Tag Archives: Books

Thursday Hot Summer Evening PotPourri


*The famous Witch, Nanny Ogg, it is said, did not DO housework, but she was often THE CAUSE of housework in other people. (And, Goddess, do I aspire to similar status!) Likewise, I am not very good at making cocktails, but I am, as often as possible, the cause of making cocktails in other people. I am fortunate to have family and friends who excel at this practice.

On that note, if you, too, appreciate the civilization inherent in a well-made mint julep or a carefully-shaken martini, then you should really, really follow Amy Stewart, @Amy_Stewart, aka The Drunken Botanist. Amy is, indeed, a botanist, having written the wonderful Wicked Plants (a must-have for every Witch’s library), not to mention Flower Confidential, The Earth Moved (the best book you’ve never read about earthworms), and From the Ground Up. Landscape Guy and I went to hear her speak about her recent book, Wicked Bugs, at the U.S. Botanical Gardens and she’s brilliant, funny, athame-sharp, and as human as all-get-out.

Lately, in preparation for her new book, entitled, not too surprisingly, The Drunken Botanist, Amy’s been tweeting lots of amazing recipes for summer cocktails that use ingredients such as pineapple sage (which I gave up growing because I couldn’t find anything to DO with it!) and beet bloody mary mix. But I think that my favorite recipe of hers (so easy that even I could do it) is this one, for, as opposed to a cordial, a consolation:

Peach and Bourbon Consolation
2 oz bourbon
2 tbsp sugar
1 peach
Optional: orange or peach bitters, Luxardo cherries

Mix equal parts sugar and water in a heatproof glass. Nuke it for just under a minute, until the sugar melts. In a tumbler, muddle bourbon with a couple slices of peach. Strain but do not discard the peach remnants; that is a lost opportunity. Just slurp them down while standing over the sink. Don’t worry, nobody’s looking.

Now add to the tumbler a little of the the still-hot simple syrup to taste (or just a little hot water), plus a few drops of bitters if you have them. Stir well. Garnish with another slice of peach. Or just eat the peach. Add a Luxardo cherry if you want to, or–hell, it’s your Consolation, so add whatever you want. You could drop a chocolate chip cookie in there and I wouldn’t tell anybody.

Drink it while it’s slightly warm and lovely. If you sneak back to the kitchen and add a little more bourbon later on, I won’t tell anybody about that, either.

What’s your poison?

*DiL tried to tell me, years ago, how good this book was, but I’ve never been able to get past the 1st couple of chapters. However, the movie looks so good that I’m going to go back and give the book another try.

Earth is crammed w/ heaven and it’s all so much more glorious and mysterious than we spend much time acknowledging.

*This could either be fun or terrible, but it tickles me how The Green Man continues to just crop up (and how homemade spells keep showing up in American culture):

*A sunken garden. Poetry. Summer. What else could you want? (OK, except for a comfy quilt, a Summer cocktail, and maybe some of that serious Southern specialty, cheese straws). And thou, beside me in the wilderness, ah!

A Baroque Wall-Fountain in the Villa Sciarra

~ Richard Wilbur

for Dore and Adja

Under the bronze crown
Too big for the head of the stone cherub whose feet
A serpent has begun to eat,
Sweet water brims a cockle and braids down

Past spattered mosses, breaks
On the tipped edge of a second shell, and fills
The massive third below. It spills
In threads then from the scalloped rim, and makes

A scrim or summery tent
For a faun-ménage and their familiar goose.
Happy in all that ragged, loose
Collapse of water, its effortless descent

And flatteries of spray,
The stocky god upholds the shell with ease,
Watching, about his shaggy knees,
The goatish innocence of his babes at play;

His fauness all the while
Leans forward, slightly, into a clambering mesh
Of water-lights, her sparkling flesh
In a saecular ecstasy, her blinded smile

Bent on the sand floor
Of the trefoil pool, where ripple-shadows come
And go in swift reticulum,
More addling to the eye than wine, and more

Interminable to thought
Than pleasure’s calculus. Yet since this all
Is pleasure, flash, and waterfall,
Must it not be too simple? Are we not

More intricately expressed
In the plain fountains that Maderna set
Before St. Peter’s—the main jet
Struggling aloft until it seems at rest

In the act of rising, until
The very wish of water is reversed,
That heaviness borne up to burst
In a clear, high, cavorting head, to fill

With blaze, and then in gauze
Delays, in a gnatlike shimmering, in a fine
Illumined version of itself, decline,
And patter on the stones its own applause?

