‘Witch’ quits normal life to live off-grid in the middle of the rainforest

A witch has quit the 9 to 5 to live off grid in the middle of the rainforest in a handcrafted home made of fallen trees.

Sarah Wu claims she was "stiffled" my modern life and left city living to set up home in the Costa Rican jungle 10 years ago with her first husband, Stephen Brooks.

The 37-year-old has been casting spells and concocting since her early 20s and decided working regular hours for an organic food company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, wasn’t for her.

She now lives in a home made from bamboo and fallen trees.

Solar power provides her electricity and she drinks and washes in water from rain-catching systems.

Sarah, who split from Stephen last year, said: "We catch rain water to drink and wash, and we also need it for our crops of root vegetables, cucumbers, fruit and nuts, and for growing the herbs that I use in my medicines.

"There are hardships, though, and maintenance is probably the biggest challenge we face as the forest is constantly trying to take back the houses we have built.

"But despite it all, I really can’t imagine life any other way."

After following her first husband to the jungle in 2009 the couple married the following year.

Sarah said: "I had a stable job and a stable life living in the States, but I wasn’t happy.

"I always felt very in touch with nature, which is one of the key things about being a witch.

"And living in a city wasn’t affording me that connection that I felt I needed."

After living on an off grid farm with Stephen, Sarah now works as a herbal teacher in the remote area in Orotina, a small region in the west of Costa Rica.

The daughter of a keen huntsman she always felt at one with nature and, despite growing up in Rochester, a town of 200,000 people, in New York, USA, she spent much of her time as a little girl outdoors.

She said: "I was always very mindful and aware of the sphere of nature and learned pretty early on that humans are not the most important things in the world.

"Around the same time, I also began experiencing visions and I felt as though I was able to detect shifts in the natural world around me.

"I think everyone has this connection, but it is particularly strong in me."

But it was while studying art history at Temple University, Philadelphia, that her own supernatural experiences awakened her interest in witchcraft and the occult.

Reading about the persecution of witches through the ages, Sarah felt a deep connection with them and their struggle for individual expression.

She said: "My family, historically, was from the region of Alsace in France where I discovered there were many witch burnings.

"So, I realised this was something that was in my blood."

And when Sarah experienced hormonal problems after taking the contraceptive pill, as well as a series of ear infections, she decided to make her own herbal treatments – one of the main elements of witchcraft.

When her homespun remedies – taken from books on witchcraft – worked she delved more deeply into herbalism.

Then, in her second year of university, aged 19, she visited Costa Rica to study tropical ecology – a trip that changed her life.

Sarah said: "I really cemented my knowledge of herbs and medicines while out there, and my commitment to witchcraft."

"I also saw how beautiful Costa Rica was as a country, not only the landscapes but the people too, who were so kind.

"The memory of that stayed long after I left."

Returning to the USA Sarah began to identify as a witch fort he first time – something her parents thought was "very weird".

Aware that being a witch attracted a lot of negative reactions she practised in private – observing the lunar and solar rhythms, making herbal remedies and reading tarot cards in the privacy of her own home.

Sarah said: "I didn’t like to discuss my craft much, as, early on, a few people had laughed at me, which made me feel insecure."

But living a conventional existence in Philadelphia did not suit her.

She explained: "I felt very powerless, being stuck in the default world, where everyone is told to live the same way."

Then, in 2007, she bumped into Stephen at a food industry convention in Baltimore, Maryland.

A few years later she decided to join him in Costa Rica for good.

Sarah said: "There was a very strong connection between us both and we really quickly fell in love.

"Stephen was living in Costa Rica full-time then and so after a couple of years of a long-distance relationship, I thought to myself, ‘What am I doing here wasting my life?’"

So in 2009, Sarah took the plunge – moving to Stephen’s permaculture farm in Punta Mona, where the couple lived together in an eco-community and survived off the land.

And when their relationship ran its course and they split up in 2018, Sarah settled in an another eco-community – adamant that Costa Rica would be her forever home.

She said: "I really love not constantly being wired to a phone and being able to live within nature, using herbs and the elements as tools for living."

Now, keen to promote an eco-lifestyle, Sarah runs an annual festival, Envision, bringing likeminded people together earlier this month on a beach near the Costa Rican town of Uvita.

Having launched the four-day event with Stephen in 2011, Sarah also established a ‘Village Witches’ space, for people to learn more about the craft.

She said: "Envision is a place where people can leave behind wherever they have come from and be their unique selves.

"It’s what I have been doing for the last decade and I want others to see the potential for a different way of living."

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