or it’s a more complex error.


  7. So… does Snowdrop kind of like… already count as an Elevated other?
    In that its pretty clearly stated that she isn’t really an opossum and is instead some kind of weird… Paths… spirit thing created by the ritual? And made as a reflection of Avery.

    Also, she is kinda ageing disturbingly fast. Avery may be spooked by the level of influence she already has… but also, if they DON’T perform a familar ritual, then Snowdrop is due to be deads in approx 2-4 years? Might be a good idea to let her age to match the girls age, and then do the ritual? Or talk to her about it?

    Also, what the hell kind of terrifying rulebook did Mrs. Durocher use when binding her… weird… primeval… familiar… thing.


    • but also, if they DON’T perform a familar ritual, then Snowdrop is due to be deads in approx 2-4 years?

      Maybe. I figure there are three main possibilities. The first is a simple possum-speed lifecycle, as you proposed. The second is that she’s only going to age at possum-speed until she reaches maturity, after which she’ll settle in for the long haul as an immortal Other. The third is that she’s aging due to her connection to Avery, and once caught up she’ll slow down and track Avery’s age.

      My money’s on the middle one, but we’ll see. Maybe. If they survive that long.

      Might be a good idea to let her age to match the girls age, and then do the ritual? Or talk to her about it?

      Definitely talk to her about it, because you really shouldn’t marry your trashy hobo child without communicating first. I don’t think Avery would want to take her as a familiar unless it’s necessary to save her life, though. Note all that stuff the text said about Self bleedthrough, and then recall Avery’s paranoia about how much of Snowdrop is just herself.

      There are other options, and one of them is super obvious. I’ll give you a hint: it’s red and fuzzy. 🙂


      • Carmine Trash-child??!

        And yes, definitely talk to her about the ritual (obviously). More I was thinking about talking to her about the TIMING of the ritual (if it were to be performed).
        Also, possibly worth talking to Finder families to see if we can find the rules on Boon companions….
        Though… come to think of it, I don’t think any of them even knew that you could keep the companions…


  8. I think my initial theory that Eyeball Girl would be Verona’s familiar is unlikely, now. Maricica seems to think EG has a link to the divine, and the book seems to suggest taking a familiar with such a link is not the best idea if you don’t have a link to the same entity.


    • Just because some plan is unwise, doesn’t mean it won’t happen, especially in a wb story.

      That said, I don’t think Verona is ready to form a bond with a familiar, not for a while. Given what we know so far, the most likely path I can guess at is: Verona hollows out more of her emotional Self, spirits enter, and Verona becomes a practitioner/Other hybrid (intentionally or otherwise). From there, Lucy might take Verona as a familiar, or vice versa, but that seems… too predictable? Not twisted enough for this story? We’ll find out eventually.


  9. This is fantastic. Your worlds and words are so immersive. I wonder if a binding was effective enough, if you could attempt to bind someone’s familiar to weaken both of them/temporarily stop the power exchange?

    I’m an avid reader but not practiced at good literary critique. If I commented on every chapter it would just be “wow this story is so freaking awesome.”

    All of your works are in my list of favorite things.

    A part of the fantasy fulfilment in me wants the girls to get some badass bindings, and I can see the possible setup for Avery to have the demesne, Lucy the implement, and Verona the (or BE the) familiar.

    Silly thought, but I’m imagining Lucy with a power source turning a soda machine into some sort of multiple ammunition type artillery haha.

    I’m also reading The Zombie Knight, with a very mild base similarity to familiars with gur freinag’f novyvgvrf/zretvat sbezf, naq gur zhghny qrfgehpgvba novyvgl uryq ol obgu cnegvrf.


  10. Oh no, Russian goblins must be even grosser than normal goblins, if “Hard to Be a God” is any indication.
    That poor “tamed” goblin though, that sounds like a miserable relationship for both of them.


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