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The Art of Caching
Caching, or stashing, items for later use is a very old practice. Scientists have found mammoth meat stored by our Palaeolithic ancestors in deep lakes where the low temperature and lack of oxygen mean that it has stayed preserved until modern times. These days caching for Pagan groups is less about preserving food and more about storing items safely so that they are accessible in an area for use by those who know about them, but safe from loss or theft.
Caching can be divided into two distinct areas, outdoor caching where the idea is to store bulky, heavy and hard to transport objects near a ritual site, and indoor caching where itís more about keeping your working tools and devotional items safe from people who might not view Pagan practices in a good light. Both types involve understanding the local environment, making as little mess as possible when doing the actual concealing, and making the cached items easy to access by design, but not by accident or even a search. In many ways this is how Pagans in earlier eras had to work all the time to stay safe from persecution and punishment from the state and people who wished them harm.
There is a lot more to caching items outdoors than just burying them and hoping for the best. Damp and different chemicals in various types of soil can have serious negative effects on anything not well protected when it is buried. Thereís also an art in the burying process itself, especially in areas which are regarded as nature reserves or sites of special scientific interest, where minimal disturbance to the area or its wildlife is a priority. There itís important not to harm anything, and that includes roots and ground-hugging plants
The only Pagan I know who has cached in this type of terrain used several lengths of five inch capped UPVC pipe from the local DIY shop and buried them in holes only slightly wider than the end caps. Being a solitary practitioner who liked to work in one of the UKís oldest yew forests she was familiar with the terrain and knew the area she was working in very well from the amount of time she spent there. Even so she spent some time looking for exactly the right spot to do the concealing, probing the yew needle strewn forest floor with a length of thin cane to find an area with no major roots or stones, and soft enough to dig, without making an excessively large hole. To dig the latter she borrowed a large bowie-style knife from a friend, put it and the other items she would need in a rucksack, and set out at the dark of the moon to do the actual digging.
First she sat at her chosen site for over half an hour to check that there were no passers-by and then cut a Ďplugí of earth out and set it to one side. Then she took a small tarpaulin out of her bag and spread it out beside the potential hole. Using an end cap as a template she cut around it with the bade, pushing the knife into the ground to its full length. She then loosened the earth within the area she had outlined with the blade in the same way before scooping it out with her hand and putting the excavated earth on the tarpaulin. Then she probed the bottom of the hole with the cane to make sure that there were no major roots vulnerable to damage before repeating digging with the knife.
When the hole was elbow deep she put the pipe in. The bottom end had been capped and sealed with PVC glue and a fitted circular piece of wood had been placed in the bottom with a length of fishing line threaded through it so that it could be pulled up the length of the tube. This was to ensure that no small items, such as crystals and candles, could end up being lost or inaccessible at the bottom of the tube. As a backup three small screws had been inserted in the wood near where the fishing line was threaded both because it was a protective symbol, and if the line broke then the wooden disc could still be retrieved by using a strong magnet on a string or stick. When full the top cap could be clipped on and had a rubber gasket that fitted snugly inside the top to keep out the damp from the soil.
She buried three containers of this design. Once each one was filled earth was trickled down the side of each one and tamped down with the thin cane used to check soil quality and once the remaining space had been almost filled to the top of the pipe a slightly larger cap was inverted over the top and sat on the packed earth. Then the plug of soil was replaced and any extra soil added to that already on the tarpaulin. After all the containers had been buried the excess soil was taken away and distributed around other trees and plants whose roots had become exposed through erosion or animal activity.
Each of the three containers had a container of silica beads, about the size of a tobacco tin, to protect their contents from damp. They changed colour as they absorbed moisture so it was easy to see if they needed to be replaced and dried out. Other items in the containers included candles, lighters, two small first aid kits, spare pentagrams, crystals, candles (tea lights and traditional), various bits of Pantheon specific jewellery, flint & steel fire starting kit with tinder, spare psionic wand, plus other items that might be needed for specific rituals.
The site of each container was easy to find if you knew what key points of the surrounding forest to line up looking in two different directions. The first couple of times the slightly looser earth on top of the containers started to compress under weathering but this was solved by cutting a fibre mat the same approximate colour of the forest floor to a size slightly larger than the container top, and embedding it in the forest floor over the site of each container.
This was the most precise piece of caching I have ever heard about, but it was in an area of countryside that is considered to be a site of outstanding natural beauty in addition to itís importance in biodiversity. In the next article we will look at other types of outdoor caching before going on to explore the art of concealing your items indoors if you live or work in a non-Pagan friendly environment.
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