Experimental Magic: The Evolution of Magic

Experiment with your magical practice by learning how to apply art, pop culture, neuroscience, psychology, and other disciplines to your magical work, as well as exploring fundamental underlying principles of what makes magic work. You'll never look at magic in the same way!

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Taylor Ellwood

Taylor Ellwood

Taylor Ellwood is the author of Pop Culture Magick, Space/Time Magic, Magical Identity and a number of other occult books. He posts about his latest projects at Magical Experiments. He is also the managing non-fiction editor of Immanion Press. Taylor lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two kids, as well as 7 cats.

How to Build a Pop Culture Magic System part 4

In part onetwo, and three of this series I covered how spaces, characters, and symbols could be used to create a pop culture magic system. In this part of the series, we'll explore the role of pop culture tools and how they can enhance your pop culture magic workings. One of the benefits of pop culture is that you have a plethora of tools you can draw upon. These tools don't need to be conventional magical tools either, but can be specific to the pop culture you are working with, and you'll usually find that you can draw some type of correspondence between a traditional tool and a pop culture tool, though you may also find it more interesting to come up with your own specific purposes for using a tool as it relates to the pop culture you are working with.

With your given pop culture, you can usually find pop culture tools in toy stores, comic book stores, as well as conventions. And if you can't find it in those places, you can usually either find someone making and selling pop culture tools for your fandom, or you can get crafty and make your own tools. For example if you work with Dr. Who, you can easily order a sonic screw driver or create your own variant and have that stand in as a wand. In the case of Batman, you might have multiple gadgets you utilize for various purposes. Part of this comes down to your creativity and your ability to recognize if there is an actual magical purpose for the tool. For example, I might use the batarang as an athame or sword. Alternately if I don't want to rely on a traditional correspondence, I still need to determine what purpose the Batarang would serve as a magical tool in my pop culture magic system. If the tool has no purpose, it becomes a distraction to the actual work.

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How to Build a Pop Culture System of Magic Part 3

In part one and two of this series I covered how spaces and characters could be used to create a pop culture magic system. In this part of the series, we'll explore the role of symbols in the creation of a pop culture magic system. What I find fascinating is how symbols are interwoven into characters, in such a way that sometimes characters are simultaneously personalities and symbols that represent something else. For example, in comics, the color schemes of a character's outfit make the character a symbol, as well as the ore overt display of a specific. The character is an extension of the overt character, automatically associated with the meanings attached to a symbol. Red, Blue, and Yellow call Superman to mind, along with the S in the geometrical figure. Black, Gray, Yellow, and a Bat symbol call to mind Batman, as much as the bat symbol itself. The symbol embodies a connection to the character, much like a goetic sigil embodies a connection to a Goetic Daimon. But the symbol is also evocative of what the character stands for and the values and skills the character embodies (again not different from the Goetic demon).

This melding of symbol with character doesn't just occur with comics. It also occurs with Fantasy and SF books and other forms of media. For example, the lightning bolt scar is a symbol associated with Harry Potter, and the Chaostar is as much associated with the character of Elric as it is with chaos magic. The melding of symbols with characters is a way to make those characters impressionable to the people who are into. The symbols evoke the characters.

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How to Create Pop Culture Magic Systems part 2

In my previous post, I discussed how spaces in a pop culture mythology could be worked with as astral temples, and used to help develop a pop culture magic system. Another way that you develop a pop culture system of magic involves working with the characters of the pop culture mythology. Whether you consider these characters to be archetypes or actual spirits is up to you, but I consider them to be actual spirits that have been brought into existence by the creation of the pop culture mythology and the interest and belief of the fans. While I don't think a system of pop culture magic automatically needs characters/entities to interact with, you'll find it's a very rare system that doesn't have some type of character that people interact with.

With a pop culture system of magic, you aren't doing a one-off working, so you need to make sure that the pop culture you choose actually fits your interests. Additionally, its useful if you already have some type of relationship with the characters. What that means is that you may not have worked with them magically, but you identify with them already on an emotional and spiritual level and enjoy the mythology they are part of and are invested in exploring that mythology further as well as possibly expanding it. If you already have a connection to those characters it makes it easier for you to develop your pop culture magic system. However, you shouldn't take that connection for granted. Part of developing your system involves getting to know your characters.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Role of Belief in Magic

Belief is a powerful tool in magic, and in spirituality in general. Belief is a funnel for attention and intention. Whether you believe in something because you genuinely believe in it or believe in it for the sake of something you are trying to achieve, belief has a purpose in magical work. I find the following passage to be illustrative of the importance of belief in magical work:

Be it noted that we do not have to believe or disbelieve in the actuality of such inner agencies per se. what we must believe in is the possibility they exist in their own state of being, yet are capable of interaction with ours by unspecified means or degrees...We need not believe in 'spirit' unless we want to, but we positively must believe in our capability of living and behaving as if the energies available to such entities might be employed on our behalf. From Exorcizing the Tree of Evil by William G. Gray

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How to Create a Pop Culture System of Magic

In Pop Culture Magic 2.0 I discuss how to create pop culture systems of magic , but what I thought I would share here is the actual creation of such a system. I'm in the process of developing my own system around the Batman mythology. I picked Batman, because I've always liked Batman and felt a connection to that particular mythology. However instead of starting with the obvious approach of working with the characters of the mythology, I decided to take a different approach.