If that is what men are
Or should be, if those water-saints display
The pattern of our aretê,
What of these showered fauns in their bizarre,

Spangled, and plunging house?
They are at rest in fulness of desire
For what is given, they do not tire
Of the smart of the sun, the pleasant water-douse

And riddled pool below,
Reproving our disgust and our ennui
With humble insatiety.
Francis, perhaps, who lay in sister snow

Before the wealthy gate
Freezing and praising, might have seen in this
No trifle, but a shade of bliss—
That land of tolerable flowers, that state

As near and far as grass
Where eyes become the sunlight, and the hand
Is worthy of water: the dreamt land
Toward which all hungers leap, all pleasures pass.

Photo by the author; if you copy, please link back.

Saturday Evening PotPourri


*Celia, IMHO, just keeps getting better and better. Pre-buy her album, now, and you’ll get the early version AND the finished version. Win-win.

*I’m (no surprise) not a big fan of buying “stuff,” even at — maybe especially at — this time of year. I generally make the gifts that I give to family members and close friends and I write my secretary an (expected, at my firm,) Xmas check. But, other than that, I really do try and stay away from the consumer madness that has Americans trampling and pepper-spraying each other in “honor” of the birth of the “Prince of Peace.” [Clean Skies Initiative, Family Values, Pro-Life, Party of Responsibility, etc.]

When I do need to buy a gift, I like to buy one that contributes to some good cause. If you’re not familiar with the work of self-taught, American, garden artist Pearl Fryar, you should be.

This year, Mr. Pearl, as he’s known, has released a calendar that supports the work of the Garden Conservancy.

The Garden Conservancy was established in 1989 by Frank Cabot, the distinguished American gardener. In partnership with individual garden owners as well as public and private organizations, the Conservancy provides the horticultural, technical, management, and financial expertise needed to sustain these fragile environments and ensure long-term stewardship of natural assets so essential to the aesthetic and cultural life of our communities.

The Conservancy recognizes that exceptional gardens most often begin as private affairs, the life work of passionate, dedicated and remarkably talented gardeners, and that a select number of these are capable of flourishing for generations as public gardens to facilitate their long-term historic and aesthetic significance as well as public visitation. The Garden Conservancy takes a leadership role in this transition for the American gardens in its diverse portfolio. It assists in the structuring of legal strategies and conservation easements to protect these resources from development, develops master plans for preservation, interpretation, horticultural management and public access, and helps establish sound fiscal and organizational foundations for each property. Once a transition period ends and the gardens operate independently, a process usually requiring a number of years, the Conservancy stays involved to make sure that they continue to thrive.

I believe that calendars are magical tools, every bit as powerful as athames, ceremonial swords, and grimoires. If you want to give a calendar as a gift, Mr. Pearl’s calendar would make a nice one.

*You might also think about giving gifts to the local birds who inhabit your landbase.

*I have a seriously-Opus-Dei acquaintance at work who has a practice that I’m considering adopting. He gives his children an allowance that includes a 10% “bump up” that they must use to donate to a charitable or political cause. They can give it all to one organization, or they can split the dollar amount among as many entities as they choose. But they must research the charity/cause and explain to him why they chose to make that donation. I doubt that I’d agree with most of the donations his children make, but I am thinking that, this year, I’ll give G/Son an amount of money to buy one or several gifts at Heifer International. At five, he’s a bit young to research multiple causes, but he’s just old enough to choose among the various gifts that Heifer offers. He’s become quite interested in the notion of money, lately. And I do like the idea of encouraging this privileged young man to get into the habit of giving back to the world. If this experiment works, maybe, in coming years, we’ll branch out to other charities/causes. Do you do anything like this with the children in your life or with your own dollars? How does it work?

