Nestled in the quiet village of Mawnan Smith in Cornwall lives Michelle Elliot, otherwise known as Selkie Shell. She’s the village wise woman and a practising witch. Alongside her craft, she runs various workshops and events, and is also a qualified forest school teacher. I was curious about her lifestyle and work, so I got in touch with her. She told me that the word wytch comes from wyse woman – to be a healer, a traverser of the realms and one who has knowledge of herblore.
When it comes to witches, we tend to stereotype. We picture pointy hats and old women riding on broomsticks into the night. But, in reality, perhaps our original ideology becomes irrelevant. Witchcraft is still very present in Cornwall, with the county enjoying the ‘land apart’ reputation with its folklore of pixies, giants, fairies and witches, often associated with ancient Celtic lands. Like most rural areas, these magical elements have been exploited for tourism, especially since this once-distant land has become more accessible by road and rail. If we delve into the history and hidden secrets of witchcraft within the county, things soon become very interesting. The duchy is still regarded as a very magical place, and it is still possible to trace the events of the earliest recorded cases of witchcraft within the county. Following in-depth research, a large volume of evidence suggests to us that the strong belief in witchcraft formed a very serious part of the way that the Cornish have viewed the world for the past five hundred years, and continue to do to this day.
Hi Michelle, thank you so much for agreeing to talk to me today! Firstly, could you tell me a little bit about yourself and your background – tell me your story!
Hello Ella, thank you for inviting me my lovely. I am a working witch or wise woman and I’ve been teaching Old Ways witchcraft for many years through workshops, courses, retreats, and events in natural magic throughout the West Country and I’m a Pagan celebrant. I really love my job, it’s a vocation for me and an absolute way of life. I’m on a relentless mission to bring the reverence back to the word witch. Witch means wise, thus the name of my organisation, wytchwyse! I came out of the proverbial broom closet many years ago to try my best to educate people into the ways of real magic as I was so sick of the lies and misinformation that people still had about witchcraft.
No we don’t worship Satan, no we won’t harm your children, no we cannot physically fly, you get the picture!
Remember we are dealing with a forcibly ingrained religious doctrine that has managed to convince so many cultures that their indigenous belief systems and associated deities are evil, and this includes the blessed witchcraft practices of old. This is the only reason I stepped out into the media many years ago and every interview I have done so far has been very respectful and conveyed a very important message to the masses, that we witches are not the evil doers that some people may have you believe.
My life has been filled with tremendous emotional highs and lows for sure, I’m a Piscean Fire Horse born in the 60’s so it was inevitable really lol, and in my younger years much to my father’s disproval I left school and worked in factories, at Butlins and other holiday camps and hotels. I was a punk rocker and a true anarchist, and I still am at heart and campaigned religiously back then against toxic corporate companies, and I was one of a team of very brave hunt saboteurs, crikey those terrier men can be harsh!
I eventually decided to train and work as a Forest School Teacher and a holistic therapist. I’m an initiated Wiccan High Priestess, Völva and Druidess who now follows and teaches a much more ancestral based witchcraft which is deeply rooted in Irish and Scandinavian mythos and magic, and I have been working magically with Elder Futhark runes for over thirty years. Runes really resonated with me and struck a chord in my heart when I first rediscovered them in this life as I have inherent memories of being a Völva in another, and I have been developing and strengthening my relationship with these ancient and very sacred stones and the deities associated with them ever since. Tis a life journey for me as I believe we are ever learning and should never stay fixed and rigid in any belief system, this just leads to fanaticism and that is a dangerous thing.
