Marina Mariño sits on her patio on a sunny day: you can see the vegetable garden behind her. That's where the self-proclaimed "botanical witch" gets all the herbs for her spells. Besides dedicating herself to botany within the branches of Wicca, she is also a generational witch; she is not the only one in her family to possess these skills. In addition to being quick with herbs, Moriño is a medium (she can communicate with spirits without external elements).
What is Wicca for you?
"There are people who don't know that Wicca is a religion; many think of it as some magic or things that have nothing to do with it. That's not the message we want to give. It is about going back to the roots. In the specific case of Wicca, one can adopt any practice as long as it is of good energy, as long as it is for good, and does not violate the law of three (that everything you throw out into the world, like energies or spells, comes back to you with three times more strength)."
How did you get introduced to the community?
"I was introduced by my grandmother when I was 18, and I am now 25. I have been practicing modern witchcraft for almost seven years. My grandmother went through many religions within paganism, and when she focused on Wicca and noticed my interest, she decided it was time to introduce me."
It's relatively normal to see witches with superstitious grandmothers who put oil in a dish of water, but in this case, it's not just one member of her family:
"She wasn't the only one in my family with the skills and the same intuition as me, but my great-grandmother was also a witch. Of course, they were different times: she cured indigestion and the evil eye, and that was frowned upon at the time, although it's nothing compared to how the practice has evolved in the last few decades. There are a lot of people who are popularizing the religion lately."
What do you think of these people joining now?
"I see a lot of it being done as a ‘trend,’ and I don't have a problem with it as long as it’s treated with respect. It angers me when I see people trying to profit from something when they are not introduced to the religion. I especially see Wicca courses on Instagram taught by people who only understand the theory but are missing the essence and being an active part of Wicca."
"It seems that trends are a good way to normalize and expand neo-paganism, but the important thing is that it is taken as seriously as it should be."
Why do they call you the "botanical witch"?
What is the specialty of your other Wiccan family members?
"In my particular case, I am the botanical witch because I got along very well with plants all my life. I always liked to have greenery. My favorite plant for my rituals is jasmine or rosemary. Rosemary is a wild card. It's the white candle of herbs. When I teach herbology courses, I teach that it's good if you know how to substitute. You can use basil or rosemary to replace any other missing herb. The important thing is intensity and intention. My grandmother had the same obsession, but with crystals, she didn't care about the plants. Going back to all things earthy is the natural thing to do."
What is herbology?
"Herbology helps us a lot to raise awareness of everything that is ecology, and return it to what the roots are, like the natural remedies that were used before that are no longer used, now people take an Ibuprofen, and the issue is solved. It is to return to many practices compact with our connection with mother earth, which is also why many neopagans have turned to it.
What branch of Wicca do you practice?
"The only branch you can have in Argentina is eclectic Wicca; you have to belong to a Coven (a group of witches that specializes in something in particular) or have belonged to be initiated in that specific branch. There are first-degree initiations, second-degree initiations, etc., but always from a Coven. And once you are part of one and separate to form your Coven, yours is naturally related to your original one. That doesn't exist in Argentina. You can do it solo."
How does one go about getting into a coven?
"There are several ways to find a coven, mostly nowadays with technology and online forums for Wiccans. Finding a coven in your area is as easy as going to Google and searching for "covens near me." On apps like MeetUp or Amino, you can find great Wiccan communities willing to initiate a lone witch or warlock into their group. A coven mustn't be particularly strict or old-fashioned to be valid. All that matters is that it contains a confirmed Priest or Priestess who can guide the rest, who would become Priests-in-training and be part of one of the specific Wiccan branches, such as Gardnerian or Celtic Wicca. Once you find a coven you want to join, you have to complete an interview with the Priest in question, and at the end of the day, the final decision is yours."
How easily available are the herbs you use?
"In general, the plants that people will use at the beginning of their practice are the aromatic ones, which are the easiest to take care of. That's why I always recommend young Wiccans have their plants. Some, like lavender, need more soil, but others, like mint, thyme, or laurel, are more accessible to everyone. I have two types of mint, peppermint, and spearmint, with two different magical uses. I have a laurel tree, like sage, curry, rosemary, oregano, and passionflower. Even though I'm using it, I make sure to take care of the plant in the process so it can continue to grow."
Even if your specialty is herbs, do you use other Wiccan methods, such as divination?
“Yes. When I was younger, my grandmother would show me her vast collection of crystals and teach me how each one was used, their properties, how they interacted with each other, etc. Ultimately, I found the information useful for the future, but crystals aren’t one of my most natural areas. I like divination because I enjoy working with tarot decks and my pendulum, which I made with beautiful smoky quartz. My previous knowledge of crystals helped me connect more easily with my pendulum, and we have a very mutual collaboration.”
What books would you recommend for someone just starting their practice?
"Personally, when I started my practice, I read The Solo Practitioner's Guide by Scott Cunningham. It contains all the basics that a new Wiccan member who is not part of a coven needs to know. It discusses several traditions that require a coven, such as Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Celtic, etc., and others specific to the lone witch, such as Eclectic Wicca, Seax, Frost, Correllian, and others. Other good books I read later in my practice are "The True Art of Witches" by Kate West and Scott Cunningham and "the Magic of the 4 Elements".
What are the Sabbats within Neopaganism?
"Within Wicca and Paganism, Sabbats are festivals marked by the changing seasons. There are eight Sabbats in the solar year and 12 or 13 lunar Sabbats, depending on the year. We can measure them using the Wheel of the Year; a non-traditional Wiccan calendar presented as an 8-pointed star, each marking one of the solar festivals: Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lughnasadh, Mabon, Samhain, and Yule, in order. Within the Wiccan community, we believe the wheel of the year can be applied to anyone's life because it represents birth, growth, decline, and death."
Is it mandatory to descend from a Wiccan lineage to participate in generational witchcraft?
"Not at all, I was lucky enough to be introduced to this culture at a very young age and by family members, so I didn't have to do as much research, unlike many of the 'baby witches' who are just joining now and are forced to get most of their information off the internet. Anyone can be Wicca; the only thing you must abide by compulsorily are our principles: to do good above all else. Other than that, religion is for everyone, though it helps if you naturally possess some innate ability for witchcraft."
As Mariño mentioned, one of the main aspects of the Wiccan religion is doing good and putting out good energies into the world. Currently, the popularity of neo-pagan cultures is on the rise, as people are looking outwards and past other, more “traditional” religions in these troubling times. We can expect to see an increase in the popularity of modern witchcraft in the coming months, as it serves not only as a comforting faith but also provides its practitioners with a sense of control and safety.
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