In the best selling trilogy His Dark Materials
by Phillip Pullman, dæmons are undoubtedly an element which make his story leap off the page and stick with its readers. In the protagonist's world, everyone has a dæmon. They are the person's soul in animal form... a shape-shifting companion who eventually settles into one form to symbolically represent their human's nature. They give advice, they chastise bad decisions, they offer unwavering comfort and support. They can be anything from a butterfly to a wolf to a dolphin. If this bond were somehow severed, their human would become a shell of their former self.
So, what are dæmons to us? Clearly we don't have a corporeal familiar following us around, flickering from one form to the next in the blink of an eye. Those of us who call ourselves "dæmians" have taken Pullman's wonderful dæmon concept and turned it into a fun - and even useful - mental construct. For us, dæmons are a part of our consciousness that we've assigned a name, gender, and symbolic animal form. They're glorified imaginary friends that act as the other side of our mental dialogue - sometimes being the voice of reason, devil's advocate, or just a friend. (Heck, today my dæmon gave me fashion advice!) Simply put, dæmons play the role of constant mental companion. Yours might be the silent type or they might never shut up. It depends entirely on what works for you. For some of us the "mental dialogue" part comes naturally, and for others it simply doesn't interest them.
Why have a dæmon if you don't talk to them? Well, dæmonism is more than just a way to organize your thoughts. The other side of the coin is the form finding aspect. Through systematic analysis of an animals' behaviors we interpret them into personality characteristics, hoping to find the one that best describes us, i.e. our "settled form." For example, someone with a wolf dæmon should be social, loyal, and conflict avoidant. Someone with a weasel dæmon would likely be introverted, secretive, and curious by nature. A crow would be bold, playful, and opportunistic.
Not everyone agrees on what settledom entails (or if it's even psychologically possible), but essentially it is the state of reaching a fixed personality in late adolescence to early adulthood. As children we're like clay - constantly being molded and influenced by every new experience - but eventually we settle into our adult personalities that are unlikely to change in any dramatic way. Are you stubborn, passive, extroverted, blunt? Whichever traits define you should be reflected in the settled form.
To be clear, the settled form does not just
describe your temperament or level of sociability. A well fitting form will explain your way of approaching stressful situations, your work habits, odd quirks, level of assertiveness, and the list goes on. Form finding is essentially a personality typing system along the same lines as Enneagram or MBTI, except the possible outcomes are as numerous as the number of animals on Earth.
That, my friends, is dæmons in a nutshell: Mental constructs which take a symbolic animal form. If you have further questions, please visit the FAQ