On Water

Water is an element near and dear to my heart. I think because it is both so familiar and so mysterious- simultaneously comforting and unforgiving. It brings out my inquisitive side. From the ocean and her fascinatingly terrifying depths, to calm ponds and tide pools bursting with life, to the fast and slow moving streams, creeks, and rivers. Water bubbles up from unknown depths and stretches across most of the planet we reside on.

When I think of water, I tend to think of Lily. She feels to me like a water witch, reaching hidden depths and in flow with the energies present in her world. Or maybe it is her power as a healer that reads to me like the water element. Water is, first and foremost, a healer. I wrote a quote down in my notes that I can’t find the source for, so if anyone has any leads I would very much love to credit the author! It says, “Healing with water is one of the most powerful transformational methods. It puts us in the flow of the spirit and energy of the earth, whose surface is two-thirds water. Doing meditations and self-healing in the shower, baths, pools, ponds, rivers, and the ocean--all of it is restoring, cleansing, and purifying. We ourselves are 60 percent water, and being in the flow renews us inside and out.” Water, along with the earth, is a source of life. It is poetic by nature and awe inspiring in its power.

On water, Lily and I tend to discuss certain transcendentalist authors such as Thoreau and Emmerson, and I was interested to learn that German philosophers David Hume and Emmanuel Kant are also considered members of this movement. We studied Hume and Kant in depth while in school as philosophers of religion. Waldon Pond resonated with the both of us in both the length of time that Thoreau spent in the woods, and his connection to the water.

To be honest with you, most of the history of water magic that I know comes from the Germanic and Celtic tradition as is my ancestry. Water, in Celtic lore, is a liminal space; a portal to the underworld and ancestral realms. It is difficult to find primary sources on the water witches of old due to the intrusion of both the Romans and Christianity. “When the Romans occupied Britain, their culture mingled with and strongly influenced many of the Celtic practices. In many cases, the Romans simply took over ancient sacred sites, just as the Christians later many cases, when Christianity began to take root in Britain, the new faith mingled with Celtic Pagan traditions...simply changing the names of many local rivers, springs, and sacred wells to the names of saints. This happened again in the many cases of faery women who later came to be known as witches.” (Avalon 4-5) This story is not uncommon in the history of the world.

Christian baptism in water has been a ritual since the first century as a mode of “washing away” sins and impurities. Cleansing the body before ritual holds similar meaning; Scott Cunningham is a major proponent of cleansing oneself before entering into ritual to present oneself before a wiccan deity as a sign of respect. In Islam, worshippers commonly will wash their arms, hands, legs, feet, and faces before crossing into the prayer area (ablution). Judaism and other religious traditions require similar practices from its adherents.

My personal connection with water feels more important to discuss here than the historical tradition of water witches. Water is such an intimate element and I urge every witch to connect with water in their own way rather than through historic means. Historic water names are great for putting words to your personal water source, but the water element is one of intuition. I can remember a time when my mom, brother and I were hiking somewhere out west. We had been hiking for quite a while (longer than we planned, I think) and ended up at a lake so clear that I had no idea such a thing even existed on this earth. I can’t recall if we knew we would end up next to a lake or not, or if my mom had told us to take a bathing suit which we ignored, but regardless neither my brother or I had a swimsuit with us. The water was freezing cold runoff from mountain snow and we took our shoes and socks off and rolled up our shorts and left our brand new coveted Camelbak on the rocks to wade in. This is such a vivid memory for me, I had no idea water had such beauty, or that I was able to feel such a reverence toward it.

I lived for quite some time at a house in Columbus, Ohio that had a creek running through its backyard. In the winter my brother and I hiked down the frozen water to the neighborhood park and he humored me while I took photos with my grandfather's film camera. A pond on some land that my father’s family owns was a frequent swimming spot, albeit one I was fairly terrified of due in no small part to the leeches and snapping turtles that lived there. The sides of the pond were fascinating enough though; constantly teeming with tadpoles and frog eggs, we gathered them in jars only to never actually see them grow into frogs (they would stay in tadpole form for months until they got flushed down the toilet or upon grants begging, were released into the creek out back).

