Moss Rock Sanctuary   4 comments

Stones with moss - photo by Alex L.

Black stones with moss – photo by Alex L.

Moss Witchery

When it became clear to me that I would one day be serving as a temple keeper and would therefore need to start learning a few things about gardening and plant spirits, I had no idea where to start.  I have never in my life been a gardener.  In fact, I’ve said many times that I have a “black thumb” and am capable of killing even the hardiest plant with my ineptitude, despite the best of intentions.  Eventually, with luck, I managed to keep a couple of house plants alive – a philodendron and an angel wing begonia – and that gave me a smidgen of hope.

In more recent years, I have come to love mosses, lichens, rocks, bamboo, and tea plants (Camellia Sinensis).  Now I appreciate them so much that I spend an inordinate amount of time lovingly stroking the mosses and listening to the rocks whenever I go hiking in the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest – enough so that my hiking friends have nicknamed me “the moss fondler.”  I also have a growing interest in herbs.  I’m certainly no gardener yet, but I have fallen in love with these plants…and when I finally have a space that allows for it, I will be doing more hands-on learning.  For now, it’s mostly book learning, and learning to embrace being a Moss Witch.

The spirits of these plants, bryophytes, and rocks have called out to me – they have spoken to me of the pain of the living Earth and the urgent need to heal it.  Thus I have offered myself into their service, and the Moss Rock Sanctuary is the home I will one day build for them at the Hermitage.


“Moss witches, like mosses, do not compete, they retreat.”

“Moss witches lurk in the green shade, hide on the north side of trees and make their homes in the dark crevasses of the terminal moraine.”

“The only known habitations of Moss Witches are in those places where ancient woodland is caressed by at least two hundred wet days a year.”

~ Sara Maitland, Moss Witch and Other Stories


Quotes for inspiration:

“In general, rocks aren’t living in the same way or at the same pace that we are. But you can find a rock, maybe a big boulder, maybe a little agate in a streambed, and by looking carefully at it, touching it or holding it, listening to it, or by a little talking and singing, a small ceremony, or being still and quiet with it, you can enter into the rock’s soul to some extent and the rock can enter into yours, if it’s disposed to. Most rocks live a long time. They’ve lived a long time before we pass them, and they’ll live a long time after. Some of them are very old, grandchildren of the coming to be of the earth and sun. If there were nothing else to be known from them that would be enough, their long age of being. But there is much other knowledge in rocks, there are things that can be understood only with the help of rocks. They will help people who handle and study and work with them with pleasure and respect, with mindfulness.”

~ Ursula Le Guin, Always Coming Home

(Quote gratefully received via Sara Firman.)


“I personally find that while moss certainly requires care, the job seems to give back more than does the relentless routine of lawn upkeep…The work of moss gardening has an elitist quality that I must admit I find appealing. Every John and Jane grows grass. Only Nature’s chosen grow moss.”

~ George Schenk, Moss Gardening


“…mosses are both desirable and beneficial to the environment, rather than just a nuisance to be eradicated.”

~ Living With Mosses, Oregon State University


“Mosses are aesthetically beautiful and provide an attractive covering over soil and concrete surfaces that would otherwise be bare.  We should feel lucky here in the Pacific Northwest that this unique and ornate organism grows easily and can provide much diversity among our gardens, rooftops, and sidewalks.”

~ J. W. Bates


“…mosses possess a kind of lyrical splendor…that has to do with what these tiny organisms teach us about the art of seeing.”

~ Maria Popova, “The Magic of Moss and What it Teaches Us About the Art of Attentiveness to Life at All Scales

“Mosses and other small beings issue an invitation to dwell for a time right at the limits of ordinary perception. All it requires of us is attentiveness. Look in a certain way and a whole new world can be revealed.  […]

“Learning to see mosses is more like listening than looking. A cursory glance will not do it. Starting to hear a faraway voice or catch a nuance in the quiet subtext of a conversation requires attentiveness, a filtering of all the noise, to catch the music. Mosses are not elevator music; they are the intertwined threads of a Beethoven quartet.”

~ Robin Wall Kimmerer, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses


Bryophytes have a significant role in contributing to nutrient cycles, providing seed-beds for the larger plants of the community, and form microhabitats for insects and an entire array of microorganisms. Bryophytes are also very effective rainfall interceptors, and the overwhelming abundance of epiphytic liverworts in “cloud” or “mossy” forest zones is considered an important factor in eliminating the deteriorating effect of heavy rains, including adding to hill stability and helping to prevent soil erosion.

“…it is the mosses that imbues our forests with that wonderful lush “Rainforest” quality which soothes the soul and softens the contours of the earth.”

~ Discover Life: BryophytaMossy rocks


“…there is grandeur in decay: the rotten log hosting seedlings of hemlocks, cedars, huckleberries, the shape of a crumbling snag.”

~ Prentice Bloedel, Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Island, WA


“What draws people to moss is the emerald beauty of a tiny plant that is elegant, deceptively fragile appearing yet incredibly complex and hardy. Few people have viewed moss up close and when they do they are amazed by the intricacy of the leaves, how they whorl about the stems and the tight yet loose tableaux that presents itself to the close-up casual observer.”

~ New Moss Gardening


“Moss is not only an evergreen ground cover that is visually appealing, it is also a ground cover that requires little to no maintenance – no mowing, no fertilizer or pesticides, and actually no watering to survive (moss can go dormant and dry for months on end).  An evergreen ground cover that stays green all winter, moss is an ideally suited shade loving plant that obtains all its nutrients from the air and from rainfall – it has no true roots.”

~ Moss Acres

The Forest Carpet - book by Bill and Nancy Malcolm

The Forest Carpet by Bill and Nancy Malcolm


“Mosses are the most ancient land plants living today.”

“Moss renews the forest.”

~ Brian Engh, Moss: A Tribute (YouTube video)


“A carpet of moss is a great awakener of the sensuous human being that I think every gardener must by nature be.”

~ George Schenk


“…in recent years, this humble, hardy plant, which has been around for at least 450 million years, has been growing in popularity as an alternative to the traditional lawn.  It’s not hard to see why. Moss, which grows fast and hugs the ground, prevents soil erosion. Its density repels weeds. Deer do not snack on it. It can be walked on. Even when it looks dead, a splash of water can restore it to emerald health within minutes. It doesn’t need fertilizer (lacking a root system, it takes nutrients from water and air). All it needs, in fact, are shade, moisture — though not large amounts of water — and what most gardeners would regard as poor-quality soil.”

[…]  Moss enthusiasts are a small but passionate bunch…”

– Jancee Dunn, “Moss Makes a No-Care Lawn” (NYT, 1 May 2008)


“Bamboo is a mystical plant: a symbol of strength, flexibility, tenacity, and endurance.”

~ Environmental Bamboo Foundation


There is even a god of moss – Samanelis.  I cannot find much information about Him online, however.


Other resources:

The World of Mosses

Mountain Moss


Posted 2011/09/13 by The Black Stone Hermitage

4 responses to “Moss Rock Sanctuary

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  1. Pingback: I am a Temple Keeper « The Black Stone Hermitage

  2. Pingback: The Magical Practice of Sweeping the Temple | The Black Stone Hermitage

  3. Pingback: The Hermit and the Black Stone | The Black Stone Hermitage

  4. I came to find more information of Samanelis or Siliniez but I found something I agree with. I fell in love with moss and now I am trying to find a deity for my paganism. There is like you said no info about him.

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