ABOUT MAGIA LOCI
Magia Loci - the magical processes stemming from our interaction with place, particularly the built environment such as cities, towns, and buildings.
While the idea of ‘magic of place’ is pretty straightforward – suggestive of some subtle, inherent quality of a place which has an effect on us - it’s not quite what the right terminology. The Latin term 'Loci' underscores perception, dimensionality and orientation. Loci has a mathematical definition which describes what is shaped by many conditions being met. The magical conditions of a place span time (the influence of the past, the present evolving moment, and our willed future) and information (subjective and objective). There is a psychological concept – the method of loci – which describes working with memory palaces - memory is a key component in our interface with place. And Loci also has an orienting feature which suggests a relationship between all of THAT with YOU at the center.
So it’s never just ‘place’ but the dynamic system that bursts to life when humans and other lifeforms interact in it, colored by our cultural biases, our memories, the stories we have heard, our evolutionary reaction to shapes and angles, and a myriad of subtle unconscious associations. The particulars of our creations count, such as the density of the buildings, the layout of the streets, the shapes and styles of houses and rooms – but also the stories behind them, the people who inhabit them, the animals and greenery (or lack thereof), the scent in the air, the shift in mood and energy when day turns to night - the intersection of all these things, which in total comprise the World we are living in.
In short, Magia Loci is about working in the World, with place as our interface. From this work we can learn how the world impacts us, how it controls us, how to reprogram it, and ultimately how to create the World we desire.
The underlying framework of the World is layer upon layer of human output, human creation. In any built environment, we are dealing with the overlapping effect of the thousands of mindless, mundane, and sometimes manipulative decisions people have made, which in total, shape the places we encounter and move within. We think, feel, and act based on those decisions whether anyone really meant to impact us or not.
Each component shapes our actions, emotions, and thoughts. We cannot possibly calculate all of the effects, but we have well over our ‘ten thousand hours’ in learning how built environments and cities affect us. Arguably every Place you have ever been, have ever touched, since the moment you were born, has been created and cultivated by humans, for humans or at least holds the trace and impact of humans.
Untouched/unknown places are dwindling if not completely extinct, a thing of the recent past. We might continue to look to the stars or the deepest of oceans, yet we will ultimately be ensconced in capsules of our own design. Perhaps the built environment was a side effect of the Gift of Set - the gift of our unnatural consciousness, or a precursor, but our built environments have become a force in their own right, one that must not be taken for granted.
Our unrelenting experience interacting with the built environment results in our ‘sense’ or ‘instinct’ or ‘intuition’ on how certain places ‘feel’. As a result, responses to our usual Places become hardwired and habitual. If we forget to think about Place as an external and separate influencer, we can become as rats in a cage, interacting within a place based on the effect of what hundreds of others have mindlessly or mindfully programmed.
We can become inflexible or blind to the New, the Different, and the Strange. It takes a great warp in the matrix of Place to throw us off balance, to lose our orientation, or otherwise be rudely awakened. For those who like to be awakened, playing with these processes can be a very suitable and deep initiatory practice. We can learn to pay more attention to the World, we can observe more keenly the nature of its control whether it is mindless or manipulative. We can open to exploration past our normal limits. And eventually we can break the world’s hold on us, and shape it anew.