What is Witchcraft? What is Magic? Is it not the art of making the mundane sacred? A lot of the time our focus as Pantheists can be on the “world out there” which is good, but we can’t spend all our time in beautiful natural places. If our religion is to mean anything, it must be a religion of our daily lives, a religion of the hearth and home as well as a religion of the world outside. And those two elements need to be brought together in our lives. One way I think we can do this is through the practice of Naturalistic Witchcraft.
Herb garden (Photo credit: cosmic_spanner)
When you hear the word “Witch” what does your mind picture? For me, its an image of an old woman, standing over a cauldron and mixing various ingredients together to make potions. The image comes from the medieval “wise woman” who would go hunting in the woods to find herbs and plants to use to make herbal remedies to cure people of various diseases. People in those days were superstitious and believed it was done by magic and in a way it was – after all, when we take a medicine and it heals us, isnt that ‘magic’ even if it has been scientifically tested and we understand how it works? Does it have to involve the supernatural to be magical?
There is a movement today, especially in religions like Wicca, to resurrect the old wise woman witchcraft. Nowadays people call themselves cottage witches, kitchen witches, green witches or hedge witches. Do they offer us anything useful as Naturalistic Pantheists? I believe the answer is Yes. There are some small differences between these groups of witchcraft, but they all emphasise a few things – being mindful of the sacred in everyday life and honouring “mundane” tasks, filling them with ritual and spirituality.
While the Kitchen or Cottage Witch focuses more on the hearth, home and garden, the Green or Hedge Witch focuses more on the fields and forests and being close to nature. They both understand the special properties of various herbs and plants and use those things to create herbal remedies, food and much more.
Cooking Green Curry (Photo credit: lejoe)
In ancient times, the focus of the home was the hearth, the fireplace. It was the place where people gathered to cook food, make medicine, keep warm and chat. In the modern day we have split these in two – the kitchen for cooking and the living room for chatting and entertainment. But for the Cottage Witch, the Kitchen is once again a special place. It is the place of one of the most sacred things we do. Food gives us life, keeps us healthy and allows the constant renewal of our bodies. Cooking is an act of creativity, an honouring of the creativity of the universe itself, and creating food is therefore a sacred and lifegiving act. It is part of the reason we must always give thanks before we eat. The Kitchen Witch will treat the creation of meals and the mealtime itself as something very special. They will seek to use fresh, organic, seasonal produce and lovingly put their whole soul into what they are doing, knowing that what they do is an act of honouring the creativity and abundance of Mother Nature herself. Food does not just bring us nourishment, it also helps to heal and soothe and therefore the Witch will, following in the footsteps of medieval Witches, create herbal remedies, salves, tinctures and other healing concoctions in the kitchen to use when we are ill.
While a Kitchen Witch will often grow their own plants, herbs and food at home or in the garden, the Green Witch will go to the forests, fields and hedgerows to find them. The Green Witch practices Wildcrafting. Wildcrafting is harvesting foods, herbs and medicines from the wild and it is very important to do this ethically – knowing the health of the plant population in the area, not taking more than is necessary, getting permission from the landowner and not gathering endangered plants. The emphasis of the Green Witch is on being close to nature outside of the home and often is focused more on the medicinal rather than culinary aspects of herbalism. They often hold rituals for the planting of seeds or gathering of crops and often work hard to protect a piece of land e.g. by clearing litter.
Candle Workspace (Photo credit: radellaf)
But Witchcraft is about much more than herbal remedies and foods. It’s about using what they find in the natural world for a variety of purposes. Witchcraft can involve making your own spiritual tools e.g. candles, incense and oils. Or it can involve making more practical things – natural cleaning and beauty products, brewing your own beer, wine or cider, creating cloth dyes and making house decorations.
In my opinion, Naturalistic Witchcraft, is simply about “do it yourself”, “make your own”, “be creative as Mother Nature is creative”. It’s simply about homesteading. It’s about making your own meals from scratch and using home grown fresh produce. It’s about making your own herbal teas or brewing your own alcoholic drinks. It’s about going out to the woods to find those blackberries for that pie or those herbs to make a medicine to help with a stomach ache. It’s about creating your own candles and incense to use in ritual or your own wreath for the sacred festival of Yule. It’s about making environmentally friendly washing up liquid or soap. It’s about living in a simple, sustainable, environmentally friendly way, re-learning the homesteading skills of the past so we can reject the consumerist culture that exploits Mother Nature like a slave. It’s about not having to earn lots of money to buy the latest gadgets, but instead taking pride in knowing we can do it ourselves and saving money in the process. It’s about recycling and reusing what we have around us. It’s about learning skills like sewing, dying cloth, knitting, basic carpentry and other important creative house-keeping crafts. It’s about becoming more knowledgeable about the plants growing nearby and connecting with Mother Nature through this. It’s about rediscovering and practicing the ancient ways of cooking, healing, homemaking, growing and crafting, of bringing the natural world into the home and into our everyday lives and of honouring the earth.
We must reject the dualism that calls the natural world “sacred” and the human world “mundane.” We must acknowledge that everything is nature and we must seek to be mindful of the sacredness in everything we do, For too long, western culture has emphasised a split between the spiritual and the natural. Naturalistic Pantheism seeks to heal this rift and instead focus on “bringing the sacred home” through practices such as Naturalistic Witchcraft.