Interview by Amber C. Snider
In her latest book, author Lilith Dorsey explores water throughout time, place, and across cultures. Here, we discuss water as a conduit, as a vehicle for nature, as well as its transformative and healing power and some DIY recipe tips. The best part? You don’t have to go to the seaside or a sacred well, but can use what comes right out of your tap.
Amber C. Snider: For people that are unable to get to the beach because of the pandemic or if they're living in an urban city, what are some recommendations for ways people can perform water magic at home by using what's around them?
Lilith Dorsey: Well this really resonates with me, especially during these difficult times. I think one of the things that we forget is that our bodies are mostly water, and that our hearts and our minds are an even higher percentage than our body overall.
You have the water in you, so it doesn't necessarily even require going anywhere else. It is something that's there every day. I'm a New Yorker by birth and now I live in New Orleans, and there's a magic to the water that's in the city. It snakes underneath the city and travels all these places, and then comes up into your home.
ACS: How would you describe the unique power of tap water?
LD: I don't think anyone should ever deny the power of tap water because it has the spirit of place; it's coming from somewhere that's next to you. It's coming right to where you are. That's its own blessing in and of itself. It doesn't always have to be that you're going to Niagara Falls or some sort of grand sacred site having to do with water –– you have your own sacred water in your home that's specially tailored for you.
ACS: I’ve never thought about it in terms of how tap water snakes under the city and how it carries stories of place along with it. They say New York City has the best water in the country –– but on a spiritual level, do you think there's something more to that? Especially in regards to it being a conduit?
LD: Water always holds on to the character of whatever it touches. You might have a little teeny half ounce bottle of sacred water you've got from a well in Europe or something, but if you add more water to that, scientifically, when they test it, it still has all the properties of the original water, plus all the properties of the water that you added to it. So both scientifically and magically, it's layering on all of these things on top of it.
When I was writing the book, what I kept finding was that water seeks its level. It really resonated as [an element] that is going to find its place. It finds its place in you, it finds its place in your home, it finds its place in our atmosphere and settles where it needs to be.
ACS: You also quote Leonardo Da Vinci in your book: ‘Water is the vehicle of nature.’ I found that very fascinating...
LD: It is, it truly is. It's so transformational in every way. That was one of the most beautiful things I found when I was researching and really delving into every aspect of water.
ACS: I've written about water magic and rituals in the past, but for those who may be stuck at home or just kind of yearning for the sea, what home rituals or recipes would you recommend?
LD: Tap water [contains the] spirit of place. It's always been really hard for me to write these spell books because I'm someone who tailors everything to the situation. Yes, magical ingredients are great, but you really can use whatever’s in your life to make these things.
I'm really fond of magical floor washes.You can take some tap water and add your favorite oils or herbs. With herbs, usually the best thing to do is make some kind of decoction –– heat the water and then strain it so you're not getting this herb all over the place. We're not trying to make a mess, we're trying to clean! And then wipe down your home –– that's a magic act in and of itself. Wipe down the corners, thresholds, windows. As you're doing that, you can say a prayer or blessing that you want, and focus on good things coming to your house.
ACS: I just started making my own cleaner with white vinegar, castile soap, and essential oils –– it works beautifully! Do you add essential oils to your floor wash or any cleaning agent like soap?
LD: Usually I do a physical cleaning first, just to get all the dirt and stuff like that. But I will add essential oils into those cleaning products and I also make my own cleaning products. I always add Florida Water to everything, even my hand sanitizer. But I do a regular cleaning first, just so I’m not moving that dirt around when I do the magical floor wash.
ACS: What do you do with hand sanitizer?
LD: I put Florida Water in my hand sanitizer. It's an alcohol base and it has a lot of [great] ingredients like lavender, which is antifungal and antiviral. I make sure the proportions are right so that it still works for hand sanitizer, but just that little dash of Florida Water makes all the difference.
ACS: In your book, you mentioned a crystal gemstone fountain that you bought during a time of emotional turmoil. Could you talk a little bit more about that?
LD: I had a goddaughter who was very into Feng Shui way, and when I lost my daughter, one of the things we did was pretty much every blessing you could imagine on the house. It was for our own peace of mind and to heal. I found that it was a very common thing in Feng Shui to use some kind of moving water to transform energy that's been in a negative space.
I found the most beautiful gemstone crystal fountain at my local store–– it was turquoise and just so powerful. I love those colors anyway, teals, greens and blues. Sometimes you wear stones and some sit better with you than others, and those stones have always sat well with me my whole life. It was something that I really wanted to connect to: this whole native idea of turquoise being the tears of the mother.
