Originally published on Rebelle Society November 22, 2019
A hearth witch possesses a unique set of skills based on many years beside the fire, whether at a pot belly stove, outdoor cob chimney, or modern Viking oven.
A hearth witch knows how to set a powerful intention for the fire that will warm her home. She knows how to stack the wood kindling in the proper shape. She knows how to blow her breath long and low like the billows to fan the flame. She knows how to feed her passion to the fire. She is ready with water, lest the fire need dousing. A hearth witch is a mistress of the four elements and Spirit.
My journey as a hearth witch began in 2002, when High Priestess Connie deMasters singled me out at the Women’s Spirit Solstice Gathering where I was signing my books on witchcraft. With a witch’s second sight, Connie saw that I needed support to continue on my path as a witch in the public eye and invited me to visit her at her home for one-on-one instruction.
I was in that pivotal thirty-third year, the last of my Saturn’s return, and a mother of two small sons. Often referred to as the Year of Christ Consciousness, one’s thirty-third year heralds an awakening, a rebirth into a person’s true and authentic power.
I was eager for knowledge, guidance on the path in front of me, and the comfort that I would make it through this ring of fire. I asked Connie what was her favorite drink from Starbucks, and thus began many years of caramel macchiato and walnut maple scones visits.
Connie was a Greek grandmother surrounded by pink light and white bubbles who giggled like a child. Her gentleness was enforced with a fierceness in her eyes and a welling up of ferociousness that would protect all her magickal children, even an innocent wild faerie child like me. I became a member of the Crimson Dragon Druidic Craft of the Wise coven.
One day, Connie handed me a white, seven-day Advent candle and lit the wick with a lighter that had been held to Brigid’s sacred flame in Ireland. I drove home with the flickering Flame of Brigid, the goddess of fire, inspiration, and smithcraft, and felt the veil of time lift.
In my mind’s eye, I was in a medieval landscape, reminiscent of the passage on the Medieval Kitchen written by my co-author of The Wicca Cookbook: Recipes, Ritual and Lore, Tara Seefeldt, a historian of Early Modern European History:
“For centuries, people have believed that the hearth fire should never go out. If it did, one had to run to the neighbor’s house for a piece of charcoal. Otherwise, one could use the fire-striking iron, a two- or three-inch-long piece of iron, which was struck with a piece of flint to cause a spark and light the tinder in the fireplace.
Scholars have concluded that, aside from the inconvenience, medieval people did not want the hearth fire go out for spiritual reasons as well. Ancient people believed that letting the fire extinguish was symbolic of letting the love of the family and home dissipate.”
I could not, would not, let the flame die. I was carrying the sacred flame for my magickal training from my High Priestess’ home to my own home, the first one that I owned. I had already planted the placenta of my second son under an aloe plant at the right of my front door.
I took the flame from the candle with an incense stick and used it to light the pilot light in the wall furnace so that Brigid’s warmth would permeate every room of the house.
Wherever I walked through that house, and as a mother of toddlers there was a lot of time at the hearth, Brigid’s flame protected my family and connected me with my Celtic ancestors — the Celtic magickal bloodline that connected me to the world of fae.
Surrounded by the goddess’ warmth, Brigid introduced me to hygge, a Danish word used to describe a cozy or soothing feeling or moment. It is the snug, comforting magick of the hearth.
Brigid cradled me like a charcoal in a bed of tinder, like a babe in a basinet. She filled me with a feeling of calm belonging, until I overflowed with hygge and yearned to reach out to others so they might feel the soft power of this love.
I opened my home to people traveling the world by bicycle through a website called Warm Showers. I welcomed them with a glass of water, beer or wine, and offered a jacuzzi or shower. These weary travelers might have ridden 30 or 100 miles that day. They stayed at hiker/biker campsites, in hostels, on creek beds and beaches, with friends, or strangers’ homes, such as mine.
For more than five years, inspiration rolled onto my patio on an average of twice a month. Through osmosis of hosting these saunterers, I discovered an abiding trust in daily miracles, resiliency, and a good attitude to get through anything the road dishes out.
Life is simple when you can have a deep gratitude for the smallest things: a full belly, a warm shower, a ride to a bike shop because of a broken chain, the kindness of strangers. I learned that the best adventures are the ones that answer questions about things that you didn’t realize you wanted to know.
Through their stories, I have visited a village in Madrid where you can get a glass of wine for $2 and listen to street musicians all night. I have collected clay in the mountains of South America to make bowls to sell at the market. I saw the brilliant multi-colored swirls of Aurora Borealis in Alaska and the windswept peak of Mt Everest.
Through these stories, I watched the leaves change color in Northern Carolina, and the ripples on rice paddies of Thailand. I have seen the Bolivian salt flats and the Grecian coastline. I discovered there was a country called Slovakia, and that Coco is a common nickname in Bulgaria.
“I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks — who had a genius, so to speak, for SAUNTERING, which word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre,” to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a Sainte-Terrer,” a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander.
They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean… Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
Saunterers travel at a leisurely pace, in search of mystic, delightful surprises of the best humanity that can be, in others and especially in themselves. Each of my guests were on a pilgrimage to find themselves without the labels or the people who have known them all their life and hold them frozen in time.
Two years ago, I moved to the mountain where cyclists do not visit as often. Now with an empty nest and no one to nurture at my hearth, I opened an AirBnB so that I could feel hygge move through me in the give-and-take flow that fuels my hearth, my inner heart. My guests comment on the warmth and the coziness in the midst of an unfamiliar landscape.
I call upon the wisdom I learned at Connie’s knee to create an environment like a shelter in the storm.
The cupboards are full of my pottery, so that each plate they eat from and cup that slakes their thirst is made with love. I provide loose leaf tea blended and grown by my herbalist cousin, soap made by a friend who is a natural perfumer, grocery bags in case they forgot, and many small conveniences so the guests feel comforted by the magick of hygge.
I help make memories, whether on family vacations, wedding anniversaries, or guys’ fishing trips. Sometimes we share a meal, a recent adventure, or local tips to enjoy the area.
Standing at the hearth or waiting on the lintel, my role is sacred: to give travelers a safe place to recharge, recoup, reflect and rest. I feed their souls hygge, and they give me stories. Together, our currency is simple kindness.