This week I am so excited to bring you an interview with Sandra Kynes. Sandra has been a wonderful addition to our online community. Often commenting and chatting with many of us in the Sea Witch group on Facebook. She is also an author of many books and has written the classic and very important book, Sea Magic. For many water practitioners, this was their first book about water magic, a gateway that helped so many embark on the path of Sea Witchery and Magic. I have had the pleasure of interviewing her and hope you all enjoy this interview as much as I do!
Who are you and what is your path?
My name is Sandra Kynes. I’m the author of Sea Magic and over a dozen other books. I am an explorer of history, myth, and magic. My path is to connect with the natural world spiritually and in everyday life.
Do you identify as a Well Maiden, Priest/ess, Caretaker or Witch?
I would have to say that I identify as a water caretaker but also very strongly as a voyager. I have been on Imram most of my life. Imram is a word from Old Irish that means, “rowing about” or “voyaging.” The imramha of Irish sagas were tales of adventure on the sea as well as journeys to the Celtic otherworld. Imram is also a journey of self-discovery.
What is your path? And how does it relate to your Water caretaking?
As the element of emotion, water is a great facilitator of our individual journeys. My path is one of explorer because I tend to see things a little differently; my role is to bring what I find to others. I never imagined that my book Sea Magic would have such an impact on so many people; I am grateful and humbled by this.
2) What brought you to this sacred water path?
Since the age of two, I spent most of my childhood summers on the Delaware shore. We had a tiny cottage that was a block from Rehoboth Bay and a block from the Atlantic Ocean. I was drawn to the ocean and I believe it was a spirit-led pull that I felt. Even as a child I remember being absolutely mesmerized by the sea; a little fearful and intimidated at first because it was so vast and powerful.
And then, of course, there were the treasures. I thought of seashells as special gifts. I drove my parents crazy with all the shells and jars of sand I took home at the end of the summer, but these things sustained my contact with the ocean until I could return. I arranged them on and around a small table in my room. Of course, I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had created an altar. I would sit in front of it and put a conch shell to my ear or run my fingers through the sand that I had placed in a large clamshell. It was pure bliss.
As a young teenager, my sister, friends, and I would venture past the breakers where none of us could touch the bottom. While most of the kids were on surfboards and riding the waves, I liked to mostly sit on a raft and hang out in the deep water. Feeling the roll of the waves was like experiencing the intimate rise and fall of a mother’s breath. It was such intimate contact with the sea.
Can you tell us a little bit about the history of finding your path?
Like many of us, life happens with work, marriage, and kids. I lived in New York City longer than any other place and I believe it was spiritual providence that led me to a little shop several blocks from where I worked in midtown Manhattan. It was Seashells Unlimited where a fabulous woman, Veronica Parker Johns, sold nothing but seashells. The shop became my oasis and Veronica a guiding soul.
Years slipped by and my life’s journey took me to live in Germany, England, New England, and then back to the New York area. While living forty-five minutes from the shore in New Jersey, I began working on Sea Magic because I felt a calling. Each time I went to the beach the memories and spiritual feelings from my childhood kept coming back. Yes, the Jersey shore is well known for being crowded and crazy, but my early morning walks and meditations at the Sandy Hook Gateway Beach were quiet and deeply spiritual. The beach’s juxtaposition across the bay from New York City was symbolic for me; I could see and appreciate the past as I was beginning a new chapter in my life.
3) Do you have a Sacred Body of water?
I finished writing Sea Magic after moving to Portland, Maine, where I could walk down to the harbor in ten minutes or in the same amount of time drive to a magical little cove. The body of water is Casco Bay, which is part of the Gulf of Maine. The cove is Willard Beach where I practiced my sea magic for thirteen years. It’s a popular seaside community, so it was important to go in the early morning. In the winter I could go later in the day. Being on the beach when it’s snowing is an especially delightful experience.
Was the place sacred when you arrived? Or was it a challenge to shift the energy into a blessed space?
A lot of small boats are anchored just offshore so there are lots of reminders of nearby human presence. But the far end of the beach is rocky and slightly wild. I found that this was a blessed space that instilled in me a state of grace. I was in awe with the quiet beauty of the place and the wildlife that was so close at hand. I felt blessed to be part of it.
What types of spirits dwell here?
Seabirds and seals are very prominent there and I liked spending time in meditation connecting with their spirits. The birds reminded me to look for different perspectives and to let my spirit soar; the seals spoke of balance and spiritual depth.
4) Tell us about the work you did there?
