Goddesses of the Urban Landscape
Pagans face a challenge in practicing a nature-based religion in the
midst of mostly unnatural surroundings. While visits to parks and
wilderness vacations can help, most of us have learned to look for
and find the Goddess where we dwell, in the concrete and asphalt and
crowds of the city. Below are some of the Goddesses I have found in
the heart of Our Nation's Capital.
A trickster Goddess, stepsister of Asphalta. (Both were fathered by
the God Detroit.) Gridlocki and her minions do their best to prevent
devotees of the automobile from reaching their destinations on time.
Among the tools of Gridlocki are the Lane Closure, the Fender Bender,
the Major Incident, the Emergency Vehicle, the Broken-Down Bus, the
Malfunctioning Signal Light, the Raised Drawbridge, and the VIP Motorcade.
Because She often resembles her gentler stepsister, devotees of the
automobile make offerings to Asphalta in the form of added freeway
lanes and more road construction, little knowing that such offerings
simply make Gridlocki jealous, and result in even deeper chaos.
Tunnel Woman is a Goddess beloved of urban commuters. A chthonic Goddess,
her temples are found deep beneath the city streets. She guides wanderers
to their destination through darkness and confusion caused by inaccurate
or hard-to-read system maps. She accepts tributes of tokens, farecards,
and electronic passes. Delays and disruptions in Her service teach
Her devotees patience and faith, although nervous novices may be heard
to chant out loud "There will be another train, there will be
another train. . ."
Although the worship of Caffeina has been a part of contemporary urban
life for several generations, in the past 10 years the number of temples
dedicated to Her worship has burgeoned. It is now possible to worship
Her as a Goddess of Many Lands and Many Names, including Cappucino,
Latte, Breve, Mocha, Au Lait, and Chai. Her Priestesses and Priests,
who hold the title Barista, are heard reciting prayers whose meaning
is known only to Her devotees: "Grande Latte Skinny No Foam."
" Decaf Skim Hazelnut Cappucino Extra Shot." Orthodoxies
have arisen, such as those under the names of Starbuck, Hannibal,
and Xando, but many of Her worshippers prefer Her more colorful locally
The worship of Exertia was once limited to those who could
endure the scorn and ridicule of co-workers as they pursued their
athletic goals. Now, temples to Exertia equal and may outnumber those
dedicated to Caffeina, and devotees often set aside areas or entire
rooms in their homes for Her worship. Exertia in Her aspect of Aerobia
is celebrated in group rituals called "Aerobics," including
dance aerobics, step aerobics, water aerobics, cardiofunk aerobics,
and low-intensity aerobics. Those who prefer to worship individually
can choose from a variety of traditions, including Lifecycle, Nordictrack,
Nautilus, Cybex, and Bowflex. Adepts of the Mysteries of Exertia are
often found seeking Her Inner Mysteries in the Free Weights Room.
Pedestria is honored by many devotees of Exertia, and by those who
would avoid the tangles and snarls of the trickster Goddess Gridlocki.
Her icons are found at most urban intersections, providing guidance
to those who would pursue Her worship while avoiding physical encounters
with the car-demons of Gridlocki. Women who follow Pedestria can be
recognized by their characteristic footwear, for they disdain the
pain of pumps, spikes, slides, and slingbacks for the comfort of Nikes,
Adidas, Rykas, Birkenstocks, and Vasques.
temples to Conventionaria are found in large and medium-sized cities.
They are surrounded by buildings offering hospitality and lodging
to the pilgrims visiting the Temple. The devotees of Conventionaria
visit her temple by the thousands, and sometimes the tens of thousands,
from around the world. They identify themselves to each other and
to the Temple workers by wearing plastic name badges. Rituals to Conventionaria
include the Plenary Session, the Concurrent Workshop, and the Awards
Luncheon. A key feature of Her Temple is the Exhibit Hall, where pilgrims
receive gifts from the acolytes of Conventionaria known as Vendors.
Her rituals often have a specific topical focus (for example, dermatology,
modern languages, architecture, politics, or library science).
Goddesses have you found in your part of the world?