City Magick – Christopher Penczak

City Magick: Urban Rituals, Spells and Shamanism
Christopher Penczak
Weiser Books, 2001
302 pages

One of the advantages to being a bibliophile who marries or moves in with a bibliophile is the combination of libraries. Selling off the duplicate copies makes room for more books, and you get to read books you might never have had a chance to see otherwise. City Magick is one of the books that Taylor brought into our mutual library, and it’s my latest commuting conquest.

Having been raised in a rural area, it’s taken some effort to adjust to living in the city. Granted, Portland is pretty green, with a lot of parks in the city proper. However, I’ve also lived in places where it wasn’t so easy to get to greenspace. While I was somewhat aware of the magic of manmade objects and creations, I wish I’d had this book around to give me some extra ideas–I definitely would have coped a lot more quickly!

Penczak does a great job of taking basic (and some intermediate) magical practices and making them relevant to the land of concrete and steel. From an absolutely wonderful section on the sometimes neglected urban totem animals, to a recreation of the tree of life as a skyscraper (complete with mental picture of Spider-man as a shaman), he demonstrates that the concepts often found in green nature-based practices can also be adapted to more “artificial” environments. And that’s one of the really beautiful things about this book; it reminds us that even though the components may have been altered somewhat, everything came from nature and is subject to it. Of course, Penczak doesn’t ignore the fact that manmade creations have done harm to nature, both green and otherwise. However, he offers a realistic resource for those who do choose to (or must) live in an urban area.

There’s a nice dash of Chaos magic in here, too. I thought his variations on sigils were wonderful, especially those appropriating graffiti. It’s proof that subversion is pretty well universal, and the graffiti that’s used to mark territory or deface public property can also be taken and reworked for personal magical purposes. And he has a nicely flexible perspective on deities and other denizens, particularly those of pop culture, the modern mythology of the city. I add bonus points for open-mindedness!

Overall, this is a great book, especially for someone who’s still getting their feet wet in magical practice but thinks s/he has to be out in the middle of a field. As I said before, the basics are covered, but there are plenty of suggestions for expansion into intermediate territory. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I have some ideas for the next time I’m out wandering in downtown Portland.

Five pawprints out of five.

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