From a City Witch to a Country Witch

    This was originally published in the 2010 Witches Companion.  It was a fun article to do, as it allowed me to compare how I lived when I was in New York City to living out in the hill country of Ohio.  It's more a contemplative piece, and there were some differences I had to get used to.  A look at transitioning from the city to rural Middle America.

    I grew up in New York City.  I was in my late teens when I found my path as a witch and it was easy to find much of what I needed for my practice.  What was harder to find was the connection to the earth that makes us the earth based witches we become.   When I finally moved out into the country later in life, the fundamentals that drew me to the country became the links I was looking for to make that essential connection.  But I found in some instances that they were on the surface only.  The more that things are different, the more they are the same.   Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for because you could end up with something you didn't expect.  Or it can be exactly what you are looking for, depending on your mood at the time.  I would like to draw some comparisons and some contrasts between living as a city witch and ending up a country witch.  I would like to share with you some of the differences in the treatment of The Wheel of the Year, similarities and differences in our practices, and both contrasts and comparisons in the diversity of the people where I have lived.

    The seasons are always the obvious indicators of change no matter where you go.  Living in the northern hemisphere just south of New England, there are very distinct seasons.  This holds true in Europe as well, where some northern countries experience a full range of seasons.  But in urban areas, no matter where you are, the changes in seasons are subtle.  The space allowed for nature is restricted to parks and outlying rural areas.  So, to observe the change of season, you need to know where to look.

    Yes, we had a tree in front of our house.  It was bare, green or brown.  The city is not very conducive for colors in the fall, and in spring time you will miss the budding leaves if you don't look quickly.  The parks offer a more natural environment, and they will sprout green at the first sign of spring, and there may be seasonal flowers as well.  One of the best ways to track the seasons in the city is the stores.  Besides the obvious store decorations which can appear in advance of the season by two to three months, you will see the spring/summer clothing line in the late fall and winter and the fall/winter clothing line in the spring/summer.  It’s a sure sign summer is just about over in late June when the back to school fashions are in Bloomingdale's windows.

    Out here in the country you see the changes of the seasons very clearly.   Spring is spring, with seasonal bulbs littering the country side, while fall is marked with market stands selling fresh produce and the brown, red and gold of the season.  You may also see this in the stores in the city, with fresh local produce in the fall by the bushel baskets full while springtime will see shelves stocked with exotic food stuffs from warmer climates all over the world.

    The solstices and equinoxes are easier to follow than the Wheel of the year.  Living in the country, you notice the lengthening and the shortening of the days, while in the city we lived in subways, tall buildings with few windows and even if you are out of doors you roam the concrete city between the steel and glass mountains.  It is much easier to listen to the evening news where the weatherman will tell you the exact time the seasons change.  Best almanac I had was the local weather guy who would give you all sorts of information about the seasonal changes, weather patterns, sky watch alerts and old wives tales that would be more in the category of "did you know" than taken as seriously as country folk do.  I never missed a solstice or an equinox.  We had weather maps that explained the cycles of the earth to us, rather than a book.  Those tools were and still are the best way to judge if I should water my tomatoes this evening, or let nature do it.  Will it frost this evening, should I cover my late season veggies, or do I have another day or two for them to ripen?

    While I am not prone to working all the time with tools, they are great for ritual use, and they are valuable when they vary in cultural significance and are used to create a diverse environment for you or your group's practice.  Growing up in New York, I had a vast garden of cultural diversity to choose from.  Botanicas were abundant, and with these stores come the exotic flavors of oils and herbs to work with.  The seven candles were always great tools for special workings, and the incenses were specifically made for magical workings.  Sometimes the store owner would "share" a little secret or working when he/she saw that you were genuinely interested in what you were doing.  Here in the country, the same diversity is all around; you just have to look for it.  From folk magic to the different cultural bases that make up cities, you can still find specialty stores if you know where to look.  I've found hoodoo shops and little book stores in the strangest places.  There is a wonderful little Chinese herbal shop in a city not too far away from me that has some novel little trinkets and supplies as well as great herbs.  

    Where we find tools is also interesting.  In the city we had all those expensive "specialty stores" and made to order wands, capes, etc. etc. etc.  Louis Vuitton medicine bags anyone?  Or how about Dolce & Gabbana ceremonial capes?  Ohh! Jimmy Chu ceremonial sandals!  Or if you prefer classic, how about Channel silver pentacles or oils for your workings.  Did you know that Channel's perfumes use a patchouli base?  Probably why so many witches love the smell of Channel.

