Update to this post! This blog post was inspired by my Facebook friend Cinnamon Carriere. She is an awesome Shamanic Witch and I suggest you check out her website! Parts of it are available now and parts are under construction, so I encourage you to check back frequently and see what she is up to! Thanks Cinnamon!
And now, my dear City Witch, Read on, for your 7 tips!
For 10 years I lived here.
I had three dedicated ritual circles on the property.
This one is the Faerie Circle.
It was the second largest at about 35 feet in diameter. The main circle, was about 70 feet. And there was another one, deep in the woods behind the house, with a natural stone altar and thousands of ferns surrounding it.
I made a Labyrinth that was 100 feet by 120 feet.
I held festivals on this property.
(BTW – The above photo links to the Facebook page photo album for the Summer Solstice Festival of 2012. Check it out)
There was a Hiking Path, called the Long Path. Here’s what the New York and New Jersey Trail Conference’s website has to say about it:
“Extending 358 miles from the 175th Street Subway Station in New York City to John Boyd Thacher State Park near Albany in New York, the Long Path is a thread connecting many of New York’s parks, preserves, and state forest lands.”
I had access to this path about a third of a mile from my doorstep via a trail I bushwhacked myself through the woods at the back of my property. Here’s one of the many views along that trail.
Yes, I lived in a Witch’s paradise. My house was basically made of windows and Mother Earth had no trouble reaching in. The mountain I lived on was made mostly of quartz and the connection I felt was constant and deep.
After 10 years of this idyllic life, due to financial (and other) reasons, I packed up, gave away most of my things and moved with my love and our dog to a 600 square foot apartment in the city of Phoenix, AZ. I was worried.
How would I find my communion with Nature? How was connection to the Mother going to feel in the desert, in a city, in an apartment which looked out on a parking lot? Would I even be able to feel Her?
I’m happy to tell you that I did. And I do, very well and in an extremely fulfilling way. She is everywhere. I just had to look with new eyes.
So, dear city witch, fear not. Here are some of the tips I learned along my journey.
#1. Look up.
The sky is the one thing in nature that you can always see just by going outdoors and raising your gaze. In a city setting, you have to open your awareness of nature to a wider degree.
You have to consciously try to notice the colors of the sky, the way the clouds move and the play of sunlight or moonlight. And realize that, although you may be looking at something that appears to be distant, it is right there, touching you.
Think about it. Where does the sky end? Only where the earth begins. So you are in it. If you ponder on that notion, you can feel it. Air is part of nature. The Goddess provides us with this breath of life that is so vast, that we can only really look at it from a great distance.
But it is right there, touching your skin, filling your lungs, oxygenating your blood. Take the time to feel your own merging with sky, day and night, every chance you get. And thank Her for it.
#2. Become as a child.
Expand your sense of wonder.
If you make a conscious decision to have a child-like awareness, wide-eyed and accepting, you will see more. More beauty, more newness, more everything.
As my beau and I traveled across the country from our former home in the woods, we would stop whenever the truck needed gas. Somewhere around Oklahoma, I began to notice a type of bird that I’d never seen before. At the gas station stops, there would always be a group of them near a landscaped corner or in a nearby tree.
I could tell they were urban birds, scavengers of sandwich crusts and cold French fries. They were all black with yellow eyes and a tail shaped like a ship’s rudder when they flew. And they had amazing calls, many different tones and pitches and rhythms. I absolutely LOVED them and began to wonder what they were.
Within seconds of my wondering something in my head said, “Maybe they’re Grackles”. Now, I’m no ornithologist. I wasn’t sure that I’d ever even heard of a Grackle before! They were certainly not present in my former town. But for some reason, that popped into my head.
I wondered why that would have occurred to me, assumed I was wrong or just making things up and sort of dismissed it. But once we arrived in our new home and I unpacked my books I came across a field guide to birds and decided to check it out. Sure enough, Grackles! They are city birds. And they are every bit as fascinating and fun to watch and listen to as the red tailed hawks and great horned owls that occupied my former property.
When you look at the world with wonder, the magic follows you. That is all.
And since we’re on the subject…
#3. Urban Animals.
I’ve always loved wildlife. I used to get such a charge out of seeing a bear on my property or finding bobcat tracks in the snow.
But we tend to dismiss things like squirrels, pigeons and raccoons, because they seem common in an urban or suburban setting. But I encourage you to take a closer look. The Mother made them and sustains them just as she does a wolf in the wilderness.
