Over the years I have on occasion had times when I have found myself questioning. Can I still call myself a witch when I am not fully immersed in nature? Am I really Pagan when I don’t fully live my life around an agricultural calendar?
While my grandparents, and their grandparents and theirs, going back further in time were all farmers, none in my mother or father’s generation have followed in that pat. I have lived in urban areas for the majority of my life, and I have been on the outer edge of Greater London for over 15 years.
Add into this the repeated comments I see on social media and in different shamanic and Pagan groups about the importance and need to be in nature, to learn from nature, to surround myself by it.
If I, someone who has been following this path for over 2 decades, find myself questioning my part and my role, and my right to call myself Pagan, shamanic healer, witch where does that leave the newcomer? Are they asking even more questions, or perhaps even abandoning these ideas because they got the idea that they can’t be Pagan because they live in a city flat, or because they buy their ritual ingredients via mail order instead of picking them in a forest glade?
Elephant Walk along the Thames near Tower Bridge
The answer isn’t to abandon all thoughts of being Pagan, but to look for and learn to recognise nature in the cracks and edges of the urban life.
I’ve been trying to make a point of noticing nature as I go about my day in recent weeks, and also of doing what I can to bring nature into my environment. If the witch cannot go to Nature, then bring Nature to the witch.
Early each morning, I wake and get ready for my day. On the day I am writing this we are less than 2 weeks from the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. Living as far north as I do, this means that the days are really short. It is still dark when I leave the house for school runs at 7am. Because I am driving mostly towards the East I can watch the gradually brightening sky as I go. Sometimes, like this morning, I am able to see the Morning Star (Venus). While I am driving I mentally say good morning to the Earth, the Sky, and the Sun when I see it peaking over the tops of buildings.
The school run over, I can finally sit down to breakfast and a morning cup of tea. I didn’t rear the pigs or chickens which provide my bacon and egg. I didn’t grow or even pick the tea or the sugar beet, and I didn’t milk the cow. I begin my meal with a silent thank you to those who did grow, pick, and rear this food, and to the animals and plants which made this sacrifice so that I could continue to live.
I do this for every meal, or at least I try to remember to do this.
Finding Nature in the Edges also means doing what I can to bring it into my life. I am very fortunate in that the flat where I live with my sons has a small back garden – it’s about 15
several damson trees and lots of flowering shrubs, and a small lawn. Washing lines strung between the flat and two trees provide space to dry clothing in the sun – when it isn’t raining.
Because I wanted to draw nature into our lives more, I set up a bird feeding station in the middle of the grass. There I provide a variety of seeds, nuts, and fat for the local birds, and one rather persistent squirrel.
While watching from my window I have seen the above grey squirrel, a group of 4 white pigeons, a family group of 4 great tits, and a mated pair of British robins. More rarely I see a blackbird, and once I caught a fleeting glance and heard the sound of a green parakeet. (Yes, a parakeet!)
I also have brought Nature inside. On the kitchen window ledge you will find an aloe plant, a crocus, 4 sprouting grapefruit trees, and a sprouting carrot top suspended in water. In the summer, I have pots of fresh herbs growing outside the back door on the patio area.
On the other side of the kitchen, I have set up an aquarium which houses 12 tropical fish. The bubbling sound of the water can be very relaxing, as can taking a few minutes out of a frantic morning or evening to just watch them swimming around.
As you can clearly see, even living in a city I am surrounded by Nature. How often do we pass by these signs of Nature and discount them because we’re not in the country? How often do we fail to recognise Nature all around us because we think it only counts when we also don’t have signs of urban life around us?
My task for you this month is a very simple one. Each day, several times a day, remember to look to find Nature in the cracks and edges of your life? Look up the identity of a bird you see, if you don’t know what it is already. Notice the weeds growing between the cracks in the pavement and instead of reaching for a knife to cut them out or weed killer to kill them, take a moment to marvel at just how amazing it is that Nature can find places to grow in even the seemingly most inhospitable areas.
When buying your vegetables and grains and meats at the grocery store, take the time to notice where it was grown, and give thanks to the farmers and the plants and animals for the sacrifice they have made in order that others may live.
Notice when the sun comes up, and goes down. Notice the moon and the stars. If you can’t see them directly, notice their effects around you.
Bring Nature into the cracks and edges of your own life.
Parakeets – there are several sizeable colonies of parakeets living in SE London. They frequently make the rounds of back garden bird feeders. It’s not known how or when these non-native birds became established in the area. Apparently, parakeets and native pigeons are providing an abundant food source for native peregrine falcons which are making a welcome comeback into urban areas of England.
All images ©NanLT