Five ways to Establish a Local Traditional Witchcraft practice

Traditional witchcraft is an animist folk magic practice at its core, therefore, locale is very important. Most popular witchcraft traditions are European while many witches like myself live in North America or elsewhere from where their favorite witchcraft is native. To practice let’s say Cornish Pellarcraft in Oregon seems oxymoronic, however adapting the Celtic worldview to how we interact with the Pacific Northwest landscape justifies that seeming paradox. Here are five ways you can make your witchcraft local:

a photograph of a mountain in the distance
Sisters, Oregon / Photo by the Author

Identify yourself by your landscape

Unlike other areas of sorcery, location is so integral to witchcraft that a good half of witchcraft specialties are named for places: sea witch, British traditional witchcraft, hedge witch, green witch, urban witchcraft, etc. One of the few openly practiced traditions of witchcraft before Gardner popularized Wicca was Ella Young’s California group the Mount Shasta fellowship which included famous personages such as Gavin Arthur and Ansel Adams. Invitations to join her fellowship contained dirt from the mountain in the envelope. My coven is also named for the nearby Silver Star Mountain in part because of the importance of mountain veneration in Celtic spirituality. You can name your witch group after the city you live in, a local natural area like a mountain or lake. If you are solitary it helps connect you to your area to call yourself after where you practice like river witch, desert witch, mountain magician, garden gnome, the possibilities are endless.

Customize your liturgy to your home

When laying your compass or casting a circle, identify the elements as they reside directionally for you. If the sea is to the east where you live, honoring the sea and water in the east makes more sense than the standard west of most ceremonial magic. Many groups adapt classic invocations to honor their region by replacing wording in the poetry with local substitutes based on the trees, animals, birds, plains and waterways close by. My coven adapted the Irish poem the Song of Amergin into our own Song of Cascadia by including cougar and elk instead of boar and stag. We left some things as is, because salmon for example is important in both Ireland and Washington. Don’t be afraid to get really specific, you can honor individual mountains, rivers, seas, plains and etc by name and description when you write your ritual invocations.

Get close to nature

a path and small creek in the wild
Damascus, OR / Photo by the Author

Witchcraft can be very wild, witches get intimate with nature, hugging trees, kissing the ground, listening to the wind and water. Do not be surprised if you end up with leaves in your hair and sand in your shoes from doing your rituals and spell work outside and getting to know the local spirits and consciousness of place. This summer has been nice and hot and so I have been laying down in creek beds a lot lately. Each of the different creeks, rivers and ocean beaches, I have soaked in has different currents, different sources and many different paths. Feeling the personality and atmosphere of all these places has been very magical. The water speaks and sings in the sounds it’s coursing makes. The shady swimming hole can teach about meditation and trance if you listen to and feel the water.

Tend to your green spaces

The land around you is an ancestor, you are made of the food, air, water and sunshine of that land intrinsically. If your family has lived there for generations than the soil itself inters your ancestors’ bodies. The land around you is more than your home, you are its descendant and so it only makes sense to take care of it as family. Popular witchcraft traditions like Cultus Sabbati, Pellarcraft, and 1734 are very tied to outdoor locations like caves, wells and labyrinths. Witches in the course of their practices begin a reciprocal relationship with certain spots. My coven goes often to a glen down the street to pick up rubbish and give biodegradable offerings to the creek. Not only does cleaning the park beautify the area, working there gives us a spiritual investment in the place and the magical power is amplified and attuned to us.

Visit nearby sacred spots

a statue in a shallow cave with an altar of flowers before it
The Grotto, Portland, OR / Photo by the Author

When I meet other witches I love hearing about their stomping grounds and see what they gather there. Gathering waters, dirts, herbs, wands and stones from local power spots is essential for traditional spell work. Try and bring biodegradable offerings and pick up trash in exchange for items you take. My favorite offerings are drawings on birch bark, honey, and homemade wine. Always follow the rule of only taking a small portion of any plant material and leaving most for the livelihood of the ecosystem. I have half a dozen graveyards, monuments, memorials, sanctuaries and labyrinths I visit regularly throughout the year. One of my favorites is the Grotto Marian sanctuary where I can get holy water from the little waterfall off the rocks, use the wishing well, gather flower petals and really feel the goddess of the bluff there.

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