Baltimore on Fire: Healing the Urban Spirit of the Land

It's been a rough few days.
The media shows a Baltimore on fire, full of rioters and looters. Of course, that's not even close to an accurate representation of what's really happening in the city. Many others have written objective and somewhat accurate articles regarding recent events (see here, here, here, here, and here). For this post, I am writing about Baltimore's magic.

In Paganism, and Druidry in particular, there is great emphasis on working with the Spirits of the Land. In my own personal magical philosophy, as both a Druid and a Urban Mystic (native New Yorker here), I believe in working not only with the Land, but with the Egregore created by communities of group minds. For example, Baltimore City has a different "energy & spirit" than New York City, but both have similar Urban Nature Spirits within them that work under the direction and protection of the City Itself.

When I first moved here back in 2011, I ritually "plugged in" to these Urban Nature Spirits (such as the Beggar Man, who watches over the homeless; the Pigeons, who are the Eyes of Baltimore City, the Spirits of the Watersheds, who give fresh water and help protect the land from flooding during hurricanes, etc.). The offerings that I give to my Helping Spirits include Baltimore and its own overarching Nature Spirit; they help to keep my apartment protected from burglars, my car safe on the roads, the electricity/water running as long as possible during heavy storms, and my person safe when taking long walks through new neighborhoods.

Because of this ritual joining during the House Blessing for my apartment, I felt the increased pain and unrest in Baltimore before I understood what was going on (and before I read first-hand accounts online).

I love Baltimore, and I especially love her people, with whom I have directly worked these past four years. Over forty percent of my shamanic clients are within 25 miles of me, and I have compassionate working relationships with hundreds more in the public mental health centers/hospitals in both the city and county of Baltimore. I am deeply moved by the prayers for healing from the protesters, and want to contribute my time and energy, too.

However, prayers in a shamanic context are fundamentally different from other religious prayers. Shamans directly intercede with Spirits, on behalf of the client(s), and so their words and intent are directly tied to the healing work. This means that the ethics of shamanic prayers are more stringent than other religious prayers, as it has a direct effect on the outcome and energy of an issue.

What should I pray for? Should I ask for energy be sent to the protestors? What about praying that the rioters "all go home instead of rioting?"  Should I pray for the National Guard to leave, or for more cops to join those already flooding the city? What is the effect of my prayers for "no more violence?"  Will that affect the outcome of the social change? How can I know what is needed for true healing and witnessing to occur?

I am a limited human being, with a very small understanding of cause and effect on a grand, city-wide scale. I may want to pray for a quick, safe end to the activities, but what if that short-circuits the very real pressure needed to fix what's broken?

As I am teasing out the complexities of my decision, the local ADF Druid grove, Cedar Light Grove, announces the beginning of a nightly Vigil, to provide a supportive and spiritual place for those in need.

I immediately pack a bag of offerings, grab my drum, and tear out a map of Baltimore from my hiking book. I've decided that the best way I can send energy, prayers, and offerings in support of Baltimore is to send it to the Spirit of Baltimore itself. The Spirit can decided where the energy needs to go, and I will not be so immediately and directly linked to its cause-and-effect, especially as I don't know what's needed for the City and its People.

(c) Lonely Coyote, 2015
The Vigil started at 7pm, and brought in people who wanted to do something, but weren't quite sure what to do (at first). Offerings of alcohol and cornmeal were poured onto the ground, and dedicated to Baltimore City. Energy was raised with drumming, vocalizing, and movement. A crystal grid helped to direct it throughout the whole city (see here for a write-up with pictures). Many of us carved sacred words and prayers into candles, and lit them as the Sun set.
(c) Lonely Coyote, 2015
The greatest offering for Baltimore came from the attendees. Community was created during that Vigil, and there was laughter, stories, compassion, frank talk about racism & fear, and support of neighbors and strangers. It was a true reflection of the Spirit of Baltimore as a whole, and I believe the Egregore was strengthened by all the energies in that Vigil.

I will continue to send healing energy to the Spirit of Baltimore, for each evening that there is rioting and the restrictive curfew. I don't know what will happen to this city, and I don't know if we can maintain the Total Death Count at Only One (R.I.P. Freddie Gray). I have no control over any of this; I only have control over myself.

I choose to learn all that I can about all sides of this conflict, and to bear witness to the treatment of black city residents and the poor.

And I choose to drum.

What will you choose to do?
(c) Lonely Coyote, 2015


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