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A familiar spirit (alter ego, doppelgänger, personal demon, personal totem, spirit guide) is the double, the alter-ego, of an individual. It does not look like the individual concerned. Even though it may have an independent life of its own, it remains closely linked to the individual. The familiar spirit can be an animal (animal companion) or even a humanoid and were described as "clearly defined, three-dimensional… forms, vivid with colour and animated with movement and sound".
The ancient sages taught that every human being has a mortal lower self, called the eidolon and an immortal Higher Self (Soul) called the DAEMON. The eidolon is the embodied self, the physical body, and ego personality. The Daemon is the Spirit, the true Self, which is each person's spiritual connection to God. The Mysteries were designed to help initiates realize that one’s eidolon is a false self and that one’s true identity is the immortal Daemon.
One distinctive aspect of Pullman's story comes from his concept of "dæmons". In the birth-universe of the story's protagonist Lyra Belacqua, a human individual's inner-self manifests itself throughout life as an animal-shaped "dæmon" that always stays near its human counterpart. Witches and some humans have entered areas where dæmons cannot physically enter; after suffering horrific separation-trauma, their dæmons can then move as far away from their humans as desired.
Dæmons usually only talk to their own associated humans, but they can communicate with other humans and with other dæmons autonomously. During the childhood of its associated human, a dæmon can change its shape at will, but with the onset of adolescence it settles into a single form. The final form reveals the person's true nature and personality, implying that these stabilise after adolescence.