Gastropod fossil, photo by James St. John

As a Pagan, I have deep ties to nature, and I find opportunities for magick and ritual wherever I go. I like to keep it simple, and my magick is usually shaped by where I am, and what is going on in my life.

Magical tools and ingredients can come into our lives in magical ways, whether found in the environment, given as a gift, purchased as a memento of a place or occasion, or handmade. When ordinary items become magical through ritual use they become imbued with good energy.

I live on the northern shore of the great Lake Ontario in Prince Edward County, known locally as “the County.” Blessed with dunes, beaches, and limestone flats, the coastline of the County is rich with fossilized creatures from the Paleozoic era 542 to 251 million years ago.

The fossils found in the sedimentary layers of limestone along Lake Ontario vary from tiny marine invertebrates, like sea lilies, to larger trilobites (a three part aquatic bug-like being), gastropods (snails), brachiopods (like little clam shells), and cephalopods (straight tube-like shells).

Fossils can be found throughout the world, particularly wherever sedimentary rock is found. While large fossils of dinosaurs are few and far between, there are millions of smaller fossils just waiting to be discovered.

Investigate the geological composition of your region. See if you can find a fossil-rich area of sedimentary rock, and begin your search there. When looking for fossils in sedimentary rock, it is easiest to look at areas where many layers are exposed, like an embankment or cliff face. When you see many layers, you are looking at millions of years of local geological history.

Sea lily fossil, photo by Tim Evanson

What is a fossil?

Fossils are the mineralized remains of creatures who have died and been preserved in layers of sedimentary rock. There they harden as inorganic material leached into the organic.

As fossils are harder than the rock they sit in, they are often exposed as the surrounding rock erodes or breaks off. Water tumbling, completed by the waves rolling in along the shore, also break away excess rock to reveal fossils.

When you wander the shoreline of Lake Ontario, you can see distinct fossil forms nestled in the soft grey rock, easily visible.

Fossil symbolism

Folk names for various fossils include witch stone, snake stone, draconite, and thunderstone, and they are reputed to be powerful symbols of ancient wisdom.

Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic, by Scott Cunningham

In Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem and Metal Magic, Pagan author Scott Cunningham tells of making a stone tarot set in which the fossil represents Rebirth or Judgement. Drawing the fossil during a reading foretold of evolution, growth, transformation, transmutation, birth and even death.

If you are drawn to magick and things of the spirit, consider the fossil as a deeply powerful helper. Fossilized gastropods with their spiral shapes, represent the soul’s evolution. Random cephalopod shapes spell out words, and sacred symbols. Trilobites curled into a ball in self-defence at death, represent protection and sacred self defence, transformation as a result of trauma.

Due to their origins in the ancient geologic history of the area, fossils provide a connection to what came before us on the land that we inhabit. There is a timelessness to finding fossils.

Trilobite fossil, photo by Eirik Newth

Asking fossils for guidance

During a time of major transition, I was walking the beach questioning myself and the action I was taking: leaving an abusive relationship. I felt alone and confused, and asked silently for guidance.

Looking down, I saw a little face staring up at me from the grey stone. Examining it, I discovered a round bug-like ball of stone with a curled up body. I tucked it in my pocket, and instantly felt like I was no longer alone. As I rolled it over in my hand, in my pocket, I felt like I had a helper for the emotional journey I was on. “Help me know what to do,” I asked it.

Research revealed that I had found a trilobite — a three lobed, aquatic being that curled around itself in defence. I understood the need for careful self protection during the upcoming transition. Attuned to the need for magical self protection, I became conscious of using ritual to ground and protect myself regularly throughout the process.

Not every ritual is so organic, casual, or improvised, so I invite you over to Spiral Nature‘s membership section for a protection ritual using a fossil.

Keep it local, make it personal

I love crystals, gems, stones and rocks and use them frequently in my magical and spiritual practices. Some crystal advice seems like thinly veiled sales or a marketing device that incites people to buy spirituality, energy or offering quick fix solutions. Stores selling only crystals have sprung up, and while I appreciate that this makes crystals widely available, I am not a fan of the push to purchase. Money is stored energy, so I like to spend it in ways that are in line with my beliefs.

I endeavour to sacred associations, energetic vibration, and common uses for crystals, gems, stones and rocks, and mention where they are found geographically in the hope that you might look for and collect them wherever you are. I have a huge collection, and my favourites are those that have a story attached to them. So, for the first few columns, let me tell you some of my stories.

I am a practising Pagan with more than 30 years, and my roots in the activist-oriented Reclaiming Tradition. When I moved from the city to a rural village, I became a kitchen witch with a strong solitary practice while raising a child. Slowly I have found allies in a group of Goddess worshipping women with whom I organize large community rituals for the equinoxes and solstices, and with an eclectic New Moon group. Despite the goddess worshipping orientation of my ritual circle, I identify as a Pagan and a deeply magical being.

While I organize and participate in large sabbat rituals and smaller New Moon circles, I am not a fan of contrived or prescribed magick. Because each of us is so individual our magical practices, each ritual will be uniquely ours. Historically, to be Pagan was synonymous with autonomy and self determination.

Wherever you live, I invite you to get learn a little more about the geology where you are. What is the ancient history of the area that you now inhabit? And how can the rocks, gems, stones and fossils of your environment be your natural allies in magick, ritual, and self determination?

Image credits: James St. John, Tim Evanson, and Eirik Newth