Let me introduce you to some very special people. WytchenWood – cunning-folk based on the Welsh borders who provide witchcraft supplies in the form of talismans, herbal charms, runes and much more. Every piece is handmade with their local ingredients. I was very lucky to be able to ask them a few questions about their work and what magic means to them.
You describe yourselves as English traditional witchcraft cunning-folk – what does this mean to you and how do you incorporate it into your everyday lives?
To us it means the continuation of traditional ways; traditional ways of working magic, of seeing our environment and landscape, of being a part of it as our families have traditionally been for generations. Of remembering and continuing to tell the stories, legends and folklore of the land we are a part of, the knowledge of where to find certain flora and fauna and the stories that have built up over time concerning the areas in which they grow; these stories add into the ‘personalities’ of the plants and trees in that particular locale.
The term ‘cunning-folk’ is used by us to denote that we cannot be put in a box with a tidy, neat label such as ‘witch’, ‘druid’ or any other definitive and that we owe allegiance to no-one except our spiritual lineage, traditions, the Genii Loci and our familiars. That we do not follow a set doctrine, that our ways are adaptable to time and circumstances and that we will incorporate whatever works.
It is all naturally incorporated into our everyday lives through working as ‘Wytchenwood’, helping people locally that come to us for either charms, divinations or healing. It’s also in our way of viewing the world and interacting with it. Also through spending so much time outside in the landscape in all weathers that determines our magical lives!
Why did you decide to start up your shop Wytchenwood? What was your vision?
We started it because it had been said to us on quite a few occasions that other people might like to have access to our charms and talismans and then some good friends of ours, Lunaorbis, opened their shop in Tintagel. They needed to add some unique items as stock and we offered to supply some of ours, which we did and the feedback on them was wonderful. From there, the whole idea of Wytchenwood was born. The vision was to keep it as authentic as possible, to keep it true to how we work and to allow a wider community access to what we do if they were interested or needed it.
Tell me a bit about where you find your magical ingredients and how it goes from the wild to your shop.
Thankfully we live in such a wonderful and magical area of the country that we don’t have to go searching for our ingredients; they are just there and because we know this landscape so well, we know exactly what grows where. We are surrounded by ancient woodlands, open grasslands, dells and also watery marshes, so the proliferation of various flora and fauna is enormous. Usually when we are out walking we just gather anything that we find interesting and lying on the ground; knowing that at some point, it will have a use. We harvest wild herbs and plants but in such a way as to encourage further growth, never in a way that would diminish them. Because we spend so much time in the great outdoors, we are usually near by when the seasonal pruning starts and so we gather up as much of the discarded material as we can carry and bring it home but because we live in a ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ and of ‘Special Scientific Interest’, all seasonal work is done with the utmost care and respect, thus having no detrimental impact on the indwelling spirit of the materia magica.
For certain charms or talismans, the wood needs to come from a living tree and so we turn to our spirits and tell them what we need and why. They will then lead us to a particular tree and after due payment and observations have been made, we are then able to take what we need; notice the word ‘need’, nothing more.
In the creation of our works, we work with our spirits from start to finish; they guide the form, the correspondences and the materials. Once finished, it is left to come to life, charge if you like, in the cauldron; the belly that will gestate it and give birth to the living creation. It is them ready to include in our shop.
Witchcraft is definitely becoming more popular with those who are sick of the world we live in and want to find magic in their own lives, as traditional cunning-folk, how would you define magic?
We would define it as being both a state of being and a tool to effect a change. As a state of being, it is gaining knowledge of the patterns of life, the threads of the web, of being a part of something bigger than oneself and being aware of your place within the web. It is about being a part of the land and the procession of the Mighty Dead; those magical ancestors that preceded you in walking the land, of honouring those same spirits of place, of adding to the corpus of knowledge that you are now tapping into and adding to, to being guided and taught by them and being a part of that magical web that has it’s anchors in the past but continues throughout time to the present through the endeavours and experiences of different people at different times and in different ways but in this same place. This gives the ability to see through eyes that are looking to the past, the present and the future; enabling us to see the relevant from the irrelevant and enables us to make much more informed choices in our lives.
On a practical level, it enables us to effect changes; either good or bad, attract or repel, heal or hurt, protect or harm.
Can you recommend a book on witchcraft?
This is a difficult one!! Our particular craft does not come from books as such but ones that I have read that I enjoyed because there were elements that strongly resonated with our own ways were:
Call of the Horned Piper by Nigel Aldercroft Jackson published by Capall Bann
Light form the Shadows by Gwynn published by Capall Bann
Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits by Emma Wilby published by Sussex Academic Press