Does Being An Urban Pagan Make More Sense?

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Urban Atlanta is still very green.

Higgs boson. Andy Griffith. TomKat. Independence Day. Lots of appropriate topics today. I was discussing the idea that environmentalism puts just as much of a target on the back of Pagans as Witchcraft does, and that the idea that if we relabel what we do we’ll be better accepted is false.

I don’t want to talk about any of that today. I have cities on my mind. Bustling cities with trains and bus lines. Quiet cities gridded out with tree-lined streets. Cities designed for walking. Cities designed for music and art and community.

I’m a country girl at heart. I come from a long line of farmers. My father’s parents moved to a blue-collar neighborhood in Atlanta, and my father grew up there, but he longed for the country, for the mountains. I have always lived among grassy expanses, thick woods, mountain creeks and deep quiet. I love the mountains. I find them comforting. But I’m itching for change.

My 23-year-old car died. Anyone who knows anything about the State of Georgia knows that a car is a basic necessity. Our public transportation is non-existent outside of urban areas. The suburbs of Atlanta are practically designed to be a pedestrian nightmare. Living in the mountains in towns originally designed to serve farmers and gold miners infrequently coming in for supplies, not having a car is generally awful in every way.

One of the contributors to Agora, Adrian Hawkins, reminded me that the Witchcraft traditions we were each initiated into were born in the heart of Atlanta. The magical current we were “baptized in,” so to speak, was an urban current. In fact, most lines and traditions of Witchcraft or occultism in the US were birthed and nurtured in urban environments. There was this idea that urban Paganism was somehow less worthy, and eventually Pagans moved to the suburbs and rural areas. Of course it’s harder to be eco-friendly when you have to rely on a car, shop at Wal*Mart and build rather than re-use buildings which already exist.

I’ve been interested in urban renewal for a long time. Always been a fan of public transportation. But I wanted to stay close to my family and friends. My life has changed a lot though. And now that I don’t have a car I long for public transport and being able to walk to a coffee shop for a moment of social zen.

It seems strange to contemplate these things. My parents moved away from the city to move away from poverty and crime, and yet those things were close on the heels of the suburban exodus. The reasons my parents chose the suburbs and rural towns are the same reasons I find myself looking at the inner city: a better quality of life. With the proliferation of greener-than-thou Pagans who treat urban areas with disdain and insist you have to be really in nature to get it, I find myself desiring to abandon my green hills for the paved, tree-lined avenues of Atlanta. Instead of buying a car and driving to every single errand, it seems greener and more wholesome to walk and take public transport.

That’s what they don’t tell you about the suburbs and country. So often you only see it behind a pane of glass. Being so far from everything, you have to leave earlier to make your destination on time. Which is more time in a car, seeing the great, green world rushing by through a pane of glass. Living in pedestrian friendly areas give me a much greater appreciation for my natural environment. So I find myself deeply considering returning to the city my parents walked away from decades ago. Living in the country makes me a hermit, disconnected, and it’s more expensive to live here than in a lovely, tree-lined, historic Atlanta neighborhood with a vibrant culture, funky architecture and plentiful transport options. The only major trade-offs are living far from the amazing friends I have made here (most of whom I never see because I don’t have a car) and losing the deep beauty of the night sky to light pollution.

The economy has hit everyone pretty hard. Are you considering moving to an urban neighborhood for a better quality of life? Are you considering a car-free lifestyle? Do you find the values of thrift, ecology and community lead you to an urban environment?

Love is the law, love under will.

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