By far though the greatest water I have experienced has been hot springs. If you ever get a chance to visit and bathe in a natural hot spring I highly recommend it. The water springs forth, heated by the earth, and packed full of minerals. A lot of witches love baths as a form of ritual. Adding that perfect potion to a bath can bring upon a witch the insight and visions that she has sought. For potion suggestions and bath rituals, I would recommend reaching out to Lily. I’m not much of a bath taker. I use water in my practice as an accelerant to spells or as a scrying tool. The general idea of water magic is: INTENT + WATER + DELIVERY METHOD = MAGICAL CHANGE. Water witches, and witches in general ought to know the different types of water and their uses, as they can be a powerful tool in your apothecary:

Black Water: The kind that is sold in stores with the addition of fulvic minerals, is excellent for use in the dark half of the year for shadow work. Black water coming from wells or water that turns an object black is generally unsafe for ingesting.

Brackish Water: Exceptionally liminal, as it is drawn from a crossroads of sorts where salt and fresh water meet. Use to enter the “between” realm; yarrow grown at these places are exceptionally powerful.

Dew: When collected at Beltane, brings power to love and beauty spells. The addition of Beltane dew to your maypole festivities will add such an extraordinary delight!

Fog: This sort of water can't exactly be collected, but if a fog rolls in, then you will have great success in accessing or entering the otherworld. It is, essentially, a portal.

Hail/Sleet: Use to place or reverse a curse; as it melts a powerful transformation takes place that can be harnessed alongside its furious origins.

Bog/Swamp: For all my swamp witches! “These waters can be used for darker magic, ancestral work, and to hide, cover, or mask. Swamp water is full of mystery and poison...and can be used for any type of magic.” (Avalon 15)

Mud: for use of water alongside earth to bury tired patterns for good. Finish that which no longer serves you by covering something that is representative of the problem in mud and releasing it down a moving body of water or burying it away from your home.

Sea: used for healing, protection, charms, cleansing, and banishing. Sea water is holy water. Use it liberally.

Fountain/Pool: this is usually in the form of chlorinated tap water, bottled water, or swimming water. It is difficult to form an intimate connection with these forms of water, but still possible and recommended.

Pond/Lake: Its calm nature is useful in scrying and relaxation. Lakes especially are considered portals and contain powerful creatures within them.

Rain: “Ideal medium for water magic.” Rain water falls into three categories according to Annwyn Avalon; rain that occurs while it is still sunny- for healing nourishment of the soul, dreary water that occurs from a misty, long lasting rainfall- useful for divination and shadow work as well as protection and invisibility, and thunderstorm water- used to amplify magic or to curse.

River: Its fast moving nature is useful as a catalyst to speed things up in your magical workings. ”Can be useful for spells involving moving forward, change, getting unstuck, and sending things away.” Avalon 18

Snow: Add to a spell as it melts to unpause, or unbind. Defrost a situation or an icy heart with snow.

Spring/Well: Strongly associated with the fairy folk, these can be powerful tools to enact change- though it will often come at a cost. (also note, avoid using cast iron cauldrons in fairy-water magic. Unless you feel like angering them you I guess. Put the water in another sort of vessel

Waterfall: traditionally used in beauty and fertility workings.

Bathtubs, as discussed earlier, are but one of the plentiful tools available for a water witch. Glass, stones, bones and branches such as driftwood that are found in water and worn smooth by it contain the essences of the body of water it is found in. Combs (queue the little mermaid music) are useful in mermaid magic, while crab claws are great for binding and banishing. The pearls and plants gathered from water are imbued with the energies they were found in. Shells especially are used in ritual for a variety of reasons- the shells pulled to the shore are done so by the power of the moon’s pull. Use them for love spells or to call on enormous and sacred the power of the sea. Fill them with wax to make a spell candle, or with water for scrying. Use them to cleanse your magical tools that cannot get wet. Oyster shells in particular are identified with the goddess Aphrodite and womanhood in particular. Shells can be made into runes or added to ritual baths for added potency.

However you choose to incorporate water into your ritual practice, do so mindfully. Do so intuitively. And do so with purpose.

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