I’ve forged a bit of a relationship with one of the aforementioned Grackles who visits my backyard each day at a certain time. I always talk to him and he delights me with his varied calls.
Now, grackles are categorized by city dwellers as nuisance birds, just like pigeons in New York City. But I saw beauty, fun and value in them and I wanted to learn more about these charming birds, so I did some reading. In Chinese folklore it is said that the Grackle has 7 calls, representing the 7 human emotions; Joy, Anger, Anxiety, Pensiveness, Grief, Fear and Fright. So I listened, and I think I can identify most of them!
My advice is to use that child-like wonder that you’re cultivating and mix it with your own intuition to discover some urban animal in your area that fascinates you, and learn more about it.
And a last note, there is one particular animal of nature that you will encounter every single day in an urban setting. Humans. As pagans we are consciously aware that “Nature” is not separate from us. But our society operates in such a way as to make us forget this. So, when you look at other people, remember that they are every bit a part of nature as a beautiful mountain vista or the grandest tree.
Make your connection with that beating heart, that movement of breath, that symphony of senses and take it all in. The Great Mother created and sustains us all.
#4. Appreciate the Landscaped Beauty
I was fortunate, when I began working in my new city, to be living less than a mile from my office. So I took to walking to work.
People expect “the desert” to be quite barren. But on my daily walks I discovered plants and trees and flowers that I’d never seen in the northeast. An abundance of flowers, in fact!
This picture links to the photo album “My Walk to Work” that I created on my Facebook page! Feel free to peruse the beautiful photos! (And while you’re there, send me a friend request!)
On my walks, I took to greeting the trees and flowers along the way. They were such bright spots in my day! And I definitely felt the Mother walking right beside me with every step.
The more you give thanks for the beauty that you notice, the more you WILL notice. So, just look closely at what is around you and you will find it. I promise!
#5. Seek Out the Nearby Wilderness
Most cities set apart “wild spaces” within their borders. Phoenix is a valley, which means that it’s surrounded by mountains. There are quite a few mountain areas preserved for hikers and explorers. They are not vast, like the actual wilderness, but in a good number of these preserves, you can hike to a spot where no sign of civilization can be seen.
Research the places that your city sets aside as “green spaces” and go exploring.
Very early one morning, well before dawn, I packed up my portable altar and went to the top of a beautiful nearby mountain preserve to perform a full moon ritual. As it turned out, I wasn’t as alone up there as I thought I would be and some very interesting shenanigans ensued.
That is perhaps fodder for another blog post, but I bring it up here because I found that whole experience, ultimately, very rewarding to explore new places and find new ways of doing my thing in the beautiful outdoors.
Go on an adventure and explore your area as much as you can. It’s worth it! You will find an oasis that is just right for your thing!
#6. Farmers Markets and Kitchen Witchery
One of the great things about living in a city is convenience. There is everything you could want. And many cities have farmers markets. In the warmer climates they occur year-round.
I have found several markets with wonderful offerings from farmers who come from the more rural parts of the state to pedal their wares. And when I visit, it’s not just a grocery shopping trip. It’s a treat!
All of the fresh produce and beautiful herbs and homemade goodies make the farmers market a destination in and of itself. While strolling in the sunlight and stopping from booth to booth I am taking in the aroma of the perfectly ripe strawberries, or marveling at the colors of the heirloom tomatoes and receiving samples of a giant and ridiculously sweet casaba melon.
Look around your local market and see what appeals to you. Talk to the farmers about their work and how they grow and how beautiful their fruits and vegetables are. It’s a wonderful place to commune with others who commune with nature.
And then, you get to bring some of those goodies home and prepare a nourishing and delicious meal to share with your family. Or perhaps you’ll just watch a movie and snack on fresh cherries until you’re stuffed!
As you are enjoying the bounty of the earth, realize that you are integrating that into your body, and may the Great Mother bless it into your body, “bestowing health, wealth, strength, joy and peace, and that fulfillment of love that is perpetual happiness.”
#7. Get Outta Town!
Sometimes, there is just no substitute for real wilderness. Check out the area within driving distance of your city and plan some getaways.
I am very fortunate to live where I do because within a 90 minute drive, I can be HERE: Beautiful Sedona, AZ
And a few hours of HERE: The Grand Canyon
…and HERE: Antelope Slot Canyon
And there may be places like this within your reach as well. So get outta town and get into the earth.