The Book of Tides

a resource site for sea magick

What is Sea Magick?

what is sea magick
Sea magick is not a type of ceremonial magick which requires the gleaming silver chalice, the jewel-hilted athame, the flawless crystal ball on a base of intertwined pewter dragons. The average Witch thinks that they will never be a proper Witch because they can't afford those things for their ritual magickal use. I say "phooey" to that. Fancy tools don't make the Witch. There is no need to buy expensive tools from some overpriced New Age shop. Sea magick is pure folk magick.

The tool of the Sea Witch are typically derived from those items associated with the element of Water, preferably "found" items from the beach. Just walking along the shore, one can find many things that can be used in sea magick: seaweed, fishing net, shells, sea grass, driftwood, pieces of sea glass, sand, and of course water. The best way to show appreciation to our Mother Ocean is to put the items She provides to good use. Besides, natural items from the sea have a magickal charge to them that store-bought objects do not have without a lot of effort to charge the items.

A Sea Witch's altar

If possible, you should set up a permanent working space for any magickal workings that may need to sit for a moon cycle. This can be as small an area as a drawer, shelf, or windowsill, or as large an area as an entire room or garden. Work with what you have, and scale your magickal supplies appropriately.

Tip: If you don't have a lot of space, don't try to store half the beach in that space. Collect only the magickal items you need. You can acquire more supplies when things run low.

altar.png Since I do not currently have a large space, my sea shrine is scaled down to an antique desk.

I can open the front of the desk to use as an altar, with the two desk drawers underneath being used for any consecrated items that are not in use at the moment. I can also display magickal items such as a favourite divination deck and my glass scrying float along the top of the desk in addition to stashing small items in the pigeonholes inside the top of the desk. It is a lot of storage in a small space.

One nice feature of this desk is that there is a skeleton key so the top and the drawers can be locked against snooping visitors.

Tools of a Sea Witch

I don't really have a favourite thing in my sea shrine. Everything is carefully chosen and has a particular purpose. I am always finding new things to add, and I remove items that have served their purpose. Some useful tools include:

  • Glass fishing floats: Many years ago blue or green glass floats were used to support fishing nets. They come in different shapes and size depending on the type of fishing in which they were used. Round glass floats can be used for scrying. They can also hang in a window for protection as the old-style "witch balls" were used.

    Tip: If you are hanging a glass float for protection, secure it with jute or hemp cording. Cobalt glass is considered traditional for spiritual protection if you can find a glass float in that colour.
 

Tip: In the absence of actual physical tools, use the best tool of all -- your mind!

The Elements of Water

elements of Water Water is one of the few materials on earth that can exist simultaneously in more than one state of matter (solid, liquid, and gas) at certain temperatures. Because of this unique scientific property, each state of water has its own magickal associations. It is vital to carefully choose the best state of water for your magickal application.

Types of water

types of water Water is not just water. It can be used as a vehicle of energies and as a base for potions, baths, and washes. Choose your type of water carefully such that it best suits your particular magickal application.

If you are collecting liquid water from a body of water, you can scoop it directly into a glass jar or bottle. Label your bottles immediately before you forget which water is which. Rain water, dew, ice, hail, and snow should be collected in a shallow basin. Frozen water should be used immediately. Fog and mist cannot be collected as such, just herded by magickal means in the desired direction.

Warning #1: Water should not be collected in areas with high levels of air pollution, near roadways, in areas such as lawns where chemicals are sprayed, or from polluted waterways. Chemicals have no place in natural magick. Do not collect or even touch polluted and/or waste water.

Warning #2: It should probably go without saying, but unless you have tested that a magickal water is potable, don't ingest it. If you do not have the means and know-how to test the potability of water, definitely don't drink it!

Note: The water collected from specific plants such as different colours of roses or a specific species of tree is not inherently more magickal than just collecting that type of water directly in a bowl or bottle.