Another very important part of my life’s magical work is a global weekly intention spell I began in 2016 which I aptly named The Cauldron of Changes, and I now have people from all over the world and from different cultures and religions working magically and spiritually with me to co-create a cleaner, greener and more fertile earth with much more respectful people living here who are in balance with nature’s delicate eco system and all her precious flora and fauna. I was triggered to start this when I was sent a YouTube video of an orangutan trying to fight off a digger which was trying to tear down his tree. I had seen this vision many years before, and my star guides had told me if I see this imagery in the future, it will be a stark warning that humans have now crossed the line with their total lack of respect for our earth and it will be a trigger for me to act accordingly, which is what I immediately did. Part of this spell is to help reconnect people to the heart of our Blessed Mother Earth and to the one consciousness which I know to be an absolute truth, and one that if we all reconnect to it will help all species upon this planet to survive and thrive. We have been manipulated and lied to for so many years to rely on a very toxic monetary system which feeds the greed ridden desires of the few and is now severely affecting the delicate eco balance of our beautiful planet. We focus each week and on every Full Moon together at 7pm for fifteen minutes on a very powerful sigil that I spent a year channelling, and it magically encompasses all aspects of this spell. In 2020, I was asked to permanently donate some of my personal magical tools to the Witchcraft Museum in Boscastle, so I chose to donate the original sigil board and magical items I had been using for this spell as it is such an important part of my life’s work. People who visit the museum can now focus on my sigil to help strengthen the magic and I welcome any of your readers who care about our earth to join this shimmering cauldron of positive change and together we will help this powerful and much needed magic to keep flowing and growing, here is the link - www.facebook.com/groups/cauldronofchanges.org/
I am also a crow witch and my husband, known to all as Mr Raven and I have been rescuing corvids for many years, most of who are now back in the wild and flying wild and free. I am literally raven mad lol and we have a crow, a raven and a magpie who cannot fly and live with us as part of our family, and we love our feathered clan so much, they are such clever and loving birds, and like us witches they too have been given a bad rep, films like Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ didn’t help so I’m on a mission to bring back the reverence for these birds too. One of our rescue birds is a crow named Darn Lucky and he is now my familiar, he is such a "fanbroomintastic" character and is as quirky as me lol. I’ve rescued and looked after all types of animals during my life, but he is the only one who I have ever called my familiar because our bond is like no other, I have ever experienced, tis pure magic. I now totally understand why a witch needs her familiar, we have been bonded to one another in many lives before I reckon and thank God and Goddess that he found me again in this one.
I am presently just about to finish my first book about the magic that I have gleaned over the many years that I have been a practicing witch. I really hope it will help dispel some of the very negative myths and views about what real witches actually do and help people begin once again to revere and not fear witches. I began writing it during my recovery from a major stroke that I had in 2020, and to be honest it is an absolute miracle that this book is nearly completed, because according to my brain surgeon I really shouldn’t be talking coherently or walking, let alone writing a book lol! I had a truly shamanic experience that fateful day, it really was the stuff of myths! It was the Autumn Equinox of 2020 and in mid ceremony with my waterfall sistas at St Nectan’s Glen waterfall in North Cornwall I suddenly flew backwards, collapsed and died. None of my waterfall sistas knew how to do CPR but luckily there was one visitor there that day who was and managed to bring me back and keep my heart beating until the air ambulance folk arrived. Her name is Maggi Clements and I have since met with her to say thank you and we had such hugs, ssh don’t tell Boris lol!
I have no memory of any of any the things that happened that day at all and when I finally awoke properly, I had undergone two major brain operations and been in intensive care for many weeks. I was incoherent, confused and in huge pain, it’s all a bit muggy really but I apparently kept saying that I was going to be okay and when my surgeon phoned after six months to check up on me, he could not believe that I was talking to him, he had expected to be communicating with my husband not me! He was also gobsmacked that I was now able to walk a little, albeit with the aid of a stick. I remember being taken to the beach and being very wobbly and unstable, but something spurred me on to keep trying to walk and eventually I did. My recovery has been miraculous and having now actually crossed realms I know now for sure that we are indeed a one consciousness as I experienced it, death really isn’t the end its just the beginning of another journey. I am still working through all I saw and witnessed in these realms so it will be fair while yet before I fully talk about this life changing event. I am just so very grateful to still be here with my family and close friends both feathered and two legged, and be able to carry on my magical work, it certainly changes your perspective on things! I now appreciate every golden moment, and things that may have stressed me out prior are now like water flowing off a witch’s back, I take nothing for granted now at all and appreciate the simple things in life, family, close friends and blessed nature, I think we could all take a proverbial leaf out of this book!
The one thing that has remained constant in my life is my deep connection to real magic and to nature, magic is nature to me, and I have always communed with the unseen spirits of the Land, Sea and Sky and always will. Magic is my life and I will continue to weave and teach magic until the Blessed Norns decide it is the fated time for me to once again fly back home, until then I take each day as it comes with the knowledge that at the age of 55 I finally understanding the real meaning of life and it isn’t just 42!
When did you decide that you wanted to pursue a lifestyle as a witch and how did you know it was right for you? Were you nurtured into it or was it something you discovered yourself?
