Urban Shamanism- Attuning to the City
Certainly in my own training in massage, counselling and hypnotherapy, and reflexology, significant stress was placed on the limits of what our skills could do, and how we might pick up signs of potential problems that could best be dealt with by a conventional medical practitioner. A simple example being during my massage training being made aware of the types of moles that potentially might be cancerous, and how healthy organs – such as the liver – could feel vastly different from unhealthy ones. Even when I was working at a Pagan shop in Portsmouth the owner recommended several clients who had Tarot readings see a doctor based on things that came up in their reading, or how they reacted to some of the symbolism in dream analysis. Not only did the clients do this, but the owner was invited as a guest speaker to several colleges and medical training courses for medical students that dealt with the wider aspects of medicine. Principally because doctors realised that the people she sent to them to them might not have gone otherwise.
I signposted several clients to doctors for various reasons when I was a full-time complimentary therapist, as I had a National Health Service Independent Provider Number. This meant that the reason my clients had been suggested to see a member of the medical was fed into the referral system to provide data that could be used to see how the complimentary health system works with the NHS one.
Other aspects of Urban Shamanism are not as easily classified. Being attuned to the environment is a part of Shamanic practices throughout the world but, because of the amount of stimuli in most cities, and even towns, being too sensitive can lead to an overload in all the senses. This can lead to most people ‘shutting down’ their empathic impulses both for the environment around them and the sentient beings they may encounter. This in turn can lead to many negative mental effects including psychosis and schizophrenia. So if only for mental health reasons you should be open to your environment, even if you filter it, so you don’t become overwhelmed. Some of the filters you can use include paying attention to certain aspects of your environment, using an item such as a potpourri to filter out unpleasant stimuli, or being aware of what is around you without attaching to any particular part of it.
Even in the city some natural phenomena still make themselves felt. Be it alignment with the forces of nature such as occur in New York’s “Manhattanhenge” where the Sun aligns precisely with the city’s street grid system allowing light to flow down the concrete canyons of Manhattan twice a year; or manmade events such as the first armed police raid on the drug dealers living in the block of flats connected to the office I sometimes use in my regular wage job. Both of these phenomena are as much part of the ‘flow’ of city life as the blooming of the spring blossom, or the nesting of the birds. They are driven by the energies generated by the wider environment and the way humans interact with it, the underlying forces are the same as in the countryside but shaped and expressed according to the part of the world the city is in.
In the case of “Manhattanhenge” the two days that the streets are aligned with the sun are Memorial Day, and Baseball's All Star break. If archaeologists in the far future were to uncover this alignment with only sketchy knowledge of the history of the area they might conclude that the people who lived here worshipped war and baseball. Which may be accurate in some ways, but by no means gives the whole picture. Already there is a lore and sense of occasion building up around these events that may lead to them acquiring their own set of lore and traditions.
Another aspect of Urban Shamanism is to encourage the environment to work with you in your magickal endeavours to bring about the results you want. In the beginning this is usually done by rituals and ceremonial magick but, as the practitioner’s skills and connection with the city advance, the manifestations occur in harmony with the need. As an example of this when I began to connect with the city where I live I spent several days working on obtaining a mat for the side of my bed combining creative visualisation with driving through areas with the greatest chance of finding the type of mat I wanted. It took a few days to work but, I did find the mat I was projecting for. As time passed I started to have spontaneous synchronicity as in the time I wanted to see the film “Skyfall” and my day and events in it arranged themselves so that my wife and I were able to see it at no cost the next day. A few days ago I was walking out in the street when it began to rain heavily. No sooner had I thought ‘I really need an umbrella’ than I turned the corner and found a new one, still in its’ wrapper lying in front of me on the pavement. It was only a cheap one, but still kept, and keeps, the rain off of me when needed.
As you can see attuning to the city is a vital part of the Urban Shaman’s skills and is an ongoing process, just as it is for the Shamans in non-urban areas. As your skills develop so will your integration to the city, especially on the energy level. Not only will it enhance your magical and ritual skills, but you will also find you have new responsibilities including looking after the green areas and animals, and the human inhabitants too. This may involve doing formal things such as being drawn to joining, or even running, the local Neighbourhood Watch, or finding yourself helping out in a less formal role such as being the person lost tourists and locals stop in the street to ask for directions or advice. This integration with the city manifests itself as a sign that you, like the forest Shaman, are an integral part of your environment on a physical, mental, and spiritual level.
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