An Anatomy of Witchcraft: Blood, Bone and Heart

Nightshade Purplebroom

“I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories… water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.” ­ Clarissa Pinkola Estes ‘Women Who Run With the Wolves”

I am a story­ teller. I tell stories through my art, my poetry, and my blog writing. As a child, I would always have my head in a book, and even now, I devour books upon books. As a child, my favourite stories were fairy tales and folktales. I especially loved any tales where animals played a key role, or where there were spell­ casting witches.

My grandfather was a master story ­teller. He would tell me tales of the Little Mermaid, Rapunzel, and Goldilocks. What I loved most, was how he would doodle the characters from the tales he told, bringing them to life. Perhaps this is where my love of art came from. When he passed on, I continued to tell tales of my own. I drew faeries and animals, and would write tales conjured up in groves of trees and lonely corridors. My inner life was full of magic, adventure, and mystery. It was not an escape, but rather a deep encounter with the forces of nature and the inner reality of all things. It is with this deepness, this passion that I look at nature, and conjure up my own tales.

Brian Froud was one of my greatest influences. His faeries are beings of Nature, light and dark, passion and love, mischief and magic ; they are the spirits of the land. Mystery, myth, folklore, poetry and stories­ this is the stuff from which I am made. This is the sinew and blood of my witchcraft.

I sing to Pink Foxes, Mourning Kings, Old goats, and spiders. I hold a ritual for Toads who swallow the moon and Trickster Crow Gods. I bang on the drum and shake the spirit rattle. I hiss and howl like serpent and dog on the full moon. I speak to plants and offer them bone and water. I draw, paint, and write tales of all that I see.

“Witches are moon­birds, Witches are the women of the false beautiful moon.”­ Amy Lowell

I do not follow a Wiccan calendar. The seasons flow in their own way. Each Moon, each season, intertwines and unfolds upon itself like a thickly woven tapestry. The Black Ram’s Moon has just passed. Anubis and Hekate stand as the grand guardians of these lunar gates. She is the Witch Queen and He is the Cunning Master. To each I have given oaths; one of poison, one of bone. At each dark and full moon, I offer up my service and sacrifice myself. It is part of the oaths I have taken. At each gate, I go deeper into myself and into the underworld. Sometimes I struggle with these oaths, my depression, and my dark thoughts drag me down. But always I get up and carry on.

The Solar gates­ the Equinoxes and Solstices are also mine, I call upon the eldest beings­ the ones who do not have names as much as titles: Old, Terrifying, Raging. They are the Fates­ the ones who weave the tapestry, the ones whose eyes are abyssal oracles. They are the Red Serpents and the Red Earth. They are the wild, the dark, the deep. The Red Harvest is the one ancestral festival which I still honour. It falls at the liminal midpoint of Autumn and Winter. Here I sate the dead, the ones who are mine, and the ones who are not. It is the one I will never forget. Veneficeum, bones, oaths, sacrifice, the dead and Old Fate­ These are the things which made me. These are the bones of my witchcraft.

With my left hand, I gather the venefic herbs, my greatest teachers, and allies. The Solanaceous herbs are my kin. I work them into flying ointments and healing medicines. They have brought me nightmares, dreams, prophecy, and protection. This is the path I walk with Hekate, The Great Witch Queen who lent her passions to Medea and Circe.

With my right hand, I gather the bones. Some will return to the Bone Mother, others will be cleansed, reddened and sung to. This oath was a sacrifice. I struggled with it on every level, but when I could struggle no more, I turned my face to Anubis and did my work. I have only begun on this path as Bone Keeper, but I walk it with the deepest compassion and greatest respect.

“Witchcraft is our intimate connection to the web of life.”­ Peter Grey ‘Apocalyptic Witchcraft’

I live in a suburban cottage, but even so, there is nature all around me. There are spiders in the corners, rats in the roof, dogs, birds of all kinds, moths, butterflies, wasps, bees, cats, snakes, frogs, lizards, thorn trees, and pine trees, dandelions, herbs, and moss. The land around me is living. The world we live in is slowly collapsing due to corporate greed and general apathy. While Nature is likely to recover from the damage as a whole, we and countless other beings will be affected it. The need to consume has led to the extinction and endangerment of many. This is our extinction, this is the debt we owe.

I once had a vision while fully awake. I was pulled into another reality, and there Hekate stood, in robes as black as loam, with hundreds of large, black hounds at her heel, all alert with an energy I can only describe as ‘the moment­ before­ the ­attack.’ This is the great reaping, and there will be a reckoning. I see trees chopped into oblivion, all the life they had and supported thrown away like useless trash. I see rats poisoned, causing endless suffering to predator and prey. I see the decline of bees, and butterflies, and frogs. I see the hateful violence done to nature and her creatures and the constant onslaught of damage done to the environment. And I rage. I rage like They do. And in my rage, I become wild. The land, the spirits of all things, animal, plant, and stone – ­this is what beats at the centre of it all.

This is the heart of my witchcraft. My witchcraft is necromantic, venefic, animistic, and folkloric. I work with bone, flower, feathers, and stone. I dance, shake, whisper, screech, croak, and hiss. My witchcraft is devotional, transformative and reciprocal. My relationship with the land, with folklore, with the gods, and the cycles of life and death are always evolving, and ever­ unfolding.