I have been lucky enough to live near the ocean for the last almost 12 years– as long as I have been practicing as a pagan and a witch– but I have only practiced Sea Witchcraft actively for perhaps the last 4 years about I think. I love living near the sea, I cannot imagine living much farther from it which has made things quite difficult since we’re trying to find land and move from this place.
I definitely agree that ultimately, though tools and herbs and candles are lovely– and useful!– you should be able to practice magic with nothing but your Will and your Breath, and the things you find around you. (Of course it is definitely polite to give offerings when you’re working out in nature!) I love writing runes or spells in the sand, or whispering things into shells and sending them on their way with the waves. This is something I have actually got my toddling son to do– whisper into shells and send our wishes to the mermaids. He doesn’t really say anything into the shells (he pretends to whisper) but he loves the idea of the whole thing.
And she’s right: the Ocean Mother and the spirits there and at the shore and in the storm off the sea– they are Primal (read: really f*cking old) and made of darker things than most of us have (or care to) encounter. I don’t always, but often when I go to the shore I call on Yemaya. We have had a working relationship that sways like the tides over the last few years. And most associate Her as a very ‘light’ and loving diety. Which She can be. But She is also destruction– tidal wave and storm, and Her acts of protection can come on violent and primal like Kali. Hell, one of Her Aspects is Pirate Queen ruler of the predators of the sea.
And I too have heard the Siren’s call…
I work sometimes in the realms of the Sea Folk, I feel very strongly even that one of their lines is in my blood– and one Full Moon night I was down on the shore, walking along and singing. And then the air shifted, and I could hear another song, singing out from in my bones rather than audible on the air. And my eyes drooped and I felt the tug. I felt the incredible melancholic longing, the dire urge to step into the waves– and keep going. I have never been one to swim in the ocean at night. I know we have sharks in the shallows in the day time, so I *know* they are there at night. But I felt this wrenching in my heart, this pull at my ankles, to just keep walking and put my head under the surface and swim and never return. I fought the pull, and kept to the shallows, and forced myself to walk parallel to the beach instead of out into the water. But it was the most intense draw I have ever had– and I have had instances before where I had this melancholic yearning to join the sea, like it was where I belonged. But unfortunately, this selkie lady has not a seal skin to take her past the breakers and into ocean depths unfathomable.
Sea Witchcraft, Ocean Witchcraft and Beach Magick is the most beautiful, at times simplistic, but ultimately the most powerful magick and ritual I have ever practiced. And I miss it!
Let me get this out of the way: if you are lucky enough to live by the sea/ocean/beach, I envy you. I miss it. It’s too expensive to live near water in Sydney (but this is where my work is so here I stay). I don’t like the beaches around here because there’s too too too many people, too much energy flying about, and it’s harder to feel the energy of the land.
Without trying to insult people, sea witchcraft is not for the feint hearted, or for the fluffy. It is a completely different experience to stand at the water’s edge, or knee-deep (or further if you wish) than standing or sitting behind an altar in your room or…
When they ask to see your gods
your book of prayers
show them lines
drawn delicately with veins
on the underside of a bird’s wing
tell them you believe
in giant sycamores mottled
and stark against a winter sky
and in nights so frozen
stars crack open spilling streams
of molten ice to earth
and tell them how you drank
the holy wine of honeysuckle
on a warm spring day
and of the softness
of your mother
who never taught you
death was life’s reward
but who believed in the earth
and the sun
and a million, million light years
This post is long overdue, but being a parent– life often gets in the way of things like blogging. This post was spurred by a few things, namely seeing some other pagans/witches discussing whether or not prepubescent children should be involved in magic and ritual, or even exposed to it at all; and also just based on my own experiences with our toddling son.
In regards to the former, it actually stunned me quite a bit to see people discouraging others from involving children, or even exposing them, to their religious/spiritual/magical practices. But I think that this stance is based in the fact that many of us who consider ourselves pagan and/or witches were raised Christian. Many of us (I could comfortably say most of us) were raised from infancy in the faith of our parents, who in most cases vehemently pressed such beliefs upon us and forbade us (directly or indirectly) from studying and/or practicing other religions. And for many of us, the shift from Christianity (or similar monotheistic, patriarchal, majority-religion) to paganism and/or witchcraft was a rough one. Some of us were lucky and had parents who supported us in our journey (I was not one of those lucky ones, quite the opposite). But the majority of us have been imprinted with this natural tendency to shy away from the idea of ‘teaching’ (read: forcing) a religious or spiritual practice on our children. And I understand this, but I don’t agree with it.
