When I first discovered The Craft, I will admit I had some rather romantic notions of being out under the starry, moonlit night sky practising rituals and such like. Perhaps circling round a great fire or standing stone, within a mossy green enchanted glade surrounded by ancient Oaks and gnarled Elder trees…owls flying close to observe my doings, frolicking deer leaping amongst the undergrowth…
Years later I have had to admit to myself that the 21st century reality is vastly different from the fantasy or perhaps even the past reality, the world we live in today is very different from the world of our forbearers.
Whilst there may not be highwayman, great sabre toothed beasts or fears of getting lost in the dark we mustn’t kid ourselves into thinking that an advanced 21st century is any less dangerous. I would dearly love to be out at night, under a cloak of darkness working my rites by the light of a roaring fire however, I have lived in the south-east of England my entire life, and I can say with some certainty that there are very few places remote and safe enough to be truly alone with ones Gods and Ancestors, and ye gods have I looked! There are pockets, islands of woodland or little silos of wilderness but these are sadly becoming the domain of the drug user, the drunken teenager, the rapist, the mugger, the fly tipper, the cruising gay man, the dogging straight couple and on, hardly conducive to Witchcraft or safe for the Witch!
I have experimented with different sites, until one becomes intensely familiar with a site however it is very hard to induce the states of mind required for ritual whilst one ear is permanently listening out for footsteps or voices signalling danger and discovery. I find myself distracted, on edge and often rituals become rushed and hollow…ergo pointless!
Now don’t get me wrong, there are folks out there who don’t mind a bit of showy ceremony, there are those who happily parade their rituals to any who might wish to look on…these people are often the same ‘type’ of folk who use (and abuse) Kent’s megalithic sites such as the Coldrum stones and White Horse Stone, it is for this reason, I cannot use them for my workings, which is sad but a fact I have come to accept.
So as you can see my options are slim before I even begun! Factor in the large expanses of space dedicated as ‘country parks’, which would be ideal were they to remain open all night, then options become slimmer still.
Not so long ago I thought I had hit the jackpot. A wonderful site not far from the Coldrum’s made itself known to me. It was perfect in many ways, off the beaten track, secluded, safe and sheltered. I had many a successful ritual there, until I was sprung by the landowner one evening after which point I couldn’t relax there any longer…fearing Farmer Giles and his gun, despite my best efforts!
Now to get some perspective here…it is gut wrenching it is to ‘loose’ a working site and so it should be…it takes work, time and energy to build a rapport with a place. We are of a faith where we know all things are inhabited by spirits…the land of course being a primary example. Some areas (groves, caves, lakes, stone circles etc) may appear pretty damn perfect in theory but they may also be the dwelling of things which simply do not want us there…no matter who you are. I will freely admit to encountering a couple of ‘somethings’ in the past which well and truly went bump in the night and had me running faster than my head could keep up with. My intentions were honest…it didn’t care…it wanted me gone and went out of its way to scare the crap out of me to get me gone. We must accept these things and we must respect these things for our own safety and wellbeing if nothing else, no amount of offerings or do-overs will make a difference. I’m sure most people can recall an experience where they have entered some place or even someone’s house and got a serious case of the hebbie geebies…that’s warning number one! And let’s face it…when you march into a woodland clearing or stone circle you are entering the domain of another being or beings, we shouldn’t be arrogant about it, erect our altars as if to claim it like some colonial or British missionary. How would you feel if a complete stranger walked into your house and made themselves at home in your kitchen, bathroom or put themselves to sleep in your bed with no invitation??? Exactly! Experience has always taught me to tread lightly.
However, I have in fact just stumbled across another site which has enormous potential its perfect in many ways. Now what? Well…start small. Visit the site regularly, and just sit and take the place in…observe, listen, watch and feel. Perhaps clear up any rubbish and also visit at different times of the day, first thing in the morning, lunch times, during rush hour, at dusk, at night…what about the early hours when its deathly silent? Does it feel different at different times? Can you spend two hours there completely undisturbed at all times of day? More importantly does the place give you the creeps? Does the place terrify the life out of you? Does it make you feel anything at all? A dead barren place is just as bad as one that induces absolute terror!
Once you have established that the place is ‘open’ to your being there I think it’s a good time to start introducing offerings, make a little contact with the place, introduce yourself…formerly at first as you would any stranger and gradually become more relaxed. Maybe you will start to feel it’s OK to introduce some simple craft workings…perhaps try cutting a circle, calling the spirits and just see what happens. Maybe the place which seemed OK has a problem with you calling other things there? Maybe not…better to find out now!
And so we continue, familiarising ourselves with our potential working site and vice versa until we are working there quite routinely as a partnership. You can see now why it is, to use my words again, “gut wrenching” to lose a working site and therefore face having to do this all over again, a good working site becomes your home away from home.
But what about the meantime, or those times when the land is under 3 feet of snow and we can’t get out? Well I think this is the one time we can realistically compare the past with the present. Crafters of yore would have experienced times when it wasn’t possible to get to their coven stead or safe, different dangers are still dangers but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have mattered one bit. A local barn, the kitchen or by the hearth probably sufficed most if not all of the time especially for those who were not part of any established covine, whose ‘Masters’ were often landowners anyway. We should be so lucky! alas we make do with what we have. I frequently use our summer-house which doubles as my potting shed, it’s tidy (most of the time) and has ample space for a good mill.
The circle of arte is not simply an external construct and is erected within as much as it is without. Anyone who says one’s circle can only be erected outdoors under a full moon are as ridiculous as those who claim magic cannot be made whilst one is wearing clothes or armed with an arsenal of magical regalia.
There’s a saying “home is where you hang your hat” … I think the same applies. The location is never more important than what you do in it!