The Otter Coven

The Otter Coven is made up of Dr. Dani Barrington, Esther Shaylor and Dr. Rebecca Sindall. We each have an interest in water, particularly the aspects of water that nobody else wants to talk about.

Why a coven? Are you witches?

In Europe in the 1500/1600s, there were two types of knowledge – natural philosophy and magic. Natural philosophy was book smarts for the sake of book smarts and was basically men sat around pontificating. Magic was experimental knowledge of the occult (the complex interconnectedness of all things) to serve a practical use. It required experimentation, learning from others, understanding complex systems, and putting all of that towards a practical purpose. Women practiced low magic to help their communities as witches or wise women, as opposed to high magic which attempted to describe a global framework of the interconnectedness of things, and was the work of magus and high-level sorcerers.  

Low magic seems like a pretty good description of of what we do through our research and our work. Therefore, if we are all magic practitioners, then the collective name for a group of witches (a coven), seems pretty accurate! 

… But you’re also otters?

Not only are otters cute (like us!), but female otters (called bitches) band together and hold hands when they are resting. This forms “rafts of bitches” and stops them floating out to sea while they sleep (have a read of this twitter thread on how the otter is becoming a symbol of women banding together; we can’t take credit for this one!). So yes, we have now adopted the otter as our spirit animal! 

Get to know us:

Dani is the rainbow pirate unicorn of the group, because who wouldn’t want to be a rainbow pirate unicorn? By day, she is a WASH teacher and researcher; by night, she starts uncomfortable conversations about periods with men. Her favourite magic spell is the one that removes all fake news from the world, leaving only robust evidence for discussion.

Esther is the rogue revolutionary of the group. By day, she is a WASH innovator working on finding working solutions to WASH needs; by night, she enjoys the opportunity to talk sh*t with anyone and everyone, no matter how keen they are! Her favourite magic spell is her mum’s chocolate brownie recipe, as one of those, with a cup of tea, can fix many of life’s challenges!

Becky is an itinerant mischief-maker, who delights in asking difficult questions. By day, she investigates how drowning prevention links to sectors beyond public health; by night, she enjoys talking about failure. Her favourite magic spell is the ‘brain reset’ which comes in formats as diverse as a chilly open-water dip or a good sci-fi novel and a cup of tea.