[This issue, we sit down with witch and author, Harmonia Saille. Here, she discusses her personal spiritual practices; her forthcoming book on magic for hedge witches; and her upcoming projects.]
ev0ke: How do you define your personal spiritual practice? Does it have a name, or is it more intuitive and eclectic?
Harmonia Saille: I’m a hedge-riding hedge witch – a witch that crosses the hedge into the Otherworld using trance work and makes direct contact with spirit. Hedge riding, nature, nature-based magic, and divination are the core features of my personal practice. My pathway is intuitive in that I listen to my inner voice, and work with the energies around me to effect changes in my life and that of others.
ev0ke: Which Deities, spirits, or other powers are honored in your tradition?
HS: Which deities are honored is always up to the individual hedge witch. There are no set rules on this. Over the past 22 years, I’ve lived in four different countries and prefer to work with the energies around me along with those which connect with my ancestry. In Ireland for instance, where I lived for nine years, I worked with the local deities and nature spirits, such as Brigid and the Cailleach. It’s very easy in Ireland to do this as it’s such a truly magical place. This is a trend I tend to follow no matter where I am. The River Severn, less than a five minute walk from my current home, is named after Hafren the Welsh goddess whose Latin name is Sabrina. She is my most local goddess. When divining with the runes I always honor the Norse Gods as they relate to the elder Futhark. Having Irish, Norwegian, and Swedish ancestry, honoring Celtic and Norse deities comes naturally to me.
ev0ke: You recently published Magic for Hedge Witches. First, congratulations! Second, how did this book come about? Why a book specifically on spell ingredients and magic for hedge witches?
HS: Thank you. Many hedge witches practice magic, often using items from nature. However, learning witchcraft and magic takes years. There were lots of spell books around, but there is more to magic than gathering a few ingredients and saying a few words. I wanted to write something that helped to build the core skills of the novice and intermediary and strengthen their magical knowledge. For instance, hedge witchery is all about connection. Connection with spirit. Connection with nature. So, connection features in the book. Hedge witches often see themselves as based on witches of old too, the cunning people. I hope in the book I touched on subjects that would appeal specifically to the hedge witch.
ev0ke: One of the sections in the book focuses on “sourcing old spells.” Do have a favorite among the old spell books? And what words of caution would you offer someone who is reading through these old books?
HS: Yes, my favorite is The Discoverie of Witchcraft by Reginald Scott (c.1584). It was written as an attack on witchcraft belief. In doing so, Scott wrote about the magical practices and spells of the general population. You can find this book free online on such sites as www.gutenberg.org. The spells were written in past times when we lived very differently and might need to be adapted or rejected as they contain items that we would just not use today such as a noose or animal part. There are also many spells that could be classed as negative. My personal ethics require me to use spells for positive reasons only. I love the simple healing spell using hag stones (a stone with a hole through the center which is hung of the ailing person) from the fourth book, chapter eleven, as it’s such fun searching for them too.
ev0ke: Magic for Hedge Witches also includes a chapter on ingredients. Many Pagans, polytheists, and witches stock their pantries with a wide variety of herbs and spices and other plant stuffs. Which do you consider to be absolutely essential? The must-haves for an spell-crafters cupboard?
HS: A basic ten herbs will help with most spell work. Black Pepper for protection and banishing. Basil for prosperity and luck. Jasmine for luck, hedge riding, visions, and love. Lavender for luck, happiness, protection, and purification. Mugwort for psychic work, protection, flying ointment, and strength. Rose petals for love (red and pink), luck and success (yellow), and purification (white). Rosemary for love, luck, protection, mind clarity, and psychic work. Parsley for flying ointments, protection, love, and luck. Sage for purification, protection, and psychic work. Vervain for love, peace, purification, inspiration, luck, and psychic work.
ev0ke: The book features a number of exercises and sample spells. How did you develop these exercises? Years of trial and error? Intuition? Consulting with other practitioners?
HS: All of the above. I began my magical learning almost thirty years ago. Over time, you study while you practice, but also learn from other witches. General crafting skills are helpful. I often compare spell craft to baking. It’s a delicate balance of well-thought-out ingredients to get the chemistry right. Magic is also intuitive, and trial and error certainly applies. I try to give a selection of ingredients in spells to encourage the novice to build their own skills and work with their own intuition.
ev0ke: Animal familiars can play an important part in a witch’s magical practices. What advice can you offer someone who is seeking a familiar?
HS: An animal familiar is generally a pet. Just any pet won’t do though. You need to have a connection preferably a psychic connection and a bond with them. They probably chose you rather than the other way around. They usually come to you when you are practicing your craft and feel comfortable around you, even wanting to join in. They tend to be calm and watch you rather than walk all over your altar. As an example, my rescue cat Parsley, made himself known to me in the rescue center. He was a very regal, almost Siamese looking tabby cat. I called him Parsley. He always came upstairs with me when I was practicing my craft and joined in celebrations. However, the two black cats we have now are not interested.
ev0ke: You also published a book entitled The Spiritual Runes. What draws you to the runes? What do you find so compelling — and useful — about them?
HS: My friend Krystina introduced me to her runes almost thirty years ago. I was fascinated with them and was drawn to the symbols. They held a secret language I was eager to learn. I connected with them more so than any other form of divination. The runes guide you, provide advice, and they tell you how future events are likely to develop. The past might be fixed, the future in constant change, and the future transformable. The runes help us figure it out. The runes are also invaluable for magical use. I have two sets (large and small stones) I use only for magic and another I use for divination. The runes are a valuable aid to witches, and I would advise studying them.
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
HS: I’m writing a book on how to incorporate hedge riding into your magical practice. This will be published by Moon Books eventually. Books may tell you how to hedge ride but never how this works with your individual pathway. I’m also planning a book of spells. In this I again intend to include alternative ingredients to help build up a witch’s skills and give them an intuitive choice. You learn both by study and by practicing.