Types of sea shells

Sea shells can be acquired during beach explorations to be used in any sea magick workings once they have been cleaned. The shells themselves are made of calcium carbonate and can be used in charms, as tools, or even as storage containers. Hold a large univalve (one-piece) shell to your ear to hear the voice of Mother Ocean. She will speak to you when you are ready to listen.

As expected, each type of shell has its own particular associations which may lend itself more to some spells and charms than others.

Note: Be mindful of your sea shell sources. Commercial sea shell suppliers collect shells and other sea animals while alive, then kill and clean them to sell in the commercial trade. This includes not only shells, but animals such as seahorses, sea turtles, starfish, and pufferfish.

This exploitation disrupts the very ecosystem that we venerate as Sea Witches. It should go without saying that we should not buy shells without knowing their origin.

I will put one caveat that the damage is already long since done in the case of vintage and antique shells. Use them if you have them, but always be grateful to the creature who gave its life for that shell.

If you collect your own shells, check for living creatures before collecting the shell. If it is inhabited, put it down and leave it alone.

Types of salt

sea salts

Further reading

You might also enjoy these books:

Earth Power Earth Power: Techniques of Natural Magic by Scott Cunningham (Llewellyn Publications, 1983): A good basic guide to folk magick. Nothing too complicated that requires exotic ingredients.   Earth, Air, Fire & Water Earth, Air, Fire & Water: More Techniques of Natural Magic by Scott Cunningham (Llewellyn Publications, 1997): Somewhat more in-depth than Earth Power, but still simple enough for a beginner to manage.
Sea Witch Sea Witch by Paul Holman (Ignotus Press, 2004): This is a decent introduction to the practice of sea magick. I don't necessarily agree with the author's correspondences, but it's interesting to see a different take on the meanings of different beachcombing finds. I have two primary issues with this book, however. For one, the book has Strong Wiccan Undertonestm such as circle casting, ritual tools, and proper ritual dress (which is fine for those who are actually Wiccan). My other issue that this book is very UK-centric in its assumption that everyone lives in the same climate and has the same needs when beachcombing. This is probably not the most useful book for those who are not UK-based Wiccans.   Ocean Amulets Ocean Amulets by Katlyn (Mermade Magickal Arts, 1988): This is a small chapbook. The book is primarily focused on the use of sea shells in magick including lore about each shell, sea shell spells, and divination by cowry shells. There is also a bit of information on common beachcombing finds such as glass floats and beach sand.

Folklore and the Sea Folklore and the Sea by Horace Beck (Wesleyan University Press, 1977): An excellent reference for sea folklore. This is one of my staple texts.

These books can be difficult to find since many are out of print. Some great places to buy used books online include:

Traditional Witchcraft for the Seashore PSA: This is regarding Traditional Witchcraft for the Seashore by Melusine Draco (Moon Books, 2012). I frequently see this book on the same reading lists as Paul Holman's Sea Witch. As an FYI, readers should be aware that a page by page comparison indicates that over 90% of Ms Draco's book is a duplicate copy of Sea Witch including all bibliographical sources listed in Sea Witch. There are occasional paragraphs of other content of unknown origin, and Ms Draco's book lists some additional sources including Mr Holman's book.

I have located one small reference dated 2017 here (opens in new window, screencap below) that indicates Sea Witch's publishing house (Ignotus Press) being under the new management of "The Coven of the Scales". The plan under new management is to get its out of print titles back into publication. In addition Ms Draco is serving as "magical consultant" during this time of transition. Ms Draco also seems to be the Grand High Whatever of the Coven of the Scales.

coven of the scales

The copyright on Ms Draco's book includes her name only with no reference to Mr Holman. The book's copyright is dated 2010. This means that Ms Draco had possession of the content of Sea Witch over seven years prior to this publishing transition. Is this supposed to be the re-publication of Sea Witch? If so, publishing it under the name and copyright of another author is perhaps not the best way to handle it, particularly since Sea Witch is not (at time of writing in 2019) in the public domain. It also begs the question as to how much content in her other books is her original work.

This information is provided so readers can make their own decisions about this book and its author.


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