[This month, we sit down for a quick interview with Jessica Howard. Here, she discusses her new book on being a water witch; how witches can help with the growing environmental crisis; and her upcoming projects.]
ev0ke: You recently published Pagan Portals: The Water Witch. First, congratulations! Second, why a book on water witchcraft? What drew you to this subject?
Jessica Howard: Thank you! I have to admit, the launch kind of snuck up on me!
I’ve been practicing water witchcraft for a few years now; I just feel drawn to the element of water, whether that’s the sea, the rain, or the pond up the road. Most of magick and rituals I perform involve water or water associated tools such as shells, and I work primarily with water deities and spirits. I am also really into energy healing, and the element of water is great to work with to encourage healing, so it just works for me. Water witchcraft is definitely increasing in popularity, but it is still difficult to find ‘one-stop shop’, introductory resources that aren’t constrained to a specific path, culture, etc. So I wanted to write something which covered the basics but was open enough that people could pick and choose and tailor it to their own personal practice.
ev0ke: What sort of research went into The Water Witch? Long walks on the beach or by a river? Discussions with other water witches? Big stacks of books?
JH: A lot of the research has been years in the making and a combination of various ‘active’ research, visiting sacred places, and experimentation and experience. I personally love the research aspect my practice and can spend hours (and lots of money) on books, papers, museum visits, etc. But as with most things, you will only really see the benefit of it if you put it into practice! I’ve also found that some of my research didn’t correlate with the experiences I had once I started actively trying these things out, so I’ve tried to be clear and stress in the book that everything I have written is based on a combination of historical evidence and my own personal experience, and that my experience may not be another’s.
ev0ke: What historical tidbit did you absolutely have to include in Water Witch? And was there anything that you unfortunately had to leave out, but might save for another book?
JH: It was actually quite difficult to write in that respect because there is so much I could have included! I personally love local history, especially looking at deities and spirits, and other myths and legends associated with localised areas. I would love to be able to consolidate all of the information on various water deities from across the world, and all of the different water spirits — from more universal creatures such as the merfolk to more localised legends like the Cata of Wales — into one book. A project for the future!
ev0ke: For someone who is just getting started in water witchcraft, what is a good beginner ritual?
JH: I always recommend starting small; simply trying to connect with the energy of the water element is a great first step. There are so many ways you can do this; a walk on the beach or by a river, meditations, connecting with a water animal guide, listening to an ocean sounds recording, mantras — the list is endless! I find that a great beginner ritual is to just go and sit by a body of water — or even just in the bath – and to focus on what the element means to you. What does it represent? How does it make you feel? Meditate on the different types of water — calming seas, raging oceans, gently running rivers — do they evoke different feelings or energies within you? It sounds like such a simple exercise, but it can be a really profound one when you truly find that connection.
ev0ke: You also discuss the use of tools in water witchcraft. Are there ethical concerns over the acquisition of certain tools? Are there items that water witches should avoid, or only use very carefully?
JH: I’m really glad that more and more people are starting to think ethically — I’ve read some awful rituals which involve throwing unnatural materials into rivers and other bodies of water! In the way that people are starting to become more ethically-minded when building their crystal collections, shells and other natural materials should be considered in the same way. Collecting your own shells is a lot of fun, but you really do need to be aware of the environment around you; don’t take anything which is currently being used, or is in short supply. In fact, there can be legal ramifications as well as ethical ones, so always check if you plan to go gathering your own materials. You can purchase shells and such online, but again do your research and ensure you are buying ethically. Some tools which can be classed as ‘shells’, such as the sand dollar, are actually a type of sea urchin — a living creature. There is every chance that these were farmed specifically to be sold on, and so from an ethical standpoint I try to avoid sourcing tools and such in any way which could have caused harm.
ev0ke: Climate change is having a serious effect on the oceans, clean water supplies, glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic, and even the winter snowpack in levels in the mountains. Do you have any advice for a water witch who wants to help protect the waters of the world?
JH: The world can often feel like an overwhelming place, especially at the moment; the energy crisis, the cost of living crisis, the environmental crisis … it really does feel like our generation is just going through on crisis after (or alongside) another. It can be difficult to see how you can make a difference, especially when the issues seem so large and a lot of us are just struggling to make ends meet. But even the smallest of actions can make a big difference. Follow water conservation charities on social media, signing online petitions, and sharing these on your own social media channel are all quick and cheap ways of helping. I also recommend getting involved with your local area if you can; lots of local councils or communities have groups which focus specifically on their local bodies of water, lobbying local politicians and the council to make improvements, organising litter pickings, etc. Finally, take a look at your day-to-day habits; how much water you use, how you dispose of anything containing chemicals (even acrylic paint can impact the local water system if you wash your brushes in the sink). Essentially, just do what you can, because it all counts.
ev0ke: Which book fairs, conventions, or other events do you hope to attend in the foreseeable future?
JH: I did a talk on water deities at the Mooncon conference on the 11th of March — the talk is still available on the Moon Books Facebook and Youtube channels. I’m also at Witchfest Midlands doing a talk on working with water spirits on May 27th, and then later on in the year I’m at the Scottish Goddess conference doing a talk on the subject of my last book, lithomancy. So if you are planning on attending any of these, please come and say hi!
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
JH: I have a lot planned for the year. Currently I manage my website — www.thecottagemystic.com which contains a semi-regular blog which I want to revamp this year, add more content, book reviews, etc. I am also offering a course a month through the website — so far this year I’ve uploaded short courses on shell magick, the Goddess Sulis, and Celtic deities of rivers, wells, and springs — and new courses coming every month! These are completely free, and offer practical exercises, meditations, etc., as well as information on the individual subjects. I also have a couple of ideas for new books I’m fleshing out — so I’ve probably bitten off more than I can chew, but I’m determined to get it all done! If anyone is interested in finding out more about any of it, then I regularly update my instagram — @thecottagemysticwitch so feel free to come and join me!