japanese zen

The Domestic Garden Witch: Gardening Without Plants!

So maybe you’re a college witch with limited space and money, limited to the one window in your dorm. Or, maybe you’re a witch without extensive backyard space who wants to start up a magical garden. Perhaps you’re a kitchen witch who wants the freshest herbs right at her fingertips.

For many witches, having a garden seems to be a bit of a no-brainer. After all, plants and magic go hand-in-hand. Plus, when thinking of a witch, it’s hard not to think of a cottage in the woods with a little vegetable garden out front. Unfortunately for the majority of us, our cottage in the woods is a tiny flat, and our garden out front is a windowsill with limited space.

This is when it comes time to embrace your craftiness and bring your garden indoors! Not only does it place your garden in a convenient location, it also allows you to freshen the air, recycle what would otherwise harm the earth, and embrace your witchy green thumb!

Sand and Meditation

Something that often does not cross an individual’s mind when they hear the word “garden” is the thought of a garden without plants, especially where witches are concerned. After all, witches are sometimes known for the sheer amount of herbs and plants they collect (hell, my boyfriend sometimes criticizes the quantity of herbs I have - not my practice, mind you, just the fact that I have over thirty varieties of herbs in large quantities in my witchy drawers). But gardens take all sorts of shapes and sizes, including that of the zen garden, Japanese rock garden, or meditation garden.

Unlike planted gardens, these are minimalist creations designed to help induce meditative thought and relaxation through the use of flowing patterns and stone placement which often are likened to mountains or islands rising up from the sea. They are generally designed as large features which are raked into different patterns each day, but are easily adaptable for the small amount of room our domestic garden witch might have!

Creating Your Garden

As with any indoor garden, perhaps the first thing to look into is the type of container in which you’d like to keep it. In this case, a dish that is wider than it is tall is recommended. Choose either rounded shapes or rectangular shaped dishes that are shallow yet deep enough to hold sand.

Fill this dish with sand - white is traditional, though colored sands can be found in local craft stores or dollar stores - until it is about half full. Select visually appealing stones and set them on the sand.

With a utensil, trace ripples into the sand - flowing lines reminiscent of water are traditional.

If you feel that you want a bit of plant life, small air plants are definitely helpful. Remember to design your garden based on simplicity. Use natural themes and variations in your design to provide an aesthetic that you find appealing.

Tools of the Rock Garden

Typically when you think of a desktop zen garden, you might envision one of the little kits that you can get as a novelty gift at Barnes and Noble. In these kits, there is of course a couple of little rakes - one for smoothing out the sand and one for providing the patterns.

We’re witches on a budget, though, so let’s take a different approach - one similar to what’s pictured above. While it is completely reasonable to use a fork or a pen to make the patterns, you can take bamboo skewers or chopsticks and turn them into rakes using wire. Using these, you can smooth out the sand and rake patterns into it each day or as often as the whim takes you.

How Can I Witch This?

Unlike all of the gardens I’ve written about thus far, this is a garden whose only maintenance depends upon what you need from a meditative standpoint. Its design is not only decorative, but spiritually functional. If you’re a witch who is still fairly closeted and can’t have an altar, gardens such as these make for excellent substitutions, as they can form a sort of sacred space in which you can meditate and focus your intent.

If you’re a crystal witch, these sand gardens are a dream come true! Instead of placing stones, arrange your grids in the sand and use the rake or skewer to draw patterns in the sand to help focus the energy of the stones in your grid!

Draw sigils in the sand based on your intent and either wipe them away with the rake, or incorporate those sigils into the design of the ripples!

Sands come in various colors and grades. Play around with options for your sand! For cleansing, use a fine black sand. For empowerment, use a fiery orange or red. For healing, use white or light blue! The possibilities are near endless!

Of course, I can’t leave out my fellow kitchen witches! Salt is a key feature of the kitchen witch’s lifestyle. So much so, in fact, that in some circles it is believed that it is bad luck to run out of salt. For this reason, you can replace the sand with salt! This has a couple of benefits: first, it’s inexpensive. Second, it acts as a constant cleanser - much like a quartz cluster or a rod of selenite. When the salt has become to crusty to rake into appealing patterns, it has done its work! Dispose of the old salt and replace it with a new batch! (Do not pour the salt outside! This is harmful to the environment! Instead, find a safer way to dispose of the salt - I usually use the salt to clean out my mortar and pestle, then dissolve it in the sink to drain away).

If you use salt in place of sand, you can take the crystal grid concept a step further! Place the crystals in your “salt garden” and rake as you would if it were sand. This provides a way to cleanse your crystals in a way that is also visually appealing!

Consider different ways to make this plant-less garden a magical addition to the dorm or coffee table!

And may your harvests always be bountiful!
Blessed Be! )O(