Monday, May 12, 2014

Reflecting on the Nature of Things

The symbol of green witchcraft, of the luminary mysteries into which the green witch must initiate, of one's oath to honor the land and the dead-within-it- is the sickle.  I chose the sickle crossed with the stang as the symbol of my tradition (the stang was to symbolize the commitment I've made to the practice) to be used among me and those I've worked with.  Most other green witches I come across have some variation of the saturnian blade included in the symbolism of their path, often intersecting with Hekate's keys (their dedication to pharmakeia), or with the caduceus to honor their commitment to healing. 

That sharp hook is a tool of harvest and death, it reaps the land, slashing away at the very thing we green witches live to see grow.  Death is so much part of nature-based spiritualities, my faith is no different, we spend so much effort and time venerating the land, devoting to the spirits of our local woods, performing rite and ritual to herb, tree, star and moon all to usher forth greatness in the soil.  Then, like the agrarian ancestors who taught us the rituals of land and death, we harvest, cut the life we honored with the blade. 

The sickle in the sigilry of the green arts can have many manifestations and purposes; a sickle of sacrifice, saturnian magic, the poison sickle etc.  Other common symbols I find used by witches who identify in herbal sorcery or green magic are; the oak and acorn, the green mask, the apple (first fruit of the Garden), the serpent and rod, the ivy crown and the cornucopia.  

Tools of the craft vary from tradition to tradition, and people who chose to base their practice on a specific calling or movement (e.g. black magic, healing, green magic) have a need only for very specific tools.  The tools one may use in a circle easily translate into tools used in the agrarian world, and things like the athame and chalice fall to the wayside of importance to make way for the practical tools of the land; a pruning blade and the water jug.  The stang, magic cord, rubbing stones, sickle, pruning blade, broom, cauldron, and containers (vessels for herbs have very specific uses in magic (the basket, clay jar, gourd, wooden box, silk/cotton/linen bag, leather pouch etc), mommet are among some useful tools for plant medicine and green cunning. 


Gods of the green differ among witches and like many, mine change with the season; nature personified in the dance of sexuality between forces.  The wild gods of spring are later gods of harvest, they metamorphose into spirits of silence and frost, and thaw with the spring, renewed in the first greening every year.  These forces have their names, the Hag of Winter an Cailleach, old woman of the mountain (that mountain, the place where witches fly on the sabbath?  I say so).  The Horned One, ever the wild huner, always the green man.  The spirits of the land are gods in their own rite.  Your sacred tree, in the heart of some holy place is a doorway, a liminal spirit resonating with you, with the land, with death, with things greater then our senses.  Your sacred herbs, which seem to tremble at your touch and speak to you in a secret language, are witches in their own right, working their cunning beside you.

Fairy-faith is a traditional craft in parts of Europe.  The lore of the witch and the lore of the fairy are woven together, and often the witch is one who speaks with faeries, flies to their world on special sabbaths and hones a relationship of mutual benefit with the spirits known as fairy folk- altogether different from spirits of the dead in some cultures, spirits of the dead themselves in other traditions.  Some witches view the faery as nature spirits, personified natural spirits of grove, river and fen.  For others, the fairy are the ilk of the devil.  

I suppose I see the faerie as personifications of nature, seasonal, or otherworldly spirits, though as I delve deeper into this kind of green magic, I learn much about the complex history of the fairy in Western Europe.  Cunning folk, herbalists and healers are always allied with the faerie world or with the spirit world, and often the two are described as the same thing.  I'm not really settled on this idea; I don't belong to a faerie tradition and I don't think it's my calling, but I am an admirer of all spirits, so I try to stay acquainted with the green cunning of the faerie doctors.

G. Piombanti, Adornatori
...via viridis...

Natural Magic encompasses the arts of the herbs, trees, stars, moon phases, minerals, domestic craft and "elements".  During the Renaissance, occult philosophic writers sought to divorce and distinguish the ceremonial high magics (negromancy, goetia and demonology) from the magics of the fundamental natural sciences, this became known as the separation of High Magic from Low Magic- Ceremonial from Natural.   The witch is and has always been an agent of their own desires- some preferring the cunning fairy craft of the countryside, others prefer the complex undertaking of high magic, and often the worlds must exist simultaneously to be the most effective. 

