City Magic

City Magic is a form of the craft that makes use of the specific nature of cities.  It is a location based toolset, focusing on places where humans live in concentrated numbers in a permanent fashion, typically building structures in order to make such densely packed living possible.

If you are looking for the shortest way to tell the difference between cities and towns, look to public transportation. The more densely packed an area is, the less sense it makes to have everyone use private transport. In a way, it makes sense to think of population density and public transportation as measures of “cityness” that coagulate slowly, so a place can be “kind of a city” or “citylike” as opposed to there being a hard division.

What kind of magic do cities have?

To get an understanding, let’s start with a quote from The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. Part of the American canon of city planning and beloved by many, this book makes a pretty interesting claim in the last chapter.

“And so a growing number of people have begun, gradually, to think of cities as problems in organized complexity- organisms that are replete with unexamined, but obviously intricately interconnected, and surely understandable, relationships.”

What makes Jacobs so notable is her complete rejection of the idea that cities can be predicted. To her, a city is so complex and interconnected that it is impractical to attempt to account for every variable. Put simply, when you put humans in large numbers in a space, they will move in unpredictable ways. (Exhibit A: The Internet)

As a result, Jacobs places an emphasis on trusting what people who live in a particular place have to say about it, and to her a city planner really only addresses a single issue at a time rather than trying to control everything at once. She suggests observing how people really move through their spaces and building according to their needs, which is also an idea talked about in A Pattern Language, for those wanting an in-depth treatment.

The idea here is that cities behave like ecosystems, that they are unable to be separated from their environments.

Continuing this, let’s consider is the human vs nature divide. After the Industrial Revolution, many people began to feel separated from nature. To this day, many report a feeling of being cluttered, a need to routinely leave the cities and suburbs for a less densely populated areas in order to ground themselves. Even people who love cities report the importance of “lungs” or large, central green spaces.

Additionally, when humans threaten our own survival with issues like manmade climate shift, it can be very easy to paint homo sapiens as supernatural beings destroying the planet, with cities being the ultimate concentration of this anti-nature, anti-magic energy.

For a city witch, this thinking is counterproductive. Magic tends to involve the connections between things, so thinking of cities as separated from the land and people lessens their power. In 1969, James Lovelock brought forth an idea called The Gaia Hypothesis suggesting that humans are not separate from the earth’s self-regulatory systems. He additionally suggests that Gaia may be sentient to some degree, and that humans may simply be an expression of that sentience.

In this context, we can form more complex narratives of the relationship between humans and nature. Are humans are an invasive species, one that been overly successful and that now threatens its own survival due to limited resources?

Many “unnatural” aspects of humanity are found to have parallels elsewhere in nature. Ants and termites are known for their large structures and dense living. Apes are routinely shown to have complex social patterns that mirror our own. The language and tool-making of other animals may not meet our own for complexity, but it is there. Seeing these parallels allows us to start asking how we can stop choking ourselves out of a home.

Most importantly, it means that a city witch sees a city as a kind of place with its own magic, not separate from nature.

So what are cities? Cities are a great concentration of the magic of humans. Personifications of magical currents or energies allow for parallels to be drawn between city living and witchcraft. This means that spirit work is central, as are the relatively new concepts of ley lines and Psychogeography (cw antisemitism).

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