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Friday, January 21, 2011

Metro-Magick: Navigating a Magickal Life in the Concrete Jungle

A Typical Metropolitan City
As Wiccans our religion revolves around a deep respect for nature and the ancient gods. In our practices we are accustomed to bringing ourselves closer to nature and therefore the divine. Typically, this is done by spending time out of doors in natural settings, communing with plants and animals, working with the four elements and honoring the divine in the form of ancient gods and goddesses.

However, for those living in large, metropolitan areas, it may be more difficult to make that connection. As society has become more industrialized cities have grown, the environment has become polluted, and more and more people are competing for the same limited amount of resources.

As Wiccans/Pagans we recognize that all things (no matter their form) are comprised of energy and although it can change forms, it can never be obliterated. By recognizing this truth, the city-witch can find the sacred in the mundane and connect to the divine in old forms as well as in new ones more relevant to their urban life-styles. For example, all across America urbanites perform a small rite to Squat to secure a good parking spot, and petition Asphalta for safe travel.

The idea of spirits being associated with entire cities isn’t exactly new. Mythology is full of stories of ancient gods founding cities, such as Romulus and Remus, or otherwise being associated with specific city-states as Athena is associated with Athens. Even today many large cities are associated with certain saints, such as St. Nicholas the Patron Saint of New York City. In addition, there are numerous folk-saints associated with their own sacred sites, such as Juan Soldado who is said to aid illegal immigrants attempting to cross the border from Mexico into the United States.

Such is true not only in the magickal world of the occult, but also in the mundane world. You need only look to your favorite sports team to see a modern totem. Chicago, for example, has adopted the bear and the bull, symbols of enduring strength; while San Diego adores the chicken as a type of trickster spirit. Seattle venerates the Mariners (a type of fairy), San Francisco the pioneer spirit in the form of Sourdough Sam, and Denver the horse in the form of a bronco.

Owning to the multi-cultural nature of large cities, it is not unusual for many spirits to co-exist in a relatively small area. In a typical day, a person may encounter Buddha in a Chinese restaurant, pass a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, spy a shrine to Ganesha is a small grocery store, or even an altar to Santisima Muerte in an out-of-the-way bookstore.

Similarly, urban-witches are learning to recognize and harness the energies inherent in new forms such as fountains, parks, green-houses, cross-walks, architectural structures, museum exhibits, etc… To them outdoor statues such as the Statue of Liberty or the Temperance Fountain are nothing less than modern shrines. Their sacred symbols originate in graffiti, street signs, fliers, advertising, etc…Their amulets are often found objects such as chunks of asphalt, dried tar, bits of broken glass, or fallen feathers.

Techno-paganism is a concept that was quickly adopted by urban-witches. Taking the concept of animism to the next level, techno-pagans believe that modern technological devices and constructs have their own spirits, guardians, or totemic energies. For this reason, they will often incorporate the use of technological devices into their magickal practices. Creating a sigil using a computer program and uploading it to a cell phone to be carried with them in lieu of drawing the symbol on a slip of paper is a good example of this line of thought. These witches are often more likely to meet their coven through a social network rather than a wooded grotto lit by a bonfire.

The fact that Wicca is a religion that the individual can tailor to suit their spiritual needs has allowed it to grow at a rapid rate. Even as Wiccans and Pagans have moved passed the rural/agricultural lifestyle that served as the foundation of the religion Wicca continues to grow and change into new forms of expression. The challenge of today urban-witch is to reconcile the ancient realm of spirit with the modern world of technology.

Carolina Dean 


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