*I love this time of year in my garden. You can almost hear the trees and plants slowing down. Except for the magnolias and Japanese temple pines, everything loses its leaves, and you can really see (I know this is trite, but it’s trite because it’s true) the bones of your garden. We’ve had warm weather this weekend, here in the magickal MidAtlantic, and, even though I’ve had to go into work every day, I’ve managed to spend some time every morning sitting in my Woodland Garden and just listening. The herb bed still has lavender, rosemary, sage, and a second harvest of dill. I picked sage, rosemary, and dill to take to my brilliant DiL at Thanksgiving. (That woman can cook circles around just about every one I know. And, she’s an amazing mom, a competitive long-distance swimmer, a kick-ass prosecutor, and a kind, down-to-Earth human being. The smartest thing that my smart Son ever did was to marry her.)

*If you’re not following Theodora Goss’ blog, you should be. She’s best known as an author of fantasy and poetry (reason enough to follow her), but I read her blog because she inspires me to keep trying to craft my life into the pattern of my bliss. You know, the Joseph-Campbell-kind-of-bliss:

If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are — if you are following your bliss — you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.

She doesn’t write about all the happy, woo-woo, positive stuff (which I’m happy to admit is often just what I need); she also inspires me by writing about how tired she is, how she needs to soak in a hot tub and read other writers, how she dreams about the life that she wants to lead. Who does this for you?

*I’m slogging my way through Spirit Speaks by Ivo Dominguez. Ivo has so much wisdom to impart. I’ve taken classes from him on astrology and look forward to listening to him at Sacred Space. I’m whipping through Truths Among Us by Derrick Jensen. Jensen can really write. I’m still working through Goddess Matters by my friend, Judith Laura. I hope to post a review shortly, but Judith, also, writes well and has a lot to say. What are you reading just now as the evenings lengthen?

Picture found here.

Thin Veil Pot-Pourri


*Is it breezy in here, or is it just me? My, the veils seem to be thinning at an amazing rate this near-to-Samhein season. And the energy from the Occupy movement seems to be calling to a number of interesting Ancestors. In my personal practice, the thinning veils call for careful attention to grounding. With my Sun in permeable Pisces, it would be too, too easy (and too, too tempting) to let myself drift too far through those open veils, too far down that misty road, too deep into that fairy hall in the hill. And, so, I get enough sleep. I try to eat right. I get on the treadmill. I balance time alone with time out in the world. I dig in the dirt and leave myself little reminders — an acorn on my desk at work, a flower in a vase by my bed, a tiny polished stone in my purse — to remind me to do what Ram Dass said: Be Here Now.

*”Our labors are witnesses for the living mystery.” Carl Jung, quoted in Ego and Archetype by Edward F. Edinger. Had a great conversation recently w/ a dear friend about how we can’t live our lives entirely focused on our inner processes, nor can we live our lives entirely directed towards the outer world. And, at some point, the feedback loop of doing both inner and outer work is far more effective than either process in isolation. It’s outer work — running for office, and deciding what compromises are worth making (some are, although I know it’s fashionable these days to decry all of them) and which aren’t, or working with the incredibly slow and sometimes frustrating process of consensus decision-making in the Occupy Movement, or rocking cranky babies — that gives us a chance to practice the inner work we’ve been doing of breathing, centering, learning to apply our True Will. And it’s inner work — setting aside time for a daily practice, doing shadow work, stopping throughout the day to reconnect to our Higher Selves — that allows us to be more effective when we confront Fox News, stop logging of old growth forests, let a homeless person know that they’re valued. Before enlightenment: chop wood & carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood & carry water. Where do you find the balance? Are you at a phase when it’s time to shift your emphasis from one mode to the other?

*Had lunch several days ago with the brilliant and deep Judith Laura. I’m reading her new book, Goddess Matters: the Mystical, Practical, & Controversial, about which a formal review in a few days. She takes on the lie that Goddess religions, because they do not have a set of rules, such as the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments, lack ethics. Judith provides a list of her own Goddess guidelines:

Seek knowledge.
Revere wisdom.
Be joyful.
Know pleasure.
Love one another.
Protect life.
And live in peace.

