In this post, I describe how grief initiated a journey toward druidry and green witchery. I also share a few book recommendations for texts that have helped me along the way.
Grief and Perspective
When I sat down to write this post, it began as another. I had intended to share some of my research from drafting my third novel about harpies and the alkonost. And yet here I am, sharing thoughts on druidry and my readings about green witch practices instead.
One of the promises I made to myself for this site was that I would let it come into its own. By that I mean that I would let Fantasy Afield find its voice as it also found its readers. I wouldn’t restrict the pieces that came to me based on preconceived limitations.
This year (2021) has brought with it a lot of change and loss—I’m sure that’s true for all of us in many ways as much of the baggage from the pandemic and 2020 has carried over into the new year.
For me, that loss took on the form of the death of my father at the beginning of this year. He received a stage 4 cancer diagnosis in early November 2020 and died on January 2nd.
The shock of this has disrupted disrupted plans and timelines. But more than that, it’s brought a change of perspective on ideas and beliefs I had previously set aside. What is more, it has initiated a journey I have resisted taking, one I have been unsure about.
The Journey of the Green Witch
I grew up in a conservative household in the Appalachian Mountain region of the United States. Even writing this now, at the age of thirty-one, I cannot fully dismiss the nervousness I feel at the thought of one of my family members or an old family friend coming across this post.
What would my mother say if she discovered that I was studying witchcraft? If she learned I was mulling over self-identification as a druid or a druidess? (I came across druidess in some of my reference reading last week and immediately fell in love with the eco-femininity of the term.)
But even as I write this, a profound sense of deja vu has come over me. I don’t know how you interpret your own dreams and visions coming true, but I always take a moment to work through them, sigh happily, and conclude that I am on the right path. “All is well. Continue on.”
Fantasy Afield started as a place to share my research into folk- and plant-lore. A place to celebrate nature and connection. And here at the beginning, I can already sense it turning into so much more.
The spiraling grief-journey that I have been on after losing my dad at the beginning of this year has pushed away many of my fears about an alternative spiritual path from the one I grew up with. Perhaps “clarified” or “put in perspective” would be even more accurate.
The Covid-19 pandemic has already left an indelible sense of memento mori on so many of us, a consistent reminder that one day, we will die. As the pandemic wore on, I felt many of the things that had been so important to me before slipping from a place of prominence. What started as me being “less productive” has turned into a revaluation of the role and importance of work in my life. And, more importantly, it has made even stronger the sense I already had of the work I truly wanted to do.
Grief makes us feel alone, unmoored. It sets us adrift on a dark sea and obscures our sight of shore or harbor.
And on this sea, I began to look for connection.
I had already started looking into green witchcraft before my dad got sick. But it was more a hesitant dabbling than an outright search.
Alone on the sea, as my perspective shifted, other people’s opinions became less important, and my own need for connection came to prominence.
It was then that I embarked on this new journey.
Reading and Reference
Much of my “looking into” green witchcraft before had consisted of finding books and references to learn more. I’ll try to write individual reviews of these books as I go, but for now, I wanted to touch on a few that have been helpful.
Green Witchcraft: A Practical Guide to Discovering the Magic of Plants, Herbs, Crystals, and Beyond by Paige Vanderbeck
I recently finished this book, and it was one I had started earlier, put down for a while, and then returned to when the time was right.
A few months ago, when I first started reading this primer on green witchcraft, I was frustrated that it wasn’t more in-depth. I wanted the detailed practices and explanations. What’s at the heart of all of this?
Looking back, I think I wanted answers. I didn’t recognize the first baby steps of the journey.
Then, my husband got me The Green Witch’s Grimoire, which was way more detailed and in-depth than I was prepared for. I returned to Green Witchcraft after referencing it during my writing last week.
There’s a scene in my third novel, Amber Queen, where Yvayne, a powerful and experienced fae druid reflects on how she can sense the trail of some of the younger druids under her protection. I wanted depth for this scent-trail, so I referenced the connotations and associations of magical herbs. The herbs I chose match the interior place on the druidic journey each of the protagonists finds herself in at that point in the novel.
(I’ll have a review for this book and more reflections on it soon!)
The Green Witch: Your Complete Guide to the Natural Magic of Herbs, Flowers, Essential Oils, and More by Arin Murphy-Hiscock
I am glad that I started with Vanderbeck’s book, and I followed it up with The Green Witch by Arin Murphy-Hiscock. Both books include a lot of the “basics” for practicing green witchcraft, though this one goes into more detail with some of the spells and crafting alongside meditations.
What I appreciated most about this book on my first read-through was the encouragement for connection with your garden. It goes more in-depth with meditations and practices than Green Witchcraft, though I think both books will prove to be useful references.
The Virgin’s Promise by Kim Hudson
This, as you may have guessed, is not a book about green witchery and is a book about the maiden character archetype. It encouraged some really lovely self-reflection and pattern recognition, so I decided to include it here too.
I reference this book in my post on the heroine’s journey, and I’ll create an individual review for it soon. But for now, I found this book to be encouraging and uplifting at a time when I’ve been reflecting on my own journey and that of my characters.
In June of 2020, I left my position as a teaching assistant at a university and started writing full time. Being a novelist has been a dream of mine throughout my life, but it took so much—persistence, encouragement, internal & external work—for me to actually believe in and trust myself enough to embark on the novel-writing path. I set so many obstacles in my own way in addition to all of the ones that our infinitely “practical” society laid before me.
I found it heartening to read of the initial phase of a heroine’s journey and realize that I had finally completed my maiden arc and am somewhere between the path of either the adventurer or the queen. (For more on this, check out KM Weiland’s series on character archetypes and the six phases of the life-arc journey.)
I hope this has left you with something that you needed, from a sense of being less alone to a book recommendation to learn more about green witchery.
I’m more accustomed to the ebbs and flows of grief now that a few months have passed. The expression of grief coming in waves has proved to be true for me.
I’ll be sharing more of my research and reflections soon!
Wishing you some lovely time out of doors, until we meet again. – Beth
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