Historically, certain herbs require a very specific ritual and preparation in order to concoct an effective traditional elixir, philter, powder or salt (or any other alchemy of herb and mineral for the use of magical enhancement), among those herbs of a particular nature are mandrake, hellebore, yarrow and willow.  In order for the plant to be at its most potent in the alchemical process, it must be collected under ideal physical and spiritual conditions.  In order to strengthen an herb spiritually for the purpose of craftwork, one is expected to deliver sacrifices (often blood), libations and prayers.  This is also true in the green ceremonial current; there is a process before preparation that is just as important to acquiring results, and that's preparing the sacrifice spiritually for undertakings.

Land rites always involve the genius loci, the otherfolk (what some may call fairy), and any spirits of the dead who rest in the land, and necromancy always involve the use of living plant material.  This is the way I think things work best in green magic, a balanced rhythm in which the natural and spiritual need not exclude each other, life and death in the endless loop flowing on that fiery current of passion and change. 

At this point in life I am a student of what can be perceived as "natural"; mostly domestic, botanical and agrarian in nature.  In order for me to follow along via viridis, I maintain a close connection with the otherworld, but then, like most people who take up the broom and make the pact, I exist with a foot in both worlds and not by choice.  I venerate the land and the dead, that's my way, that's where my road has led me and so I don't separate spirit-contact, oracular work, divination or conjure from magica naturalis.  

I don't resort to the use of "high magic" for most occasions, though I admit to finding a deep interest in the process of placating a tree or plant, abiding by seasons and cycles for my harvesting, preparing the material with a very specific process of tools which typically are a more exhausting but powerful effort (like the creation of some love philters in copper pots filled with emerald and copper, on a Friday, at the right hour, everything in sixes, everything in in the right season, on the right cycle, in the right direction and so on...) That complexity doesn't always make the spell better.  Cunningcraft accomplishes most of my needs and feels more natural to me.  I aquatint myself with a ceremonial approach every so often, but it's not always necessary and not always effective for me. 

Green Alchemy is the green current of the ceremonial magicians, detailed in the rare works of Daniel A. Schulke.  His works give me an entirely different insight into the ceremonial world of the verdent arts.  I've never witnessed a ceremonial rite of this magic, but I have studied a great deal of the ceremonial aspects of herbal sorcery, originally acquainted with the concept through the work of Nigel Aldrcoft-Jackson.   I'd recommend trying to get ahold of a copy of Shulke's works and acquainting yourself with his vast research, his work on herbal sorcery is complete and offers a unique perspective on the properties of plants and the depth of power within the witching herbs and the rites that awaken the alchemy within plants.

Further Reading...
The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries by W. Y. Evans-Wentz
NightBattles by Carlo Ginzburg

Ecstasies by Carlo Ginzburg
Fairy Witchcraft: A Neopagan's Guide to the Celtic Fairy Faith by Morgan Daimler
The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer
The Picatrix: Liber Viridis by John Michael Greer
Viridarium Umbris: The Pleasure Garden of Shadow by D. Shulke
Magia Naturalis by Giambattista Della Port
Call of the Horned Piper by Nigel Aldcroft Jackson
The Dictionary of Demons: Names of the Damned by Michelle Belanger


  1. I've always wanted to read Schulke but his work his quite hard to get a hold of. "I venerate the land and the dead, that's my way, that's where my road has led me and so I don't separate spirit-contact, oracular work, divination or conjure from magica naturalis." I hear this, sometimes people think that 'witch' is something you put on, not always something you are. I've often got the phrase 'when you do your witch stuff', and it is never a matter of when, it is a matter of always.

    I'm curious about the faery faith and the healing aspect of it. It is something I've come across often but I don't feel it is my path, it is more wanting to know for knowledge's sake. The oak is one of my favourite tools to work with, the energy from one is incredible. We have a magnificent specimen (by drought ridden Australian standards) and just looking at it brings a lift. I always talk to it and listen for it often has something to say.

  2. The oak is a favorite of mine too, so powerful to work with, every part of is has some practical use ^_^