There is a difference between raising a child surrounded by your faith(s)/practices and involving them in it and encouraging their spiritual growth– wherever that may lead them, and telling your children that they must follow these set beliefs, are required to participate in these certain practices, and are discouraged from/forbidden from learning about, studying, or practicing any other beliefs. And this doesn’t just apply to Paganism vs. Christianity. It can also apply to various Paths within Paganism… yes I am talking to those of you who may practice a “white-light, harm none” path whose children may grow up to practice Luciferian Witchcraft, or Voodoo (and vice versa). We should treat our children the way we wish our parents had treated us: raise them in a healthy, open-minded household, and encourage them to learn about other spiritual and religious practices and support them if they decide to follow some such path.
We are raising our son to have a healthy respect and deep reverence for the earth and its inhabitants, to be aware of and connected to the cycles of the world around us and our part in the web of life, to know that magic and spirits are real and encourage his own psychic abilities, etc. We involve him in ritual and magical practice whenever we can– and he is only going on three. He loves to help, and even if he doesn’t quite understand why we’re doing something, or what something means, he can understand some things to an extent, and is being exposed from an early age. When he talks to something that is ‘invisible’ to mama or daddy, or points at things flying about while daddy is meditating with the Owl spirit, we pay attention and listen and encourage him. We don’t tell him nothing is there, or he is making it up. When the dark scares him, we ask why. We don’t say there’s nothing there, just because we can’t see it. When I smudge new items, or give offerings to the Spirits, he helps me. There are so many ways to involve small children in ritual and daily practice. Especially if you yourself can blend the mundane and the sacred, your children are already programmed to be this way. The possibilities are endless. Children can help with their own altar, can learn meditation at a very young age, they can help with smudging (being careful of embers of course) and offerings, they can be taught old folk tales and rhymes (this is common in Waldorf-style education) for everything from greeting the sun to baking bread to talking about the moon or Autumn. You can teach them about the seasons and where their food comes from– and to give thanks for it– from a very small age. Pray over your food with your children, in your own way. Mealtime prayers aren’t just for Christians, and praying over food and water blesses it for your consumption and can be a chance to give thanks. Take your children outside every chance you get, let them touch trees and put their toes in the ocean. If they suddenly want to say hi to a tree in a parkinglot, encourage them. They can sense that spirit, and want to connect with it. Learn from your children, follow their lead.
This Patheos blogpost has some good information on ‘planning’ (or rather, the lack thereof) of ritual with small children, of following their lead, and ritualizing everyday activities. As children get older, of course they can be actively involved even more. And I feel like this should be normal, and their curiosity and skills cultivated. Children are always learning, and learn by example. Try and surround yourself with other pagan families, and celebrate together! Take your kids on forest-walks together, teach them about mushrooms and trees and meditation. Do pagan-y crafts and child-friendly rituals. Older children can be given roles in ritual. And as they get older, they will grow more curious, and you can teach them about other religions past and present, different, spiritual practices, etc. Take your children to events and gatherings! We just took our son with us to the Central NC Pagan Pride and he did wonderfully, and there were other small children there as well. (However if we go next year to vend and teach, he might stay home with grandma.) There are tons of resources out there and stories/blogs about pagan families and involving children in practice, and don’t be afraid to share yours!
We’d love to hear about how you involve your children in your magical practice, leave a comment below or send us an e-mail. We’re also looking for contributions to the Pagan Parenting column of our newsletter [provide us your e-mail to be added to the mailing list!], and have an on-going blog post compiling pagan homeschooling and pagan parenting resources, here.
So Midnight and I were discussing further the Re-wilding Witchcraft article and certain points that the author had made in regards to the response (as witches) to the coming doom of mankind. Regarding that, and also spurred by a comment made by one of our readers on that particular post, we decided to talk about our thoughts and musings in a “part II” blogpost, and on (as I affectionately call it), being a ‘wyldling witch’. Please forgive any repeats in what you read below, we both speak on similar topics and I couldn’t find a way to blend both of our thoughts into one so I left them separate.
