The past two years has seen huge changes within our world, not only within human society but also within the natural world. For those of us who practise the Craft and also our Pagan brethren, we know that the two are interlinked. Therefore, what happens within nature also has an effect within human societies and the human body as a whole. We call these interlocking relationships the correspondences and we have known for quite some time that something catastrophic was on its way due to our lack of respect towards the environment. Many outside of our religion would throw scorn at us, but recent academic studies have shown that we may just be onto something.
Many studies have shown that climate instability is a breeding ground for micro bacteria, which spreads to the human population. These climate disturbances can be anything from a volcanic eruption (which then triggers a "wet age" or an ice age), or industrial revolution, war, or destroying forests. These are all climate disturbances, which then can produce bacteria that finds its way to us either via the food we eat or the toxic air we breathe.
Throughout our human history, plagues have occurred—from the Plague of Athens (430 – 426 BC), to the Antonine plague (165 – 180 AD), and on to the Plague of Justinian that occurred from 541 to 750 AD. These plagues occurred in periods of massive, civilization-destroying volcanic eruptions. These super volcanic eruptions spew massive quantities of dust, lava, and debris into the atmosphere and upper atmosphere, to such an extent that it blocks out the cleansing power of the sun for years. And, it leaves a world in damp darkness, which then becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.
It has long been established that throughout history, heavy rainfall caused crops to fail and to develop pathogens that have hallucinogenic properties. The witch hunts of the past are often attributed to the "tripping witches" and the ergot fungus that occurred on the rye harvests of farmers, making the population slightly "paranoid." (Though, I have my own theories on the burning times of our past.) However, it was way back in 1976 when Linnda Caporael offered the first evidence that the Salem witch trials followed an outbreak of rye ergot.
Ergot thrives in a cold winter followed by a wet spring, which is brought on by the disturbance of the environment such as pollution in the upper atmosphere. The ergot forms a powerful drug when the rye is then made into bread. The victims of ergot might suffer paranoia, hallucinations, twitches, and spasms, and, most importantly, ergot also weakens the immune system.
It is therefore not too far a stretch of the imagination that ergot poisonings and the black plague probably coexisted. Yet this takes us right back to the beginning of this article: it is in the correspondences, and everything is connected; what affects one part of our world will inevitably affect us.
We have long been aware that our seasons are changing, and that our world is changing. Last year, I photographed a hawthorn tree, laden with both bud and berry. Four seasons in one day on one plant, our hawthorn, the most sacred of plants. Autumn berries glistened red with spring green leaves on a March day that was hotter than a July afternoon!
As Pagans and witches, we take note of these changes, we record these things when we see a bumblebee buzzing around our Christmas rose or hellebores on Boxing Day! This is not right; our seasons have amalgamated and one day it snows and then next we are out in T-shirts.
And let us not forget, though, how can we? The past two years we have just endured of a global pandemic that took many to their premature deaths, despite whether we believe in the government statistics or not. Needless to say, whatever its origins or true identity, we have just lived through a pandemic, or plague.
It is also no surprise that the disease specifically attacked our lungs, when the lungs of the world have been systematically destroyed for decades; the forests, trees, and in particular the Amazon rainforest has been seriously wounded by human greed and deforestation. It is no surprise to us living and working with in the Craft that we would experience such a tragedy as this in our life time?
Many of us are activists and are aware of the serious damage others have done to the environment in pursuit of money and power. I wish I had words of optimism to give to you but sadly I have none. However, I do have my faith and my belief in nature herself, and I know that when we are long gone and humans no longer destroy our world, the earth herself will heal. This was shown during the pandemic; when the world seemed to shut down, nature began to climb back and the air began to be clearer. Nature is a powerful force that can heal itself if given enough time and the right environment.
This is something we have seen before. After the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown, sunflowers were planted around the Chernobyl region to remove some of the radioactive isotopes. This is called phytoremediation, and is the process of the power of plants to clean up the environment. Yet as practitioners of nature and her Craft, we have known about this for years, as many of us who are fortunate enough to have gardens, will have planted plants that are beneficial for the environment and not just for us. It is the correspondence of life, of nature, of the world and forms the very essence of our belief. Witchcraft is not just about spells and magic but it is about harmony and living in balance with the world and each other.
Nevertheless, the earth is under attack and, as a result, so are we. However, this destabilization is something we have seen before and it is something we have endured and survived. As practitioners of the Craft with nature at its very core and the knowledge of the interconnectedness of the world through the correspondences, we need more than ever to keep our faith and hearts, and lungs, strong. In order to help heal the world we must be healthy and strong ourselves. We need to find the balance while still practicing our faith and we must always be aware of the nature and the power and light that flows through all of us into every tree, plant, animal, and sea.
Tudorbeth is the principal of the British College of Witchcraft and Wizardry and teaches courses on witchcraft. She is the author of numerous books, including The Hedgewitch's Little Book of Spells, Charms & Brews and A ...