Witch in the City: Seven Tips for Adapting Polytheism to Urban Environments

April 21st, 2012Beltane altar in downtown Brooklyn

 

Many earth-centric religious traditions, including Wicca, help us connect deeply with nature with outdoor worship. But where green spaces are sparse or sometimes inconvenient to reach, how does a Wiccan or other polytheist find the balance? Here are things I’ve done over the years:

  1. Use less fire and more water: instead of burning specific herbs, candles, or essential oils, mix them with water and disperse by libation or through a small spray bottle such as a travel sized pump bottle.
  2. Barbecue grills at parks are your friend: when you do need to burn something for a prayer or ritual, consider travelling to a public park that offers a barbecue grill and light your fire in the grill space. This greatly reduces your fire risk and makes it easier to control your fire.
  3. Use ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams for food sacrifices: one of my favorite rituals for holiday worship is to cast a libation of food and drink (non-alcoholic) into a pond or lake as a gift of thanksgiving to the deity/deities associated with the holiday. This is not only very historically accurate to what many cultures have done for millennia, but your gift is often greatly appreciated by the area wildlife.
  4. Keep incense lighting to indoor contexts: when you light incense outside, you risk not only fire that can more easily get out of hand, but mis-interpretation by passersby. Also recognize that many parks have strict rules against any sort of burning outside of fire pits/grills; you can get into a lot of trouble over fire-even incense!
  5. Replace bonfires with symbolic fires: when a ritual or custom calls for a bonfire, consider using lit or un-lit candles and incense.
  6. Embrace plant life: all life is connected. Connect to it-and deity–with your touch. Caressing a plant is a wonderful way to remind yourself of the beauty, wonder, and divinity around you.
  7. No matter what you practice or believe, prioritize safety over ritual. Accidents happen, especially when working around fire. Invest in those little aids like snuffers and water vessels that make you safer!
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