“Cause she’s a cruel mistress
And a bargain must be made
But oh, my love, don’t forget me
When I let the water take me”
-What the Water Gave me, Florence +The Machine
I have always honoured the sea, even though I have never lived by it. We often went on holiday down to the beaches in Kwazulu Natal, and visited Mossel bay in the Cape with all the scent of sea and seal in the air. I would collect sea shells and sea sand, and jars of sea water; I wanted to bottle up bits of the ocean to keep her with me inland, where the only connection to the sea that I had, were ravaged lakes and dried up dams.
The ocean was full of longing, and yearning, and the greatest and most unknowable depths; things for which I have always felt wistful. I would always look at the ship in a bottle on the mantel, and wonder about sailing on the tumultuous waters. The waters which gave so much life, but which also took them away, and I would wonder, if this longing in me was something that was stirred by my grandfather telling me tales of mermaids and pirates, or if it was something more…
I would sit for hours with a conch by my ear, listening to the sighs of the ocean. I would be pulled into another world, made up of tears of sorrow, longing and joy, and I would weep from the corners of my eyes, as the sea water would tickle my toes when it ebbed and flowed.
Even now, as a suburban cottage witch, my longing for the sea and the ocean is strewn about my home, in the form of ships and ocean paintings, and pillows decorated with anchors, and deep sea creatures. I have shells hanging by the windows, and on the trees, there are shells in bottles, and shells in baskets, I wear shells around my neck and use shells to decorate my Hekate Shrine.
Shells are the bones of the sea, they are the remnants of millions of sea creatures who have died and returned to the Bone Mother. Some shells look like eyes, with natural holes carved from grit and water, these shells I call Hagshells. Like hagstones they are protective, and act as a seers tool, to see the Other side. They remind me of the One Eye the Graeae, the sea hags who are sisters of the Gorgons, and guardians of the deep.
For the Graeae, I create a charm, using a hagshell, and a sharks tooth, and feathers of birds that live by the dam, to act as a protective talisman and as a way in which to communicate my desires to the Three. The Graeae, were three sisters, daughters of ocean deities, and known as the Grey Witches. They shared one eye and one tooth. Perseus stole their eye in order to coerce from them, the location of Medusa. The Graeae, are the Three of the Sea, a form of the The Fates or The Three Weavers.
Looking into they Eye of the Graeae is like looking into the Fate of the world, into the depths of the threads of the tapestry, it is terrifying and horrific, but can also be beautiful and joyful, like watching a freshwater crab, making its way across a few rocks at the local dam.
Nothing is as a seductive and full of temptation as the ocean, with her siren song, pulling sailors and men deep into the sea to drown. The keening songs of the water beings are like coiling tendrils of the sea monsters who wish for nothing but destruction. Some water beings are more gentle and offer aid and grant desires, some are like the Sea witch, who will bargain with your soul for your earthly desires.
“My love grows deeper everyday
Deep into the sea
But takes a little piece of me
A little piece of me”
– Nelly Furtado
I leave offerings of Rosemary infused wine and sea salt for the Ocean spirits and the Graeae.
I ask the Graeae to help me plumb my depths, to reach deep into my dark, deep self, so see with their eye what is inside of me, there is a chance I may drown, and a chance I may go mad, and as a witch I take that chance, knowing that to dance on the edge is part of the bargain.