Hello Dear Readers!
After several weeks of being quiet, I am popping back in with another installment of An Interview with A Water Priestess. This time with Jamie Della, a Water Witch, and Water Activist! I love how Jamie wove the answers to my questions in story format! This was a fun and exciting read for me and I hope you enjoy learning about her and her work with water as much as I did! I also had the pleasure of chatting with Jamie for my Water Wednesday Livestream. Click here to watch the recording!
About Jamie Della
I am Jamie Della, Water Priestess and activist, Shamanic Priestess, author, and mother. I live on Payahuunadü, which means the land of flowing water, in what is more commonly known as the Eastern Sierra in California. Historically this land has been fed by snowmelt that created rivers and creeks that led to lakes and created a lush environment. But this water has been stolen by the City of Los Angeles and I am fighting back by writing Every Last Drop: Exposés on the L.A./Eastern Sierra water wars, a newsletter by the Keep Long Valley Green (KLVG) coalition.
With the publication of The Wicca Cookbook in 2000, I have always considered that writing Witchcraft books is my air, energy, water, and land activism. For the last two decades, I have taught a path of Wicca that rests on the value and holiness of the Four Directions and how Air, Fire, Water, and Earth lives and breathes through us as a multi-faceted diamond of the Divine Source.
In particular, access to clean, pure water has always been important to me, and the undercurrent of my involvement with food quality and homesteading organizations such as the Orange County Food Access Coalition, Natural Products Expo, Edible Institute magazines, and The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano. As a single mother, I placed postcards by the kitchen and bathroom faucets that highlighted facts of water-borne illnesses in third world countries to encourage my sons to save water.
My first water activism truly began before this lifetime but has often seeped into my current reality. I have been known to shut off the water pouring out of a faucet while some woman put on her lipstick in a public bathroom. I would glare at her privilege through very old eyes. I could feel my Lucky Mother, my first mother. In my mind’s eye, I saw Her stamp the Earth as dust plumed upward. “Do not waste the water. That is how we die!” my eyes scream at her even as I gave her a wry smile. “Just wake up,” I said with my whole body.
When I moved to the Eastern Sierra in 2017, I felt acceptance from the acre of unspoiled land between my partner’s house and the yearlong stream. Although I can see the Aspen trees that snake beside the stream, it takes to trudge in knee-deep snow to see how the icicles are forming on the willows and rosehip branches. One spring I watched a brown trout spawn, let go of her life and float backward over the waterfall, downstream to the lake. The pond is a cool relief in summer as I submerge in the cold waters. Yellow Aspen leaves suffuses the air when fall comes and the water gushes by. I felt drawn to tend this water.
I was no longer angry at people who didn’t see the sacredness in water, I felt ignited and inspired to remind them of the connection to this element that makes up the major percentage of the human body. Thus began my work with KLVG, a diverse coalition formed in 2018 after the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) announced they would be shutting off eighty percent of the water they normally supplied to the Long Valley area where I live.
This sudden loss of water would endanger the Bi-State Sage Grouse, destroy the ranching community, turn the land to toxic dust and increase fire danger for this land and neighborhood. This threat of water loss has brought together ranchers, indigenous communities, county officials and environmentalists to work in unison to fight the arrogant patriarchy that gave DWP the audacity to steal land and water and break promises on a daily basis.
But more than just inspired by this group of such diverse minds coming together, I felt a kinship and responsibility to right a wrong of being dispossessed from your land, home, and access to life-giving water.
The Owens Valley Paiute, who refer to themselves as the Nuumu, irrigated the land for centuries before ranchers and other settlers arrived, as documented in maps and reports from the 1850s and in the ditch remnants still visible in places today. The Nuumu diverted the numerous eastern Sierra creeks and streams to grow plants for food, medicines, and fiber, and to create habitat for game. Since the Los Angeles Aqueduct was built in 1903 and then a second pipe installed in the 1970s, this area has seen a horrific impact on the environment.
I felt an unseen magickal connection. My ancestors built the southern Californio empire of large ranchos (ours was 70,000 acres of prime Orange County, California real estate) in the early 1800s that was bequeathed to my ancestors upon their retirement from the Spanish Army. Most of the Californio Dons devastated the local indigenous population save for one man, Don Bernardo Yorba, whom the San Bernardino mountains and the towns of San Bernardino and Yorba Linda are named. He taught the indigenous population skills such as tanning or farriering and in turn he seemed to have gained from them the ability to irrigate uphill using the force of the Santa Ana River. Don Yorba was reputed for his water irrigation and taught other Dons of southern California how to defy gravity. Where did he learn how to do this? When I moved to the Eastern Sierra, I learned of the Paiute irrigation ditches. With only three hundred miles that separate the mountains of the Sierra Nevada from the deserts of southern California, I wondered about this water connection.
