Autumn in a pandemic is the perfect time to tap into your inner bog witch with wild hair, cozy clothes, forest rituals, creepy cats, fire, books of spells, and Dark Cottagecore home decor mood boards on Pinterest. You don't have to live in a literal swamp. The word "bog" comes from a Gaelic term for "soft," and it sounds nearly identical to Slavic words for gods or divinity with Proto-Slavic roots that refer to earthly fortune.
Bog witches burrow into the true goodness of life nestled beneath all the hustle and polish and show of making a living. They focus on soft wealth and spiritual power. The vibe is slow, earthy, comfy, moody, sneakily seductive, maybe sticky, wise rather than smart, preferring old things to new, charming rather than impressive. It's about harmonizing with the natural environment, blending, melting, enveloping, and sinking into earthy, downward energy. Bog witchery vibes with hygge, friluftsliv, and the indigenous earth wisdom of wherever you are. It engenders patience, waiting, biding, settling in, banking the fire, and nesting.
The #BogWitchLife revolves around organic, intimate conversations and rituals with old friends and closest loved ones; home cooking; outdoor wanderings; spontaneous worship and rituals; and solitary creative flow.
Bog witches are homebodies. They may love to travel, but they make themselves at home wherever they go, preferring to go deep and take it slow rather than rush from one shallow experience to the next. They notice all of the tiny mushrooms.
Bog witches read books! They can be books about black magic, spells, cults, sexy vampires, naughty duchesses, snarky damsels, murder plots, fairies, vagabonds, or literally any topic, it doesn't matter. As long as it's on paper and has that good book smell.
Bog witches prefer to read in the presence of a warm, rumbly, and somewhat spooky feline. Alternative familiars may be acceptable, as long as their paws tread lightly on the environment.
Bog witches keep a snug home that works efficiently and honors the ecosystem which it inhabits. They take pride in true sustainability and resilience rather than superficial symbols of status.
Bog witches are those girls (and boys and enby beauties) who are mysteriously alluring, no matter their size or shape or complexion or age or facial symmetry. They might put on a bold, dramatic eye for a special occasion, but most of the time, you can't identify why you are drawn to them, and it drives you mad with the need to get a closer look.
Bog witches start with what the outer eye can't see: energy and fragrance. Deep beauty begins on the inside, with bodily health and spiritual wealth. Next, bog witches attend to thoughtful hygiene and self-care. Then they add fragrance. A bog witch doesn't buy perfume from the mall, no! Rather, s/he customizes layers of natural scent using non-toxic and eco-friendly cleansers, essential oils, and handmade potions.
My husband is a mysteriously seductive man whose grandmother may have been a real, OG bog witch. She took her secrets to the grave, but my husband feels that he has inherited an instinct for potion-making through the heritage he describes as "Slavic slut."
He's always in the middle of several chaotic enfleurages, distillations, brews, picklings, or infusions out in the garage. Some of his creations are spectacular, including a skin balm made with foraged plants that smells like a gingerbread house in a shady pine forest. It's eerily delicious!
Femme bog witches play up their soft femininity by taking simple, good care of their wild, unruly hair and healthy skin. They know how plague survival works and lean into the powers of a long fast from professional salon services and heat styling while cleverly using hoods, scarves, and face masks to strategically conceal and reveal what they'd like to hide and highlight for the occasion, and to add an air of mystery.
Bog witches prefer natural materials--linen, cotton, wool, leather, antique fur--and prefer the patinas and textures of old materials to the crisp flash of the new. They aren't shy about appearing somewhat gutter punk or "freegan." Bog witches dare to wear things that haven't been on trend for at least 20 years. Think inexpertly homemade, dull, faded, holey, raggedy, pilly, thinned and softened, threadbare, paint-splattered, tea-stained, rubbed-shiny, mangy, broken-in. Bog witches don't spend thousands of dollars on artificially distressed jeans that look like they've been through decades of adventures; they gird their butts in the real deal.
Instead of shopping--even at a thrift store--bog witches exhume the moth-eaten dregs of their own storage closets. They trade old garments with friends and relatives. They don't mind going out looking like Professor Trelawney on a bender--it's a look.
No autumn bog witch ensemble is complete without boots. The boots can be any kind--sturdy hiking boots, over-the-knee rubber, dusty Uggs from college, those ones with the fur (with the fur), outdated slouch styles, shiny black and pointy stillettos, pick your poison. They just have to be boots, and they have to be visibly worn and busted-in.
Any jewelry should be rough and earthy--irregular stones, glass, natural fibers, feathers, seeds, and tarnished metal create a balance between texture and the kind of glow that smolders in candlelight.
Gnarly walking sticks are a dandy accessory for the high-style bog witch.
Oh, and all dresses must have pockets. In case of frogs.
Bog witch style embraces all of the senses, including sound. There is no better soundtrack than the symphony of frogs, bugs, and birds that many of us are privileged to enjoy where we live, through most seasons, but human music can set a witchy mood as well. The best bog witch music is live--whatever the human inhabitants of your household can play, any style, any instrument. Jamming and learning new things are very bog witch energy.
Sometimes recorded music will do. A wide range of musical traditions may enhance a bog witch home, as long as there is a quality of down-to-earthiness or an interestingly resonant buzz in there somewhere. Retro anti-folk music on vinyl skews hipster, but it works. It can be anything from light, folksy acoustic or a capella music to heavy metal, as long as it has that boggy depth to it. A few eclectic suggestions that feel right to me, in any format, include The Goat Rodeo Sessions, Super Secret Cult Band, Mountain Man, Lila Downs, Devendra Banhart, The Carolina Chocolate Drops and all related acts over the years, The Hu, and Lindemann's latest album F & M, which includes tracks from a freaky adaptation of "Hänsel und Gretel" produced by the Thalia Theater in Hamburg.
There are many ways to live the bog witch life, and it can be a whimsical way to seek resilience in the face of ongoing pandemic dangers, climate disasters, and economic disruptions. It's going to be a weird holiday season this year, so we may as well use the spoopy season spirit to begin to embrace the darkness and explore what wisdom it may hold.
May the bog witch energy be with you.
Jean Michelle Miernik is the author of Leirah and the Wild Man: A Tale of Obsession and Survival at the Edges of the Byzantine World, available through your local bookstore on October 23, 2021 and in ebook formats on November 11, 2021.