Essentially, right now… we’re being lied to. Hardcore. We’re being spoon-fed everything and doused in fluoride to keep us complacent in front of our glowy movie boxes and sipping carbonated beverages and espressos while the world around us is falling to pieces. This is the end for us, plain and simple. It is time to acknowledge that there is no turning back for us as a species. Hell, there’s no turning back for a lot of things… we’ve damn near reached Peak Soil and Peak Oil, the oceans are on their way out, thousands upon thousands of other species are going extinct each day… Some of us will survive and live on, but our legacy is coming to an end. There is no stopping it at this point. Those of us who take the time NOW to learn the ways of their local wilds, local edibles and poisons and medicines, the tracking of game and divining of bird flight and weather prediction, of REAL WILD WITCHCRAFT, of communing with the land wrights and the Otherworld….. and teaching all of that to our children…. those few will be the ones who survive. The rest will be overcome, chained, and eventually annihilated, totally oblivious to the world burning outside of their A/C-cooled cookie-cutter homes. And they will be lost to oblivion. And the world will go on without us.
I do think that there are multiple aspects that need to be recognized and cultivated here. I agree with the Re-wilding Witchcraft article’s author in his talking about witches rising up, resuming our old ‘face’ so to speak, and re-learning and creating the death-rights and things like that. Bringing back ceremony in all aspects of birth, life, and death. Essentially I think he was getting at this: make peace with the fact that death is imminent. Annihilation is upon us. Get to know death, and yet LIVE. Work with the spirits, work with the land. Work with yourself and your family. I was talking with Midnight about this and we feel like those who will survive will be those who do these things and learn to re-wild themselves and re-wild their witchcraft, then teach their children those skills-– how to make a snare and butcher meat, how to wildcraft herbs and the knowledge of herbalism– particularly for your *local* flora.. this is key here… How to live off the land and be a part of the land, and also to be a part of the spirit world and know how to work with spirits, particularly– as Sarah Lawless puts it– working in the realm of bioregional animism (working with the spirits of your locale, the ‘Genius Loci’).
Paganism is a religion or spirituality (however you look at it) that is broad-reaching, but generally claims to be in some form or another, earth-worshiping. But are we really? Witchcraft and paganism are dark and old, like the deep earth where the roots and bones are lying. Magic comes from the earth, and the Otherworld(s), and from within ourselves. But many of those who would use the title “pagan” and “witch” know very little, truly, of the earth or of the other side of the Veil. We have gouged out our Seeing Eyes ourselves, clipped our own wings and talons and bleached our fields (spiritually and physically speaking) infertile. We worship alien gods, shun the Ancestors and ignore the herbal medicine that is right outside our kitchen door (or worse yet, spray those healing, magical dandelions with bee-killing, water-poisoning Roundup)… We claim to love the Earth Mother and yet we stick our heads into the sand when some seemingly crack-pot conspiracy theorist hippy starts yelling from the rooftops about the state of the world and our part in its undoing. We have forgotten how to make offerings, we have forgotten what a sacrifice really meant to those who came before us– the continuation of a clan line, the feeding of your people from fertile fields and woods, the promise of the sun’s return, survival of mother and babe during childbirth– the blessings from those who had gone before upon those who now live. Life for life, blood for blood. These are the kinds of things that we need to bring back into our practice, into our witchcraft and every-day lives.
Soon the Earth will take her sacrifice by force, and it will be our blood and bones in the dirt.
I think when looking at something of this scale, what’s really important is that we do SOMETHING. We have seen the truth of things, ignorance should never have been an excuse but now it isn’t even an option. Willful blindness is evaporating like so much mist. Our generation is faced with a hard reality now. Perhaps not in our lifetimes but in our children’s and certainly in our children’s children’s, mankind will face an extinction level event. Our situation isn’t a question of rethinking our resource management anymore, now its a base question of survival.
Not survival as individuals, but our survival as a species is in question. We have been at war with the earth. We have poisoned tomorrow’s water to drink today. We have killed and cut and maimed the land in our efforts to further progress.