I was born a witch Ella, I have been a witch in many of my past lives in many different cultures and timelines but being born and growing up in such an urban environment like Liverpool in the 1960’s with no one to guide or nurture me into the magic life that I was born into this world and fated to follow was very, very difficult. I think this has been the hardest incarnation because I had no magical mentor when growing up and when you are born a witch this can be very difficult indeed. Needless to say, I was targeted and relentlessly bullied at primary school for being ‘the strange girl’ because I just could not fit in no matter how hard I tried to. From as early as I can remember I have been being visited in the astral realms (which to me are as real as this one!) by blue and green beings, they would take me to places, show me strange things and they used a high frequency resonance to contact me every night. It was very scary when I was young because I did not understand what or why it was happening, and when I confided in my mother about ‘the noise’ I was hearing and the images and places I was being taken to she immediately took me to the local Dr, and I remember exactly what he said back then when I was eight years old, he said ‘Its alright Mrs Lane, your daughter doesn’t have a brain tumour she just has a very vivid imagination’ and then they both laughed! Being a nurse my mother’s conclusion was there was something wrong with me and if your own mother doesn’t believe you who will?
So, I quickly learnt afterwards to say absolutely nothing about what I was remembering in my dreams about being a witch and a shamanka and what I was being shown in the astral realms, it wasn’t easy at all to have no one to talk to about this to but somehow, I managed to get through this very tricky period in my younger years. I remember at the age of 11 feeling a strong pull to the occult section in our local library (no internet in those days lol) and finding a book on astral projection, and for the first time I realised that I was not alone with this and that there were other people experiencing a similar thing to me and this really helped me, I wish I could remember the name of it, night flyers I think.
When I reflect back now there were many other signs that I was witch born, throughout school I questioned things that others accepted without challenging them, one being religion. I couldn’t understand how so many people could simply accept the teachings of the bible without question when so many people had suffered such atrocities throughout the world in the name of God, it made no sense to me back then and still doesn’t. Like many other witches I now know I tried a number of different jobs when I left school, but my heart and spirit felt so undernourished by working there that I made a choice to rebel against what society expected me to do and to follow a more natural and holistic path and I trained and became an aromatherapist and Reiki healer. Many modern witches feel an inherent need in their younger years to help people and animals, so they are naturally drawn to following vocations like holistic therapy, working with animals or nursing and I was no exception. The important roles of the village witches of old were to be the healers, herbalists, midwives and seers, and to hold important ceremonies such as the Wheel of the Year festivals, weddings, funerals and baby naming, a job that over time was taken from them by the Church through their mass enforced doctrines and terrifying witch hunt campaigns of the Burning Times, a genocide that has yet never been truly acknowledged and apologised for, lest we forget! I now believe the stark memories of these challenging times and other past life memories that I was born with, and my deep connection to the realms of spirit from childhood have really helped to connect me back to my original magical roots in this life and have spurred me on to be the strong, quirky and very magical witch that I am today, they have acted like a guiding force to direct me onto back to the right path. Yes, my earlier life would have been far less challenging if I had had parents who believed me and had nurtured my gifts, but I really don’t have any regrets at all for every experience whether good or terrible has led me to now, and now is a very magical place to be.
Do you find yourself having any challenges in being a witch? Are people welcoming towards you and your beliefs?
Ha ha yes indeedy, in the past there have been many challenges and because of my empathic abilities I always knew when people were being deceitful even if they tried hard to mask it with false smiles and this would upset me greatly.
I would always stick up for anyone who was being bullied too even when no one would stick up for me, it’s like I really wanted to make the world a better place even as a child and then I would be scapegoated and picked on even more!
When I called myself a holistic healer no one took it upon themselves to verbally launch at me but when I declared to those who asked me what I did that I was a witch, in my late twenties. As soon as I would say the word, it would trigger people, even other holistic healers would talk to me in quite an attacking way, and I began to realise that the extreme negativity that the Church had launched during the Burning Times was far from over! Most people claiming to be healers and herbalists back then were absolutely triggered by this word even though they were actually practicing aspects of real Old Ways witchcraft and I realised I needed to be brave and strong and make some sort of difference to this very fecked up world and in my own unique way I really have. I have many younger witches contacting me now for advice and help and this makes my heart feel three times bigger, the joy of being an elder witch now is being able to give advice from the lessons I have had to learn and believe me there have been many! One day I may write a book about them but people being people would probably not believe half the things that I have been through and experienced!
