Make no mistake: the life of a city witch is not one lived behind doors. While some of us urban types hate camping, none of us genuinely eschew nature. We just accept that nature includes dramatically transformed bits...like buildings made from mountain stuff. To work with the elements, city magicians have to spend at least some time exploring the streets. While we do have altars at home, we can't bring them with us during our day. The nature of city energy is that it's almost always in motion. A committed urban witch learns to move with that energy—hard to do when your purse has a dozen rocks in it! Optimal tools for magick on the street are a jacket with a lot of pockets; boots into which you can comfortably tuck things; chalk or cascarilla; a handful of pennies; and a few mini bottles filled with tap water, whiskey, tequila, or rum. If you come from a hoodoo/conjure background, you might throw in a few Mercury dimes, but if you're working that path, you're already hitting the crossroads in your own way.
While a few of you fellow urban witches reading already have your own brilliant practices, it never hurts to hear some new ideas—and beginners may well want some ideas about where to start. The following quickie spells are intended to gently improve your peace and make city living ever-so-slightly more seamless. Keep an eye to basic safety as you work, and remember that spells gain efficacy as you repeat them over time.
1. The Spiked Peace Bubble
This takes old-fashioned shielding and adds some decor. A shield can include any visualization/sensation that enhances the effect that you want. In this case, visualize a bubble around yourself—any color that speaks to you. Then imagine adding spikes to the bubble. The pointed energy keeps even the most persistent of street harassers off you while aligning you with the warrior energy of the porcupine. Porcupines make their way through the world while keeping pests and predators at bay; it's a fantastic alignment when you walk down certain streets full of people that like to yell. As those who have taken classes with me know, you may need to project more than one bubble based on the order of your energy bodies; add layers until you get your best result.
2. The Move-It-On Work
Sometimes entities linger. It might be a spirit. It might be one of those gross people who do things that make everyone feel bad. While standard street harassment evasion maneuvers still apply, this method can get a few of them to move it on and away from you. In the United States, just making a magical gesture out in the open can convince people to run away from you. I learned the hard way that this does not work in some cities in Europe.
Use your index finger to make the unicursal hexagram—you may want to practice it a few times before taking it out on the street. Then, holding the hexagram in your mind, draw the astrological glyph for Uranus, and stab with your finger while muttering/intoning "Jehovah" and imagine it flying at the person you would like to see shunt off.
I've found this useful when I see someone ahead demonstrating signs of aggression. Often, they wander off before I cross that spot on the path. I did learn to think before I gestured though: on one occasion, I unthinkingly used it on a man sitting on the sidewalk, not noticing he couldn't walk. He abruptly started dragging himself on his belly up Castro street. I felt really bad about it. Make sure you assess the situation; sometimes it's more about words than physical safety. I have since found in some circumstances that trading the Uranus energy for the Pax symbol and saying forcefully "peace" is a reasonable substitute in that it invokes calm and stillness rather than movement.
3. Parking Charms
Many of us who choose to live in an urban center do so at least partially to avoid driving. It is still at times an unavoidable evil. Also, unavoidable is the need to find parking in areas where space comes at a premium. I use two methods to get around this: first, as I slide behind the wheel of my car, I tell the city spirit where I'm going and where I plan to park. I also mentally reach out to the neighborhood spirit of where I'm going and let it know I plan to bring money to spend, fun to have, or healing for someone who lives there.
A second option may depend on those who came to the city before you. Some cities have, as part of the collective consciousness, developed parking spirits. In San Francisco, there is a vague personage known as "the parking lady." I have only heard of this from lifelong locals, but I have heard from enough different locals to believe that she does have her own wheeled cult. In the late 1990s, a few of us invested in a Minneapolis and New York parking goddess named "Squat." The spell (Discordian inspired) went: "Hey Squat, find me a spot and I'll send you three nuns." Once you found parking, as you left, you said: "Thanks, Squat, for finding the spot, the nuns are in the mail!"
4. Enchanting Your Day-to-Day
Rather than loading your purse/backpacks/pockets with extra tools, try empowering intent into items you already carry daily. This literally lightens your load.
For most of these objects, you need only hold them in your hands and imagine them coming to life/developing a consciousness. From there, give them instructions on how to work and communicate with you.
Keys already carry enormous magical symbolism. You can change yours to unlock day-to-day obstacles, whether that's grabbing a seat on the bus or getting the line you're waiting in to move a little faster. Keys also make great protection charms; they keep your person and what you own safe, as only you have the tool to unlock what you treasure.
6. Transit Cards
Most major cities offer a card that reduces the hassle of finding exact change for the bus. You can draw sigils on it if desired, to keep from losing it or to enhance its ability to bring you luck. Hold it in your hands and imagine some part of the city that is a transportation hub—a place where buses, trains, cars, and people converge. See a wheel spinning below that in the street; that is where any centralized spirit of transit may exist in your city. Imagine a cord extending from your cord to that central transit center. This way you now have a card that is tapped into the movement of the city; over time, you may find that you always show up just as your bus or train does, that you can find seats faster (or end up on the train car with all the sober people), or that you just happen to sense that maybe going to that stop down the block might serve you better today.
