I haven’t used garden settings a great deal in fiction. Having written about divination in stories, I went on to consider what I do with this theme while making things up. Usually my characters are either in human environments or natural ones. The odd, inbetween state of gardens has discouraged me from featuring them much.
However, there are exceptions. Verity in ‘Hunting the Egret’ has a wild and witchy garden – not a shock given that she’s the granddaughter of a witch and living in a cottage. She uses it for private, personal ritual. In ‘The Warrior Vision’ the Druid Grove featured use a private garden for ritual as well. Gardens are good for ritual in that they are both outside and private. I do use my own garden sometimes for personal things, but would be wary about undertaking group ritual there because of the ownership issue – not everyone can have equal connection with the land, I feel.
Here’s a moment of garden magic from Hunting the Egret –
Hidden by a large currant bush, assorted native shrubs, and a gnarled greengage tree was Verity’s shrine. A naturally occurring piece of flat stone held a clay bowl where rainwater collected. Beside it lay pebbles from the river, and a fossilized piece of sea bed she had found on holiday one year. There were wrinkled nuts from the previous autumn, shells, bones, and other personal treasures. The candleholder had been a gift from her mother, long years before.
Verity thought of her lost parent as she lifted the small item, wondering where her mother wandered these days. It had been months since they last saw each other. Sorrel had not visited so often in the years since her mother—Verity’s grandmother—had died. According to Granny, Sorrel had always been a bit fey and peculiar. Where she went and how she lived, none of them knew. She came back sometimes, leaves matted in her hair, skin pallid and eyes too bright. She seldom said anything. Verity might turn away from her for a moment, and when she looked back, Sorrel would have vanished.
“I could use some of your madness and your magic,” Verity whispered, addressing her absent mother.
She set the candle in its holder, pulled a box of matches from her pocket and closed her eyes for a few moments. “Fire, bless me with your presence,” she said, then struck the match and ignited the candle. She watched the flame for a while, thinking about the help she needed. She took up the cucumber, holding its chilly breadth between her fingers. Long, hard and phallic, it was the perfect focus for her will.
“I need to find some way of healing Gareth,” she said, her voice slow as she considered each word. “I need the wisdom of my ancestors and the magic of my blood. I need insight and inspiration. His body is badly damaged and he has other wounds I think, wounds that go deeper. I can’t see them and I need to. I want to help him. No one should live like that.”
She sighed, letting her attention return to the flickering candle flame and the stout cucumber in her hands.
“Let him be firm and certain in my hands,” she said. “Let him be free, let him be hard for me, let him be healed.”
All around her, the garden was quiet, save for the melodic song of a lone blackbird in the apple tree.
If I’m working alone in the garden, I tend to sit amongst my trees and talk softly to the spirits of place, my ancestors, or whoever else I may be trying to connect with. A lot of my OBOD rituals were undertaken in the quiet sanctuary of the garden. However being overlooked by neighbours, I’d only feel at ease doing very understated ritual there. I’d prefer a wild place at night, but that isn’t always an option!