Reaction to “Is it Ethical to Use Silver in Druidic Rites” and Where to Go Next?

When I first asked my readers, “Is it Ethical to Use Silver in Druidic Rites?” I was bracing myself for some tongue lashings.  I felt the same way sharing my concerns on the ADF Discussion list.  Although I did get responses along the same tone I’m used to when explaining my vegetarianism, many people – more than I originally thought – were very supportive.  Many, to my delight, feel the same way and have been working through similar issues!  As I explained yesterday, while not dogma in ADF, the use of silver has quite the tradition.  Coming out and expressing discomfort with a tradition in a group as established as ADF can be very uncomfortable…  but I’m so pleased to know I’m not alone.  Even within the larger Pagan community, there are others who recognize the environmental hazards related to mining – whether for silver, other precious metals, or even the gems everyone in the Pagan scene is so gaga over!

Regardless of whether you continue to use mined resources in your magical workings, it should be important to you to learn where your tools and materials are coming from.  When you walk on an Earth-Centered path, your impact should be of concern.  Personally, I want to walk in balance.  I am not perfect – would never claim to be.  The majority of my food is organic and/or local; I grow some of my own food and many of my own herbs; I compost; and I use reusable shopping bags.  But I still drive a gas-powered car.  I rent and can’t convert my apartment to a solar-powered, grey-water using haven.  I take control of what I’m able to, and putting a halt to my personal use of mined products seems like a pretty good thing to do. It’s easy. It’s good for Mama Earth.  Traditions sometimes have to change in light of environmental impact or societal change. I leave this behind with the head hunting, the human sacrifice, and the exclusion of men from keeping Brighid’s flame.

Precious metals and gems have real potential in the form of talismans, I think.  One of the arguments with regards to the ethics of silver is recycling it.  By continually offering it, we take it out of the system of reuse and recycling thus requiring more to be extracted.  Some people have commented saying that they like the idea of using a silver piece as a magical talisman to consecrate the water.  Through ritual reuse, the talisman will grow in power.  There is a large silver triskel pendant on my altar.  I felt compelled to buy it while vacationing in Ottawa.  At the time I didn’t know why other than the Kindreds seemed to want it – but they wanted it on my altar.  Now I’m wondering if I could use it for consecration purposes.  The silver is already in my possession, albeit claimed by the Kindreds for use on my altar.  I would be reusing it ritually, it would become a spiritual heirloom, and it wouldn’t be removed from the system of reuse and recycle.  Others have commented that this possibility intrigues them and they are also thinking of trying it.

A silver pendant I felt called to bring home.  It’s been waiting on my altar and is a bit tarnished now.  Time for my favorite silver cleaning ingredient – toothpaste!


Others are also comfortable using quartz.  Several said they already use them or locally found stones.

Some ADF members rely on the waters themselves to consecrate the well.  ADF Druid Fawn explained, “In my own Druidry I prefer to offer sacred waters from different springs to the Well, or flower essences.”* Another ADF member, Drum, shared a similar sentiment.  He commented on the e-list about other Indo-European practices:

It is interesting that the idea of silvering the well is not universal throughout Indo-European practice.

In Avestan practice, it is water from the well itself that, after a number of draws, IS pure and in my limited understanding putting anything other than water that is “pav” or pure back into the well would only defile it. Silver is not a universal requisite for the well**

Author Nimue Brown commented that she only leaves biodegradable offerings and prefers the option of cleaning up a location.  In my post yesterday, I suggested the possibility of a grove pledging to clean a beach or river area prior to a ritual.  The more I think about that possibility, the more I find it attractive.  It could easily be combined with simply using other sacred waters to consecrate a well.    Perhaps after the cleaning, a small vial of water would be taken then placed in the well vessel.

There are clearly so many possibilities when working with water and consecrating the well.  It is important to respect and learn from tradition, but I would argue it’s more important to update and adapt our traditions to live in better harmony with the world.  It’s also equally important to get involved with organizations to protect sacred places, end devastating environmental practices, and lobby politicians for ethical, rather than purely financial, ends.  Perhaps this isn’t the right fist step for you.  Perhaps there are other aspects of your spiritual life that you could change for the sake of the Earth Mother and Nature Spirits you so love.  Evaluate your practice and make changes there first.  As a people who so revere Nature, it only seems right that our “greenest” practices are within our spiritual rites.  Through those changes, all others should follow.

