P is for Portlandia and Spirits of Place


No, not the TV show.

Portlandia is the goddess of the city of Portland. She’s been here since at least 1851, which is a pretty good run for the west coast.

The poem at the statue’s base says that “our breath/ becomes her city.”

The most famous depiction of her, the large statue downtown, shows her reaching out to the people below. This is not just quality sculpture, though – I’ve found this to be very much the spirit of the city. She will make sure you can get by, more than any other city I’ve ever lived in.

I’ve found that Portlandia and the other city spirits are great for metaphysical networking. Making offerings to her, Columbia and the Skidmore Fates for help or asking advice tends to result in “coincidental” results – suddenly turning up job listings or apartments, taking a shortcut that happens to take me past something else I never knew I needed, and so on. The spirits of the place where you live know the city, and they can direct you to the places you need to go.

As you might imagine, the best ways to honor her are to take care of her city and its inhabitants. Get involved in planning events in Portland. Work to help those who need it, or preserve the city’s infrastructure. It doesn’t have to be major – volunteer or pick up litter or whatever works for you.

I think most cities have their own spirits, though I rarely see them personified like Portlandia. It’s worth reaching out to the place where you live. Most cities have a personality and an interest in their inhabitants. The land itself has its own personalities – in our case, there’s the Columbia and the Willamette, there’s Mt. Hood watching over us, there’s dozens of smaller spirits of place attached to the buildings and the parks. Just as your neighbors are a part of your neighborhood whether you hang out with them or not, and it’s not a bad idea to get to know them, it’s also a good idea to get to know the spirits of the place you’re living. Whether you’re putting down roots or just taking a break, knowing where you are is the first step in knowing where you’re going.

0 thoughts on “P is for Portlandia and Spirits of Place

  1. I’m now tempted to see if I can cultivate a relationship with the spirit of the city that I’m going to be working in, especially considering I want to eventually move there at some point.

  2. I also suspect that the neighborhoods themselves have spirits – all of them are named and each of them are different, which would seem to suggest Something being there.

  3. I haven’t done many offerings to city spirits here in Nottingham – I’ve had difficulty connecting with the city – though the local land spirits at the river and in the hills have had lots of offerings. It occurs to me that I should offer something as thanks when I move. Possibly to the Robin Hood statue up at the castle!

  4. Love this! I’ve been really focused on connecting with spirits of place lately, but it hadn’t occurred to me that the city would have a spirit I could connect with just as surely as the land does.

  5. I was just thinking about this the other day, but in the context of my own city. Denver has such life to it, its own energy and personality (and yes, there is the egregore of the Denver Metro Area which is most concentrated in the downtown area, but each neighborhood within Denver has its own essence and energy and spirit too, contained within and yet unique from the larger city – kind of like Netjer and Netjeru maybe).

    It frustrates me sometimes that people focus on nature to the point of shunning urban places, speaking of urban places as lifeless in contrast to the spirit of rural places. I mean, okay, I definitely connect to wilder places too, and have a different experience on the spiritual level there than I do in the city… But the city too has a spirit. It is far from lifeless. I connect strongly with my city, I love it fiercely, and I love my urban neighborhood and I love downtown, too. It is an energetic, driven kind of city, forward-looking and eager, like a hound on the leash or an entrepreneur fresh out of university, full of ideas and drive and optimism.

    Though I suppose it does depend on what sort of things you connect to, and where you live. Cleveland just felt so tired and depressed.

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