Pagan Paths

It’s a common thing to hear that there’s a difference between our magical lives and our mundane lives. In reality, we have the ability to step into ritual and devotion each and every day.

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Spirits of Place - What They Need You to Know

It's just after noon. The weather is warm. There's a slight breeze that causes the leaves high in the canopy to rustle. The redwoods are creaking as they rub against each other. Loud raven clicks and caws punctuate the quiet forest. I'm one of only a few people standing in the camp grounds and we are all silent, breathing deeply, settling our rushed minds and sinking in, just sinking in.

In two hours witches from all of over the world will arrive. Some journeying to these woods for the first time, others coming home as they do each year. There will be hugs and kisses and hearty shouts of "oh! There you are. I'm so glad you came back." After the hub-bub of getting here subsides and the first night's dinner dishes have been put away, it's time for ritual.

Pounding drums call the witches to ritual. The fire is lit and the first invocations begin.

The Spirits of Place are honoured. The people that lived on the land are thanked and remembered. Offerings are made. The other red-bloods, the animals that live on this land are called into the space and acknowledged with profound respect. The green-bloods, those beings that store so much deep wisdom about this place are called to as trusted allies. We remind them that the witches are back and that we will take care of this beautiful forest and leave it better than we found it and share the lessons we learn here with those of our kind that do not know how to listen.  

And then for seven days we live and practice our magic with the forest, with the red-bloods and the green-bloods and those others that we invite to join us in our play. And you know what? The forest speaks to us. All of the beings there tell us a story. We can tell what time it is by their calls. Birds announce what's coming long before our ears can detect anything. Subtle shifts in the temperature cause all sorts of major changes to to occur with the flying ones and the buzzing ones and the flowering ones. We notice these things and still they talk to us.

Ask a hundred witches and you'll get two hundred answers, but this witch hears the forest tell the same tale each time I come back to the deep woods: "We are here. Don't take us for granted. We have much to teach you. Stop. Slow down. Move at our pace. Look all about you and see how community really supports one another. Notice boundaries and respect them."

Even outside of these familiar woods, one of the first pieces of magic I ever learned was to seek out the Spirits of Place and talk with them about the magic I might wish to engage in whilst visiting with them. Questions I ask routinely are:

  • What sort of magic has been done here before?
  • What sort of magic would the spirits of this particular place support?
  • What offerings would be most appropriate and welcomed?
  • Is my magic welcomed here?


Practicing magic often involves being acutely aware of one's surroundings. Our magic works because we seek allies to help us. Those allies might be the gods (although they can be a fickle lot!) Often we invoke Ancestors for guidance and the Elements for protection, but how many of us sit with the actual place where we are doing magic and see what it can do to support our work?

The example I gave is of a pristine forest where I gather with trusted friends, mentors, loved ones, beloveds and Ancestors. It's easy to work magic there. All of the beings know each other or, at least, know something of one another, and there are bits of magic I've been doing there for years that I can come back to and pick up where I left off. But there are Spirits of Place everywhere we do magic; in our back yards, in our apartments, at the places that we work and these allies are frequently ready to talk with us if we just stop to ask them what they know. 

Hearing them can sometimes take time though. Spirits of Place that have been ignored or stifled require some coaxing and offerings and, quite frankly, some good ol' fashioned wooing. Apologies might have to be made. Trust has to be built. But they are here, wherever "here" is for you and they will communicate and guide and proffer great wisdom and aid for the magic we do. in fact, I hold it to be true that my magic is stronger and more effective because the Spirits of Place lend their talents to the cause too.

What are the Spirits of Place where you live? What conversations have you had with them? What gifts have they shared with you?


Notes: Both photos come from wikipedia commons and are labeled for public reuse. The cover picture is listed as "redwoods and fog" the other as "Tulilautta3"

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I've been a practicing witch and ritualist within the Reclaiming Tradition since 2003. I love being in service with this community of witches and world changers.   My own practice, my own way of changing the world is through devotional practice. It's my belief that we can re-enchant our lives by re-framing the so-called "mundane" as sacred and divine. By imbuing the familiar with a sense of wonder and infusing daily life with acts of magic, we choose to consciously make all of life devotion. Whether we engage in large, public rituals or sink sumptuously into the pure ecstasy of eating a delicious meal by ourselves or meditating at sunrise, our daily rituals can draw us back into harmony with the world and each other.  


  • steve
    steve Tuesday, 07 July 2015

    The title really caught my attention, the Spirits of Place, and that's due to my own interaction with the spirits of places. They are there whether we are or not, and it's THEIR place that we borrow and use for our workings. I like the conversation you recited that personifies the powers of area, but also keeps one's Heart good by showing the honor and respect we who are close to the Earth believe we should all have. My own connections in various places have me always addressing my spiritual parents or the Earth itself. If we both stood silent in a wooded place long enough to hear a message, the reciept would be very different. Same spirits? Or are our filters and translators what produces one message while another gets something else? My honest belief is that all energy is Earth energy in various forms, strengths, and frequencies. Some places are supercharged with energy(Glastonbury Tor, i.e.) and it's our interpretation of that which enables uses and to direct it to our will. As our sleepy planet awakens and grows in her consciousness, our supernatural connection will be felt and become stronger as we get closer to the time to rise to Earth's defense; to curtail all the planetary poisoning going on, in the environment and in our heads( manipulation for selfish gain is poison to each other, using and not keeping our Hearts first). Learning to deeply listen is the only way to reach deeper recesses of knowledge we all need. Connect with Self, Earth, Each other--only then can we make choices that keep our responsibility clear and as a guide--We carry precious cargo, and we are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of our one and only Sustainer....let's see you get some food, water or air from another source. We need these to survive and yet we are pissing in our own drinking water with chemicals and pollution. Caretakers don't subdue the earth. We care-take it. My church is in the woods, so I keep the area clean and sacred. If all the planet was our church, would the natural world be kept as pristine? Deify the planet to make it sacred and holy. Love your Mother.Blessed be the inspiration that comes from deep connection!
    Thank you for acknowledging that places are alive and vibrant with energy. The Tree in my back yard tells me to give you thanks. Or was it the planet itself? Does it really matter? See through the lens of your heart, and you see as the Goddess sees. With love and caring for her children. Let's take good care of momma!!;)

  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven Wednesday, 08 July 2015

    Thank you Steve. Your connection to and passion for the Spirits of Place and the planet we share is obvious and runs deep.

    Be well


  • Raggedrose
    Raggedrose Thursday, 09 July 2015

    Mendocino Woodlands is indeed a powerful and wonderful place. The forest there is in transition, which makes it only more so. It was almost completely logged about 150 years ago. The trees that were there before were true giants. The stumps that remain are ENORMOUS. The current incarnation of the trees there are just coming into their maturity. The story of the forest that was, and the forest that is becoming shows us how this planet makes beauty and the beginnings of peace from violence and pain. It is indeed a wonderful place to work magic.

  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven Thursday, 09 July 2015

    Raggedrose - Thank you for your comment. The forest is indeed in a transitional space. What we look at as Ancient, in many cases, is just a few hundred years old. There's a place about 40 minutes north of Mendocino where I've camped for more than 20 years. It seems so unspoiled and untouched, and yet just 90 years ago there was a bustling town, hotel and logging industry thriving right where there is a whole lot of nothin' right now.

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