Path of the Green Witch – Part II
In our first article we looked at a small portion what it means to be a Green Witch, and how that may differ from one person to another (just as with any ideology, each person may see things slightly different than another person, yet both can be valid).
Brief Recap of Part I
The Green Path is close to the Native Americans or even the Gallic Druids religious path. What I mean by this , is that we ask permission and their blessings before using anything from nature and we say thank you to the spirits of whatever plant or animal we use.
Whether it is for food, or for healing prospects. We also believe that the plants, animals, gems, and other natural elements have a spirit or soul.
A green witch may, or may not, believe in deities – that’s a personal choice.
The earth and all of nature is the true habitat of the green witch and his/her knowledge of how that habitat imapcts everyone is a big part of the craft.
In part II of this series, we will look at how the Green Witch path came to be and a bit more about what that path entails.
In The Beginning
The practices of the modern green witch have arisen from folk healers and practitioners of folk magic. The modern green witch finds her foremothers and forefathers in village herbalists, midwives, healers, wisewomen, and cunning-folk who performed particular services for their communities.
The duties of these spiritual ancestors of the green witch usually included midwifery and preparation of the dead for burial, as well as the use of various plants to heal mind and body. These people possessed knowledge of both life and death. They knew what kinds of which flora could create both states of existence. These earlier green witches, while often respected, were more often feared or mistrusted because of the knowledge they held. They were often marginalized by their communities and lived alone or away from the social center of the community. Even today, society is often uncomfortable with those who possess knowledge not held by the common man.
It is also likely, however, that the spiritual ancestors of the modern green witch chose to live apart from the center of the community because it is harder to hear what nature has to communicate to you when you are surrounded by people. Being closer to the forests and fields made it easier for the cunning-folk to commune with the energies of the living world of green and to gather what they needed.
Practitioners of folk magic, those who live on the second branch of the green witch’s family tree, are not necessarily separate from the first. Sometimes the healers were also spellcasters who performed folk magic particular to the region (such as Pennsylvanian pow-wow), but more often they were just grandmothers who had a talent for “fixing” things. Folk magic is composed of traditions and practices that have been handed down in a geographic or culturally specific area. It generally focuses on divination for love and marriage, agricultural success, and weather prediction.
Owen Davies, author of the fascinating Cunning-Folk: Popular Magic in English History, explains that as opposed to being healers, cunning-folk originally dealt mainly with lifting bewitchments from people who believed themselves to be the victims of a curse or of some sort of spell. Witchcraft was the soil in which the careers of the cunning-folk grew; when popular belief in witchcraft ended, the roles of the cunning-folk ended as well.
There are other modern paths that resemble the path of the green witch. Kitchen witches and hedge witches observe similar practices, and, indeed, sometimes people use these terms interchangeably with green witchcraft. All three paths have three basic things in common: they are based in folk magic, they do not require a spiritual element, and walkers on all three paths tend to be solitary practitioners.
Before we launch into a full examination of what constitutes the modern green witch’s path, let’s take a look at kitchen witchery and hedge magic and see how they are similar to and how they differ from one another.
• Kitchen witches, who are family oriented, focus on magic performed in the heart of the modern home: the kitchen. The kitchen witch bases her magical practice in her everyday household activities, and cooking, cleaning, baking, and so forth all become the foundation for her magical acts. Sweeping the floor free of dust and dirt may inspire a simultaneous cleansing of negative energy, for example. A kitchen witch works intuitively rather than ritually and may or may not keep track of how she works.
• Hedge witches, a term used more in the UK than in the US, live close to nature, often away from urban areas. When you think of the classic wise woman on the edge of town who was visited for love charms and healing potions, you have a pretty decent idea of what a hedge witch is. The modern hedge witch is usually a solo practitioner of a neopagan path who uses spellcraft as a basis for her work.
Modern practitioners often try to link their practice to some sort of history in order to create a sense of tradition, but that sense of tradition is not as important as the sense of self. This is particularly true of the green witch path.
It is easy to look back and acknowledge the influence of the past on modern practice, but every green witch creates her own practice. There is no initiation, no adherence to a set of rules. Living the green path is really and truly a reflection of the green witch’s inner light.
The Green Witch & Magic
Using the word “witch” invariably brings us to the word “magic.” This is a word that can cause confusion. Magic is not illusion, nor is it the artificial manipulation of unnatural forces. In fact, magic is perfectly natural: it is the use of natural energy with conscious intent and awareness to help attain a better understanding of the world around you and to harmonize yourself with the world’s energies.
Most green witches find the use of the word “magic” to be irrelevant. Magic implies something out of the ordinary. But to a green witch the mundane is magical. When she senses, responds to, and gently nudges the flows of natural energy around her, nothing could be more natural. She’s performing natural magic. Nature itself is magical. The everyday is sacred to the green witch.
Marian Green, the author of Wild Witchcraft and follower of a path sympathetic to the green witch philosophy that embraces natural magic and hedge craft, states that, “Magic is the art of learning to recognize these elements of change: the natural patterns of flow and ebb, the times of progress, of standing still and of retreating . . . Magic teaches us to determine which way the tides of Nature are flowing, to see on which level they run and what they can offer each of us at this moment.” In Green’s view, magic is learning to harmonize yourself with the forces of nature and understanding how they flow through your life. This is, of course, the life work of the green witch in a nutshell.
Spellcraft is seen as a perfectly natural occurrence along the green path. Is brewing a cup of rosemary tea for a headache a spell? Or is it natural medicine? To the green witch, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is the conscious use of the energies of the rosemary to help heal a temporary imbalance. It is the connection to the natural world and the acknowledgment that we are all a part of that world that allows us to function as a link between the world of people and the world of green.
In short, by opening yourself to the energy of nature, and by accepting that you are a part of that grand symphony of energy and power, you allow yourself to partake of that energy to rebalance your life. Then you can work to rebalance the energies of other situations.
In other witchcraft practices, there are methods by which energy is raised, aimed at a target or goal, and released. The green witch uses energy in a slower, more subtle way. Seeking to be a part of the ebb and flow of the energy around her, she thus does not deliberately collect energy to shape and release. The green witch works from the inside out and moves with the natural flow of the energies instead of seeking to manipulate them.
Using the word “magic” can lead you to view your green witch work as something set apart. In this book, there are no rules for creating a magic circle in which you must work, no compulsory calling on deities, no sequences of formal ritual that must be enacted precisely as written. The practice of the green witch is a fluid, natural, personal practice, one that informs every moment of every day. It is important to recognize each moment as “magical” and full of potential. Everything is magical, in the sense that it is wondrous and unique—every breath, every step, every stir of your soup. Every act is an act of magic. The magic is life itself.
This knowledge must be balanced by the understanding that as a green witch, you carry a sacred responsibility not only to watch over the harmony of your environment but also to remember that, as author Poppy Palin says in Craft of the Wild Witch, “every positive gesture has the potential to become a spell.” However, there is a danger in the practice of green witchcraft that familiarity may breed contempt. Recognizing each moment as magical and full of potential, the green witch may end up desensitizing herself to the point where no moment is special. Beware of falling into this rut. Allow yourself to marvel frequently at the joy and power of nature as the seasons’ cycle through the year, at the beautiful and frightful aspects of sunsets and storms. Every moment is magical because it holds potential, but also because it is merely a moment. The mundane is sacred to the green witch because it is mundane. The word “mundane” itself is derived from the Latin mundus, meaning “of the material world,” and it is the energy created by the material world that sources the green witch’s power.
In Part III of this series, we will start to look at how a green witch practices the craft in detail. Until then, Blessed be and Merry part.