A long time back…back in the days of “From the Edge of the Circle” I did a podcast episode discussing how cities are part of the world around us. And if you think about it, they certainly are. There are Pagans that live in the heart of today’s modern monstrosities, just as there are Pagans that live in the country-side in the small, idyllic communities. I fall into the second category. I live in a very small community, just on the southern banks of the Red River that provides the dividing line between Texas and Oklahoma. Comanche country. Or at least it was back in the day. The modern touch of society is in various areas, but for the most part the countryside still has the feel of the old Gods and ancestors of the time of the Comanche bands.
Over the past two weeks, I have had the chance to tour parts of the United Kingdom and France with a college group of students and professors. Our first stop was Edinburgh, where the sites were not only amazing, but the area just bristled with magick and the touch of the Gods. Our first night there, I spent part of the early morning hours staring out my hotel window at the quiet streets of the city. I opened my senses and could hear and feel the call of Fliodhas in the night. The two nights we spent there in Edinburgh, I could hear the horn of the Hunt vividly in my dreams. It wasn’t in the distance, as it has been in my dreams in the United States. On the first night of Hogmanay, as we wandered the streets trying to find a way back to the hotel, you could feel the magick of the torchlit procession winding through the streets – the entire city was alive with the magickal feel of a tradition that we had just stumbled upon in the start of our journey.
A few days later, we arrived in London, and the feel was far different. Billboards, sparkling and glittering neon lights – all the glitzy trappings of rampant consumerism on display…the feel was far different in the touristy areas of London. It felt spiritually dead. Seemingly, everyone was concerned with spending money, and finding some form of stimulation and sensitization through chemicals… I’m all for tipping a pint from time to time, but it certainly had the feel that everyone was more concerned with their pint than they were with the people they were with. It was a little disappointing. There was the obligatory trip to Windsor to visit the areas where the Royals were – but that felt so dead as well. I’ve never been one for “royal worship” – so I probably had a very bias perspective when it came to that. The third day was a trip to the British Museum and Treadwell’s Books, both of which proved that magick was alive in the city – provided you walked around a bit to find it.
After the visit to London, the group made their way across (well, it was actually under) the Channel to France – Paris to be precise. And I was genuinely surprised at how dead this city felt. Everywhere. Even a fantastic visit to the Louvre, where some amazing displays of inspiration and talent can be found – there was nothing that I could perceive. The city felt more haunted than it was alive.
And all of this made me wonder – why? Consumerism certainly felt alive everywhere I went. Of course, that’s a hallmark of tourism. But it felt stronger than that. Everywhere seemed to scream at people to buy in excess. To get more than your neighbor. To come away with the trinkets that showcased where you were, but were bereft of the experience that you had at that location.
Maybe I am being cynical about all of this as well. Perhaps I am attaching too much significance to finding the Gods everywhere I go. Trying to locate Spirits of Place…even when those Spirits may chose not to be “discoverable” as easily as they are in the more open, and less built-up environments that I am used to. There’s a lot of factors to take into account…and perhaps I should not be too disappointed in the lack of what I felt. But certainly, I was expecting a little more from such older cities….