I usually put together a simple altar from items I found when I arrived. It’s a great beach for sea glass, which is symbolic of how Mother Ocean can soothe our rough edges and heal what is broken. A few times I discovered a shell or two nestled against the rocks and once a small grouping of shells looked so perfect where they came to rest that they became my altar in situ. As a plant person, I loved going at low tide to gather seaweed for my altar. Sometimes in my practice, I would open my energy to receive and at other times send energy to heal the world’s waters. As when I was a child, I would run my hands through the sand for a tangible connection. I sometimes took items with me to the beach to cleanse and bless in the water. But Willard Beach wasn’t the only power place for me.
What is the other place?
It’s the very rocky shore at Two Lights a little farther down the coast. While Willard Beach has been my place for quiet contemplation, Two Lights was a place to connect with the power of the sea; to sit and gaze out to the open ocean. Ten years ago, I took up kayaking and the thing I enjoy most is simply being on the water; not paddling like crazy to get somewhere, just sitting quietly like I did when I was a teenager. Feeling the roll of the waves is a spiritual experience that helps me connect with the sea, the creatures, and spirit. Sitting on the rocks at Two Lights allows me to relive the experience from shore as I gaze out to sea.
What else about being on the water is significant to you?
I connect my practice of being on the water in my kayak with the mythical Celtic ninth wave. As the third wave of the third group of waves (a triple triad), the ninth wave was a symbolic and significant barrier. To be told that you were banished beyond the ninth wave meant you were an outcast. However, the ninth wave also marked the magical boundary of the otherworld, and to go beyond the ninth wave was an opportunity to explore it. The ninth wave is also a place of surrender. Not in a sense of giving in, but in surrendering to the power of water and inner wisdom. To me, it’s surrendering and allowing my journey to unfold.
5) How do you feel about the current attack on water? Standing Rock? And Pollution in general?
I think this Administration and all its enablers in Congress are a disgrace to the United States. They are only interested in money and power and are willing to sacrifice the earth and all that is good for their own selfish gain.
Do you participate in water activism?
I have been an activist protesting against anything that is detrimental to the environment since the mid-1970s starting with the demonstrations against the Shoreham nuclear power plant in New York. I have continued to participate in marches including the recent protests against the government’s anti-science stance. Whenever something occurs (especially like the unbelievably insane role-back of the clean water act protections) I contact all of my representatives in federal and state government and even some who don’t represent me. It’s important to speak up. And while it’s easy to think that my one phone call or email won’t make a difference, remember that many drops of water create a mighty river.
What types of rituals and spells have you done to protect your sacred body of water and the water of the world?
I spend time in meditation sending energy to the waters that are affected. At the beach, I like to stand in the water as I visualize my energy moving out from my feet and through the water connecting with all waters. I also like to visualize others doing this and all our energy combining to heal the water and all the creatures and plants that dwell within. Other times I just chant and sing to the water.
Is there anything else that you might like to share with our readers?
My imram is continuing but into completely uncharted waters, so to speak. This year has been a pivotal passage for me. I became semi-retired (more time for writing!), sold my house in Portland, and moved north in Maine into an 1850s farmhouse on nine acres. Yep, this New York City girl has moved to the country. Although I’m not as close to the seaside as I used to be, we get coastal fogs and some days I can smell the ocean. My house is a thirty-minute drive from the sea and I go as often as I can.
Through this transition, I have embarked on a new adventure exploring freshwater. While we live near a lake and a number of large ponds, which are great for kayaking, I’m feeling drawn to the wells on my property. There are three. Water is taking on a whole new dimension and meaning for me because for the first time in my life my home is not connected to “city” water. This brings an air of self-reliance and a more intimate connection with source, water, and divinity. Water from the main well comes from two hundred feet down in the earth. This seems apropos because I feel that I am where I need to be at this point in my life in order to go deep within myself. No ebb and flow like the ocean, instead stillness that allows me to reflect on things at a soul level.
I am just beginning to develop ways of working with this water. My altar is outside and consists of a tall wrought iron plant stand upon which I have placed a large shallow bowl. I felt compelled to place it where it will mix with rainwater; terrestrial water and celestial water. Of course, groundwater originates as rain but it has been with Mother Earth for a while. The altar stands in the flower garden just outside my bay window. It is kissed by sunlight and moonlight and collects the morning dew. The altar and how I shall work with it are developing slowly. This is my imram as a crone, and I feel no need to rush.
Learn more about Sandra at these links and grab her book to add to your collection!
Plant Magic blog on Pagan Square: https://witchesandpagans.com/pagan-culture-blogs/plant-magic.html
Buy Sandra’s Book – Sea Magic: https://www.amazon.com/Sea-Magic-Connecting-Oceans-Energy/