Magical Ethics: Sustainably Harvesting Plants, Rocks and Animals
Traditional magic made use of every part of the animal, plant, and mineral resources. There was not much thought to environmental consciousness that modern witches need to be aware of. Be wary of resources that treat the natural world in wasteful and brutal ways. Keep your conscious and common sense on alert when wading through the texts of old ways.
Herbs, Plants, Trees
When sourcing plants there are many places you can look. Some witches choose to grow all or some of the herbs they use in their practice. It is not necessary to have a lot of space outdoors to grow herbs. Gardening gives you the freedom to use as much or as little of the herbs as you want.
Another option for witches is what is called, “wildcrafting.” This is the practice of gathering herbs directly from the natural world. This is where you will need to be careful. There are many places where collecting and taking are not allowed, you will need to be aware of the rules when you are planning to harvest plants that do not belong to you. Additionally, even the smallest action can be damaging to an ecosystem. Make sure you are responsible when harvesting in nature. I have a rule for myself: take 1/10 of what is there. This means, if there are only ten plants within sight, I can take one; out of ten leaves, I can take one; out of ten flowers, I can take one; etc.
Another way you can care for the earth when harvesting plants is to replant anything you take. If you plan to take part of a certain plant, be sure to bring seeds of that plant with you. Plant a new seed for every old plant you take, this way a new plant will grow in it's place.
Even with these guidelines, there are times when wildcrafting is not appropriate. Use common sense and hold the health of the environment as your highest priority. You are the most important part of your magical working: if you are unable to get ahold of a specific herb, the magic will still work. There are also many substitutes for herbs you can try.
Lastly, there are shops that sell some of the herbs you may be wanting: naturopaths, health food stores, metaphysical stores. You can even use spices found in grocery stores. Be sure to ask lots of question about the origins of these plants. Just because you are not the one harvesting them, doesn’t mean you should not be responsible for where they are coming from.
Crystals, Rocks, Minerals
Strange as it may seem, some rocks can be considered endangered. Humans are prone to overuse and exploit resources, especially when there is a financial gain. Be wary of rock shops and dealers, make sure the extraction of these minerals was done responsibly and the ecosystem that was damaged by the mining process has been restored to its natural state.
Some witches believe every single thing on this planet is alive, including rocks. Rocks are simply the slowest of all to sprout, blossom and bear fruit. Whether you believe in this or not, it takes a long time for rocks, crystals and minerals to form. If possible, return the gems and stones you use to the place you collected them. If this is not possible, take only that which you need.
Wild animals are under pressure due to the overpopulation of humans and the destruction of their natural habitat. For the most part, I would recommend avoiding the use of wild animals in your practice. If you are a hunter, who takes wild animals from nature in a responsible way, I see nothing wrong with using the bones, and other body parts that you don’t plan on using for food, as magical materials. If you come across roadkill or an otherwise dead wild animal, I don’t think it is wasteful to collect it’s parts for your own personal use. Be sure to clean and disinfect thoroughly. I don’t think it’s responsible or respectful to actively kill wild animals for magical purposes.
Alternatively, domesticated animals, like pigs, cows and chickens are part of the human environment: the survival of their species is not at risk and depends on humans. Some witches may choose to raise these animals both for their products (meat, eggs, milk) and their magical properties. I don't necessarily believe in raising an animal for the specific purpose of killing it but if this is part of your lifestyle you may wish to make use of all the parts that you don't eat.
I personally follow a vegan diet and lifestyle. I do not have any desire to kill an animal for magical workings. The way I see it, the energy of the violent and unnecessary death of an animal could never be overcome by whatever amount of power the animal spirit would add to my working. If I have the need to include an animals energy in a magical working, I have a small collection of plastic animal figures specifically for this purpose. If I come across an animal that is already dead, there is a chance I will collect it and use it, but usually I will perform a funeral of some sort and leave the animal where I found it.
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