Water Ritual for Shadow Work
In fall of 2019, I attended a county supervisor hearing to stop DWP from withholding irrigation to Long Valley. It was there I heard about KLVG campaign one month prior to a decade-awaited pilgrimage to Catalunya, Spain, and the family castle built in 900AD. I had intended to seek the humanity in my ancestor Jose Antonio Yorba who was one of the 25 Catalan soldiers who protected Father Serra as they built missions to Christianize the California indigenous population. Knowing my ancestors had helped build the city of Los Angeles, the very city that was now taking my local water, inspired full-circle spellwork.
I filled a small blue bottle of water from the creek in my backyard and carried the vial in across the Atlantic Ocean. In a sacred ceremony, I climbed the castle’s stone steps, stood on a turret filled with sand, and gazed around at the undulating hills surrounding my ancestors’ castle. I uncapped the little blue bottle of water, then crouched low and poured the water on the dirt with the words, “May the conqueror’s thirst be slaked so that no person takes more than their share.” I stood up, raised my arms to the sky, and felt the reverberation of Magick sending out waves of energy.
The next day, my last day in Catalunya, I took the empty blue bottle to Monserrat, where the Black Madonna has rested since the 1200s. I put one hand on the orb she holds and with the other hand I held open the bottle for her to pour her loving, healing Spirit into it. As tears streamed down my face, I asked the Dark Mother to cleanse me of the stain of self-colonization and to mend my heart.
My healing crisis began within twenty-four hours.
A fever of 102, pounding headache, and chills overtook me during the six-hour drive home after my flight landed in Los Angeles. Once in my own bed, I lit a candle of protection, burned dried mugwort leaves, applied a wet washcloth to my forehead, and let the smoke wash over my wounded spirit. I played meditative drumming recordings and anointed myself with calendula-infused oil. Calendula is a plant known to help understand universal timing, and this healing period was beyond my control. I drifted to the Magickal in-between place.
Slowly, the fever dissipated as I acknowledged that for a significant portion of my life, I had been misled by self-importance and historical grandeur. The spell I had cast on the sand-filled castle’s turret had successfully rebounded on its originator. I experienced a paradigm shift that reorganized my soul and paid attention to the smallest incidents of power-over behavior.
Two years later, in 2021, I launched the newsletter for KLVG called Every Last Drop: Exposés on the L.A./Eastern Sierra water wars. I believe my Magick on the castle brought me to the forefront of this activism and communication effort. Through this newsletter and recently released short documentary film, we hope to raise a groundswell movement to protect the local waters and ecology of the Eastern Sierra. Without water, this land and tribal, ranching, and tourism-based livelihoods cannot survive. Without water, the playground of Los Angeles, the once lush lands of Payahuunadü will literally turn to dust
I am tending the current and historical attack on water here in Payahuunadü with my pen as my sword. I want the people of Los Angeles to understand where their water comes from. They are draining their playground and sacred home and do not understand their impact nor see that the power that DWP makes doubles by the hydrology of moving water 338 miles. My work is a rally cry to inspire a wave of support for Los Angeles to include conserving local water for the Eastern Sierra into their efforts. We need protection for Long Valley which has no law protecting it from having every last drop of water diverted into aqueducts or pumped from groundwater and sent to Los Angeles.
I regularly tend my “water sisters” altars of Oshun (an elaborately decorated full-length mirror) and Yemoja (whom has been a guiding force this last year) to guide my next steps. I have a nightly ritual of submerging myself in warm waters of our hot tub to watch the stars and the moon in the clear mountain sky. Later this year I will launch my Journey Into Her creative writing course.
I am currently writing my next book, Box of Magick, which will be published by Sounds True in Fall 2023. Box of Magick is a guided journey of High Magick and the natural worlds through the eyes of a young Wiccan and her mentor. This book was inspired by a box of magickal notes that I received at the beginning of the pandemic from my Wiccan Elder High Priestess fifteen years after her crossing.
My recommended reading list of Best Books on Magick and Witchcraft as Self Care and Wellness is recently highlighted on Shepherd.com. My essay, Brigid’s Cloak, was published in the book Brigid’s Light: Tending the Ancestral Flame of the Beloved Celtic Goddess . I will be leading workshops in Northern California and Oregon at various locations this summer, including Oshala Farm Herb Camp. Join the Every Drop Newsletter here. Learn more about at www.JamieDella.com
Learn more about Jamie Della at www.JamieDella.com