Ancient Sites | Dowsing | Glyphs and Wards | Natural Magick | Spirits

Creating a ward at Alderley Edge

September 12, 2011

It was a fine English summer’s evening, in other words the sun was threatening to appear and it wasn’t yet raining. A good enough excuse for me to go and visit a local beauty spot and see what I could learn. “Every day”, as they say, “is a school day”. I obtained a meagre repast from a mini-market in Alderley Edge and pointed the car up the hill towards the Druid’s Inn car park alongside Alderley Edge forest.

My goal? Tonight, as I began to walk into the trees, I instructed the dowsing rods to direct me towards “something that will advance me on my spiritual quest“. Vague, yet promising. The rods twitched and I began to follow them ‘blindly’, trusting that some other forces understood the directive better than I did and would work on my behalf as they had done so many times before. As I walked I asked a quick question – “Would it be wise for me to put up some protection in the forest?” YES, said the rods. I was already doing it! Only positive helpful influences tonight, please!

I was brought into the forest by the usual path, even though I still don’t recognise it until I have reached the first high point! I was taken by yet another alternate route but the destination was familiar – a small rise covered in pine needles where the rods twirled around on a nondescript spot that I knew was probably full of powerful energies. Could I not sit on the nearby lovely mossy mound, I asked the rods. No, they chided, this was the spot to sit on. I sat.

At first I admired the view, wondering why I had been led to this place, and toying with the idea of ignoring this bit and carrying on. Three or four minutes later I was still wondering, when I realised that I could feel my “modern world” energies being stripped from me, and my senses attuning to the sounds and sights of the forest. I was hearing distant wildlife. I was sensing the movement of the gentle breezes as they played with the higher branches. I was feeling the flavour of the forest. I was attuned! Wonderful. NOW I could proceed.

View through Alderley Edge from a magickal spot

After being cleansed and attuned I felt … really good. I didn’t want to move, but I forced myself onwards with this evening’s work – where should I go next? The rods began to lead me down a familiar off-road track through the dense forest and I was walking on to my next intriguing encounter.

Meeting the Oak Spirit

I was taken off my usual path to walk at the edge of one of the pre-defined paths. Soon the rods were circling around next to a small oak tree no taller than I was. I sat down at the indicated spot and made myself comfortable on the thick carpet of lime-coloured moss. Despite the slight dampness it was incredibly pleasant. I faced the tree and began to tune into the essence of the small oak. As my eyes de-focused a familiar shape emerged from the moss that grew around the base of the tree – there was a set of eyes, a nose and a mouth! I was imagining the dryad of the tree, I felt. Now I was in connection with it I dared to ask a question, “Do you have any information that will help me on my spiritual quest?” I asked as politely as I could. Silence. I tried again. Nothing. Hmmm…I felt I was approaching this all wrong.

I switched tack with the spirit, instead asking it, “Is there something you wish to communicate to me?“. Now I got a response! In my mind I heard two words eliding into and out of each other – “Glyph“, “Ward“. I didn’t understand. “Why a ward?” I asked. “Protection.” came back the response. OK, well it was a lead, and something I could work with, I supposed. I confirmed the idea, “Do you want me to make a ward to protect you?” I asked while I still had the connection. “From Winter.” came the affirmative response. Now I understood, but of course I had no clue how I would do that! I’ve never made a ward before, well, not intentionally!

Wards explained

What is a ward? It is from a branch of magick called apotropaic magic. Yes, those were my thoughts too when I read that. “What?” Apotopaic magick is arguably one of THE MOST DISCREDITED and ridiculed aspects of magickal practise. And possibly one of the few items left in my “loony bin” where I keep a store of ideas that I have instructed myself never to get involved with. Oh dear….I was about to be challenged again! Aportopaic magick is concerned with putting charms and spells on items, or with writing glyphs to ward off evil spirits. Nowadays this is simply ridiculed as superstition, and the whole concept is seen as a bit of a joke by western minds. I was such a western mind at that moment when I was asked to make a ward – I wondered why I would even bother. But then, perhaps I might learn something useful?

