The Making of a Sea Hag

post by Kendall McGee / @seahagsilver

My journey with witchcraft is probably similar to that of many other millennial pagan practitioners who grew up in a Christian house. Which is to say, meandering and full of missteps.

                To start at the beginning, I was a very sensitive child who felt quite out of place within my family; to cope, I always had a place in nature I could run away to. At our first house it was a stream, at our second a butte overlooking the town, and when I moved away to college I continued to search out natural retreats when the world felt too much. Besides surreptitiously consuming media with witches that was not allowed in our house, I had little exposure to pagan practices until I sought treatment for my mood disorder in my teenage years. A few therapists in, I found myself working with a woman of the “woo-woo” sort who recommended Norse runes to me as a way of getting better in touch with my intuition. In the end, these weren’t the right tools for me but I can see now that this was a foundational step on my journey.

                Despite growing up in the high desert, I was always a creature of the sea. I can remember at four years old being asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and needing my mother to supply the term “marine biologist.” Organic Chemistry impeded that particular goal but my connection to the sea has always remained my strongest guide. So it felt natural that the first oracle deck I had a real connection to was found at the coast in a little used bookstore. These “Spirit Cards” are still very important to me, although I do not include them in my divination offerings because they are of an appropriative nature and it doesn’t feel right to profit off of them. At the time, these were not things on my radar. Growing up, my family emphasized our small Native ancestry in me especially (probably because of the contrast with my very Irish looking sister) so when it came to getting in touch with a deeper, nature-based spirituality it felt right to explore that relationship.

                I spent the next years slowly exploring the pagan world. Like many, I found inspiration on Tumblr and other open sources. I’m grateful my instincts never led me to embrace the proliferation of deities and spell work available on these sites as so many of them are shared without caution. But I certainly bought my share of crystals and made many spell bottles. Perhaps oddly, I never used spells crafted by others – I might take inspiration from them but I have only ever performed spells of my own words and materials. Eventually, I found a community to practice with. We began holding moon circles (in nature, when possible) sometimes under the Full Moon, sometimes under the Dark Moon. In the beginning, these were women-only circles. At the time, it felt like an important element in cultivating a safe space. But over the years, as our understanding of gender has evolved, the group has become more diverse in identity even within the people who have been attending all the while.

                As of yet, I was still not referring to myself as a witch. Magic didn’t take on an all-encompassing role in my life until I began working my way off the mood stabilizing medication I had been on for a decade. I want to be clear: I am in no way advocating for spiritual practices as a replacement for medical treatment. This is my own personal journey and I cannot speak on my relationship with witchcraft without speaking on my relationship with manic depression. I was working my way off of medication, in complete coordination with my doctor and therapist, and began holding ritual with each phase of the moon as a weekly check in and evaluation to ensure my stability. This conscientious grounding practice is integral to managing my symptoms without medication.  It is during this time that I feel my true witch-workings began. For me, it was about finding the sacred in the routine. How is the act of cooking and eating transformed by mindfulness? What does it mean to clean my home, clean myself? When I go into nature, who are the spirits I am communing with?

                Once I began engaging with the energies of the Moon and Earth in these ways, I moved away from the more mainstream pagan culture. It felt to me like more than anything I was just participating in another dimension of capitalism, that my spirituality had been monetized. I do not want to work with crystals that have been mined from the Earth by people not treated fairly or with herbs harvested unsustainably by people outside the communities who have long held them sacred.

Soon I felt called to move to the coast. I listened, despite not knowing anyone in the area, having no job or home set up by the time I left the apartment and city I was living in. I put my faith in the currents I felt moving me and within a week, everything had fallen into place. The beach below my home accumulates a vast array of gorgeous stones washed down by the river and churned onto the shore by the sea. Magpie creature that I am, I began collecting them. I’d been making wire-wrapped jewelry for years but I wanted a way to create more substantial lasting pieces, so with the help of online resources I taught myself to silversmith. Inspired by the natural beauty of the stones I work with, I create unique rustic pieces incorporating sacred symbols and spiritual connection to serve as a talisman for the wearer.

At this point in my journey, there was only one step left to get me to where I am today. I have always had a close relationship to my Irish-Catholic Grandmother and grew up on the stories of Ireland told to her by her grandparents. In adulthood, this foundation bloomed into a deep and abiding love of Ireland and Irish culture. I was lucky enough to make a visit with my sisters in early 2019 where the ineffable magic of that land fully took root in me. It was maybe a year later that a Knowing came to me. I had still never involved my practice with any deities− the most I had done is to work with them in making custom devotional pieces for my clients. While I was certainly familiar with the pantheon of Celtic deities, it had never occurred to me to work with any. Yet it came to me, on a perfectly ordinary day on a mundanely divine walk along the beach, that actually I was in the hands of Brighid. It was not a calling to work with her, it was a Knowing that I had been working with her all along. At each crossroads of my life, She had been there. She had saved me time and again with poetry, smithcraft, and the warmth of her flame. Now She was asking I work with her intentionally.

These days, I consider myself more Sea Hag than anything else. I am the eccentrically dressed cantankerous woman living on a hill by the beach. I have a few charms here and there, a house full of bones, rocks, herbs and other such trinkets, but mostly I am a reader of the tides. I do not claim to be an oracle or a priestess of any kind, merely someone in tune with the currents who offers guidance where I may. I live with my feet in the sand and my eyes on the moon.

To find my work and services, visit @seahagsilver on Instagram or my website

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