water magick: rituals

Somehow or another in the haste of leaving work tonight, I flipped the numbers on the address to the Observatory Room, an art and events space in the Gowanus. The Observatory is part of the Proteus Gowanus, an art complex, which hosts a variety of works-in-progress many of which are influenced by the turn of the 18th century machinations and themes. For instance, their most recent art exhibition presented in the Morbid Anatomical Reading Room was themed around the Resurrection.  The events schedule offers an eclectic selection of classes and lectures, including Channeling Elvis, Classic Mouse Taxidermy 101 and The Victorian Art of Hand Jewelry. 

This would be my first visit to the facility and uncertain of what to expect by way of location and building, my misdirected address led me to the South Brooklyn Casket Company. I must admit I was slightly startled but not the least bit surprised, and even the sign on the door instructing visitors to stand front center so the VTC could identify entrants, seemed to make sense. Until a passerby who I can only assume noticed my startled expression, asked if I was looking for The Observatory at #534 (when I of course realized my mistake) and correctly directed me to an entrance on the corner of Union Street and Nevins Street (something to remember for future attendance). I was greeted by Pam Grossman, Magickal Practitioner, historian and leader of this evening’s session on Water Magick Rituals.

Class was held in the Morbid Anatomical Gallery, and after a brief introduction about what we would learn (the history of water as a magickal element, the goddesses and spirits most prevalent in water, how its powers are related to the spring season, recipe and ingredients for creating ritual bath salts), the fifteen of us (14 women, 1 man) formed a circle and celebrated our intentions for the evening.

At registration we were instructed to bring a mixing bowl, cushion and altar objects or totems, offerings for the goddess to be charged with magickal energy. I wasn’t sure what to bring but my intentions for 2013 are clear and so I brought items that reflected their fulfillment: health (hematite disk), a love relationship (my mother’s wedding ring), calm and patience (a tortoise sculpture), channeling creativity (a 3 wishes runes) and adventure (a sea turtle charm from Puerto Rico). We place our totems on the altar and then Pam asks us to stand. She begins to cast the circle, guiding us through prayers where we embrace each corner of the earth South, West, North, East; including the Above and Below and harnessing the circle with the Center, that lives within each of us, instructing us to recite “blessed be” after each.  We sit down and close our eyes to embrace the presence of energy in the room. Pam lights lavender and smudges each of us with its smoke as she chants and sings around the room. Once the casting is complete, the session begins.

Pam welcomes us to the space and introduces herself, shares her history with Wicca. “I’m a fan of people who empower other people” and she explains that her mentor Robin Rose Bennett, opened the doors to that feeling through her teachings, to the beauty of shadow and memory, the luxury of ritual and mysticism.  She segues into describing the altar and introduces us to a few of the water deities, some of whom are represented by the statues, telling us their stories. These include Yemaya, the ocean water goddess, mother of the children of the fish linked to fertility and protection, and Artemis Ephesus, the goddess of the wilderness, guardian of young children and patron of women in childbirth.  (I later find out that Artemis Ephesus was born on the island of Ortygia--a place that is very much a part of my personal history.)   

Magick is defined as a symbolic action of intent and Pam believes that “everyone can do magick” that we’ve “all been practicing since birth.” Every time we channel our gut, our intuition, follow our instinct, listen to our heart—we are working magick. Centered on the interexchange of ideas and thought, the sharing of knowledge Pam explains that spells are meant to illuminate and bring clarity, relinquish negativity and replenish positive energy. (Honestly I could listen to her descriptions all day, the selection of words is so beautiful and I find them casting a spell over my mind, leading me on a peaceful meditation.)

We learn next that 2013 has been coined the Year of the Witch, and Pam explains that it goes beyond the symbolism of the #13 and delves deeper into the mysticism of feminine magic. One of the most notable symbols aligned to the female witch, she continues, is the snake, and as we all know this lunar year honors the snake (the black water snake to be exact). The snake is sometimes seen as fire in water, and this duality of elements represents the possibility of creativity, of lighting it from within.

Soon it is time for us to prepare our own spell, and she walks us through the three types of water spells:
  • The Blessing transforms water through words and intention;
  • An Infusion charges the water with an herb or crystal, and depending on the steep or soak can be consumed as tea or a medicinal; and
  • Purification introduces salt into the formula, a combination of blessing and infusion, it holds a powerful energy.
Pam then explains that we will be creating a recipe of our own from the ingredients she has brought, for a purification bath. The selection of offerings includes a variety of salts (grey Celtic sea salt, pink Himalayan, dead sea salt, black diamond and Epsom); herbs (roses, chamomile, lavender, calendula, blue violet leaf, hawthorn, mugwort, linden leaf); and oils (comfrey, motherwort, lavender, rose geranium).

We spend the next half-hour mixing ingredients for our own bath salts, using spoons and our fingertips to mix them into our bowls. Once the first stage is complete we nestle back down into a seated position and meditate on the bath mixture. The room is silent, layered in scents: one part air, one part fire, one part earth, one part water. Pam instructs us to re-initiate our intention through mental meditation, I've written my intentions down on paper, and recite them, breathing in healing salt, breathing out mantra. 

We each then add a pinch of our salt to the center bowl in an offering to the water goddess. Forty-five bell chimes, three for each of us solidifies our intent. We then pass the bowl, dipping a finger to bless the third eye of our neighbor to the right, with a voiced blessing. I received courage, and gave conviction. 

A final blessing is offered as each of us adds another hope for the group. And then Pam sends wishes and prayers in reverse to the spirits at Center, Below and Above; East, North, West, South, to close our sacred space and end the circle. 


Recommended Reading: 
The Cosmic Serpent: DNA & the Origins of Knowledge by Jeremy Narby, Goodreads
DIY Magic by Anthony Alvarado, Goodreads
Grimoires: A History Book of Magic Books by Owen Davies, Goodreads
Healing Magic: A Green Witch Guidebook by Robin Rose Bennett, Goodreads
Psychomagic: The Transformative Power of Shamanic Psychotherapy  by Alejando JodorowskyGoodreads

Pam Grossman, Magickal Practitioner and Historian

Observatory Room

Proteus Gowanus 
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