Urban Gods

The Wiccan notion of The God and The Goddess tends to focus our attention on deity as wild, rural and natural. However, looking back at some of the pre-Christian pantheons, it’s apparent that this wasn’t how our ancestors did things. Gods can be urban.

Athena was the patron goddess of Athens.

Aqua Sulis (as the Romans named the UK city of Bath) was named for the local deity Sulis, who is paired with Minerva (the Roman equivalent of Athena).

‘Grim’ in a place name indicates a Viking presence, and alludes to Odin. Thus Grimsby (Also in the UK) is Odin’s.

People have lived in cities for thousands of years. Until relatively recently, the majority lived in the countryside and tilled the land, which is no doubt why ancient pantheons have a strong bias towards rural, agricultural and wild deities. However, cities are not new. With their numbers of available workers and levels of wealth, cities tended to be the homes of great temples. We might imagine our ancestors worshipping amongst standing stones, under the stars, in sacred groves and wild places. In reality, plenty of them lived and worshipped in urban environments, and some of them worshipped specifically urban gods, deities related to human civilization, not the wilds. (The cult of Roman Emperor worship seems a fine example).

Every city has its own character, vibe, or spirit. It stands on its own land. There may be a river flowing through it, and that river may have a deity. Sometimes (as with the examples above) it’s easy to find out who the pagan patron of a city is. For cities that do not have that kind of antiquity, connecting with the deity is a little more challenging. If the city speaks to you, listen to its voice, and perhaps it will whisper a name.

Here’s a song I think really evokes a sense of urban deity.

2 thoughts on “Urban Gods”

  1. I have studied Ancient Civilizations for YEARS and never made the connection until recently about Pagans-country-cities. Now while I never considered a pagan as one who has to live in the country to flock to nature, this whole them month is rather opening my eyes to how it has been.

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  2. I applaud your choice of song for the sense of urban deity. Although I spent my formative years in the countryside and always felt a connection to nature I did not discover my true spirituality until after I moved to the city. I live about ten minutes from downtown St. Louis, MO and spent a number of years working in downtown.

    As of June of this year I’ve lived here for 24 years and have never felt as if I could not connect. There is a different feel to the urban, but that connection is still there. The area I live in has a gorgeous Victorian walking park, one of the last in the world, and when I need a more rural boost I can lose myself there. More days than not walking the urban streets of my city work just fine.

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