One thing that gives me hope is the absolute surge in witchcraft over the last ten years although many are turning to Wicca which for me was way too filled with rules that quite frankly I didn’t follow in past lives so why would I follow them in this one? Even though I trained and was initiated as a Wiccan High Priestess many years ago I no longer follow nor practice it, nor does my Wiccan High Priestess, we are both very drawn to a much older and more ancestral based craft. I am not a fan of witches like Gerald Gardner who was the founder of this religion in the 1950’s, and things are finally coming to the surface now that I am sure will help to change people’s views about it, they certainly changed mine! More recently a few more people seem to be warming a tad more to witchcraft, I have been accepted as a witch in my village and have no verbal abuse at all which is definitely a sign to me that the times are now finally changing but I have had occasions when overtly Christian or Catholic people see me wielding my windroarer at a sacred megalithic site and feel a need to nastily preach to me and I simply let them rant and then calmly give them the real facts which seems then to immediately ward them off and away lol, some people really cannot handle the truth at all! I was quite shocked at something that happened a few years before the pandemic struck as I have attended and been invited to many gatherings and events organised by the alternative community. I emailed someone who organisers healing weekends to hire a stall to conduct readings and healings as a witch and the response was that the event was for light workers only, so my reply was that I dance with my shadow and I bathe in the light as the healers and herbalists, the real witches of old did and that she should really understand that it is this sort of prejudice that needs to change in the alternative community. The shadow is not an evil place, it is the womb of the earth where we plant seeds that eventually grow and are guided by the light, you cannot have one without the other and its time people in the alternative community realised this, witches are healers, herbalists, seers and much more!
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, even if for some advice, what would you tell them?
Crikey, I would probably read them my book lol! I’ve filled it with real life and magical experiences, and I hope it will be a guide to many, we shall see! If I could travel back in time, I would tell the younger me that these experiences in the astral and these beings are incredible and not to be scared. I would cuddle her and tell her that the path ahead is a very magical and special one and that she may be surrounded by people who do not understand the ways of real magic so do not try to fit in just be yourself and don’t let anyone dull your shine you are here for a very important reason and there are many more like you than you know. One day you will return to the green hills and moorlands where you are destined to be so learn all you can about the witches and shamans of old because their knowledge is coursing through your blood, sweat and tears. I would tell her it’s okay to cry and be a true sensitive, tears are cleansing healing and carry the memories of our ancestors so every time you cry your ancestors are with you giving you strength and love. I would tell her that love and nature are the real magic of this world and that one day in the future this world will be all the better because you and others like you are in it. Crikey my tears are flowing just writing this!
I understand that you offer some special services to people. Could you discuss a little bit about them? Has Covid affected your business?
I craft charms, talismans, make tinctures etc and conduct spells for healing, fertility and to attract the right kind of love into your life (love magic can be very tricky so you need to be a proficient witch to conduct this, or it can attract the wrong types into your life), protection and success. I conduct ceremonies associated with the Wheel of the Year, handfasting’s, Pagan funerals and naming ceremonies at sacred sites. I have given many talks and practical demonstrations in natural magic at people’s events throughout the UK but mostly in the West Country for many years and I have been offering courses, workshops, retreats and events in witchcraft. I will be offering courses online when I have finished my book and you can find out about these on my website – wytchwyse.com
Covid did not affect my work at all in fact I was absolutely bombarded with requests for healings and readings during the first year of the pandemic. My shamanic death and rebirth at the sacred waterfall however did, and I will not fully be returning back to my witchy work until I am fully recovered, and my book is written, getting there dreckly as the Cornish say!
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Taking my boots off and walking barefoot on the local shore with my blessed crow in my arms and my wonderful husband at my side – Seeing my two boys happy in these rather chaotic times makes my heart feel three times bigger – Listening to old vinyl records – Wailing to the sea spirits – Wielding my windroarer – Visiting sacred sites I am a megalithic maniac lol – Watching the Full Moon shine on the sea – Foraging – Cackling madly with friends and being extremely silly – Singing – Watching the grass grow, the birds fly and the clouds drift by
You can find more about Michelle and her work on her website www.wytchwyse.com - she will also be offering more online courses in due course