We Are the Wild – Magic and Action in Modern, Urban Witchcraft

One of the things that drew me to the pagan mindset is the espousement of the inherent divinity of all things. Animism advocates that there is spirit in that tree, this rock, there is a spirit in the river, there are spirits in the land.

When I took on these ideas, I embraced them fully. If a rock contains the spark of divinity, then there must be divinity in a pen, in a car, in a knife, in a sick child dying of hunger, in a serial rapist sitting in a jail cell. The beautiful spark that flows through a majestic river untouched by human garbage must also flow through the arteries that carry pollution and traffic through our cities. If it does not, and there is a distinction, who draws it? What defines the distinction – the invisible line in the sand that valorises the Starhawk’s Californian redwoods and the red dirt of Australia’s Pilbara but places carbon pollution and the plastic islands floating on the Pacific ocean on the other side?

There is death, destruction and ill feeling everywhere you turn. Humanity is seen as a blight on the planet, but Mother Nature can be a bitch. She created us, after all. She creates tsunamis that wreak total annihilation, tidal waves that make no distinction between ramshackle human civilisations clinging to polluted islands or the pristine coral reefs below the ocean surface that are utterly destroyed by the power of waves and washes of sediment. She creates otters that brutally rape and kill baby seals. She gives with one hand, and brutalises and terrorises with the other. Who are we to distinguish ourselves from our Mother? We are creating a fucking mess, it’s true. But no amount of hand-wringing or lovely walks in the forest interspersed with a bit of tree-hugging will fix it. It is easy to feel that any attempt to curb our runaway addiction to materialism and capitalism which is destroying natural habitats is futile.

So what to do? There will be no revolution that will reverse the clock. We are royally fucked – Peter Grey’s treatise scolds us for taming our witchcraft, and we witches should be ashamed. Harming none and waving feathered crystals about the place while singing ‘We All Come From the Goddess’ is not going to be a catalyst for meaningful change – but an interrogation of what coming from the Goddess truly means is due. Caking ourselves in mud and hiding in the forest, cooking up salves and shaking our fists at big polluters whilst we chain ourselves to trees to defend what is left – is this putting us more in tune with the Goddess, or is this another means of escapement and denial? We will melt away with the rest of the ‘nature’ that we have worshiped in an outdated, Romantic Era-styled fashion. Neo-pagans love to dream misty-eyed about a past that was untouched by industrialisation, but the medieval era was bloody, short-lived and brutal. They weren’t called the dark ages for nothing. In ancient cultures, people died young from disease and resorted to superstition in the form of human sacrifice to solve political and personal troubles. Was the fabled Sabbat on the hill really a deep, dark religious mystery, or was it simply a matter of YOLO for a bunch of people who were chained by an oppressive church and had not much else to do if the harvest failed? Today, we scrape about to make meaning as we observe that consequences of our comfortable lives in the first world aren’t so pretty for everywhere else. Keep calm, carry on and buy the new iPhone anyway, because we know that the green will always grow back – and who will be left?

Harmony and chaos, nature and humanity, black and white… these are false dichotomies. The wild is not other. The wild is in us, and in everything we have created. We are nature. There are wild animals living in our walls, in the eaves, in our back alleyways, in the waters of runoff trenches, in the sewers, in our landfill. There are spirits there, too – spirits of our own making, new spirits who have been spawned by our reckless junk, new spirits who have evolved and recycled from the old. Evolution often invisible to the human eye, more so in the spirit realm. The urban centres are jungles, a palimpsest of century after century, a history inscribed and lost in the darkness of rewritten histories. The land is ready to tell us stories, and they are not all of illness and outrage – some of it is of renewal, of adaptation, and the mightiest primordial beings will shrug as if we are but the slightest itch to scratch.

A witch snarls at the notions of good versus evil. She strides the in between and does not, or should not favour the country over the city. To elevate human action and its consequences to something that is beyond nature itself is simple hubris. There are energy centres everywhere, there are places that can be sung to everywhere you look. Do something meaningful – something for the future, not regression to the past. Listen to the rhythm that underpins the city. Place your ear to the asphalt and hear the hum of radiation as it pulses into our homes, into our lives. It can harm and heal – just like the poisonous plants of the green wilds can. Get to know what is making us sick, and what can make us better. If we are not actively engaging and challenging, and fairly evaluating every meme or viral notion that we come across, we are simply passive receptors.

There is a heartbeat that runs through everything. The city has a spirit, and so does the suburb. The digital worlds are riddled with magic, in the symbols and the graphics and nodes that connect emotions, peoples and ideas. Social media makers know this and are experimenting with us – the forces are at work everywhere and you should weave with it all. It is our task to listen to that heartbeat, to inject it with a colour that makes it meaningful, sustainable, something we can make magic with. We should be greening our urban areas with guerilla seeds, encouraging the resilience of urban weeds, and nourishing that resilience in ourselves. We should be arming ourselves with apocalyptic skill sets. Can you start a fire, can you grow your own food? Do you know how to purify water, can you make charms for good luck from plastic toys? Do you know who grows fruit trees in your neighbourhood, and can you barter with them for handmade soaps or labour work? Can you organise a rally or start a viral hashtag? A chaos witch can make do with just about anything. She draws from an arsenal that makes no distinction between pop culture icons and ancient gods, modernity and classicism, country mouse and city mouse. All is chaos. A witch can be a healer, an acitivist, a teacher, an artist, a medium – or none of these, just make yourself useful. A witch knows that every action makes an impact but if you’re wanting to stick around for the apocalypse, get busy! Broaden your vision and embrace it all. Dirty eclecticism is here to stay as ‘tradition’ in the context of witchcraft becomes more and more meaningless as the traditionless reclaim it.

The spiral winds ever open – join the dance, no matter where you are.

Featured image is ‘Urban Magic’ by Nicole Cardiff.
This is an archived post originally posted at The Chaos Witch on the 10th July, 2014.