BY ARIEL KUSBY
When many people think about witches, they imagine solitary old women living as outcasts in the countryside. They wear black dresses, own cats, probably brew some potions, and cast sinister spells. While I do enjoy cats and wearing black, being a witch today means something pretty different to me. Sure, I’m a nature-worshipping pagan, but I live in Los Angeles. And I love it.
I’m obsessed with the figure of the witch because it represents a conception of women as being entirely powerful, empowered, and self-sufficient. Truth is it’s possible to be a magical woman anywhere, as long as one remembers to approach everything one does with intention. I am a stronger person for having struggled to protect and empower myself in a city that can feel harsh, superficial, and sometimes cruel. At my worst, I’ve felt like a baby rabbit let loose in the middle of downtown LA, trying to decipher the noises, navigate the traffic, and find a safe place to fit in. Turns out, it’s very possible.
We’ve all got a reservoir of inner power that we carry with us everywhere we go. Even while traveling through the grayest of landscapes, we can connect and tap into the power of a single shoot of grass, a rock, or the sun that summons the pink into our cheeks. We can cast a spell as we blow the seeds of a highway-side dandelion into the air. We can know that the leaves love us as they fall onto the sidewalk. Here are some things I do to protect myself and stay connected to nature in Los Angeles:
1. Carry a talisman. LA is undoubtedly a car-oriented city. I am fortunate to be able to own a vehicle because it is a small protective space for me to forge my way through the fray. I hang a bundle of protective herbs from my review mirror. Thyme is a great herb for protection, grounding, and safe travel. I also regularly burn sage in the car to clear it of energies picked up around the city. If you are unable to own or drive a car as many of us cannot, I suggest carrying the herbs around your neck instead, or tucking them into your pocket. Stones such as tourmaline and amethyst can be helpful. They can be carried or worn.
2. Drink lots of water. I know you’ve heard it hundreds of times, but seriously it is one of the most powerful ways to stay connected and protected, besides keeping you hydrated and healthy. Turn it into a ritual. Fill your bottle at the dispenser with gratitude, drink regularly throughout the day with love, and bless the water that keeps you alive. We’re really fortunate to have it! Try to filter your water if possible to avoid chlorine and other additives, but if you can't, tap water is better than no water. Also, a tip: let your tap water sit for 20 minutes and the chlorine will evaporate off!
3. Find other witches. There are so many others who have similar interests, and they could probably use another friend too. Los Angeles and cities like it have so much to offer in terms of new age and pagan shops or communities. Do a little research. Find your coven.
4. Retreat. Over the occasional weekend, it is ideal to make an escape into nature. Just outside of many cities are forests and beaches, perfect places to recharge and reconnect. If you cannot do this, consider a day trip to a park, or even connect with a houseplant.
5. Grow stuff. You don’t need a backyard or even a balcony to grow herbs and small plants! While a balcony can be helpful, it’s possible to grow herbs and succulents on windowsills. If you have a balcony, fill it with plants and make it your place of worship. At a single time, I have grown tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini, basil, thyme, chives, carrots, lavender, and chamomile on my balcony. Growing your own food is just better: it tastes delicious, is healthier for you and the environment, and gardening is a fun and healing practice.
Cities are amazing places to be witches because they have so much to offer! While urban living may seem overwhelming for the nature-loving pagan, there is so much good that may not be immediately apparent. Right now is one of the best times ever to be a witch, and perhaps the most important. We can all harness our own personal power to help create positive change. We can use what is around us. Whether you start growing basil on your kitchen windowsill, communicating with the full moon on your apartment rooftop, or performing a cleansing water ritual while doing your dishes after dinner, there is always a way to be a happy witch in the city.
Ariel Kusby is an undergraduate at UCLA where she studies creative writing and fine art. She is the founder of the literary-arts publication Nothing New, which is published every full moon. Her writing has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Chaparral, East Jasmine Review, The Riveter Review, Westwind, Matchbox Magazine, and Nothing New.