While she is not a Druid, I want to leave you with a quote from Starhawk.

Not everyone has the extra dollar for the organic tomatoes, or the time or space to garden.  Bringing our lives into alignment with the earth should not become a burdensome, guilt-filled project, where we are constantly in an unshriven state of eco-sin.  Instead, we can think of it as a gradual, joyful process, where we look for the choices we can make that will enhance our lives … Making small choices that align with our values is important.  It helps give us a sense of integrity, and it gradually transforms the whole of our lives to be in better balance (36).***

* Fawn Russell.  “[ADF Discuss] Silver Offerings.”  ADF Discussion List, 29 Aug, 2012.  Web.  29 Aug, 2012.
**Drum.  “[ADF Discuss] Silver Offerings.”  ADF Discussion List, 29 Aug, 2012.  Web.  29 Aug, 2012.
***Starhawk.  The Earth Path: Grounding Your Spirit in the Rhythms of Nature.  New York: Harper Collins, 2004.  Print.

Published by M. A. Phillips

An author and Druid living in Northern NY.

6 thoughts on “Reaction to “Is it Ethical to Use Silver in Druidic Rites” and Where to Go Next?

  1. This is a wonderful post. I didn’t comment on the original, but this discussion has resonated strongly with me. I’ve been campaigning about mining and related ethical issues since years before I became a Pagan, and it feels all the more urgent now that I am. So many products that various Pagans might used are often sourced unethically, from lots of perspectives – crystals and sandalwood are two that come to mind. If we earth-based traditions can’t move towards ethical living, who will? I love the Starhawk quote btw. Love from SC x (OBOD bard-in-training)

  2. Hi Sophia! Thank you for your thoughts. I think I first started to think about these issues when I met the gentleman in my hometown who ethically mines Herkimer diamonds. He originally told me about the devastating practices of some mines and could tell me where every single gem in his shop came from and what the working conditions were. He felt the same about resins and incense – what he sold is fair trade.

    Since then, I’ve become very wary of New Age shops. I originally posted about that uncertainty in my first “Ditzy Druid Goes Shopping” post. It’s why some of my favorite suppliers are places like Mountain Rose Herbs, Sara Lawless, or my own backyard.

    When we think about the traditions of our past, many of the ingredients were imported and still have to be. In the past they came to markets by horse and camel. They were precious. Now, even though we still consider them precious, we can find them everywhere. And at what cost? Something that used to be so rare that it became considered precious can be bought for cheap. Something doesn’t add up… And although there are records of people using these materials, most hedge magicians would be using local ingredients.

    Totally agree with you – “If we earth-based traditions can’t move towards ethical living, who will?”

  3. Another ADFer here…

    I get around this by offering coins to the well….always have. It seems to fit the bill historically as what we generally have from the archeological finds having to do with sacred wells and rivers seems to point to the fact that the gifts offered were usually of value and had a ‘worked’ attirbute; that is the gifts had been manufactured in some way.

    Coins are also good – dimes, quarters, nickels – in that the money can then be donated to a cause following the rite.

  4. Yeah, I don’t leave any offerings that aren’t A) biodegradable and B) edible. Mostly this means nuts, fruit, seeds, veggies, wine, water, juice, grains, etc. If it’s something that contains more than a single ingredient (usually bread or baked goods), I won’t offer it unless I made it myself; that way I know every ingredient that went into it, and none of the ingredients have huge, multisyllabic, unpronounceable names.

    Like Nimue, I offer service to go along with my offerings — cleaning up the wild areas I visit as well as leaving offerings. Today I hauled out of the forest preserve I frequent, most of the metallic edging that goes around a car’s windows (along with the usual number of plastic chip and candy wrappers, old glass, crushed beer and pop cans, busted up styrofoam coolers, and a headlight from a car). I also found a huge dump of old beer bottles (Red Stripe, I think — the labels are long gone, but the shape and color of the bottles are distinctive).

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