+

Sounds about right to me. I’m also down with:

Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.

Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.

And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.

Charge of the Goddess.

Some ethical practices are better conveyed through poetry. In Evidence, Mary Oliver writes:

Mysteries, Yes
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the mouths of lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever in allegiance with gravity while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the scars of damage, to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say “Look!” and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads.

*Literata has been doing some amazing blogging on the whole New Apostolic Reformation (NAR/DC40) attack on Pagans. If you aren’t reading her regularly, you should be. Here’s an example:

In [Dominionist] worldview, democracy is sort of a surface phenomenon. It can be used as a kludge when not everyone accepts their god-given place in the power dynamics (especially unbelievers). It can be used as a compromise, or a temporary expedient. But it’s not a long-lasting solution. It’s not a fundamental idea, it’s not something to work for, and ultimately, it’s un-biblical.

With that in mind, read what Wagner has to say about the roles of self-proclaimed apostles and prophets in the NAR:

WAGNER: “The Bible teaches that apostles – related to prophets and also teachers – should form the basis of the government of the church. Now, up till now, recently, most churches in America functioned on a democratic system, so that the authority in the churches and the authority in the denominations resided in groups of people.

And, of course, that’s what we’re used to politically in America, so that fits in very well with our culture. But in terms of the role of the apostle, one of the biggest changes from traditional churches to the New Apostolic Reformation is the amount of spiritual authority delegated by the Holy Spirit to individuals. And the two key words are authority and individuals, and individuals as contrasted to groups. So now, apostles have been raised up by God who have a tremendous authority in the churches of the New Apostolic Reformation. And I think this is the most radical difference between the old and the new.”

When he says, “that’s what we’re used to politically in America,” I hear the unspoken statement, “but that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.” When he talks about how the NAR’s authority structure is a “radical difference,” I connect that to the kind of “transformation” that he wants to see in American culture and American politics.

Wagner also made a point of saying that the NAR is “working with whatever political system there is” in each country it’s engaging. But he strictly disavows any mention that they want a “theocracy,” which he specifically links to states like Iran or like Constantine’s Rome. He is telling the truth there, but it’s a specific kind of truth based on his ideas about authority.

I believe him that he doesn’t want a “theocracy” where there’s an institutionalized church that runs the institutionalized state. He wants to meld the two, indistinguishably, because his religious ideas about authority and power are so all-encompassing that they would make a separate institutionalized government redundant.

She’s spot on, is a student of history, and always does her homework.

Anne Johnson has been interviewing a different “Bored God” every day, with a focus on the state under attack that day by NAR. If you haven’t yet read her interview with the Spirit of Ayahuasca, used by, primarily, Native Americans in their religious ceremonies, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Anne: Welcome, Ayahuasca! I’d offer you a cup of tea … but that’s what you are.

Ayahuasca: I’m not your cup of tea, though. You haven’t been initiated into the Mysteries.

Anne: So true. About the most adventurous I get is a vodka gimlet. But this isn’t about my religious experiences, it’s about America’s religious experiences. And You, o Sacred Ayahuasca, have been foully and cruelly treated! Everyone has heard the tale of the DEA agents bursting in on a ceremony of the Unaio do Vegetal praise and worship team in New Mexico. The agents pulled You right out of the priest’s kitchen and carted You off to the slammer. (Or in this case, the refrigerator.)

Ayahuasca: We took them to court. To the Supreme Court. And we won.

Anne: Damn right, you won! It’s called the First Amendment, and there’s a long and well-documented use of Ayahuasca tea in numerous religious paths originating in the Western Hemisphere. I was rooting for Unaio do Vegetal every step of the way.

Ayahuasca: Thank you. Here is how I look at it. You never see DEA agents bursting into a First Communion, confiscating the wine, and arresting the priests for serving alcoholic beverages to minors.

*The Occupy Movement has been training lots of people in the use of consensus decision making. That’s difficult work, both to teach and to learn. In honor of all of those teachers, learners, and users, I offer the following picture by Robert Bissell, entitled, The Decision:


(found here.)

