A witch is taking unusual steps to help save the planet, from the comfort of her semi-detached in a small village in Cornwall.
Michelle Elliott, who also goes by the name Selkie Shell, has been a practicing witch for 30 years, decided to take magical action after watching a programme about environmental destruction.
“It all started when I watched a video on YouTube showing an orangutan physically fighting a digger that had just cut down a tree in the Amazon, he was fighting to protect his home. It really affected me, especially as years ago I had a profound vision that when the animals start to fight back, we are at the crisis point of mass extinction.”
So, calling on the help of other like-minded witches around the world, Michelle set about casting a ‘global spell to bring about positive changes for our planet to help restore the natural balance and protect the people, flora and fauna that are now under threat from pollution, fracking, intensive farming, deforestation and extinction.
“I figured why not try to use my gifts for the good of the planet. So I took a leap of faith and set up a Facebook group called The Cauldron of Changes, and then invited people to join me every Saturday evening for a focused 15 minute meditation to manifest positive changes for our Earth.”
Such positive action may not fit in with most people’s stereotype of a witch, but Michelle is all too aware of people’s misconception of her job.
Although she is convinced there are far more pagans and witches in the South West than most people would imagine, Michelle says that, because of the stigma attached, there are still only a handful that have ‘come out’ and are openly practising witchcraft professionally.
Most of these witches, like Michelle, prefer to be called wise women, since the title of witch has become taboo.
Michelle, who has researched a lot of the local history of witches, explains:
“Before the onset of the 17 century witch trials, the village witches were the herbalists, the midwives and the healers.”
“In Sennen and St Ives the local fishermen absolutely revered the wise women, and they would go to them for a spell to help them on their way, to calm the seas, and they would pay them for it.
But the mass witch hunts and subsequent trials and executions throughout the country drove such practices underground. And the horror books and films that followed have helped to keep them there.
“I know some fishermen who still visit wise women before they go to sea, to help secure a decent catch of fish. These traditions haven’t disappeared, some of them have just gone underground, because there is such a taboo.”
Born in Lancashire, not far from the site of the notorious Pendle witch trials of 1612, Michelle first made her mother aware of the psychic experiences she was having when she was eight years old. She was promptly taken to the doctors and told she had a vivid imagination.
Michelle struggled to find a job that suited her outlook and utilised her gifts, until eventually she trained as a Forest School teacher, aromatherapist and reiki master teacher. She is also an initiated High Priestess and a Druid and incorporates all her knowledge and wisdom into her present craft.
Now, self-employed as a full-time wise woman – which comes with a job description including psychic healings, oracle readings, house and health dowsing, being a celebrant, as well as charm making and spells - Michelle lives in Cornwall, the home of the mythical Owlman, with her family and her crow called Darn Lucky.
However, despite going against convention with her black bird, rather than black cat, she does admit to conforming to plenty of other witchy stereotypes:
“I have a rather unique collection of hats, and yes, some of them are pointy! In fact, lots of wise women I know seem to have hat collections. And I also have a crafted broom, which is made of ash, with birch twigs bound in willow.
"The ash represents the male, and the birch, the female. We use brooms to sweep out old unwanted energies and then sweep in positivity and induce rainfall! So I often use it to create a scared space where I can do my magical work.”
As you might expect of a witch, Michelle also has a cauldron, called Awen, and has been taking time out from the witchcraft workshops she runs this year to compile a book of spells. However, Michelle clarifies:
“When I talk about casting spells, it’s not like Harry Potter. I don’t shout ‘Leviosa!’”
When creating her spells and charms - be they for protection, health, or love - Michelle uses herbs, plants, wood and crystals, and binds them with a colour-associated cotton, whilst repeating a chant and pulling them tighter together.
In laymen’s terms, this is the process she goes through when someone comes to her for help – whether it is someone looking for help in their relationship or a business owner wanting to increase their profits.
And the diversity of her clients, Michelle says, is also reflected in the diversity of those who are practising witchcraft in the South West, albeit most of them are not publicly open about it. “From housewives to professionals in social services, lawyers and even members of the police force."
So it is no surprise that Michelle’s new Facebook group is much more than just a coven of witches on the web:
“The group has since gone from strength to strength and I now have people from all over the world and from very different backgrounds and religions, all focusing and working magically with me each week. And what is truly wonderful about this global spell is that everyone focuses in their own way.
"There are some people who say prayers, some who drum and chant, whilst others sit comfortably in their armchairs and relax into a meditative state of mind. The important thing is that we all focus together at the same time and for the same reason - that is the real magic!”