Casting a Coin in a Well

If there is one spell that we like to use above all others in Briar Rose, it is this one. It is an old crafting that was used throughout Britain, though it is best documented in the Silver Bough, a wonderful collection of folklore and practices from Scotland.

Traditionally, this was performed at a well that was sacred to a local saint. The idea was to take your coin and a rag or length of rope, and, during the hours of darkness — ideally just before dawn — walk three times around the well, each time petitioning the saint for the desired outcome, and then throwing the coin into the well, after spitting on it or kissing it. The rag or rope was then tied upon the tree that was always associated with sacred wells, and head off away from the well, never looking back. The idea was to be out of sight of the well before

Naturally, for most  — especially those in the US — it is not easy to find an appropriate well that can be used for this. But in Briar Rose, we have the good fortune to work with St. Nectan, the saint whose well was visited by the Knights of the Round Table before setting out on the quest for the Grail. Consequently, we use the cauldron as a well for various workings, including skrying, and it lends itself nicely to this crafting.

First of all, we have a collection of silver sixpences that we use and reuse exclusively for crafting purposes. Prior to a working, each participant purchases a sixpence in exchange for a modern coin. We then open up our sacred space, place the cauldron (about half full of water) in the centre, and open the Well of the Ancestors. We do this by calling upon Nectan, and then we open the well in the cauldron using a technique very similar to the one Orion Foxwood uses to open the Faery Well.

Start by feeling for the surface of the well. In our case, it is going to be the opening of the cauldron, so we pass our hands deosil around the lip of the cauldron, not quite touching it, feeling for the point of pressure where the worlds meet. Once we feel that, we begin to open it up by dipping our fingers through the pressure “bubble” and creating an aperture that is widened to match the lip of the cauldron.

Once the well is opened, we call to the Ancestors, breathing life-force into our hands and offering it into the well, where we feel the Ancestors receiving it, and returning their own offering of life-breath into our hands. We take that up and inhale it. This is done three times, and then the Well is fully open.

Next, we all walk around the well three times, or more if we feel the need to “wind up the power”, chanting or muttering as we go something appropriate to the working. Then each person in turn kisses or spits on the coin, depending on what is appropriate to the crafting being worked, and then throws the coin in the well. We then tie our rag or string to the Stang, representing the World Tree, and leave.

Later, after the evening’s work is complete, we retrieve the coins and clean them for later use. The modern coins — legal tender — that everyone used to buy the sixpences are taken to a charity collection pot, or are left at a crossroads, depending once again on which is felt most appropriate for the working.

Another thing we do with the coins is that everyone has a sixpence that they keep in their left pocket. Whenever something is going on that they need to influence the outcome of, they reach into their pocket and turn the sixpence three times without removing it from the pocket. This is an old crafting tool, and I have developed the habit of giving a sixpence to anyone who visits our home, so they can keep it in their pocket for the same purpose.

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