Crossing the boundaries of urban and rural

A few months ago, Joshua Graham wrote about an urban sense of place and Pagan spirituality. This weekend I went to visit him in Bath, an English city watched over by the Goddess Sulis Minerva.

Sulis Minerva, Goddess of the spa waters of Bath.

Before I became a rural dweller, I lived in the city of Bath for three years. It was a sight less urban than my home city of Birmingham, and also smaller than the other city I’d lived in for a similar length of time, Cambridge. It felt almost rural to me when I moved there, back in 1996.

It both has and hasn’t changed since I left to move to Scotland. There are new developments, but all except the bus station are in the local Bath stone. The make-up of the people who inhabit the city has changed – there are barely any hippies any more – but the feel of the place to me is the same. It’s not surprising, when most of the existing structures of the city have been standing for 200 years.

Sunset over Pulteney Bridge and the weir.

To me it almost seems like a fairy-tale environment – too perfect to be real – and the same goes for the surrounding countryside of Somerset: an example of English rurality so perfect as to be almost a Platonic ideal.

While we walked around Bath, Josh and I discussed our differing responses to urban environments. I have a more typically ‘Pagan’ response to them, which is to say that I find them socially easier than rural environments, but energetically and spiritually more challenging. It was an interesting conversation.

I am strongly aware that my current difficulties in coping with life in urban settings is a big drawback to my ability to engage in human social life. Our conversation helped me to recognise that I have skills in relating to the non-human in more-than-human rural and green environments that I can transfer to the human in human-dominated environments – distinguishing between different scales of life, of energy, and of being, and relating appropriately to each, in a way which enables me to function in an environment, without becoming energetically overwhelmed.

Part of me would love to ignore such an endeavour, and retreat to the green hills, peace, quiet, and relative solitude. But there is a drive within me to engage the human aspects of nature, as well as the non-human. I know and accept that, as a Witch, I am an edge-walker, and thus I am going to be at the margins of things.

However, to walk the edge is to straddle an often blurry boundary, not to teeter along a clearcut line. I aim to be able to bring to and draw from the urban as well as the rural, the civilised as well as the wild.

Is this something that you recognise in your own spirituality and religious practice? How do you manage living and working in environments that you find challenging?

About Elinor Prędota

Elinor Predota was born in London in 1970, and was raised in England’s second city. Her hippy parents took her on endless, wonderful visits to birdwatching hides, Iron Age hill forts, Medieval Castles and ancient stone circles across Britain, which kindled her longing for green hills. She finally moved to the country in the year 2000, where the land has taught her more magic than any book or human being ever could. She is a priestess, a poet, a scholar, an accidental comedian, and lives in southern Scotland with her partner, a very big dog, and a vast range of more-than-human neighbours. She can also be found online at elinorpredota.com.

  • Allec

    For me, I love urban and rural equally. It’s difficult, though, because the two don’t mesh well. But with urban environments, there is a lot of human energy. I lived in Philadelphia for a short while and the type of energy there was incredible. So much movement, creativity, and action that I can see why people would feel overwhelmed in a city environment. But then I lived on a farm for a while, and seeing all the stars at night has it’s own energy. As does the growing plants, the chickens, and all of the other natural elements. More than anything, I enjoy the woods which has a mix of energy everywhere (trees, weeds, animals, bugs, etc) and the subtle energy (all the energy everywhere comes from nature’s source, after all.)

    Gods help me find a place that has both–because without one, I can feel its absence.


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