We Are Granite Kin

We are mountain bones.

Risa Dickens
Apr 11, 2024
9 min read
Photo by Ian Wagg

Welcome back to the spring season of the Missing Witches podcast, our Kinship Season, which is dedicated to getting familiar with our familiars. This is where we take time to learn from our more than human kin. In the fall we’ll do a season dedicated to people stories again - our classic Missing Witches stories - and throughout the summer we’ll have Witches Found Interviews and episodes of the Rx, our list of people and of songs and other media to learn from about craft and magic and resistance and re-enchantment is long. But in the spring we need to balance out against people-logic by digging into soil, learning about the plants and animals and rocks and winds and waters that are us too, as we wind our wild ways through the holobiont that we all are here on Earth. These episodes were originally conceived of as tongue-in-cheek anti-capitalist motivational meditations, and we hope you’ll take these offerings in that original sense: seed bombs hurled on the pristine dying lawns of Mondays. Blessed Fucking Be.

I have spent most of my life more like water than stone. Tears are always on the edges of my eyes, my thoughts are muddy or quick-flowing, it’s easy to splash me around and stir me up. 

But I am shield kin too. I have lived most of my life on a great plate of stone. And these days, when things feel like shifting sand and roiling magma and howling winds, I am reaching for my foundations. 

We live on the Canadian Shield, a plate of ancient, precambrian rock, mostly granite, that has been scraped and revealed by glaciers retreating. Shield pushes up through civilized lawns here, like an elbow or jaw bone, it rises out of lakes like something ancient always-not-quite surfacing. Two million years of glacial ice, and the bedrock shows its trauma bonding in shapes like flowing water but it’s stone. 

Witches we are flowing water. Witches our bones can withstand more pressure than granite, we have been scraped and compacted over millenia, we are granite kin, witches we are the shield. 

“A very large area of eastern and central Canada is underlain by ancient rocks which are mostly granite and granite-gneiss with patches here and there of much-altered sedimentary and volcanic rocks… they are more than 600 million years old, and may be as much as 3 billion years old—predating almost all life on the face of the earth… About 500 million years ago, oceans began to flood the continent and they overlapped onto this ancient surface. Sand, mud and limy mud were deposited in layers over the bottom of the ancient sea... The processes of erosion have gradually stripped back this overlying cover to expose more and more of the old rocks beneath.” (source

Geologists estimate that 70 to 80 percent of the earth’s mantle is granite and granite gneiss. “Gneiss is a metamorphic rock, meaning that it formed when a “parent rock” underwent very high levels of heat and pressure that re-oriented and rearranged the crystals.” (source) This is our earth stone. When Earth seethed as an ocean of molten iron and rock, granite came from the cooling. Granite reckoned with its past, was shaped by generational cycles, masked the turmoil and destruction down below so it could pass for a gentler planet. It’s crystals are rearranged, it is a cycle breaker just like you. It is our balance stone, the meeting place of fertility and destruction. We are kin to the balance of fertility and destruction. 

I asked my first boyfriend to lie on top of me. It came out of my mouth unexpectedly, I wasn’t ready for sex, I just wanted to have the hot sputtering oscilloscope swings of myself cooled and weighted down. 

These days I layer blankets on myself and lie in the dark, in silence, in the middle of the day. I listen to my breath as it eases, as it seeps deeper below my gasping chest, settles in the darker depths held in the cup of my pelvic bones and I feel the weight come into my limbs, and on my eyelids. I listen for what is beneath. I listen for the stone that knows both sides: cool surface and endless lakes of fire, molten seething stone and wind and rain and apple blossoms, and how to live for millenia between them.  

Lichen, leaves, moss and sediment are like thin folds of fabric, and the shield’s bony knees and elbows push through, remembering like arthritis, like how the body remembers. My mom says seeing the shield makes her feel safe, and also homesick. 

I know what she means, I felt it in the dark forests we’d roar past on long, snowy drives across Ontario when I was a kid, my mom clutching the steering wheel and gritting her teeth alone in the front, screaming “oh fuck” and throwing candy in the backseat to distract me when she hit a squirrel. I watched the fast-moving outlines of evergreens and imagined pushing into the shadow brush. Pushing my face into the plume moss. Lying down and letting my bones fuse to the shield that can reset the crystals of our generational anxiety, anchor the panic swings, the shield is always right there, right beneath everything, holding space, a colossal anchor holding things in place. Then we moved. We were kind of blown around for a while. We lived in California for a few years, and after we moved back to Canada we stayed at a borrowed cabin in the woods. I sat outside in the snow listening to the wind in the trees, and I closed my eyes, and it sounded just like ocean waves and I was homesick but I didn’t know where for. 

I’m a settler colonizer descendant of people who lived right at the edges of land theft, trying to farm land that just kept pushing up more granite every spring after the ice heave, after they left countries where they died in workhouses, tenants' cottages, and mines for hundreds of years. I want to reach for what is everywhere but unseen, what is the bedrock of this moment? Can I reach and touch the million years and feel my way back into some kind of resonance with the planet itself by knowing its bones? 

I want to add my scraps to the compost and ritual fire of extractions and brutalities to which I Do Not Consent.  I want to follow the birds here, and the lichens, and the bedrock as a way of resisting amnesia. I want to reach in the dark for deep-time crystalline ancestors, and possible futures. 

