“Everyone talks about spring and summer being the outdoor months, and as much as I adore the cycles of nature, this is truly the time to get yourselves out of doors and immerse yourself in nature. This is the time to learn of nature and all of the hidden delights.”
From Emma Kathryn
‘Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.’
~ Albert Einstein
The the darker months are almost upon us, and as you know, it is my favourite time. Everyone talks about spring and summer being the outdoor months, and as much as I adore the cycles of nature, now is truly the time to get yourselves out-of-doors and immerse yourself in nature. This is the time to learn of nature and all of the hidden delights.
Even for witches, there is always something new to be discovered. Perhaps that is the truest definition of what witchcraft is – uncovering the secrets of nature.
Sunday just past, this witch went walking, looking for those magical plants that can unlock the secrets of soul flight. And though none could be found, there were other hidden delights that set the soul ablaze.
It was my partner’s idea to go out early that morning. He’s an angler, a fisherman, and the river is his stomping ground.
The river is about a ten minute walk from my home. It’s one of those places that is split in two, a liminal space, if you will. If you head towards the retail park and just along the side of it, you can get to the Riverside Walk. It is nice there, if you like your nature a little more tamed, a little more controlled. The tarmacked path cuts through trees and bushes, but then opens on one side to reveal the river. There are benches that overlook the marina, and then you can cross the bridge and head into town towards the castle and the Riverside Park.
But for those of us who prefer the wild, there is a different side to the river.
You used to be able to go under the road bridge and across the train tracks to get to the river, but the gates there are welded shut now – closed for safety reasons we are told, but I’m guessing the real reason is money related. Anyway, you can still get to the wild river, you just have to cross the scrapyard now.
If you head away from the town centre, following the flow of the river, you go under a rail bridge and come to a small stream that joins the river. There’s a bridge across the stream, but nowadays it is blocked off in the middle, for the land on the other side is owned by British Sugar and we are not allowed there.
But for those of us who have grown up here, especially those who grew up on the council estates, the river was our playground as youngsters. We went where we pleased. Some of us still do. Nowadays though, we tell our children to stay away from the river, for I feel there is much lost, from one generation to the next and some of that, heck, most of that is knowledge. That’s progress for you I suppose, but when we were kids, we spent those lazy summer days at the river. The braver ones amongst us, usually the lads, would jump into the cold waters, usually from off one of the bridges, but us others would paddle. Most if not all of our parents were poor, the working kind of poor, and back then it was normal to be left alone or with an older sibling while they went out to work. That’s why we got away with so much more in those days.
However on this day, my partner and I didn’t cross the stream here. He knows another way for he knows this place better than I. So we made our way alongside the stream, pushing through brambles and thistles and nettles, the paths of his youth long overgrown and little used, if at all, now. More than once thorns, wickedly sharp, would scratch me, even through denim, and the nettles were higher than my waist, but still we pushed on.
Everything requires a sacrifice.
Of some sort at least, and in any case, the discomfort was momentary and soon forgotten. There’s a disused bridge, crumbling and overgrown and we crossed the stream this way. It was almost like being in a fairy tale, what with the crumbling brickwork and concrete, bindweed, brambles and hawthorn and the grey sky above us.
I can’t really describe where we came out. There were enclosed meadows, and smaller areas of thick grass as well as marshy areas. The only way to tell where those boggy patches are is by the grass that grows in such places. Here thick green reeds shoot up, and it would be easy for those not used to such areas to end up muddy and wet.
As we walked, in the distance I spotted the unmistakable lope of a fox. He was some way off, but still, I pointed him out and we watched it for a few seconds before moving on. We walked on for a while until, about fifty metres in front we spotted another. We were down wind of it, and it and so remained undetected.
It was hunting. We watched as it would leap into the air, coming down hard with its front paws. Then it would stand still, it’s big bushy tail, red with a white tip, swaying, almost cat-like as it listened to where it’s prey hid. Then all of a sudden it would leap into the air again. Either it grew bored or its prey had managed to escape because after around five minutes the fox stopped for a scratch and a lie down. When it finally saw us, it turned and disappeared through the trees.
Watching that, the world of the everyday seemed a million miles away. It was a profound, sacred experience. Perhaps this is magic itself, that connection to the land, to nature. To the real. Sometimes in modern Paganism, I find this experience is what is lacking.
‘You can’t go around building a better world for people. Only people can build a better world for people. Otherwise it’s just a cage.’
~ Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad
In the last couple of weeks, the hot topic in the Pagan and witchcraft sphere has been the Witch Starter Kits, produced by the fragrance brand Primrose, which were going to be sold by Sephora. Well, the Witch community was divided., and after a lot of backlash, the product has been scrapped. Some were appalled that a company were appropriating their religion, their spirituality, whilst others saw the kits as a good thing, a way to reach those who might have no other option open to them.
I’m not even going to get started on what I think of the situation, though I will say that I think the discussions on both sides misses the point.
Whether or not the makers were appropriating witchcraft is neither here nor there, at least that’s how I see it. After all, that’s what the Capitalist State does. Everything is a commodity, everything is for sale. Nothing is sacred.
Witchcraft is already appropriated and sold. Look at all of the mass-produced tat, probably made somewhere by brown people with little or no worker rights. I went to my local Pagan Pride this year, and whilst I had a great time and bought a print from a local artist, there were so many stalls flogging cheap resin statues made in China, or the obligatory tumbled stone, or cheap and perfumed incense, stuff you could buy at any New Age shop.
The point is, none of that shit is real. Not really. We don’t need it for our witchcraft practise. We only need ourselves and, of course nature. Those experiences out by the river were real. It is difficult to describe, that feeling that you are home, that you could indeed spend hour upon hour out there. Time seems to move differently there. It seeps and pools here and stretches out there, so that you lose all sense of time. You think an hours passed and really, it’s been two or three.
That is real.
And everyday, our access to these areas are restricted. When all the land is lost, how will we connect to what is real? Then, all of the ‘things’ in the world will not help our crafts. When you have found that, what is real, what speaks to our souls, then you will know what it is I speak of here. And if you already have that connection, then you already know.
As the northern hemisphere begins its descent into the darker months, go out and connect with the land where you live. Find the Real where you are, wherever that may be.
My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!You can follow Emma on Facebook.