Real Pagan Geek: Pagans, Geeks, and Pop Culture

Pagan themes have been a ready source of inspiration for popular culture for decades, providing mythic heroes, sinister occultists, and enduring symbols in every genre of entertainment. But rarely has any inspiration been so widely used and so widely misunderstood. Join us for thoughts, criticism, and commentary on the intersection of Paganism and popular culture.

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Eric O. Scott

Eric O. Scott

Eric Scott is a second-generation Wiccan, raised in the St. Louis-based Coven Pleiades. He writes fiction, memoir, and criticism, and has been featured in Ashe Journal, Witches and Pagans, and The Kansas City Star. He completed an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Missouri - Kansas City in 2010. He's also an inveterate geek who, at one point, played in 10 different RPG campaigns at once. He once fought a giant banana while cosplaying as Thor. Check out his other work at Killing the Buddha and Patheos Pagan.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Why You Should Read LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD

Yesterday, the first issue of Marvel's LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD arrived in your local Comics and Games Emporium. I haven't yet acquired my copy, because a frost giants are currently attacking my neighborhood and my roommate is too busy binging on Star Trek: Enterprise to dig his car out so we can exit the driveway, but I want to encourage you to pick up this comic.* If you have any interest in Marvel comics, or the Marvel movies – or, to tread into dangerous waters, in the ongoing folkloric evolution of Norse mythology through popular culture – you should give it a read.

The first two categories should be obvious: Loki is a major character in the Marvel Universe, and arguably the second most popular character in the movies after Tony Stark. AGENT OF ASGARD appears to be the culmination of several years of intense character development for Loki as well as a re-alignment of the character to better match Tom Hiddleston's portrayal in the films. But my third reason may require more explanation.

In short: if you think Marvel's treatment of Thor, Loki, and the entire Norse pantheon doesn't have an impact on the way people approach those beings in religious practice, I think you're willfully ignoring reality. How could it not? The number of people who know of Thor through Chris Hemsworth dwarfs those who have read the myth of Thor and Loki's visit to Útgarð. Some of those people will come into Heathen religions because of that first contact. The conservative nature of Heathenry ensures that anyone who first discovers the Norse gods through pop culture will immediately learn the differences between modern media and ancient sources, but it can't help but have an impact.

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  • C.S. MacCath
    C.S. MacCath says #
    I was holding out on this one; my pull list is already a mile long. But you've talked me into it. Time to write my comic book pu
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    This is an excellent example of how pop culture benefits more traditional belief systems, because as you write it can be a gateway
  • Peter Beckley
    Peter Beckley says #
    I sometimes fear the power of pop culture; unchecked it invariably waters down the message for the sake of making it palatable to

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
First thoughts on THOR: THE DARK WORLD

At this point, you ought to know whether or not you like Marvel's particular approach to superhero movies. I do. If you also liked the rest of the Marvel Universe films, you'll like THOR: THE DARK WORLD - and likely rate it among the best of the films in the series.

Director Alan Taylor's THE DARK WORLD is an decided improvement on Kenneth Branagh's THOR, which was hampered by having to do too many things within its running time: the backstory of war with the frost giants, revelations about Loki's true nature, the romance with Jane Foster (and wacky Midgard hi-jinx that ensued), some business with the Destroyer, etc. All of that got in the way of presenting a convincing character arc for Thor himself, who had, all told, maybe ten minutes of time actually devoted to his transformation from glory-hungry barbarian to self-sacrificing guardian of mortals. If you're a fan of the comics, you know this is how it has to go, but cinematically, it was not particularly well-done. That's forgivable, since the noble, stoic Thor we ended up with is really the character we wanted all along, but still, it made the movie less enjoyable

In THE DARK WORLD, after a little bit of naked exposition (obviously reminiscent of the prologue to Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring), we are able to get right into it: the Nine Worlds exist, and we get to visit quite a few of them. (There's even a scene in Vanaheim, which is traditionally the most boringest plane of existence in Marvel Asgard.) There's very little apologizing for the fantastic elements in this film; there's no self-consciousness in the Asgard scenes. Design-wise, this film embraces the "science fantasy" aesthetic even more than previous installments have: I can see a lot of STAR WARS in this film. And this completely works! While easily lampooned as Vikings... in... spaaaaaaace!, I found the design of both Asgard and the Dark Elves' weaponry, armor, and space ships to be delightfully imaginative. They have flying longships, folks, complete with shields hanging off the sides. The settings are equally impressive: Svartalfheim (simply called "The Dark World" in the film because, well, Svartalfheim doesn't quite roll off the tongue) is a sepia-skied waste of black sand, Vanaheim is a rugged wilderness, and Asgard continues in its golden glory

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  • Archer
    Archer says #
    I am warming to the Vikings in Space design and now, like you, find Asgard convincing and original and sort of Maxfield Parish/N,C
  • Eric O. Scott
    Eric O. Scott says #
    The last of Loki's "disguises" during his dialogue with Thor.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
GOD IS DEAD - and beyond offensive

At nearly the same time that Marvel Comics canceled JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY - a title that spent the entirety of its most recent run exploring the unique and wonderful creation that is Marvel's Asgard - one of Marvel's most prominent writers launched a comic through Avatar Press that I, perhaps naively, hoped might fill the void left by JIM in my monthly comics stack. Like JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY, this comic would seem to deal with the storytelling trope of ancient gods in the modern world, a premise full of culture clashes and opportunities for introspection into the role of mythology, both in the past and in the now. At best, this could have been an AMERICAN GODS-like myth trip. And even if it were just average, the premise alone would seem to guarantee some fun stories, right?