Now as the world is want to do, a balance will reassert itself. If we do nothing then it will do something, by obliterating us. I think that the author’s message was that we need to first find each other, then reestablish our connection to nature. We need to re-immerse ourselves in it, re-wild ourselves and our magic. Our best chance of survival in any significant way is to be a part of nature, not apart from it. To do this we have to strip away many of the fineries we have donned to fit in amongst and be accepted by the other “recognized and established” religions and modern society as a whole. ( I’m saying all of this as blanket statements with no distinctions between craft or sects because in every aspect I am trying to include all of us… any distinctions we may feel or value between us are irrelevant. To any outsider looking in they see only witches, and in the face of what we are looking at dealing with, any differences are irrelevant in the face of what we all need to become. ) We need to return to being the mediums between this world and the Others. That means knowing death, knowing the wild places, knowing the spirits and how to speak to them, how to garner their blessings and how to live with the wild world. We need to re-synch with our local wilds, learn (y)our sacred places, learn (y)our magical times– not by a book but by living it and feeling it. More importantly still, we need to know how to pass this knowledge on to others, and we need to share it with our children so that they, and their grandchildren, have a chance at surviving.
Our “Part III” post will be a recap and further suggestions, as well as some resources on how to re-wild yourself, re-wild your witchcraft, and be a “Wyldling Witch”. We would love to hear your thoughts and any input, and keep this discussion going and the dialogue open. Feel free to comment below, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The sabbats don’t really mean much to me, and even the solstices don’t always pull me out to attend. Watching my practice an observer would think there was no pattern at all, I might go weeks or months without doing anything notable, then suddenly spend days on end in a mad fit of frenzy. Part of that is admittedly just me. More so, however, is that I attend when the spirits demand I do so.
I say demand even though I am not a servant per se. I like to think that I have a rather social, sometimes academic relationship with the spirits I traffic with. But I have learned through the years that when they ask, it is best to answer. It’s a lot like when you were little and your mother “asked” if you would like to do the dishes, or take out the trash… you could say no, but…..
More accurately I should say that for all that we are friends, or close enough to it, for all the favors begged and borrowed, they are not like us. And we forget that at our peril. In one of my favorite fiction books, the author says that people are mistaken when they compare the Fae to us. That most people think they are alike to us as wolves and dogs. But that isn’t so. Wolves and dogs are much too much alike. The spirits, the Fae, the others, their standing to us is more akin to alcohol and water. They both look the same in equal glasses, they are both wet, but if you touch a match to them, one will burn and the other wont, because they are fundamentally different.
When the spirits call me it can be anything and yet it is always the same. It’s an itch under my skin, a fire, a drive or urge or anything, always though, there is a sudden knowledge than I need to do this, regardless if it is the hottest part of the day or the dead of night.
It wasn’t always like that for me though. I didn’t always hear them so clearly, or know them so well.
It wasn’t until my first born died that things changed. His death wasn’t a good one and if I am going to be honest it broke me. It took some vital part of me, the part that loved light and laughter and living day to day, and it snapped it like a kindling stick. Mauled it twisted it and tossed it out to die. I wasn’t the same after. I was sick, and if I wasn’t dying myself I was certainly withering. Then she found me. Knowing now what she is I think she came to me to finish things. I think she came to kill me. When there is blood in the water sharks will come, this is a fundamental thing. She is a predator and I was wounded prey.
I think I surprised us both when she first set her teeth into me, She bit down and I bit back. I’m not sure why, not even really sure how. But when she went to feed on me, what she took from me I took from her in turn. In some twisted mad way we ate each other. Choked down every bit, every piece and gobbet of bloody flesh and in the mess that was left we weren’t two but one… sounds crazy. Hells it probably really is a bit crazy. It certainly feels that way. But now when I walk the dark paths to my soul home She is there. And some months when the moon is right She calls me to the Wild Hunt and we fly or run or move in stranger ways and drink down the spirits of what we catch. I call her Titania, my fairy queen. My dark lady, and she indulges me with a fond smile and a look that clearly says ” idiot ” .. Since we became a part of each other, I’ve walked a bit closer to the fae realms.
She has made me a child of smoke and bones, ripped me apart and remade me as something slightly other.