*I had a delightful houseful (I have a tiny cottage, so it doesn’t take too many to make a houseful) of people over for brunch yesterday. Some were long-time friends, in town for OccupyDC, some were family, some were Witches and their spouses, some ( 😉 ) were Landscape Guy. Gemini Rising, there’s not much that I enjoy more than bringing interesting people together, feeding them, and listening to them talk. Consequently, I’d saved a long list of chores to be done today, but, in the end, I slept late, spent extra time on the treadmill, and drove up to Benkhe’s nursery, which I really did not need to do. But, as I said a few months ago: OPG. I bought some begonias for inside the kitchen windowsill, a tiny pot of succulents to keep on my desk all Winter when the sunlight comes as strong as can be through my Northern window, and a big blue pot for my office jade tree, which has needed repotting for some time.

*If I am related (by blood or experience) to you and you are beyond the Veils, this is a gentle reminder that you do NOT have a standing invitation to visit me every night in my dreams. Some of you, I didn’t even really like very much while you were alive, and I’m certain that I never wanted to sleep (in the prosaic (or other) sense) with all ya’ll. It’s going to be a long month. Go bother someone else. And, if you do show up, please remember to tell me where the money is buried, how much you really did love me even though you couldn’t say it, and to give me the recipes for stuffing and sweet pickles. The “you were not a very nice little girl” stuff you can save for L.L. She may care. And she really wasn’t.

+First published in Judith’s book: She Lives! The Return of Our Great Mother.

Picture found here.

House Blessing


My neighbors had a huge oak tree come crashing down during Hurricane Irene. It crushed their car, tore off their roof, and did enough structural damage that there’s now a big red sign from the county saying that their home is not safe for occupancy. Four days later, the tree company is still working at slicing down the tree and carting off the huge sections of trunk. That (and worse) happened to people all up and down the East Coast. It will be a long, costly project, but my neighbors (and many others) will rebuild.

Here’s a blessing from John O’Donohue‘s book To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings. It’s for a new home, but I think it will work as well for one that’s been rebuilt.

Elemental Blessing for a New Home

Before a human voice was ever heard here,
This place has known the respect of stone,
The friendship of the wind, always returning
With news of elsewhere, whispered in seed and pollen,
The thin symphonies of birdsong softening the silence,
The litanies of rain rearranging the air,
Cascades of sunlight opening and closing days,
And the glow of the moon gazing through darkness.
May all that elemental enrichment
Bless the foundation and standing of your home.

Before you came here, this place has known
The wonder of children’s eyes,
The hope of mornings in troubled hearts,
The tranquility of twilight easing the night,
The drama of dreams under sleeping eyelids,
The generous disturbance of birth,
The anxieties of old age unclenching into grace
And the final elegance of calmly embraced death.
May the life of you new home enter
Into this inheritance of spirit.

May the rain fall kindly,
May daylight illuminate your hearts,
May the darkness never burden.

May those who dwell here in the unseen
Watch over your coming and going,
May your lives of love and promise
Refine and deepen the mind of the land.

(Regular readers may note that I’ve linked to Bartleby’s Books, an independent Vermont bookseller. I usually link to Politics & Prose, my beloved D.C. independent book store. (If you are ever in D.C., P&P is definitely worth a side trip. It’s metro-accessible, surrounded by great places to eat, and it’s a simply fantastic, old-fashioned bookstore where you wander around, see more D.C. celebrities than at Mortons, and find books that make you go, “Oh, I never heard of this; I NEED it!” Bartleby’s store, like my neighbors’ home, was badly damaged by Hurricane Irene. (I admit the thought of rain water pouring down on the books in my home makes me sick.) While Bartleby’s rebuilds, their on-line sales will be their primary source of income. If you’re inclined to buy O’Donohue’s Book of Blessings, you might consider doing so from Bartleby’s. Or, your own independent book store.)

Picture found here.

Potpourri

So I’m still on a steep learning curve with WordPress; I remind myself that it’s good for us old women to keep challenging our brains. Thanks to so many of you for following me over here, subscribing, and commenting. If you’ve been kind enough to list me in your blog roll (for which, thanks!) I’d be very grateful if you’d update the information. This blog address is: http://www.hecatedemeter.wordpress.com. Many, many thanks.

