A Magia Loci Guidebook
Philadelphia’s essence circles around concepts of freedom, reform, and grappling with the nature of Sovereignty. The influence of the city’s founding Quakers is often referenced in terms of peace and brotherly love, tolerance and moving the line on human rights, for good and ill.
Historical firsts occurred here - The first organized protests against slavery were in Philly, it is where the country officially declared its independence. Other efforts went sideways (penal reform) or simply erased and ignored the foundations (Lenape history). The sense here is the hard-won idea that being an Isolate intelligence does not mean being isolated – but recognizing, respecting, and embracing the sovereignty of others and carving out the Space you need for yourself, creating the World as you do so.
Through these Seven Gates you may come to know the Essence of this City.
Gate 1: The Gate of Sovereignty
On this site, in 1776 the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and crafted the framework for our Constitution - the documents that declared our sovereignty and how we will function as a society. In an era of kingships and rulerships, a perhaps more difficult route was taken, an experiment that honored individuality, encouraged debate, and required compromise.
Our ‘United States’ endures not through force - but by vision and appeals for continual improvement and refinement.
Gate 2: The Gate of The Shadow
Eastern State Penitentiary
This former prison is a landmark for realizing human interaction is a necessity not a luxury, and the power of physical and mental structures. This prison is infamous for introducing solitary confinement, now considered a form of torture, and the ‘Big Brother’ structure of the ‘wagon-wheel’ floor plan.
Consider: at its inception, solitary confinement was proposed to foster penitence and rehabilitation - a perceived improved alternative to the widespread use of the death penalty and physical tortures of prisoners.
Gate 3: The Gate of Expression
UPenn’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
This Museum hosts over a million artifacts from middle and near eastern art in the world including the Royal Tombs of Ur from ancient Sumer, over 30,000 Sumerian and Akkadian cuneiform tablets, Egyptian collections from Pharaoh Merenptah, as well as findings from Mesoamerica - a Toltec Greenstone Mask, a Mayan Altar & examples of the distinctive Clovis tools - and even a crystal ball from Empress Cixi from the Tang Dynasty.
All of these world treasures, in juxtaposition against the lack of local indigenous archaeology.
Here you may see the thread of commonality in how we have historically expressed our fears, needs, and desires.
Gate 4: The Gate of Life
The Mütter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia
holds a large collection of unusual and unique anatomical specimens in a museum of medical history. 2022’s “Dracula” theme considered the impossible: the undead body. There has never been a report of a human body cheating death, so considerations about what might happen after death cross over into spirituality, religion, and belief of the nature of our Being that is NOT mortal flesh.
The consideration here is perhaps, that a fear of Dying is nothing against the fear of what unnaturally Endures.
Gate 5: The Gate of Wyrd
The Trocadero Theatre
Originally called the Arch St. Opera House, the Trocadero was a popular venue for burlesque and vaudeville, opera, musical comedies, and striptease. It re-emerged as a Chinese-themed art house cinema, then later as a downtown venue for a rock and punk shows in the 1990s. It went bankrupt in 2011 but kept afloat through restructuring for 7 more years yet succumbed in 2019.
A re-emergence of the space is afoot, having just received a grant in 2022 for a full renovation as a concert venue and entertainment space.
What wyrd new things may come from the Trocadero?
Gate 6: The Gate of Inspiration
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
A special slice of Philly featuring spectacular, visionary mosaic & mural art.
The space created by the Gardens is dedicated to creating space for the underseen and underserved, specifically people of color, women, and members of the queer community.
While the museum mile here holds numerous world class museums, they stretch along a wide boulevard similar to the one in Paris, which was designed in such a way to prevent the uprising of the rebellious urban dwellers against the crown. The people’s voices have always been off the beaten track.
Here in the Magic Gardens, you may find such voices.
Gate 7: The Gate of Choice
Rodin Museum & The Gates of Hell
Rodin’s initial inspiration came from Inferno, the first part of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Rodin imagined a world of chaos, unhinged and unlimited by the constraints of gravity, time, and space. Thus, his figures obeyed no rules in their poses, their emotive gestures, nor their sexuality.
The Gates are no longer a methodical representation of the Inferno but rather evoke universal human emotion and experiences such as forbidden love, punishment and suffering, but also suggest unapologetic sexuality, maternal love and contemplation.
In this space is the first bronze cast of the Gates of Hell. What would happen if you passed through the Gate and were freed from convention and expectations?
For more info on Black Magic underpinning Magia Loci, see xeper.org