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The Art of Caching – Non burial methods
For many people caching – storing goods for use later- in the outdoors usually means burying them. This is fine in theory, but when you need regular access to the cached items sometimes it’s easier to have them stored in a way that doesn’t involve any digging and reburying, no matter how small the task. Disturbed earth of any type can attract unwanted attention, especially in the UK where every bit of open land is owned either by an individual, or some sort of statutory body. Also if you are caught digging either as an individual or, more problematically, a group you may have a LOT of explaining to do.
One of the most effective non-burial techniques is to take advantage of concealments which occur naturally. These include hollow trees, mossy outcrops, and ponds or rivers, all of which make excellent caching places if used correctly. Trees become hollow because only the outside two or three inches of tree are made up of living tissue. As the tree expands in width the live tissue in the centre dies, if fungus manages to infect the tree through damage such as a lost branch it can happily eat this dead wood and leave a hollow. This can be the ideal place to cache most of your outdoor ritual tools if it is large enough and has the added advantage of being weatherproof and easily accessible- especially if the opening is naturally camouflaged amongst the branches, or only visible if you know where to look. Even if the opening to the hollow is on view it takes only a little ingenuity to cover it, both hiding the hole and making the inside less vulnerable to the elements.
This can be done by using a piece of wood cut to the same shape as the hole and stained or painted to match the surrounding tree, stuffing the hole with water-resistant material, or fitting an artificial lining inside the hollow so that it only appears to be a shallow one. The latter is usually made out of an old wooden bowl or, in one particularly effective ‘plug’ someone showed me, the top half a broken garden gnome statue with the inside coated with moss. This was inserted into the opening of the hollow head first so that the mossy inside showed and it looked like the hollow in the tree was less than forearm deep and rapidly tapered to a finish. In actuality the hollow extended deeper than most people could reach and the coven who used it stored most of their equipment in it except for the cauldron, which was equally well hidden under an artificial rock which you will learn the techniques for making shortly.
Covering the hole leading to the main body of the hollow tree also keeps animals out, something to consider for a number of reasons. Shelter in the wild is getting harder to find for birds and other animals so using a hollow tree for storage can take up a space that could be used by wildlife. Fortunately in most of the instances I have seen where a hollow tree has been used it has been one of a number of trees in the area that have been left hollow- possibly by the same type of fungus so there were plenty of hollow trees available. In one humorous s incident I was with a group of Pagans in some woods near Winchester (UK) when they went to collect their working tools from a hollow tree. When one of them climbed it to get the items a huge white owl flew out of the opening causing the climber to give a startled squawk and fall off the trunk! Fortunately they were unhurt and about to try again when I put my ear to the tree and heard scratching inside.
“It’s a nest” I said “I can hear the chicks. Looks like we’ll be improvising tonight”
“Well, I could just go up and reach around the ch…” The would-be climbers voice trailed off as they saw the look on my face. Hekate knows what it was, but it was enough to make them decide that an improvised ritual was an excellent idea. I think it helped that I also reminded them of the UK 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act and its severe penalties for disturbing nesting birds. The group did eventually get their tools back some three months later, recovering them from underneath a big pile of sticks and the remains of the owl family’s meals.
Storing in and under hollow rocks was something I’d never heard of until I was visiting a Witch near Leeds and someone I met at a Moot (Pagan gathering) mentioned it. This method of caching came about when one of the group, having seen a TV gardening program about formulas for growing moss on statues and pots, painted a concrete flowerpot with a mixture of 2 parts beer to 1 part dried moss to age it to blend in with their garden. They then put it upside down in a shady part of their garden and, in a few weeks, it looked like a moss covered boulder. They were part of a Pagan group that worked near a sacred waterfall where the only access was by walking up the stream bed. They had already started to cache items such as wands, Athames, and candles at the site for practicality and empowerment. They kept them dry by wrapping them in traditional oil cloth and then in thick plastic bags, making parcels of them and placing them in the river bed attached to large rocks with strong fishing line for easy recovery.
This technique worked well but the group was always mindful that a particularly heavy rainfall could cause the stream to become strong enough to wash the parcels away. At the same time they were loath to bury anything as the moss and other streamside plants were both susceptible to damage and ground disturbance would show. But, by turning large heavy plant pots into apparent moss covered boulders, especially if extra concrete was moulded on the top so that the ‘boulders’ didn’t all look alike, the storage problem was solved. It was something of a struggle to actually transport the mossy pots to the site and place them in a natural-looking arrangement, but after that all their equipment – even the cauldron- could be stowed safely under the artificial rocks.
In the next article we will be looking at caching indoors to keep your magickal items safe when you have to live or work in a non Pagan friendly environment.
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