Last night, I celebrated Litha with my Sisters. One of them mentioned that, although she had worked that day, she’d teased her co-workers that she should have been off for her religious holiday. I was thinking today that (at least when, as last night, I’m not hosting the ritual at my place) I’d really rather have the day after off. (In my line of work, it doesn’t matter; when stuff is due, you work. And stuff is usually due. If it’s not, I can “work from home” any time without giving a reason.) Doing magic, no matter how much I ground afterwards, leaves me a little bit high and too full of energy to drop off to sleep until several hours, at least, afterwards. And I’m old enough that not enough sleep can make a big difference the next morning and all through the next day. Do you take time off around the high holy days? Which would you prefer: the holy day or the day after?

Peter Dybing and Chas Clifton have been fighting fires (speaking of people whose jobs don’t recognize high holy days). May the Goddess bless and protect all of those brave people who are working hard to deal with the wildfires caused by (and problematic because of) overpopulation and global climate change. We need, as a body politic, to acknowledge what they do and to pay them, pension them, and support them as they deserve.

Chas is working to revive the worship of a rain God, possibly local to his area. I’m not familiar with Tlaloc, but I’m intrigued by Chas’ work. One of the things that I realized a few years ago was that I needed to develop a serious relationship with Columbia, the Goddess for whom my metropolitan area is named. Her giant statue (named Freedom) towers over my city, atop the United States Capitol, and reminds me every time that I go to Capitol Hill that this city of power is dedicated to a Goddess of freedom, justice, civic responsibility. I call her daily at my altar. I often begin by imagining her sandaled feet in the Potomac River, but she almost always responds by appearing in a busy NE neighborhood, her feet in a 7-11-clone store (where busy moms buy milk, construction workers buy hot dogs, and kids buy slurpees and junk food) and her shield set down in a community garden where people garden who live in several-hundred-year-old townhomes, in what we call here “English basements.” Although my primary worship is to a Greek Goddess, likely out of Anatolia, as interpreted by English playwrights, I do think that it’s crucial to develop a relationship with local deities. I’m going to follow Chas’ work with interest. (Capricious beings, rain Gods and Goddess, in my humble experience). Do you connect to/include in your regular practice any local deities? If not, why not? Could you?

Starhawk is moving ahead with plans to film The Fifth Sacred Thing. As I’ve said before, it’s one of those things that, if done well, would be amazing. If “Hollywood” and “Money” take over, it could be incredibly disappointing. Avatar disappointed some of my friends, but it showed that there’s an untapped hunger in “general audiences” for a spirituality that connects to place, planet, polis. And Starhawk, like Derrick Jensen and Richard Louv, realizes that we’ve got to give people a positive vision towards which they can work. If all we show is that WE’RE DOOMED (and we may well be), it only makes sense for people to retreat into video games, creature comforts (after all, giving up one SUV won’t make any real difference), a spirituality that disengages from all that is manifest. I’m going to throw a little bit of energy, in the form of cash, her way. If (and only if) you’ve got a steady source of income, some money in savings, and your expenses under control, you might consider doing the same.

Ellen Dugan has some great advice about finding a coven.

It’s simple: Read Rima. Be enchanted.

Alison’s gone camping with the Christians. I’ll be interested in her follow-up report.

Anyone read Richard Louv’s new book? I’m going to add it to my tabletob in the hopes that I’ll get to it soon.

Picture found here.

The Tellurgic Intelligence of Cities


In Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology, David Abram makes some points that I think are important for urban Pagans (that would be most of us).

