Essays at the intersection of spirituality, activism, and radical psychology.
Pop Quiz: What’s more magical – a redwood tree or a subway?
Which is more part of nature – a dirt path through the woods or a downtown street?
If you chose the first of each pair, you’re missing half of the story. Because the correct answer is – all of the above.
I love walking through the redwoods at California Witchcamp or Witchlets in the Woods. I feel blessed that we have such a gorgeous "natural" spot for our camp.
But I love marching through the streets of San Francisco on Dia de los Muertos, or at the latest Make Banks Pay protest. Or just walking across town on a beautiful day. Those streets are just as much a part of the sacred Earth as any dirt path.
And if you doubt that a subway train is magical, take a five-year-old for a ride. Kids can see magic in the city just as quickly as they can spot faeries in the woods.
Cities are no less magical than forests. What’s different is our groundedness and openness to the magic.
Urban Earth Activism
Maybe what we need is to learn some Urban Earth Activist skills – a mix of magical and practical skills for city-living (and city-loving) pagans.
What if along with composting toilets and rainwater catchment systems we learned things like:
- grounding in the city (and staying grounded)
- how to ride public transit (a rare skill among earth-loving pagans, it seems)
- creating a mobile magical circle (useful at protests, on transit, etc)
- what are delicatessens and why they are our friends (inexpensive, varied communal food)
- street safety at night (understanding urban energy)
- how to reserve a spot in a park, close a street for a block party, etc. (basic cultural skills)
- finding urban allies (human and otherwise)
- help organize a farmers market and/or street festival (more cultural skills)
If we saw our cities as sacred temples, would we drive cars around them, or toss litter on the ground, or curse under our breath at our fellow magical residents?
What if in addition to setting up altars under the redwoods or alongside a creek, we created impromptu sacred spaces at intersections, under street lamps, or on top of news racks?
Creating Magical Cities
What can we do to bring out the inherent magic in our cities? How could altars, deity magic, or grounding improve our urban experience?
How would we invoke the elements in an urban manner? The quality of our air and water are urban issues. And finding a place to hold a Solstice bonfire has proven a great challenge for San Francisco witches.
What makes a great street? Find some streets (or even single blocks) you like, and study things like width of street, height and set-back of buildings, single use versus mixed use, etc. I find that I like narrow streets with two- or three-story buildings, shops on the ground floor and apartments above. Basically like Chinatown in San Francisco.
Find urban "sacred sites/objects." Find a sacred site without a tree, and that is not in a park. Find one that is made of concrete, stone, or brick (is there a difference in the magical qualities of these materials?). Find a sacred object that is ephemeral (such as a puddle or a box of colorful clothes).
Cities don’t have to be two-thirds concrete. Help liberate a bit of the earth. Pour water on weeds breaking through the concrete. Walk in the grass when you can (lawns are not private property). Touch a sidewalk tree and tell it that you love it.
Xerox copies of a map of your city or neighborhood. Each day, draw lines to show your movement – different colors for car, transit, walking, biking... After a while, collate the maps and see where the major "energy lines" are and where the voids are. (Christopher Penczak’s Urban Magic has more on this.)
And a challenge for myself – walk down a new street each day, and be open to its unique magic.
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