Plus it puts negative ions in the air [said to relieve stress and boost your mood] when the water is moving. When we add stones to that, especially a watery stone or healing stone, it really can make a transformational space.
ACS: Is there a way for people to create their own water fountains at home?
LD: It's funny we're talking about water magic today because my best friend and I spent all morning looking at some pumps because my backyard floods! But I have made fountains before –– you can get an aquarium pump and make your own fountain. I think it's simple and easy, and definitely cheaper than going to the store and buying a fountain. I've also gotten inexpensive fountains and then added crystals that were water-safe. Anything really that you can put into water you can attach to your fountain. Then it becomes its own little magical space.
ACS: I have a feeling a lot of people are having sleep problems during this ongoing pandemic. For me, I'll pull up an app on my phone with water sounds because it’s so therapeutic. Do you think that there's something universal to that pull towards these sounds?
LD: It is because we're born in the womb and we have that sloshing water sound all around us. I put this thing on my television [on Amazon Prime] that gives me eight hours of waterfall or gentle rain sounds. It really does mimic being in that safe space where we're protected by the mother. I like having something on in the background just because I'm a city dweller and I need to have other noise, otherwise it starts freaking me out. But I find my mind is in such a better space now that I'm listening to water all night as opposed to leaving on whatever reality show I was watching before I fell asleep.
They have ones where you can see the actual image of the water or a waterfall, and then they have ones that are just a dark screen, so the lights from the screen don’t wake you up.
ACS: Going back to water as a conduit, you mentioned it has the ability to carry stories or holds memories of its source. I wanted to talk about that in terms of dreams, which you bring up briefly in the book, as well.
LD: Water, in general, is transformative, healing, and represents the emotions. When we look at it elementally, from a magical standpoint, if water appears in your dreams it’s [representative of] something you're dealing with. But you have to look at the actual water that's in the dream –– is it something where it's like a river? A river obviously goes from point A to point B, so it’s similar to what we were talking about earlier with water as a vehicle for transportation of things.
But I think dreams are really personal, as well. In New York we do Pagan Pride and for a long time we did it in Battery Park right next to the water. That's a spot where I have all these associations on top of the actual [place]. You can see the Statue of Liberty there, so that has an automatic association with me for freedom and justice.
I had this conversation with my goddaughter the other day, she said ‘I feel like I'm about to go over the falls.’ And I said, ‘Well, there's two things about falls: they look kind of calm, surprisingly calm for what's coming. And then afterwards, it looks incredibly calm again, but the transformation is in the middle. And sometimes that can be violent. You can make these giant transformations, you can go through these places that have complete and total change, and end up okay at the end.
If that is what your imagery is, then think about what it brings up for you and think about what's associated with it for you. Then there's the standard ones that I go through in the book like well water is about wishing, it's about joy, discovery. I would recommend doing some sort of personal exploration and maybe try automatic writing on it. I'm a big fan of that.
ACS: The waterfall analogy, the stillness and then that transformative quality in the center is very inspiring. I think I needed to hear that and I’m sure others do, too...
LD: I think that's the way the universe puts things in front of you. We're talking about water and yesterday I was writing about waterfalls when [my goddaughter] called and it was just like, wow.
ACS: We’ve talked about water as a spiritual element and how it's essential for life, but what about how freshwater is an endangered natural resource? Do you have advice on ways we can protect and conserve it?
LD: Yes, it's always important, but it's even more important now. We can still take charge of some of the waters that are close to our homes that are local to us that might be polluted. If we just think about these things in a more conscious way, we can begin to affect change.
I did a wonderful ritual with some friends years ago and they had an Earth Day theme. Somebody dressed as the Earth Mother and instead of it being a nice, happy circle, Mother Earth went around in her death veil and accused everybody: ‘I see you, I know you're wasting water. I know! Just turn the faucet off!’ It was really powerful, I've never seen anything like that. But I think we're certainly at that point in this planet where Mother Earth is pushing back. We have to keep those promises we made to her or we're not going to be able to survive. I know it sounds rough, but we all need it to live and it is polluted. It is a desperate situation. There's also so many of us that don't have clean water.
We need to be mindful of how we're using water, not waste it, and to treat it with the respect that it deserves. Because we all need it to live.
For more information on water conservation, check out Lilith’s recommendations here: Navajo Water Project, Healthy Gulf, Wetlands.org, Detroit Water Brigade, Charity Water, Clean Water Action, and Pure Water for the World. To purchase Dorsey's book Water Magic, published by Llewellyn, contact the Enchantments shop for availability or order online.
For more Enchantments stories on water rituals, check out this story here.