My initial work has been around connecting with the prominent places in the mythology Batman, starting with Gotham City, but also including places in and around it that factor significant into the Batman mythology. One of my reasons for focusing on the spaces of the Batman mythology is because of how the characters (and the writers of the comic) refer to those spaces as living beings. For example, there are numerous references to how Gotham is alive and how different characters need to be careful because of how Gotham can interact with them. Now this might be meant metaphorically, but what it creates is a mythological narrative around the actual spaces in the Batman mythology and that narrative can be worked with as well as working with the characters. I think it can actually enhance the work you do with the characters in this mythology and would suggest that you can apply this concept to any pop culture system of magic.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Dragon Dancer
    Dragon Dancer says #
    LOVE THIS! What a cool idea! I'm not a fan of Batman myself, but I definitely see what you're talking about. Have a quick questio
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Batman is just an example. You ca take what I'm sharing here and apply it to a pop culture of you own choice. Pop Culture Magic 2.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
What is Pop Culture Magic?

When the phrase pop culture magic (or magick) is thrown around, what comes to mind for you? Do you imagine doing a magical working with your favorite pop culture icon or character? Or do you think of developing a magical technique based off a TV show or book? Or do you think of pop culture magic as something else? What I've noticed is that the majority of people who practice pop culture magic tend to approach it in terms of working with pop culture characters and the mythologies around those characters. There's certainly nothing wrong with perceiving pop culture magic in that way, but I think pop culture magic can be much more than just working with your favorite pop culture character (although that can be a lot of fun!)

In Pop Culture Magick, I defined pop culture magic in terms of its resistance to mainstream culture, arguing that the reason to work with pop culture magic was as a means of subversively resisting mainstream culture. I also argued that you needed to work with whatever was popular at the time. In Pop Culture Magic 2.0 (now available for pre-order!) I've revised my definition of pop culture magic substantially, arguing that pop culture is an expression and extension of mainstream culture (as opposed to it) and that a person's pop culture interest doesn't have to be popular in order to be worked with as pop culture magic. However, I don't think pop culture is just about the characters you can work with or the mythologies created around those characters.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    There are collector card games like Magic the Gathering. I suppose that the water cards could be used in a spell to catch pollute
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Those are some excellent examples of pop culture magic and why you might do a working using pop culture mythology and the like.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
What is Pop Culture Paganism?

The term Pop Culture Paganism has only shown up in the last few years. When I wrote Pop Culture Magick no one was using the term Pop Culture Pagan. Now the term is used by some people to describe their spiritual work and its distinct enough from Pop Culture Magic because not all pop culture Pagans practice magic or view it as an essential part of their spiritual work. That's not the only distinction however, between pop culture magic and pop culture Paganism. Pop Culture Paganism involves what I would consider to be a devotional approach to working with pop culture spirits. In other words, there is a recognition that the pop culture spirits are beings that the person wants to work with in a devotional manner, which could include prayers, offerings, and rituals done for purposes of honoring the spirit, as well as other activities that the pop culture spirits feel are appropriate. Given that we're dealing with a modern context those activities could include a different type of devotional behavior that's dependent on the pop culture media that the spirits show up in.

I consider myself both a pop culture Pagan and magician (in my next post I'll define what I think of as pop culture magic). In the context of being a pop culture Pagan, I find that there is a blending of magic into that Paganism, but that's because magic is an essential part of my spiritual work. In that context, let me share what my pop culture Pagan practice looks like. I work with the Dehara, which are based off Storm Constantine's Wraeththu series and are hermaphroditic deities. Each day I offer them a prayer of thanks for their presence in my life. Additionally I've integrated them into my magical work. For example, Thiede is the Dehar of Space and plays an integral role in my system of space/time magic. In addition, in Grimoire Kaimana, Storm laid out a wheel of the year associated with the Dehara, which can be worked with in terms of connecting with them. I've lately been looking into creating some correspondences around the Quabalistic Tree of life for the Dehara, as well as exploring some other alternatives to developing this particular spiritual path further. For me, this work is part of my spiritual work, a communion with spiritual beings that I feel a strong resonance with because of their nature and perspective that falls outside traditional gendered polarities. I'm not the only one to work with Dehara and what I've consistently found is that people involved in that path feel it fits them and that they fit it, which I think is an essential part of a spiritual calling.

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