I thought it would be a good idea to say hello to some of the new readers of the blog by writing about one of the terms that I use frequently on my site-a term that I still consider to be one of the best descriptors of what it is that I do–Root Magic.
Now, you can probably tell from the name of my business that I like roots. A root fixes a plant in place by providing nourishment to all its parts in order for the rest to grow, spread out, and flourish exactly as it is meant to do. We also have roots and I believe our own roots–our family traditions, ancestor knowledge, and folk ways–do the same things for us in our lives. First and foremost, Root Magic pays attention to these things; the traditions you grew up with, the beliefs and little rituals that you learned from your kind of crazy aunt or your loquacious grandmother. In some cases where family ties are not so tight individuals still feel pulled to a specific tradition or set of beliefs. Often that is ancestral knowledge pulsing through your blood and it should be heeded.
Root Magic could also be called folk magic, green magic, or “low” magic. It is not so much a system as a tapestry; a tapestry that weaves together faerie tales, folk lore, superstitions, divination techniques, and ritual work to create a sumptuous image. Indeed, Root Magic is a kind of folk magic because it is derived from specific folk traditions. While these vary from culture to culture and religion to religion there are thematic beliefs that hold the same across cultures that are often emphasized in root magic. Green Magic and Root Magic are often confused because they both make use of the natural world: herbs, roots, leaves, flowers, berries, zoological curios, and every day items like honey, salt, pepper, nails, and pins. These make up much of the materia magica in this style of ritual work and a root woman such as myself is most happy when she can cultivate, grow, and harvest many of the plants and herbs used in ritual work. I do this and it makes my work deeper and closer to the bone of things.
Just as alchemy gave birth to chemistry, Root Magic developed hand in hand with early medical techniques which focused on treatment with the use of herbs and roots in and gave rise to medicine as it’s practiced today. Root Magic might be referred to as “low” magic because it concerns itself with practical concerns such as love, money, marriages, babies, and protection. As a system it calls upon the power of the natural world as opposed to “high” forms of magic which concern themselves with angels, demons, and the formation of relationships within the celestial and subterranean realms. I use the term Root Magic in a general sense-it has become for me a kind of umbrella term that encompasses several different styles of folk magic that I practice, including Southern-style Hoodoo or Conjure and British-Scottish Cunning Arts. While every tradition is cohesive in and of itself, usually you can find areas where traditions overlap and/or have the same take on a subject. However, it’s crucial to understand the dangers of cultural appropriation. Cite and credit what you learn and who you have learned it from and, of course, do not share things you are not permitted to share!
Finally, Root Magic pays special attention to place-as in the specific place where you live, right now. The weather patterns, local flora and fauna, local land wights, and the beings that share your little physical place on earth with you are often your greatest teachers. For this reason, in my own experience and in the experience of some of my colleagues, Root Magic can open the way to the otherworld, faerie land, where local spirits may be found flourishing and thriving by those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Root Magic is earthy. Much of the ritual work is done in the kitchen or in the garden. Stories are told over fires and at family gatherings–the lines between myth, reality, and magic are thin indeed and the able magician dances through them gleefully. It is important to note that Root Magic is a practice and, really, a lifestyle, as opposed to a religion. It’s equally important to understand that many fantastic root women and cunning men practice the faith of their day and family (often, if European in origin, that means Christianity or Judaism) while subscribing to beliefs that now are often labeled “pagan”.
Can you learn Root Magic? Of course! The best place to start in my opinion is with your own bloodline. Ask yourself: What traditions, stories, faerie tales, and beliefs are found among your people and/or among the lands in which you live and love? Usually talking to older people and children can provide really good information-or at least leads-for these questions. Two other excellent places to look are traditional healing/medicinal remedies and food recipes/traditions that have been handed down. If you are interested in an eclectic approach to Root Magic and spirituality then you may also want to check out The Miracle Tree Sessions–my year and a day training program!