After agreeing to the oak tree’s request I gathered my belongings and began walking through the forest in that attuned state of mind again. As I walked I found that I was bending down every now and again to pick up an item that literally insisted itself upon me – either because it was hopelessly and obviously out of place, or it was making itself known to me. Sometimes the object would just appear in my path, or the dowsing rods would spin around making me stop to assess what was around. Soon I had four items :

  1. a white thin Rowan twig,
  2. some fallen Rowan berries,
  3. a sprig of oak snagged in a tree branch,
  4. and a palm-sized piece of sandstone rock.
Four items representing the four elements

Looking at the four articles together I realised I had:

  1. stone for earth,
  2. red berries for fire,
  3. oak for water,
  4. and a white Rowan twig for air.

Well, it made sense to me at the time. I don’t think the correlation has to have any particular ‘recognised’ correspondence to be effective, because all magick is a product of intention, so it was only important that I personally understood and believed the association for the duration of the work.

Interestingly, reading the definition of apotropaic magic in Wikipedia later I would find this sentence:

“To further discourage witchcraft, rowan wood may have been chosen for [the purpose of creating a ward]”. (Source: Wikipedia)

I don’t like this rather glib statement that it protects against witchcraft. It’s such a Christian concept – God is good, the Devil is bad; Vicars are good; witches are bad. Petty dualism. I would have preferred if the author had re-worded that to say something like, “Rowan guards against unhelpful spirit forces.” as this other Wikipedia author states:

“The European rowan (S. aucuparia) has a long tradition in European mythology and folklore. It was thought to be a magical tree and protection against malevolent beings.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Semantics, semantics. I think we get the idea. Inadvertantly I had picked up two items renowned for their warding capabilities – a rowan twig and some rowan berries.

Tuned to the forest

I sat eating my tea and energising with an incense stick and the sounds of the forest. Of course I was sitting on a power centre. Why woudl you sit in an ordinary place when you can power up on a power centre? I never just sit somewhere these days. It has to be somewhere special. I was feeling really attuned to the forest as I munched an apple when suddenly there was a completely incongruous blast of air through the nearby tree-tops right above me. I knew this was an air sylph, and probably a warning that the weather was about to change. The air felt a bit damp now, and was cooling slightly. Ahead of me were bright blue pathces dappled with white could. Behind me there were darkening brooding rain clouds.

I continued to eat, but thanked the sylphs for their warning. I began to pack as I ate, getting ready to move soon. I got my coat ready to wear. Two minutes later there was a longer and louder, more violent thrust through the tree-tops and I stood up to acknowledge the warning, thanking the sylphs again. This time I packed everything away and put my coat on. As my zip reached my chin the first heavy droplets of rain hit my coat. Just in time! It was time to head back to the oak tree with my booty and fulfil a recent promise of protection.

A small oak tree asking for protection

Returning to the small oak tree I placed the four elemental items on the cardinal compass points around the tree in turn, dedicating them and requesting the help of the elemental spirits to protect the tree though the Winter months. As I placed each of the four elemental objects I made a brief but heartfelt intonation to whatever forces were listening:-

  • From the sandstone rock I asked for stability from the earth to hold the roots of the small and vulnerable tree
  • From the red Rowan berries I asked to keep the spirit of the tree alive in its withdrawn sap until the first rays of Spring rejuvenate it
  • From the acorn sprig I asked that life-giving nourishment be given, not too little and not too much. Don’t flood the tree over Winter, I asked.
  • From the white Rowan twig I asked the air elemental to pass over this tree and to ignore it when they wanted to play with the forest trees and their limbs. I asked them to be gentle to it, and I felt a little shield go up around it.

As I looked at the twig I realised it symbolised the small oak tree if it were stripped of all its leaves and branches. This stuck me quite forcefully. Then I stood back and put love and gratitude into the work, thanking the elementals for their co-operation in protecting this special little tree.

