Welcome to the 1970’s.
Interest in the occult was rife and the rise of Wicca brought many people to the craft. Although I am not personally someone who follows Wicca, I found this documentary of interest for historical reasons. It has to be said that this is a very naive documentary in that we are faced with those that proclaim that witchcraft is devil worship and there are some, what we call, “media witches” on there. If you can put this aside and enjoy it for it is (it is very much of the time) then you will enjoy it.
It features Cecil Williamson, Doreen Valiente, Eleanor Bone and others.
Let me introduce you to Witch Casket, a company based in the north of England. It is run by two fabulous ladies, a mother and daughter team; Deb and Ella, who bring you magical goodies right to your door every month. From their little magical shop to a witchy mail order company, I was intrigued to find out more about their story.
Let’s begin at the beginning. You opened up your own magical shop in Yorkshire. Tell me, what inspired you to open up Practical Magick?
It was kind of an impulse thing really – I was looking for something to fill the gaps between my filmmaking and since I quit my day job about seven years ago, I’ve always made a living doing the things I love – so when I was looking to start a new business, opening Practical Magick just felt right…there certainly aren’t enough magick shops around, and it was something I knew and felt passionately about. Once I made the decision to do it, within 4 days our doors were open! I’m not one for over-thinking; my gut instinct has always served me well.
From there you went on to close the shop and open up Witch Casket, a subscription service that sends off a box of magical goodies to witches each month. How did that idea come about?
That was Ella’s idea! And it turned out to be a way better idea than either of us had imagined! It started as a way to boost the shop income through the slow winter months, but within 2 months we were shipping our magickal caskets to over 20 countries across the globe! It was then we had to make the decision on where best to focus our energies.
How do you decide what goes into each casket? What gives you inspiration?
That would be gut instinct again! We know there are witches of all religions and it is important to us that our caskets appeal to everyone, so we don’t follow the Sabbats – but we do sometimes take inspiration from the time of year (February’s Witch Casket had a ‘love’ theme running through it for example). Once we’ve (usually impulsively!) decided on the theme, the caskets are then very carefully curated so they flow nicely and present beautifully; as well as the unusual spiritual supplies and altar-ware we source, the caskets also include our own specially created spells, herb blends, rituals, etc. – those are exclusive to us and not available anywhere else.
With your experience in selling witchy wares; tell me more about your history in the magical world.
I’ve always been a very private person about my beliefs. Of course with launch of Practical Magick my knowledge of witchcraft, magick, tarot etc. was made public …but I still like to keep things as private as possible.
Witchcraft and spirituality seems to be very popular at the moment – why do you think this is? Does the success of the Witch Casket show this?
I think there are two things happening right now – firstly, in this fast-paced, materialistic, image-obsessed world, people are (thankfully) seeking out what’s really important and becoming more spiritually aware. I’m happy to see so many people learning that ‘energy’ is all important – that intent and belief are paramount, and that if we do things with the right energy and focus, we can make amazing changes to our world.
And then, going back to the image-obsessed, for some people it’s a fashion statement…and it certainly is very fashionable right now!
We’ve found that our subscribers tend to be genuine witches – and they really appreciate the time, care, and love that goes into the Witch Caskets each month. I’m a huge believer in positive energy, and as we prepare the caskets, they are filled with our very best intentions and love…there’s an authenticity to them, because we ourselves believe in what we’re doing, and that’s very important – and I truly believe the Witch Caskets make a difference to the people receiving them.
If someone was wanting to find out more about the world of witchcraft, which book would you recommend to them? You can pick more than one if you wish.
This is the question I’m probably asked most often – and after giving it a lot of thought, I’d say ‘read nothing – or read everything…and then find your own truth!’ I don’t believe any one book alone is of much use…after all, that’s one person’s view and your chosen path should never be based on any one person’s beliefs.
Do you have anything new coming up? Any future plans for Witch Casket or any other projects you want me to share on the blog?
Our plans for Witch Casket are the same as they were at the very beginning – to sprinkle our magick, love, and light across this beautiful planet of ours! We are very blessed to be able to work together, mother and daughter, doing something we love – and we are incredibly grateful for that!
As for new projects, I’m always working on other things…I daresay you’ll hear about them when the time is right!
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:
Whether you pin them to your velvet coat, leather jacket or your tote bag, I have picked some of my favourite witchy pins. From my teenage hero Nancy Downes to my favourite online witch – the Hoodwitch. Getting pinning and let the world know you are one hexy lady.
All photography belongs to Courtney Brooke
Sabat Magazine; the word magazine is a little bit of an understatement. It is a very heavy and packed volume that looks and feels more like a high-class coffee table book. It helps to fuse the subjects of feminism and witchcraft quite nicely and is absolutely jam packed with thought provoking interviews, features, photography and art.
The idea came from a zine and realising that the witchcraft community was very strong online, especially Instagram, creative director Elisabeth Krohn has been part of an amazing team to create something very special. What caught my eye is the boldness of the text and the imagery, it is all very contemporary, all very “now”. It is fusing the old with the new and works in ways that I didn’t think could be achieved. It will help appeal to a young audience, a hip audience and an audience that will undoubtedly start to identify the witch within them.
There are a great deal of books on the craft out there that often feel rather self-indulgent, I may have just found something that isn’t. Serpent Songs is a book containing fifteen essays from practitioners and those who are well-versed in the craft of the wise.
Put together by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold, the writers will be rather familiar to those of you who have an interest in the traditional craft. The writing runs deep, truthful and is incredibly well written; almost academically so. As quoted on Scarlet Imprint’s website the book contains the works of Cornish and Basque witchcraft, the relatively unknown Swedish Trolldom, the persecuted Bogomils, and the oft misrepresented Italian Stregoneria.Members of 1734, Clan of Tubal Cain, and a member of the Companie of the Serpent-Cross. This isn’t a book for those who wish to pick up a “how to” guide, it is an anthology that lets you take a peak inside the beliefs and workings of their craft. It is laden with history that gives the reader an insight into a world we may not know about or that some have assumed didn’t exist. It is a cornucopia of knowledge and experience that will educate and inspire you.
Controbutors include: Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold;Gemma Gary;Shani Oates;Arkaitz Urbeltz;Stuart Inman & Jane Sparkes;Tony MacLeod;Xabier Bakaikoa Urbeltz;Steve Patterson;Richard Parkinson;Francis Ashwood;Johannes Gårdbäck;Radomir Ristic;Anne Morris;Jesse Hathaway Diaz; and Sarah Anne Lawless.
It is available to buy here