Witchcraft for Writers

I don’t want to write a primer on Witchcraft. I don’t want to have to write about whether I believe in the supernatural or ghosts or Bach flower remedies. I don’t.  I want to write about spells and power. I want to write about the feelings I have when I am alone in the night walking along a river. When I am singing quietly, so the people in the houses don’t hear me, when I am saying out loud all the things that people should be saying to rivers. Witchcraft is about memory and language, and using these things in ways that subvert the status quo. Witchcraft is recognising the things that we are not supposed to notice.

witchraft for writers spell nature baphomet

Witchcraft is acknowledging that I am not that different from the wind, that there is not a clear line separating the breath in my body from the breath in a thundercloud. Witchcraft is setting up a ritual to remind me of that solid, scientific fact when I can’t feel it in myself. Sometimes we have to spell it out.  As I write there is rain falling outside. It falls. It nourishes. It is laughing in the gutter. I see myself.

Witchcraft is allowing myself to not just be ‘myself’, is accepting what the Buddhists and Existentialists have been saying forever, letting my boundaries dissolve so thoroughly that there isn’t a thing to be bound anymore. It’s taking that conceptual freedom and running with it. I am not a man. I am a tree. I am a swear word. I am a wine drunk divinity crowned with starlight. I’m a poem.

Witchcraft is not just feeling though. Witchcraft is me setting an alarm so I wake up early and remember my dreams. It’s adorning myself with symbols in a secret language. It’s not just the imaginative leap of becoming other, it’s the physical things I do to anchor my imagination’s reach into this body, this time. Witchcraft is the steady transformation of my life into a marker. I am trying to find a path. I am trying to be a path. I am looking to become ‘a visible sign of an invisible grace’.

In the mornings I wake up and I light a candle for the gods I believe I am. I pray.

River of honey,
sweet first light, bird song at morning,
kind Muse,
I am making a home for you.

Be with me.
With my hands I am
clearing the path before your procession.

I am laying down my hours before you
To mark a road.

How To Think Like Moss

In one of my teenage fantasies, I am having such a large emotion that the seeds in the earth spontaneously sprout, grow, blossom. In this teenage fantasy, my large emotion is something like the seeds of a dandelion that can crack concrete. I know there are tree seeds beneath the pavement. I know there is a forest here, waiting, potential. In my teenage fantasy, my feeling is strong enough to undo the city (my A-levels, compulsory heterosexuality, money) in one fecund explosion of leaves and branches.

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But feeling is not enough, never has been. This view of a tree, effortless, emotional, is very teenage. All product, no process.

When I take the train now, I look out at the fields and streets and I think about the forest that used to be here, about that forest that will be here again eventually. I play counting games in my head; how many decades till the ash supersedes buddleia? How long till oak is the dominant species again? What will it look like when the tube tunnels are given over to vines?

This is fantasy again, but a better fantasy. A fantasy that involves time and struggle. A fantasy that nourishes, that pulls me towards possibility. I can’t convince a seed to grow, I can’t fight time. But I can plant things. I can compost.

I think about mountains and moss. No one looks at a rainforest and thinks about lichens on a bare rock face. But everything green starts in something grey, a scab of life on a piece of slate, the very slow process of turning something dead into something living. Even in softer places, man-made deserts where sheep have been, it takes a few years to return. It takes a few years of grass and vetch before the pioneer tree species have enough earth to dig down into.

I think about this model of resistance, which is not easy to sell, as an antidote to some types of anxiety. It isn’t simple, it doesn’t promise a Hollywood happy ending in my lifetime. There’s no X-Factor style emotional arc where I get to feel like a victor. But I wonder if there is something to learn in the slow encroachment of grass onto train tracks.  I wonder if patience is a revolutionary virtue.