So I bought it.

The book, GOD IS DEAD, by Jonathan Hickman, Mike Costa, and Di Amorim, is one of the most profoundly awful things I've read in my life.

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  • Juliet
    Juliet says #
    Apparently, they couldn't even bother to get the background of the gods right. I would've been demanding a refund as soon as Zeus
  • Emily Mills
    Emily Mills says #
    I considered picking that title up when it came out, but didn't. I'm glad I didn't! I did get some excellent new Vertigo releases
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Scott, I don't read comic books, but I cringed when I read your review. I'm so tired of 'creative class' atheists and agnos

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Me and That Thor (Part 1)

Ten days ago, I finished a long and occasionally arduous journey deep into the heart of nerdom: I finally read every issue of Marvel's THOR and its sister comic, JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY, published since the character came back in 2007.* 

Between here and there, there have been about 60 issues of the main Thor book, plus 37 issues of Journey into Mystery, plus assorted one-shorts and miniseries. (I'll confess, I haven't read every single one of the one-shots, mainly because Marvel released a ton of them around the time the movie came out and I'm sorting out what's what. If I stumble onto any gems, I'll let you know.) That's a lot of comics - Gods bless the iPad, without which I doubt I ever would have taken up the project.

If you like superhero comics... Well, it's actually hard to tell, exactly, how well you will enjoy this particular era of the character. The 2007 Thor relaunch emphasized the fantasy side of the series as opposed to the super-heroing; most of the time, when the series goes towards superheroics, it falls a little flat. The best parts, for me, evoke a wonderful feeling of magical realism, the mixing of the mundane and the fantastic, the holy and the comedic.

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  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    Mr Scott, I wholeheartedly agree that Marvel doesn't give a hoot about the worshipers of the Norse gods, and therein lies proof of
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Ward, Speaking of Xena: Warrior Princess, I must say that both it and its companion show Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, ha

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
First thoughts on VIKINGS

This past Sunday, the History Channel debuted its first scripted drama series, VIKINGS. (If you missed it, or if, like me, you don't actually have a television, iTunes had the first episode available for free, at least at the time of writing.) 

VIKINGS follows the exploits of a de-mythologized Ragnar Lodbrok, a hero of Viking myths and sagas. Going by the first episode, the show hardly appears to be a straight adaptation of Ragnar's Saga; little about the show's hero remains the same as either the sagas or, as best as I can tell, the best guesses at the historical life of Ragnar. (I suppose that's not necessarily a bad thing, though it's a strange choice - nobody in America except serious Viking buffs will even recognize the name, and the people who recognize it will be confused as to why the character doesn't resemble the Ragnar of the sagas. Who knows.)

In the first episode, "Rites of Passage," Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and his twelve-year-old son set out to their tribe's Thing, where, after a few matters of law and punishment are settled, the tribe's leader, Jarl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne) will announce their destination for the summer's raids. Haraldson announces they will strike east, into Russia, as they have for several years; unfortunately, while it is known territory, it's also a poor place to make a profit, as the Slavs aren't any richer than the Scandinavians. Ragnar, with the help of a few new technologies, believes they should strike west, instead, but Haraldson won't have any of it. In secret, Ragnar hires a half-crazed shipwright, Floki, to build him a vessel so he and a crew can go exploring, putting him into direct conflict with Haraldson, who doesn't want one of his subjects making him look weak by defying his orders.

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  • Janneke Brouwers
    Janneke Brouwers says #
    I watched a terrible film called Walhalla Rising, and both the VIking homelands and the America's were shot in Scotland. Seeing bl
  • Eric O. Scott
    Eric O. Scott says #
    Really, you thought Valhalla Rising was terrible? I'll grant you that it was super-artsy to the point of incomprehensibility, but
  • Trine
    Trine says #
    This sounds really interesting, I'll have to see if the episode is also available in Europe. Thanks for the introduction! As for

b2ap3_thumbnail_mayan-zoroastrians.jpg

The Mayans, well known for their devotion to Zoroastrianism.

A few weeks ago I got an email telling me that Civilization V had gone on sale in the Steam store. I was broke; both the rent and my student loans came due in the same paycheck, and I was at the most difficult part of the pay-cycle, four days before payday.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Nothing in excess, Augustus

I realize that the usual wheelhouse of this blog is "popular" culture - comics, video games, stuff like that. The peculiar artistry of nerds. Today, however, I need to talk about something a little closer to "literary" culture (which, ironically, has far less mainstream exposure than any artifact of the geek fraternity.)

