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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Witchcraft of The Devouring Swamp

My friend at Via Hedera wrote a great post about her green witchcraft in the context of her river and its spirits called "Green River Witchcraft". You should definitely give it a read. It has me thinking about the way that where we live, the environment we live in, shapes how we relate to spirits and perhaps our witchcraft or wider spirituality. For my friend at Via Hedera that means green, growing, knitting community together. It also reminds me of this Puscifer song:

All of this got me thinking about my own environment, my own animism and my own witchcraft.

Animism is and always has been a core concept of my beliefs, back for as far as I can remember believing things. The idea that there are spirits - souls - in objects, in places, in everything has always just been a given for me. Of course the river has a spirit. Of course the road has one too. People can split hairs about the details of animism, what it is and how its defined, but ultimately I think any view of animism hinges on that core idea of an ensouled world.

Building on that, for me, is the idea that the physical anchor for that spirit shapes and influences the spirit to some degree. Just as our experience in our body effect how we interact with the world, it has been my experience to a large degree that other spirits are effected by the state of their physical anchor, when they have one. A river that is free-running and clear is a happy river; one that is clogged and polluted is not. A happy river, often will have a happy spirit while an unhappy river will have an unhappy spirit, to give a simple view of it. Rivers shaped by waterfalls and wild rapids have more wild and fierce spirits. Rivers that are calm and slow moving have more languid spirits. I am speaking of generalities of course, trying to get a larger point across.

In turn the spirits and physical anchors they have shape us and resonate with us, or not. People are drawn to certain places, certain types of spirits, whether or not they are aware of it. We may say we like to live near specific terrain, or we always have to be around a specific kind of thing; or perhaps we draw those things to us. I have an affinity for things with thorns and now through no effort on my part my yard has been overtaken by things-with-thorns. We are connected to the spirits around us and they in their way are connected to us, and this is especially true for those of us who practice any form of magic or follow a spiritual path that lends itself to these connection.

Water flows through and around the land I live on, shapes it and re-shapes it. I live within 8 miles of the ocean, and a mile from a large river. But my backyard is a freshwater swamp, less than 50 feet from my house. Those spirits are woven into my home and my witchcraft, inevitably, because they are a part of my environment. They are what I am connected to and what I resonate with.

my backyard

 Rivers have a certain nature to them, whether they are big or small, and their spirits tend to reflect this. They flow, the move, they nurture. Swamps are very different in nature. Swamps devour. Swamps consume. Swamps take in. Swamps have their own cycles, their own ecology, their own blessings and dangers. Ground that looks safe often enough proves a sucking void and one misstep in a swamp can be costly. Swamps are where, often, we see the process of decay front and center, even when they are living and thriving. Trees, uprooted, crisscross the water dying and adding themselves back to the mix from which everything else springs. Yet swamps also nurture life in their own way. Trees grow here, finding roots on the dry islands that rise between the water. Birds nest here, frogs breed here, animals  make their homes here. Paths can be found across the danger by treading on the trunks of fallen trees, if one is daring and has good balance.

The spirits of swamps reflect the nature of swamps; they are devouring and merciless, but they can also be nurturing and helpful. They respect people who are bold, and people who know where to tread and where not to step. They are not subtle, except when they are. The green growth of the swamp stands directly on the brown decay in which its rooted, and the spirits of the swamp, more perhaps than other spirits, are mercurial and stand between baneful and blessing in nature. The Otherworldly beings that choose swamps to live in tend more towards darkness than light.

There is powerful magic to be found here, and powerful connections to be made with these spirits. The lessons of the swamp rest in patience, and rhythms, and finding paths where others see only obstacles. Swamp spirits teach you discernment in trust, and that things are rarely as they appear. The witchcraft of these liminal lands, as much water as earth, is something that knows to respect decay while nourishing new beginnings, and knows when to seek a safe path and when to give over to the devouring waters. The spirits here make powerful allies. But let's be honest, the swamp isn't an easy thing to learn and just when you think you understand it you're sure to set your feet wrong and fall into the half-decayed muck. It takes time and effort to learn the rhythms of any swamp, and to speak to its spirits and learn their language.

Just don't follow the lights in the swamp at night and you will be off to a good start.

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