What are familiar spirits? Are familiar spirits ghosts?
Familiar spirits have been described as “helpful spirits” by various cultures, but actual descriptions of familiar spirits vary greatly. So perhaps, familiar spirits have been greatly misunderstood by many.
One belief regarding familiar spirits teaches them to be helpful animal spirits, taking the shape of cats, dogs, owls, snakes, wolves, etc. Familiar spirits such as these are believed to have magical powers, and may have originated from tribal societies being similar to totems (personal, animal spirit helpers). Such totems are believed to empower the living through sharing of wisdom or unique traits.
Familiar spirits have also sometimes been described as having the form of a “black man.” This description sounds very similar to what many describe as being shadow people, disembodied humans that have not crossed over unto the light and remain with us as ghosts.
Familiar Spirits: Tulpas?
Still today, some, especially the religious, regard familiar spirits as being demons, or something evil, due to the reference to familiar spirits found within some of the translations of the Old Testament. But, those in the Bible who called up familiar spirits to ask them questions were called sorcerers and necromancers: people who have the ability to communicate with the (human) dead. They would be the same as what we today might call "psychic-mediums." Along this line of thinking, the word familiar (coming from the Latin world familiaris, meaning “household servant”) expresses the idea of a helpful spirit that might obey a necromancer or sorcerer’s commands, or at least, seeks to help the communicator, if at all possible. If there is a ghost, or familiar spirit, that actually bades the commands of the living, then familiar spirits might actually be more of what is known as a "tulpa" in Tibetan mystic beliefs. A tulpa is a spirit created by the power of the mind to do one's bidding. To learn more about this, read: Create Ghosts.
If a familiar spirit is a disembodied human, and not a mental creation, is it a ghost? If we were to connect the Old Testament idea of a familiar spirit possibly being human with the description previously mentioned of familiar spirits having been described as having the form of a “black man,” then one might begin to deduce that familiar spirits, not being demons, are people on the other side of the grave.
In this sense, familiar spirits would be earthbound spirits, or spirits that have not moved on in life and remained in interaction with the earthly realm. Ghosts certainly interact with the earthly realm, and some ghosts do seek to be helpful spirits. Yet, even with the best of intentions, ghosts are not in the best frame of mind, and thus, are interfering in the lives of those on the earth, especially when contrasted with higher, elevated spirits that come from the light (heavens) to assist and guide people. Perhaps the Old Testament gives a cryptic warning not to listen to, or even follow, the advice of familiar spirits due to familiar spirits being people who are still lost, still in darkness, and not enlightened, yet - ergo, ghosts.
Are familiar spirits evil, then? No, not necessarily - especially if they are human spirits. Ghosts are people, and people vary in personality, intent and purpose. A few once-incarnated spirits may be strongly negative, while most others may be positive and even motherly in nature. It really is no different than the varying personalities we experience of people in the physical world. Yet, some ghosts, believing they are hidden and unseen, may try and fulfill addictions, pursue negative desires, or even seek revenge upon people.
As mentioned previously, it is possible to have a ghost interfere with a person’s life because of what the entity perceives to be helpful and of good intention. Suppose a person’s mother passes and decides to remain here on earth with her family. Her intentions are such as to instruct, guide, and protect her loved ones - but how good of advice might she have, having not ascended to a higher perspective found within the light, or heavens, having remained in the realm of darkness with only limited knowledge? Also see: Family Ghosts.
Speaking of familiar spirits and family, it should be noted that it just may be that many of our (what we deem as) deceased family members and friends are actually the ghosts that haunt us. Just maybe they hang around us, more than unknown ghosts, in attempts to stay with or assist us. Might it then be more proper to recognize that many of the ghosts around us, who are in need of our help to move unto the light (See: Spirit Rescue), might be family and better labeled, “familial spirits?”
We should also mention that enlightened spirits, not ghosts (earthbound spirits), communicate with all of us. They watch over our lives as unseen observers who interact with us during our lifetime. Such spirits bring truths, guidance and love to those whom they are ministering to. They may also assist us with transitioning out of one realm and into another. Who can say for sure, for everyone is different, and our roles may vary when on the other side of the veil. These wise, guiding spirits may be equated with spirit guides, angels, or even ascended family or friends who have transitioned from this earthly plane unto the light, what some may call "Heaven." Such spirits are always bearers of love, joy and peace.