I stole Gore Vidal's 1964 novel Julian from a friend back in 2010. ("Stole" is the proper verb. I borrowed it from her and then moved away without giving it back.) I intended to read it as research for a novella I was writing. I never got through it back then, partially because squeezing yet another 500 page novel into one's final semester of graduate school is quite difficult, and partially because I knew the ending would break me in half. But I knew I would have to finish it someday. I picked the book up again this fall, incited by Vidal's death earlier this year, and finished it this morning.

I doubt I have ever been so shaken by a book.

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  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    Thank you for the wonderful review. I have had Vidal's book sitting on my shelf, half-read, for years; I really need to get back
  • Eric O. Scott
    Eric O. Scott says #
    I have read The Last Pagan. (Indeed, it makes an appearance in the novella I mentioned.) I, uh, stole it from my friend too..

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Skyward Sword and Sacred Marriage

My roommate bought a Wii not too long ago, and the first (and so far only) game he's bought for it is The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. I haven't played much of it beyond the beginning, but the beginning is a fascinating piece of work -- especially to someone looking at it through Pagan eyes.

OK, so, if you haven't played it, or if it's been a while, here's what happens. Link, the nameless, wordless pretty-boy hero of the story, lives in a city in the clouds (but not that Cloud City.) He's training to be a sky knight, or, in other words, a knight who lives in the sky. (Try to keep up.) He rides a gigantic bird and learns sword-fighting and all sorts of other knightly things.

There's a big competition coming up for the sky knights in training, and whoever wins the race takes part in some mysterious ritual atop the enormous statue of the city's patron goddess. The only other participant in that ritual is the princess, Zelda.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
"How was Asgard?" "It was Asgard."

You can blame my girlfriend for this post.

Although I was an early adopter of Facebook - way back in the days of legend, when one needed to be a student at an approved college and we spelled Facebook with a The - I had managed to avoid the time sucking vortex of Facebook games for many years. They were, after all, Skinner boxes, one and all, designed to slowly but persistently separate dollars and time from those gullible enough to fall into their traps. In terms of sophistication, Facebook games are little better than the puzzle in the polar bear cage on LOST, except Facebook games don't even have the courtesy to reward you with a fish biscuit.

...and then my girlfriend started playing Marvel Avengers Alliance, which is a Skinner box abomination like all the rest, except clad in the bright spandex of my beloved superheroes.

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  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Eric, I could just *hug* you for this post. A deep philosophical question nestled inside a post on the Marvel-verse! It's like fin

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Review: NORTHLANDERS, v. 1

 

Comics are my first love. I taught myself to read with Spiderman; my first after-school job primarily financed my $100 a month comics habit. And even today, comics may be my favorite medium, even if I have left the month-to-month antics of superheroes behind me. (Not for outgrowing superheroes, mind you, but because I was fed up with the companies behind them. I'm sure I'll end up ranting about this at some point.)

One of the series I have been reading through recently is NORTHLANDERS, published by the Vertigo imprint of DC Comics, written by Brian Wood, who is more famous for his book DMZ. NORTHLANDERS is an anthology series -- each volume, coincidentally about as long as a trade paperback, is a self-contained story. (The artist also changes with each volume.) The only thing the stories share in common is that they are set in the Viking Age, and the main characters are, as the title implies, people from the Northland. Unusually for a "Viking" story, however, that does not always mean Norsemen or Icelanders; Wood takes the entirety of the Viking world for his setting, and only a few stories have anything to do with Scandinavia proper.

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  • Lauren
    Lauren says #
    You've really piqued my interest. I'm not big on gore, but I'm a sucker for evocative artwork and compelling storylines. Excellent

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 I was born into Wicca, and for the most part, that's where I have stayed. I celebrate the sabbats and the esbats with my family coven, Pleiades, just as I have since I was a boy. But I have been curious about other religions, especially others that fall into the umbrella of “Pagan,” since I was eight or nine, and thanks to the magpie ethics of eclecticism, I've been quite happy to sample what those other paths had to offer. I studied Taoism in the 4th grade, had a Kemetic period in high school, and today study a little bit of Kaballah (Thelemic and otherwise.) But there's one brand of Paganism I don't think I could ever try, much less commit myself to, even though I have friends who follow it and recommend it to me.

 I'm afraid I could never be a Druid.

 This may seem unusual. If you're into the Pagan community at all, you've probably heard plenty of nice things about Druids. Alaric Albertsson, Llewellyn author, member of the prominent Druidic organization Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF), and all-around swell guy, says he thinks Druidry is the future of Paganism. Well, I bloody hope not.

 Why, you might ask.

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  • Freefire Cauldron
    Freefire Cauldron says #
    Had me going for a second! LOL
  • Lauren
    Lauren says #
    I love your style and I am really looking forward to more of your blog!
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    A Cleric or Druid, that would be me. Nothing better than barreling through a group of enemies as a Dire Bear, carrying an Elven Ra

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