For making this ward I got a re-ward. I learned that I could create wards, had a method now for how to do it, and understood that they were useful to protect anything form the ravages of the elements providing I went through this exact process again – the finds must present themselves to me, and I must place the around the thing to be protected selflessly, without thought of reward.

The dowsing said that all was done, so I left the forest a happy druid. I was, however, left with another example of a difficult philosophical question: Should the spiritual practitioner learn from experiences, or continue to let themselves be guided along the path? Was I being guided to learn about wards, or shown that I could be helped to create one whenever I asked? I’ll leave that debate for the comments section.


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  1. Greetings, I live in Stockport and visit Alderley Edge regularly with my family. On one of our visits my youngest boy spotted, in a tree bough just above head height, a bundle of twigs and berries bound together. The following week we went back to the same tree (near the Edge) and found a dead rabbit in there too. Do you have any idea what this may have been? I have asked a friend who is a practising witch, but she wasn’t too sure.

    Thank you for reading,
    Blessings to you,

    1. Hello Mandy,

      You asked a friend who is a witch and she wasn’t too sure? That does surprise me. I am not a witch but the signs seem clear to me.

      First of all let me say that what you saw is nothing to be concerned about. Certainly they are signs of witch activity, but I know a few witches and some of them are nice people. Others that I have encountered on my visits are not. Like life, really.

      You didn’t mention the design of this bundle of twigs, but I can guess. I have seen similar things at other sites. Sometimes they are left by well-meaning people, sometimes they are not. In itself, it doesn’t tell us much.

      The clincher is the hare/rabbit that got deposited at the same tree. That was likely to be a sacrifice left by some people for whom the death of animals means little, other than the energy release that its death provided them with. These people don’t value most humans too highly either. They are best left alone, really. They are known to use the wood of Alderley Edge for their rituals. All sorts of people use the woods, some with good intent and some who seek their own empowerment only.

      My philosophy concerning such people is that I leave them be. If I come across a place where they may have been active and I find that there is some sort of energy imbalance or pollution then I set it right again. My work is all about the balance that is of benefit to all, and in doing this work I try to leave no visible traces, because, as you have highlighted, this causes innocent people consternation.

      The next time I am in the area I will do a check on the feel of the woods to see what the activity levels are like and whether the balance is being maintained.

      I hope this episode doesn’t spoil your enjoyment of what is a wonderful wood with amazing views of the Cheshire countryside. Long may it feel welcoming and leave you feeling closer to Nature.

      1. Thank you for your kind and full reply. Yes, I was a bit surprised when my friend wasn’t too sure. She is a practising witch and someone who I have met via the internet on my pursuit of knowledge. In 2008 I had a very bad episode of depression and through this I started finding out about the pagan path. Something I had always been told was ‘evil’. I started learning about witchcraft and felt a bit more ‘at home’. I have since started to find out and learn about druidism. It is this area where I feel totally comfortable. My children and I were not disturbed too much by our discovery in the tree! We were more intrigued than anything. Thank you again for your reply.
        Blessings to you,

        1. Great to hear that you found that Druidism was where you felt most comfortable. It was the same with me – I felt as though I had always known this, but somehow never allowed it to be expressed. Obviously the blog changed that for me, and since then I have been coming out of my shell more every day.

          Because you live close to the woods I guess you get to see all sorts of people and goings-on up there? Not disturbed? You must be proper country-folk? 😉


          1. Ha ha! we, unfortunately, don’t live that close. We live a 15 minute drive away. Not quite ‘country folk’ but I do wish we lived nearer! I am still finding my way, but am enjoying Living Druidry by Emma Restall Orr. Her writing paints such vivid pictures in my mind! Have subscribed to your blog and look forward to reading more.
            Blessings, Mandy

          2. ‘Living Druidry’ was an inspiration to me. It showed me how it was possible to integrate a spiritual life with modern life without going or appearing crazy. So far so good! Nice to have you reading our little blog.