Unless you're part of the barefoot movement, shoes are one of the most important protections available. You can either block things causing you trouble by slipping a little paper with a few drops of devil's shoestring oil inside your shoes or spread an intention with your foot tracks. For example, if you pass through an area that gets rowdy, add a sigil that spreads the intention of grounding and peace. You might even create a sigil that absorbs energy—if you need something in your life to move faster, add a mark to your shoe that collects the energy of speeding traffic and hurrying people. Then, when you take your shoe off at home, put a slip of paper inside your shoe with what you want to hurry along—whether it's getting your rent deposit back, finding a job, or getting some piece of bureaucracy to move faster.
8. Nature Planting
If you live in an area that is more cement than green, it need not stay that way. After all, even small amounts of greenery can offset air pollution and improve the collective mental health of a population. The bad news is that sometimes you may need to do so as an act of civil disobedience. This work is one that provides community benefits. If you can't, for example, guerilla garden a bypass, you might want to vertically garden on a telephone pole—it will certainly offer something to look at besides the endless flyers of garage sales, cover bands, and lost cats. Most cities do have nature energy but cultivating more gives the collective population a tiny quality of life boost.
9. Cool It Casting
This spell addresses bad behavior in public areas besides the streets. When you are standing in line between the person taking out their inner rage on a hapless barista or stuck near someone hassling a kid with a lemonade stand, you can invoke a rune to freeze the situation so it does not escalate. All this takes is a single downward swipe of your finger. Connect to the rune "Isa," which symbolizes ice (including the cooling and freezing of situations). It looks like a small "i" in most texts. With this simple technique, you can create a cooling effect on any situation around you. If you are working with a larger-scale aggression situation, use the Pax symbol mentioned in the "Move It" spell instead.
10. Bridge Walking
When you need to leave something behind—whether that's a spirit, a situation, or an emotional attachment—you cross a metaphorical bridge. Crossing a literal bridge is a long-standing symbolic ceremony used in the past to represent major life passages, and bridge folklore includes tales of spirits unable to cross water. A famous example: the Dullahan in Sleepy Hollow.
You can also work with bridges to help yourself in less harrowing circumstances. This technique does require enough mobility to cross a bridge. If you need an adaptation because of physical needs, you can also use a crosswalk, so long as you choose a street that gives a passage from one neighborhood to a completely different neighborhood. Bring something that represents what you wish to leave behind. While some people like to drop coins, for this I prefer something consumable. I may take a piece of an apple and carve into it the word or symbol of what I want to go. Chocolate also has universal offering applications. Sometimes I stand with my back to the bridge, say the word of what I want to release, turn my back on the word, and cross the bridge.
If escaping a spirit over a bridge, don't screw around with niceties and bridge trolls, just run. For heaven's sake, don't turn around and mock anything chasing you, just walk away. Taunting is simply gauche. There is a reason "urban" is the root of "urbane."
11. Rooftop Scrying
If you want to get a big picture view of your city's energy or a fresh perspective on a large situation in your life, go to the top floor of a skyscraper. If top floor access comes rarely where you live, then look for somewhere that gives you a vista view of the urban grid. Find somewhere you can settle comfortably. Because city energy tends to loom larger than what you might experience from a handheld crystal, make sure even from that high up point to perform a grounding. It can help to give yourself a physical anchor such as a piece of hematite that you hold as you work. While gazing at the vista, let your eyes glaze. Bring a question to mind. You might ask, "Where is x energy coming from?" "What part of the city is best for me?" or, asked more often than most admit, "Where did I leave my keys?" You may find you receive different answers by facing different directions. When you're finished, shake your limbs and return to normal awareness as much as possible. Whether you feel it or not, rooftop scrying involves talking to a giant, and that can take a lot of energy.
12. Wander and You Shall Receive
More than one magical practitioner has written of the wonders of psychogeography (the playful exploration of cities). One of my favorite ways to do this is the synchronicity walk. Synchronicity, for those who are unfamiliar, is the experience of guided coincidence. It is how many practitioners first see magic manifest. Go for a walk a day or two after performing a magical working. Wander for a set amount of time without a specific destination. Notice what signs and omens cross your path. You can get more out of this activity by using a dream dictionary to look up symbolism after you encounter unusual animal behavior. You may notice a billboard or flyer with a message that seems strangely pointed at you. Or you may find an item on the sidewalk that you happen to need. If you want to enhance the experience, write a mantra or affirmation to chant to yourself as you walk.
I often tell people that magic and spellcasting is more of a way of thinking than it is a matter of memorizing formulas and symbols. This is especially true in urban magic. The more you understand your city—its history, the way it functions, and what causes its collective moods—the more you can tap into its energies to further build your relationship with it.
The above spells can get you started; they involve accepting the good and bad of city living so that you can move from disconnection to seeing where you fit, to full relationship with your city.