One of the most important aspects of green witchcraft is working with genius loci. So what are they? Genius loci are the local spirits of the land. They inhabit trees, plants, bodies of water, stones, and animals. When you first start out as a green witch, it’s imperative to take time to get to know your natural surroundings and connect to the genius loci around you. Go on a walk and take a camera or a sketchbook to capture images of any animals or plants you meet. Be respectful while you’re out and about; pick up any trash you find and don’t disturb anything. Jot down notes about what you find. For example, what time of day it is, what season, what moon phase, and what are the plants and animals doing? How do you connect to each form of life? Can you identify any plant or animal species? Keep track of it all. Make this a routine of yours and keep your findings in a notebook.
After your treks, research the things you found in your environment and add this information under the pictures you’ve collected. You can also invest in a field guide so you can identify plants and animals while you’re on the move. Be especially mindful of which plants are poisonous, harmful, or endangered and make a note of that as well. Once you’ve learned more about what’s around you, and you’re sure it’s safe, you can collect samples to include in your notebook which we will talk about in more depth later. This will serve as the foundation for your green witch grimoire.
Once your notebook is filled out a little, go through your observations and carefully analyze each item in your collection. Think of correspondences for the animals and plants in your area based on their locations, colors, behaviors, and how they made you feel (that last one is especially important). For example, I grew up in the desert and cacti were a big part of my world. Saguaros are perhaps the most majestic and iconic plants of the Sonoran Desert. They are tall and green all year long. They have a vaguely humanoid shape, and up close their spines are intricate and colorful. Birds and other animals make their trunks home, relying on the saguaro’s spines for protection from predators and the cactus flesh as a source of water in the relentlessly dry heat. Saguaros are also protected by the state and when they die, they resemble skeletons. Because of all this, I see saguaros as guardians in the desert and I associate them with protective magic. This is my personal correspondence, based on both fact and feeling. When I write protection spells, I don’t have to spend a lot of time searching for the perfect corresponding ingredient, I already have one that is very personal to me, right outside my front door.
Learning about where you live will have obvious benefits for when you need ingredients for spells, but it’s also important for green witches to give back. Because you know about your environment, you’ll know how to help it, and you can take part in making this small patch of earth even brighter. Do you have a lot of hummingbirds in your area? Put up some feeders with homemade nectar (which is much safer than the bright red mix sold in stores) to bring these little birds to your home and help them during months when food is scarce. What wildflowers grow where you live? Find out and sprinkle the seeds around to help wild bees and other pollinators. Become the caretaker of your patch of earth. Not only are you doing something good for the world, but being outside and amongst nature is proven to lower stress and help with anxiety.
Having a clear idea of your environment will also help you find sacred spaces where you can safely practice outside. If you know the area inside and out, you’re less likely to accidentally set up shop in a patch of poison ivy, say, or perform a spell under a wasp nest. Familiarize yourself with all aspects of this small piece of the world and keep track of changes. And, again, be respectful. This place isn’t just your home and if you’re keen on working with the local spirits, they’ll be less likely to entertain your requests if you stomp around, take whatever you want, and leave garbage behind. Keep your eyes, ears, and heart open. Listen. If you’re getting signals that you’re not welcome, don’t linger. Some plants and animals DO have an antagonistic relationship with humans. It may take time and work before you’re deemed trustworthy. Before you ask for any favors, be sure to leave appropriate offerings. Never just storm into a new area and start asking for favors! How rude would that be?
Later, as we go into more detail about nature spirits and deities, you’ll learn how to ask for help in keeping this space protected and healthy, and eventually, help with your craft. But first you must have patience and again, show that you’re a respectful witch who is there to learn.
Lastly, being connected to your environment will teach you your place in it, which will help when you need to remember to keep a balanced perspective, say, if your ego gets out of whack or your self-esteem takes a blow. It’s a relief to some, knowing that they are just a small part in a bigger picture and, hopefully, seeing how you fit into the natural world brings a sense of peace.
A green witch’s craft is intrinsically linked with the natural world. By knowing all about your local world, you are essentially making yourself a stronger, more educated green witch. So get out there and learn all you can!