    There are also the weekend garage sales where we could purchase someone's quaint leftovers or maybe one of those high end auction houses that cater to dealers, not common folks.  You still end up spending an arm and a leg for a stone crystal that should have cost you a couple of dollars.  That is one of the big draws out here in the country, the flea markets.  I've found $5.00 cauldrons, 25 cent occult books, cheap stones and good fresh herbs.   One of the joys of wandering around the countryside is the flea markets and the bargains to be had.  Oh, let us not forget Cakes and Ale.  I have found some wonderful Amish delights for cakes and some good local wineries for "ale" at reasonable prices.  While it is not the selection that you would find in New York City, these are good down home deserts, rich and earthy.  And let me not leave out some of the best pot lucks I've had out here, rather than the "take out fest" you find at some of the "better" coven open rituals in the City.   I will never turn down take out from some great Chinese or Italian restaurants, but there is something about fresh home grown dishes that connects me to the earth, to the simple things that the craft is supposed to be.

    The acceptance factor is a very big issue with me, and one of the biggest drawbacks to my choice to move here.  While I found no issue with acceptance when living in New York City, that is a very different matter here in Middle America.  

    Within the cities there is such diversity that it becomes impossible to live there without being caught up in the concept.  From cultural, to sexual, to spiritual, to political, the one thing that marks people who live within large urban areas is that they learn to live with diversity or they leave.  Most people I found over the 40 plus years I lived there learn to celebrate diversity and enjoy all the wonderful elements that go with it.  We have a wonderful assortment of food, clothing, language, art, music and so much more.  Spirituality is expressed in the variety of churches, mosques, temples and other markings or buildings that represent various spiritual paths or correspond to Deity in some manner.  

    It is very different here out in the country.   While we enjoy the comforts of country life and work and shop amongst the normal every day people, the fundamentalist movement here is still alive and well.  I have taken to not discussing my beliefs with people until I have had sufficient time to get to know them, and they me.  My symbols of faith are many times worn under my shirt, so I don't scare the locals.  I have had a Christian Minister place a "binding spell" on me on a local newspaper bulletin board in response to a thank you I had written for a positive article on the Pagan Headstones they published.  Go figure.  

    Do not get me wrong, there are many pagans out here and we have met, talked, and enjoyed each other's company.  But there is also a lunatic fringe.  And it surprises me that they have a following that do not question what they say, that they allow these kinds of people to speak for them and to represent them.  But then again, we also have our own lunatic fringe pagan fundamentalists as well.  So that tells you that no matter what faith you are dealing with, you are going to find a few bad apples if you look in the right places.

    I do miss the conversations.  While I am not saying that the folks around here are not intelligent, the concerns here are very different and the interests are not the same as I once had.  And while I am concerned about how the weather is affecting the crops and how bad the unemployment issue is here, I do miss the discussions on politics, music and art.  I guess that's why I stick to my computer and have The New York Times bookmarked and read it several times a week.  I manage to keep up with the latest witchy fashions and the latest and greatest book releases.

    This brings me to one more issue that should always be a consideration when deciding to move to the country – Internet connection.  I spent the first year here with dial-up because there was no cable or DSL.  Sorry, I am a high tech witch, and this was not acceptable.   In the city, the Barnes and Nobles was easily reached for that Pagan Night Out and some coffee and conversation.  Being able to shop for things on line that are not available locally is something to consider if you ever move out to the country.   It is not that easy in rural areas, and the computer is an essential part of communication as well as supplies.  The search for a better connection lead to trying various types of Internet connections – satellite was the only high-speed broadband connection choice for a while and that is expensive as well being an inferior option compared to a cable or DSL connection.  Fortunately, DSL has arrived and the last few months have been blissful without the exorbitant expense of satellite or download restrictions or slow dial up.  

    There are differences with living in the country as a witch as opposed to living in the city as a witch.  There are benefits, and there are the obvious drawbacks.   I may be a country witch now, but I still retain a very city flavor that stretches from my job to my spiritual practice and my home.  I hope you have enjoyed this little trip between life styles and next time you see me on line, do tell me if there is a sale going on at the witch department at Bloomingdales and if I can buy it on line.

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