Tag Archives: Urban Witches

How to Rewild for Urban Witches

DesPlainesRiver

I wrote recently about rewilding, as advocated by Peter Grey, the urban Witch. I firmly believe that we have to make what we say relevant to Witches who live in urban places (cities and close-in suburbs) because that is where most of today’s Witches likely live (simply because that is where most of today’s people live). How does an urban Witch connect with hir landbase? One way is to get to know the features and geography of the place.

Here’s an excellent article entitled How To Know Where the River Is. The entire thing is worth a read. The author describes a typical urban bus stop, trash and all, located near a wounded tree. Yet the tree, the author says, isn’t the main attraction.

That would be the surprising variety of large birds in the air on any given morning, especially in spring. There might be noisy Canada geese, several crows, or a couple of gulls. On a sunny, blustery morning, wind from the south, the sandhill cranes will be heading north in what seems to be their favorite flying weather. Another day a red-tailed hawk will be circling. One April day, sky full of clouds, strong wind from the northeast, I saw a great blue heron heading north, angular, tacking the gusts, looking like the Platonic form from which people first developed the idea of “kite.”

From these sights, anyone should know that the Des Plaines River is about a mile or so due west.

And:

On a humid summer day, if you cycle west towards the Des Plaines, at some point you’ll notice that the smells of exhaust and mown grass and the warm, dusty feel of the air change to a cooler, heavier scent—the green feel of the woods, with deeper, damper notes of more heavily oxygenated air and the slowly moving river.

A relationship with the river is important for urban people because:

Adorned with its archaic green ruff, the Des Plaines winds through the street grid like a twisting vein of biological complexity interrupting the product of human logic. Those who visit often, who quiet down, and listen, observe, and learn, will understand what it might mean to live as “naturalized citizens,” Robin Wall Kimmerer’s term for those whom the land has influenced until they become part of that place and its natural community.

And then

A thriving tree at a bleak bus stop, with its understory of bittersweet nightshade, lady’s thumb, dandelion, and sow thistle; the sight of a great blue heron angling north-northwest-northeast against the strict north-south grain of the streets—such things as these could remind you of where you really live, which might not be where you think you are.

Where do you really live? Is it where you think you are?

Picture found here.

Rewilding the Urban Witch

Playing in the Rain

If you haven’t read Peter Grey’s essay on Rewilding Witchcraft, you really should.

Mr. Grey asserts that, “Ours is a practice grounded in the land, in the web of spirit relationships, in plant and insect and animal and bird. This is where we must orientate our actions, this is where our loyalty lies.”

He also writes that:

So we come to the heart of the issue, there is no wilderness left. No landscape that has not been despoiled by man. No living system that can escape the fate which our actions have bound it to. We are living in the age of absolute ecological collapse. Habitat loss is occurring at a staggering rate, driven by what industrial civilisation has in common with the religions of the Book: the view that nature, like woman, is ours to dominate. Witchcraft has a more nuanced understanding of our place in the holarchy.

And, he urges that:

With climate collapse and infrastructure failure in what now seems not a slow but a jagged descent, a shift to the local and a disengagement from power structures are necessary steps. Find the others has become an imperative. Our personal eschatology, the inevitability of our physical deaths, is now being played out on a planetary scale. Form your covens, your working groups, for there is no time to lose. Make your ritual actions count. Be present in every action and exchange. Love one another.

Witchcraft has never been passive in the face of power. Our witchcraft will not be silenced at a time such as this, it will not be polite. Witchcraft cannot retreat to the wilderness, because there is no exterior wilderness left; instead we need to exteriorise our inner wild. We need to wake up the animal in our bodies. This is witchcraft as contagion, as living flame. We witches must however reluctantly return the curse that has been laid upon us all.

Sarah Ann Lawless has written a very compelling follow-on piece. In it, she says that, more than a locavore approach to consumption:

What we need instead is local knowledge, local medicine, and local witchcraft. What do your local spirits care about you and your family’s survival? You who have never spoken to them or left them an offering? You who doesn’t know their names, powers, or dwelling places. They have no vested interest in you. They will dwell in the trees growing over our mass grave one day and not weep for us… after all, wasn’t it our ancestors who clear cut the forests that were their homes when we came to this land? Wasn’t it our ancestors who polluted their rivers and oceans and fished all their food until it couldn’t be renewed? Why would these spirits teach us their magic and medicine? One would have to put in a lot of hard work to simply get their attention, and years of it for them to start trusting and helping one local spirit worker, let alone all of us.

What did the ancient  magicians, shamans, sorcerers, and witches do to gain the favour of the spirits? The literally went wild. Off they would go into the uncivilized world of nature without any comforts, without any companions.

And, so, on the one hand Mr. Grey tells us that there is no wilderness left and Ms. Lawless tells us that we must go wild, go to the uncivilized world of nature. I don’t think those two statements are necessarily as contradictory as they may, initially, seem. Here’s why.

Ms. Lawless describes what it would be like to journey into the wild in the Pacific Northwest — in its forests, in its mountains, on its beaches. And these relatively wild places — and their counterparts in every area of the country — do still exist and communion with would be wonderful practice for any Witch. But most modern Witches live in cities. And we city Witches need to commune with the spirits of our places, with the “uncivilized world of nature” in our cities if we hope to know the names, powers, and dwelling spaces of our local spirits. City Witches, no less than those who practice in rainforests as Ms. Lawless says:

Wherever you live, you must allow yourself to be absorbed into the very land itself, immersed in the genius loci until their secrets and wisdom pour into you. We must become village witches, regional witches, shamans who speak for the spirits where we live.

Mr. Grey urges us to, “Confront death, not by practicing the magic of ploughmen and wortcunners in your urban apartment believing that it makes you more authentic than any given Wiccan. . . . The witch has been created by the land to speak and act for it.”

What are the names, and powers, and dwelling places of the urban spirits of the land in your city? What do they want to tell you? What do they want you to speak and to act for them?

Picture found here.