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?

b2ap3_thumbnail_Tulilautta3.jpg

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"