Human Communities, too, are informed by the specific sentience of the lands they inhabit. There is a unique temperament to the bustling commerce and culture of any old-enough city, a mental climate that we instantly recognize upon returning after several years, and that we mistakenly ascribe solely to the human inhabitants of the metropolis. It is a result, we surmise, of the particular trades that the city is known for, or the dynamic mix of ethnicities that interweave there, or the heavy-handed smugness of the local police force. Such social dynamics, however, are steadily fed by the elemental energies of the realm — by the heavy overcast that cloaks the sky for weeks at a time, or the splashing speech of the river that rolls through downtown, tossing glints of sunlight into the eyes of all who walk near, or by the way that the greasy exhaust from forty thousand commuting cars interacts with the humidity of the summer air. The dismal social ills endemic to certain cities have often been stoked by the foolishness of urban designers who overlooked the particular wildness of the place, ignoring the genius loci, the unique intelligence of the land now squelched and stifled by local industries. A calloused coldness, or meanness, results when our animal senses are cut off for too long from the animate earth, when our ears — inundated by the whooping blare of car alarms and the muted thunder of subways — no longer encounter the resonant silence, as our eyes forget the irregular wildness of things green and growing behind the rectilinear daze.

Still, even the stone structures of a metropolis may become expressions of the genius loci. Old buildings regularly worked over by the sun, rain, and wind finally become gestures of the local earth. The very architecture of any city old enough to have negotiated with gravity, century after century, for the stance of its walls and the solidity of its foundations, is now a conduit for the pulse and power that rises steadily from the ground. The people who take up residence and work in that city are channeled into patterns of life appropriate to the realm by the edifices that surround them, by the worn-smooth cobbles of the winding streets and the slightly sagging structures within which they dwell.

Thus, the old city of Prague, which straddles the Vltava River with its statue-laden bridges and its battlements, its narrow lanes and its Gothic towers, holds certain chthonic qualities in place even as the recently released tides of capitalism sweep across it. The strange and brooding psyche of the local earth is preserved and curiously protected in the hand-built substance of this town, where High Gothic structures from the fourteenth century jive with ornate Baroque edifices from the seventeenth, where somber Romanesque churches converse in muted tones with audacious Art Nouveau neighbors. Despite the corrosive power of the capitalist economy (usually a kind of universal solvent), an earthly magic dwells and moves within the city of Prague. it’s a power that cannot easily be eradicated here, where the pagan Green Man still peers down from the shadowed corners of medieval churches (stone vines spiraling from his gaping mouth), where zodiacal clocks in the looming clock towers tick off the mythical hours, and ravens squawk in the branches above a cemetery so thick with tilting headstones that even the ghosts cannot squeeze between them. Given solid expression in the ornate structure and statuary of so many buildings, the tellurgic intelligence of the local earth had only to recede into the old stonework in order to survive the sterile era of Soviet communism, with its anti-aesthetic of mass efficiency, or to weather the new occupation by the culture of total commerce. From within those aged walls, the energies pulsing up from the ground continue to exert their influence upon all who live and work there. Hence, the kabbalistic and magical arts still flourish in the city of Prague. I am acquainted with a molecular biologist there, respected for his research throughout Europe, who at night composes and interprets astrological charts for the country’s intelligentsia. I have been befriended by an accomplished and erudite geologist in that city who regularly turns his attention to the arcana of geomancy in the off hours. . . . In old Prague, as in other venerable cities whose cobbles have been bloodied and buffeted by succeeding ages, the built scape of the city does not stifle the sentience of the land, but rather ensures that the power continues to vitalize the human community.

I live in Washington, D.C., a city newer than Prague, but one with its own very distinct “feel,” genius loci, tellurgic intelligence. Part of its feel is that newness, even old things in this city aren’t really very old. It’s a city on two rivers, a city that starts on land often called marshland and rises up a hill. It’s a city of white marble, heroic and yet wonderfully human sculptures and fountains, and plentiful museums. It’s a city where power and testosterone literally hum in the air, becoming, if one is not careful, like water (unrecognized) to a fish. One of my goals, as a Witch in relationship with her landbase, is to learn how to work with and use the powers of this specific city. When I need dirt from a cemetery for a spell, I think about which of the city’s cemeteries is best suited for that spell. When I want to do magic to influence the airy business of laws, I have a number of high places from which to scatter birdseed. When I want to get deep into the roots of the power structure, I can choose between the rotunda of the Capitol or the tidal basin off of the Potomac.

If you’re like most modern Pagans, you live in an urban area. How does that influence your magic? How is your city like Prague or like Washington, D.C.? How is it different? How do you get in touch with the soul of your city, with the “elemental energies of the realm”?

Picture found here.