WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The impact from hurricane Isaias while slight for the southeastern coastlines in Florida and Georgia, was far more intense where it made landfall near Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina. Sustained winds gusts of 85 mph were recorded as Isaias came ashore, with peak gusts recorded at 99 mph in Federal Point, North Carolina.
Just in North Carolina alone, Isaias spawned six tornadoes, one an EF-3 in Bertie county, and dropped over five inches of rain in Oxford. Isaias was the third hurricane to impact the state in two years, and its fast pace through North Carolina limited the amount of flooding, if not other storm damage. Other states in its path were not so lucky.
By the evening of August 4, Isaias downgraded to a tropical storm, continued on its northeastern trajectory into New England eventually to dissipate in Quebec, Canada. In total, the storm spun off 21 tornadoes which caused a variety of wind damage, massive amounts of flooding, left nine dead, and 3.7 million people without power.
According to the power utility in New York City, the storm outages there were the worst experienced from any storm except Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
All of the practitioners TWH spoke with recommend following weather information and the advice of their local and regional weather experts and emergency management, as part of their preparations.
They also follow the guidelines offered by National Hurricane Center (NHC) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which have an extensive list of preparations on their websites that include everything from what supplies to have on hand, to insurances checklists, to evacuation plans and everything in between.
When A Storm Approaches
When a named storm is approaching, the magick picks up.
Dona Pantera, a nurse, Strega, and Faery Seer, looks at the bodies of water that the storm is most impacting, as that will impact her workings. If the storm is mostly impacting the ocean rather that the fresh water lakes and rivers nearby, that will inform the magick and prayers that she offers to deity, and vice versa.
Jessica Shaw also does boundary work as storms approach. One of her covenmates had traveled near the Bahamas and dropped a magickal object into the ocean. Her coven intended to use their connection to that object to draw a line, creating a boundary, when a recent storm was approaching.
However, they knew they could not simply draw a boundary without understanding unintended consequences. “So we focused on harmonizing humanity’s relationship with nature instead.” She did work on her own boundaries, drawing giant runes of protection on all four sides of her home.
Tania, a Witch in South Carolina, concurs with the unintended consequences of weather manipulation. “I pretty much just ask the weather gods to favor me, protect my home and my people, and be done with it.” She does not do anything specific about the weather, but does light candles to her patrons for protection and safety of herself and loved ones.
Dona Incendia, a Strega living in Palm Beach, agrees. “With major weather events, it’s difficult to focus on shifting the tract for a variety of reasons; not the least is that if you take one thing (person, thing, place, etc) out of a path inevitably another will be placed in harm’s way.”
Marla, a Georgian Elder living in northeast Florida, also does workings to help protect those she cares about. She reaches out to her deities and envisions protective bubbles around those she loves.
Coral Bruce, a member of Spiraling Heart Coven in Tallahassee, does a working he was taught by his Grandma Lonnie. It is a simple spell for localized protection from wind. While she wasn’t a witch, she taught him to “take a sharp kitchen knife in your hand and exit the front door of your home. Walk to the edge of your property or yard in the direction of the storm and turn your back on the storm. Plunge the knife, sharp edge of the blade toward the storm, into the ground. Push it all the way in so it does not become a projectile.” Coral says this will “cut the wind” and split it so that it moves around your home.
The candles prepared ahead of a storm will often become part of preparing for the approach of a named storm. “If we are under a hurricane watch or warning, we pull out those [hurricane blessed] candles and light them together at a specific time of day,” shares Opal Luna.
The Tampa Hoodoo practitioner we spoke to (who requested not to be identified by name), sings and says prayers over their supplies to make sure they are as helpful as can be as a storm approaches.
“I go around the exterior of my house and asperge something like whiskey and talk to the land spirits about cooperation in keeping my property safe. When I am ready to hunker down, I salt each threshold that goes to the outside and check the door locks. As I go from room to room securing windows, I put one of my charmed flashlights in each room in case the power goes out,” they said.
If they have to leave, they grab their go bag, which includes their amulets, and do general property and door sealing spells. “Just as I leave, I tell my home and house spirits that I will return. I bring my ancestors with me.”
Dona Pantera will put out an energetic call to get her people she cares about preparing for the storm. “Rather than calling each one and saying, ‘Did you get your stuff yet?’ I put out an energetic push to make sure everyone is focused on doing what they need to prepare and stay safe.”
As Dona Pantera walks her property to clean up debris that could become projectiles, she’s also reinforces the wards at the property and speaking with the spirits of the land for protection.
Coyote MorningStar will use a “hag stone storm buster” when there is a hurricane approaching to break up or turn an oncoming storm. A hag stone is a stone found on the beach that has a naturally worn hole through it. To “bust up” the storm, you place a large hag stone on a braided cord, then whirl it overhead widdershins.
Even though the power might go out, and the winds are blowing, the magick does not stop.
“I like to have an energy stockpile,” says the Tampa Hoodoo practitioner. “One of my favorites is a storm cord – I get a skein of yarn or ribbon and as the storm rolls in, every time I see lightning, I tie a knot along the cord before I hear the associated thunder for that flash. When the storm is over, I break off the knotted length from the skein and put the cord in a safe place. Later, when I need a boost for some work, I can untie one or more of the knots to charge what I am creating.”
Shaw collects rainwater during the storm, and soil afterwards, for future rituals.
After the Storm
Once the danger has passed, and the “all clear” has been sounded, there is still plenty of magickal work to be done.
“When the storm is over, I thank the ancestors for riding it out with me,” the Tampa Hoodoo practitioner says. They then walk their property, assessing how their home and property held up. “I discuss the state of the house with the home spirits and the state of the property with the land spirits. I speak honestly about things like repairs, how long it will take to make them, and ask the spirits to cooperate with me. When everything is determined to be safe, I make offerings to the land and house to signify the storm being over and the next phase of recovery beginning.”
“I ask for my gods to give me and mine the strength to clean up, keep moving forward, and get through any hurdles we might face in the aftermath of the storm,” says Dona Pantera. “But first I will give thanks to Neptune and Salacia for either allowing the storm to bypass us, or at least being as gentle as possible. I know these storms are necessary and understand they have to happen every now and then, but I do appreciate when they make sure that we’re as uneffected as possible, and kept safe.”
Each of the practitioners we spoke with agreed that they engage in some form of thanksgiving rite – whether that is simply lighting a candle and saying thank you, or more elaborate ritual and offerings to their gods, land spirits, and ancestors – for the protection they were given during the storm.
When the Season Ends
The Pagans we spoke with all make donations of unused food and supplies to their local non-denominational food bank.
“Then if it is not needed, we thank the goddess and donate the whole thing to the food bank at the end of hurricane season.” Opal Luna points out this is just in time for Thanksgiving, when many food banks are struggling to fill their shelves and feed those in need.
Martha does point out that it is important no to wait for a hurricane to be coming to appeal to your ancestors, or your gods. It feels well-aligned to create and strengthen a relationship long before the seas and winds rise, and in turn it feels more respectful to then ask for a stronger boon if and when that time comes, having established a relationship prior to making a stronger petition during a hurricane.”