I want to tell the truth about the vertigo of writing a love song to our otherkin when at every turn you face the horror truth of ecosystem collapse and you want to wail and puke and keen and join your ragged voice to the wordless sorrowrage of the living world. 

And also, I want to tell you what it’s like to canoe silently through fog out here, where the shield breaks the surface of waterways that feel as though they go on forever, and my forever is like a paddle breaking the surface of the water, passing through and then it's gone. I want to take my sorrow rage and lay it at the feet of ancient mountains and let the ways stone receive time teach me how to hold it all and keep on paddling.

“The Canadian Shield is part of an ancient continent called Arctica …Mountains have deep roots and float on the denser mantle much like an iceberg at sea. As mountains erode, their roots rise and are eroded in turn. The rocks that now form the surface of the shield were once far below the Earth's surface.” (source)

We are shield kin, the bones of mountains that once stood here, the tallest in the history of the world. 

Shield shows their faces everywhere that I have struggled to put down roots but which, for lack of a better word, I have called home. It’s called basement stone, mountain bones, the last layer before the mantle of the earth on which we float. What is below is showing its faces now. We are in an era of ugly truths uncovered but where our true nature, our miles deep protection and strength is coming to the surface too. We are shield kin, we have been coming to this time for a long, long time. 

The summer I turned 30 I came home to the apartment I’d walked out on. I’d been couchsurfing for months while my partner of 10 years figured out how to move out. I sat on the porch not knowing who I was, and then the dynamiting started. 3 new condos went in around my small apartment that year, and they blasted their foundations and parking garages through shield stone on a schedule that I came to know in my body such that I’d begin to curl and flinch away as my internal clock counted down before each coming blast. 

The sound was everywhere inside me and the cracks stretched up my walls and I wanted to slip under the shield and disappear. But I didn’t. 

Not for the last time, I was surprised by how much pressure these wind chime assemblages of bone and nerve can withstand.

These days I drive winding mountain roads blasted right through shield, I drive between walls of shield stone and I see its waves and depth and fractures, and I see just how thin the layer is of earth and roots, and it’s hard to believe trees can grow here at all, sometimes they can’t find enough to hold onto and it doesn’t take much wind or snow for them to fall, just a little further north they give away completely to the taiga. 

We have been blasted and compacted, extracted from and scraped and runnelled by massive weighty systems and yet… with each of these gestures that paid us no care, we brought our ancient knowing closer to the surface. 

We are mountain bones. In us, beneath our water selves and our raging sputtering fire selves, and our earth selves fruitful and squirming, we are silently.. everywhere. 

Holding whole continents of hope and life in the cup of our hands. Moving in waves, rising and falling on a timescale that puts our daily troubles into context. 

The shield exists because of pressure, 2 million years of glacial ice over a kilometer high scraping slowly back and forth till there's almost no soil left and the bedrock is metamorphosed to a stone harder than stone. Pressure rearranges our cells our selves and we become stronger.  We become crystalline, aligned and singing. 

Witches, we are shield kin, we are on every continent, we appear and then slip beneath the shifting sands but if you reach down with your breath into the places where your body meets the earth, you can feel the deep gravity of the stone calling from below.

You can feel the deep gravity of the stone calling from below.

You can feel the care there, the hands that lovingly extend and offer foundation and support and protection. You can feel the massive way they amplify our magic. 

Breathe and imagine:

We are paddling together in a long smooth canoe through still waters and the air is dense with fog so we cannot see ahead. 

We feel the miles and miles of water-wound-woods around us. 

We breathe with the strokes, one, two, three. 

And as we breathe together the great quiet comes. 


And as the great quiet comes the fog begins to clear. 



And as the fog clears we see in front of us at last an island in the waterways and its all dark grey granite shield stone pushing with a gentle curve out of the water like a whale, with lichens gently walking across its face, and low juniper and blueberry bushes tucked in the curves and a cracks, holding on where they can when the wind comes in the fall, making sweetness for the wolves and mink and birds. And us. 

Together we pull close, and pull the canoe up out of the water and rest upon the stone. 

We are barefoot on the stone. 

And the sun is warm. 

We lie down near each other but not touching, resting. We feel eachother breathing nearby, our communal electric. We feel all the warmth held in the rock releasing into our tired backs. 

We lie and breathe and feel held. And slowly all our muscles begin to ease downward, the tiniest dimensions of our myofascia and our bones settle into the stones, blown clean in the gentle breeze, washed bright by the sun. Loons call in the distance. We follow their echoing sound up into the sky and we see spread out below us an endless archipelago of small granite islands softened by the weather. Islands of shield just like the one we’re on. They look separate and isolated these small islands of stone but we know the truth now, they are all one below. You are not an island, you are the deep roots of ancient mountains. Below the surface we are one. 

We are kin to a deep, loving protection. We are kin to a foundation that extends hundreds of miles around and below us, ancient stone and all the things ancient stone knows. We are kin to the changing earth seen from the dimension of geologic time. 

The chemical composition of your blood and bones are deeply of this earth. They are descendants of people who learned to stand and walk across the face of continents. We have heard the resonance of deep granite in our smallest bones for millenia. 

Whenever you need it, you can stay with the shield. Count to ten and come back here. Feel us close, an archipelago of strength and hope. Breathe in the depth of our protection.

You must be a Witch.

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