Contemplation: Urban Faith

I was raised halfway in the forest and halfway in the city by a half-wild mother. It is simply not to be that I would become one from the City or one from the Wild. I was intended for both. The Wild, both real and imagined, was my preferred place. The smog of the City choked me, the heat of the cars and crowds suffocated, and the noise was endless. For this reason, I never expected to find myself interesting in more urban and City-centric religions, much less building my own religion that involved the City heavily.

It was as I got older that I began to become infatuated with cities. Truly, it began with a trip to That City – specifically, Seattle – that caused me to trip into love. Tall jutting structures that brushed the sky, the push of people and hum of chatter, the sidewalks covered with so specifically planted trees – I became captivated. The wilds I had known as a child had a scent I would never forget, unnameable, and offered up their snakes and bugs and detritus for me to learn from. But the City too had a smell, an enrapturing taste full of humanity and frustration and glory and hope. In the Wild, waking at first sunlight and feeling dew as I stepped along the ground, there was no hope – nor frustration or sadness or despair. It was, it existed, it breathed me in as I breathed it out and held me in its green arms to show me that which pollution could obscure.

But the City had hope and possibility. There was no goal in the wild, other than to be. In the city, I could dream. My tongue moved from the soft speech of trees and flowers to hard communication with others. In the wild, there were silent agreements and assumptions one made with another person. There was no room for discussion.  In the city, I had to relearn social steps and dances. And I enjoyed them, even as I stumbled (again and again and over and over and endlessly).

I learned to love walls and roofs and the smell of coffee in the morning.

When I speak of urban practice, I speak of something beyond the cycles many associate with nature. The city too has its cycles, but in this practice the focus is on routine. In some mystical circles routine is frowned upon as a lazy inattentive mind. Yet a routine must be chosen, must be set, must be consciously enacted to be effectual. The city can lull you to sleep or never let you rest, all depending on how you structure your routine with its cycles.

My practice is both of the household and the larger urban community. The household consists of the small routines – waking in the morning, approaching the altar, offering to the spirits, cleaning the home, keeping up the altar, making weekly offerings, interacting with the spirits to ensure they too are happy. Sleeping, keeping the sheets clean, praying in the morning. Choosing what food we bring in, making sure our visitors do not insult us or our unseen housemates, keeping our scent throughout the home. These little routines – so simple – reap blessed results.

This is a practice of sweeping and nodding to the wren as she comes to rest, of walking around the streets and learning the sounds of the neighborhood. By upholding this practice, we earn blessings. The house is never lonely, for someone is always there even when no mortal dwells in its walls.

Once the home is stable then comes the city. The routines develop around places, around people. Time is a sacred element that is measured and dolled out and arranged. Music trailing from shops becomes sacred song. The newspaper is the book of hours, and from it festivals that last only a day or hour or minute are revealed. Celebrations of art come and go, and chance meetings occur when one leaves the cafe. Artfully arranged trees and restored homes paint the landscape and the train roars with a holy horn.

This is a practice of all being sacred and of the turning of the city. It does not sleep, not entirely, and we are able to choose what cycles we will follow. Friendships and alliances are born out of mutual interest and presence, not only survival, and can be broken easily.

This is a practice of catering those places that align with who you are and wish to be. This is the practice of what excitement fills the town and draws the crowds, of the parks that become heavy with ribbons and smoke. It is walking across cracked concrete and noticing the dark, twisting roads and not resenting or decrying progress. Connection is a phone or a coffee or a flickering street lamp – it is finding your gods in such places. It is joy in presentation and the game of socialization. It is the rush and flood of college students and the sudden silence of summer in a university town.

It is presence in where you are, looking and seeing that which is around you and learning to move with the routines of humans, no longer striving for rural cycles never experienced.

[from a 2012 post contemplation; presented to show the history of the faith]

Thank you for reading. ‘of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. You can find more about us here and here. You can contact us here if you have any questions or would like to get involved.

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