The day was warm and humid, the hot wind tugging at my skirts as I strapped my toddling son into his stroller and set off down the street. We live two blocks from the grocery store and it is a quick trek. As we turned off our street onto the main road, I stopped my trudging through the grass and peered over at a tiny clump of umbrella-shaped white flower clusters a dozen feet back into the field. My son started gesturing towards them, so we went over. What I had thought was possibly a patch of yarrow in my drive by’s the last week or so, was just a patch of very short-statured Queen Anne’s Lace. I asked if my son would like a flower, and after seeing him nodding vehemently I smiled and plucked one for him, the prickly hairs poking my fingertips. He grasped it with wonder and we continued on our walk. Not thirty seconds later, I spotted some tall spindling plants topped with tiny purple flowers. I had seen a picture that resembled them a week before and plucked one to try and identify it once we got home, my guess was vervain. A few feet after that was a patch of tiny white-petaled, yellow-centered daisies. Again my son reaches for them begging for a flower. So I plucked one for him and he traded the Queen Anne’s Lace flower for the daisy. And just after the daisies was a tiny patch of red clover– the first I have seen in the area. For my own enjoyment I picked two and tucked them into the stroller. On we went, and at the turn to the grocery store stood the very large grouping of Queen Anne’s Lace flowers that had been there the last month or two by now, half of which had gone to seed, their umbels drying and curling up towards the sky like little cups full of fuzzy brown seeds. These are the seeds that have kept my womb empty of child the last few months. I plucked one seed-head for my altar and another flower to take home. Interestingly enough, none of either group of QAL flowers had any, that I could discern, with a red dot in the middle of the umbels like the plants that I had seen on the roadside in the larger town 20 miles away. Past the QAL towards the grocery store were more of the spindly purple-topped plants.
Once we got home, I pulled out our region-specific plant field guide and began looking up the plants we had found.
Queen Anne’s Lace (which by now I know well)
And, all of them are medicinal. Of course, it is never recommended to ingest or otherwise use medicinally plants wildcrafted from roadsides. But it just goes to show you that there can be a treasure trove of wild medicinal and edible plants right in your own backyard, neighborhood, fields, and wild places. You just need to know how to look, and take the time to forage. It is vital to know how to properly identify the various medicinal and edible plants and fungi in order to discern them from their poisonous look-alikes (or just to know what is poisonous and what isn’t in general), especially in your area or region. A perfect example is Queen Anne’s Lace, which has a few very deadly look-alikes. Proper identification is imperative. You don’t want to go around picking poison hemlock or water hemlock (both are deadly), which can be mistaken for QAL by amateur foragers. Be sure to pick up a region-specific field guide with color photos, and/or books on medicinals and edibles and their identification for your region. Take it with you on a walk and see how many plants (and fungi) you can identify and find out which ones are edible and/or medicinal near your home, in a local park (beware of pesticides!) or nature preserve. Learn the different identification notes– hairy or smooth stem, shape of the leaves, flower differences, inner sap consistencies, etc. Believe it or not, a smooth or hairy stem can be a very important identification! REMEMBER: Queen Anne has hairy legs! (The hemlocks have smooth stems that are often mottled in color). Don’t forget about berries and trees too. Wildcrafting herbs and foraging for food are wonderful ways to get in touch with your local spirits (or Genius Loci), learn your native plant species, and get a nutritious wild-harvested meal for you and your family. And, speaking of Spirits, don’t forget to take some offerings with you to leave if you harvest anything in your adventures, or even just as a “thank you” for allowing you to come to this place and study and learn about the plants that are under Its care. Who knows, maybe they’ll take a liking to you and teach you a thing or two.
This is going to be an on-going post updated as I find new information, resources, and websites to add to it. This is partly for my own records, but also for sharing with others. Our son is only 2.5 but it is never too soon to start “education”. We are keen to the “un-schooling” movement, and I am also a fan of Waldorf education, and being homeschooled myself for a time, I have a fondness for it. We will probably be doing a blend of styles, potentially enrolling him in a Waldorf school or group, etc. when the time comes, but we as an eclectic pagan family want to raise him in a nature-honoring, animistic and spiritual way while also teaching about other religions and cultures, science and mathematics, philosophy and astronomy, arts and bardcraft, writing and storytelling, etc. etc. If you have any resources to contribute, or experiences with any groups/sites etc. please leave us a comment!
“Books such as The Well-Trained Mind (which is my main resource for curricula and homeschooling) and The Latin-Centered Curriculum are both unabashedly Christian. However, this method originates with the Pagan writer, Martianus Capella, who developed the system of the seven liberal arts that comprised early medieval education.” (Quote from http://witchesandpagans.com/EasyBlog/curricula-for-pagan-homeschoolers.html).