          3. Hi Mandy,

            Nice of you to mention that book. Living Druidry was a turning point in the way that I write. She is an amazing author.

            Thanks for subscribing 🙂


            Kal Malik

  2. Another really interesting and informative post! I might try to do something similar for two old King Jarrahs here that are suffering from dieback. I feel so helpless watching them die by inches even with the injections we give them to try and help. I realise now that I should be asking them if they want to be helped too. Jarrah seem very determined to go if they feel like it is their time. Maybe it’s not my place to try to drag them on if they want to go!

    1. Often I feel like we have appointed ourselves custodians of Nature. It is a very difficult thing to let Nature take its course without feeling the instinct to intervene. We are taught from a very early age that it is the “right thing to do” and an act of compassion to intercede when we witness suffering. That is our natural instinct too, I feel.
      However, I think you do right to consider the concept of asking whether these plants need/want your assistance. In your situation I would recommend that you spend time with the plants, and see whether you can connect to them, and if they offer you any images/thoughts/feelings about their own plight. Then perhaps you may know what to do, if anything?
      Alternatively, if you are fortunate enough to have learned to dowse this may be another means of ‘testing’ whether the plants need help, and if so, what options would be favourable to the outcome.
      One final method is to call upon the action of external influences who may have more knowledge about these subjects, and ask them to intercede on your behalf. The resolution to the problem may come faster one way or the other in such circumstances.
      Good luck – such things are never easy for us squeamish humans!

    2. Hi Bronzewing,

      We measure our actions by our intent not the result. That is more important in the world of energy. So if your intention is to help life then it will go in the direction that that life needs.

      One of the curious things about energy is that it is intelligent in and of itself (or atleast some intelligence exist between you and it).

      So my feeling is that, if I send some energy in order to help something, then I don’t need to know what form that help is, just that it will be used in accordance with its need.

      Hope that one makes sense 🙂

      Kal Malik

      1. Thanks guys, yes I am learning to dowse but not sure I am at that stage yet. Part of my problem with watching these trees die is that it is us who brought dieback to this country, so I feel like they shouldn’t be dying, at least not in this way. I’m pretty sure they are resigned to it, though. Jarrah are rather enigmatic trees. I love them dearly but they don’t talk much! 🙂

  3. Hello – I really enjoyed this post which to me is a great example of how to walk the Druid path in ordinary(!)life. Would you like to exchange blog links? Mine is called “Of Stars and Stones” at
    Cheers, Mara

    1. Hi Mara,

      Absolutely – let’s link each other! I’ve been reading your blog and it’s full of beautiful quotes (I love poetry) and interesting posts. I am about to start keeping chickens, so was interested to see you bee-keeping post. I’m also incredibly jealous that you posted about Taliesin’s Grave – somewhere I’ve been meaning to get to for a year or so now.

      Sounds like I’m missing a whole load of interesting stuff over in West Wales. I love that part of the country. To me it has Merlin around every corner, and I once met a shade who tried to tempt me with information about Merlin and the West Wales coastline, but that’s a whole different story for another time.

      I’ll add you to the Blogroll, most certainly. Long may you continue with your excellent blog and your wonderful lifestyle.

  4. Gwas. Great post. I think being guided to new experiences and techniques is a positive way to proceed.

    I have designed and used glyphs and wards in the past however I feel much ritual is simply a way to focus intention. Intention linked to the “awen” aligned to a true path is to me the heart of magic.

    Beautiful work.


    1. Thank you for your very positive response, Andy. I have been led to trace sigils at various sacred sites before and have often wondered whether they might also prove useful as glyphs. However, the use of a ward was something new, and combined with a sense of being directed and being “in the flow” of the awen was a beautiful experience, and one that I will now have knowledge of how to repeat.
      You are right, i feel, to say that this is the “heart of magic” because when it happens it truly gladdens the heart. One of the wondrous moments we are always seeking to repeat. Our reward for service, I suppose?


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