London is a sprawling city, packed with over eight-million people and oozing a history that spans more than two millenia. Every street has a story to tell and if you can stand still in the hustle-bustle, you’ll find the spirit of place, the genius loci.
I found London’s genius loci many, many years ago. Growing up in London, I would often jump on the Tube on rainy afternoons and wander around town, more often than not ending up at Cleopatra’s Needle on the Embankment. This obelisk, standing in its current location for over a hundred years, was not the attraction but the location was.
It felt to me as if the essence of the whole city could be found looking out over the Thames, the obelisk serving as a pin on a map to point people in the right place to experience the genius loci. If I stayed still, while the Thames flowed before me, I’d be swept up with the city and maybe, just maybe, it would whisper its secrets to me.
I’m still waiting for the genius loci to tell all of its tales but while I’m in its presence, I find peace amongst the chaos of the capital. I have protection from the noisy, outer world while I connect with an energy older than my ancestor’s bones.
Incidentally, after I moved away from London, I read Devas, Fairies and Angels by William Bloom and was amazed to read his almost identical description of where he felt the spirit of London resided.
The Romans brought the idea of the genius loci to these shores although I don’t imagine they were the first to recognise that each place has its own protective spirit. In recent times, the genius loci is seen more as the energy or spirit of a location rather than its guardian.
We lose connection to the land when we see the genius loci as a personality and not a protective spirit. Would we be so bold as to drill, mine, frack and generally abuse the earth if we all believed we would experience the wrath of a spirit that has stood guard for longer than humankind has existed?
Finding a genius loci
Let’s embrace the Roman belief that every place has a guardian spirit. This means that every square inch of the earth has its own energy but it’s the space between boundaries (man made or otherwise) where the genius loci can be felt. And there are layers over layers too. If I jump back to the Victoria Embankment, I sense the spirit for the whole of London but if I move around different districts, they have their own distinct genius loci. For example, the City of London, which is the financial district, has a completely different feel to its neighbouring Whitechapel (infamous for Jack the Ripper).
Opening up your senses to your environment and to the ground underneath your feet helps you locate the genius loci. Even in the busiest of cities, you can find the spirit if you pause to remember it is there. Take a moment. Breathe. What do you feel? Is the energy calm, inviting, busy, sad, menacing etc.? Are you led to a particular spot?
Rather than attempt to connect with a city genius loci, start where you are. Start with your home or home town – find the genius loci that is nearest to you.
Working with a genius loci
You can’t work with something you don’t know so make the effort to know the genius loci before working with it. What would this energy protect you from? What would it want from you in return for its protection? Get clear about these questions before working with the genius loci.
As it’s a guardian spirit, work protection spells with the genius loci but only if you’ve established contact. You wouldn’t expect a stranger to protect you or your possessions and spirits are no exception.
Your home genius loci is an obvious choice to protect your home (as long as it’s so inclined). One way you can honour the spirit of your home is to create an altar or shrine to the genius loci. Consider where the heart of your home lies and place your altar there.
Even though I now live about 90-miles away from London, I still use the London genius loci as a focus. If life is feeling out of control and I need to feel peace, I imagine being at Cleopatra’s Needle and looking out over the Thames. As long as you know the genius loci and the energy it holds, you can connect to it remotely if you can’t visit it in person.