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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Symmetry and Magic: an example of a pop culture magic rule

I've been rereading The Dresden Files lately and as I've been reading the books I've been paying attention to the rules of magic that are part of that pop culture magic universe. When you practice pop culture magic, its important to pay close attention to the rules of magic within the given pop culture you're working with because those rules apply to the pop culture characters you work with and how they'll help you magically. It may seem odd that different pop culture universes have different rules of magic, or that those rules should even matter.

However they do matter because you're working in a specific context generated in part by the pop culture you work with. And if you want the aid of the characters you work with, you need to respect the context that is part of the mythology you're working in. Let me share an example to illustrate this.

In The Dresden Files, one of the rules of magic is about symmetry. Symmetry is important to that universe because its a restoration of order, but also a balancing of scales. It's also tied to debt, because in that universe, if you're in debt to someone else then you haven't balanced the scales and that person has power over you.

If you're going to use the pop culture universe of The Dresden Files for your pop culture magic, that's a rule you'll need to consider because it plays such an intricate role in that universe. Trying to work pop culture magic in that universe, without that rule, won't work because the characters need that rule. It's written into who and what they are.

When you do a working to one of those characters, what they are looking for from you is symmetry. They want balance, no debt owed, everything in order. Understanding that about that particular pop culture universe helps you to recognize how the pop culture magic will be affected by that rule. And that is important because if you're going to work pop culture magic, you should know what potential limits you're walking into.

One could argue that such rules are arbitrary. After all isn't pop culture just made up, something that someone came up with? Yes it's true that someone took the time to write a book or create a T.V. show or whatever else. But the act of creation is a magical act, and when that person wrote the book or T.V. show or whatever else, they also constructed that universe with specific ideas as to how things would work. And that universe was reinforced by all the people who paid attention to it and gave it some belief, even if just for the time it took to read a book or watch a show. The pop culture magician is working in someone else's sandbox.

If you choose to work with characters from The Dresden Files, then symmetry becomes a rule you need to factor in, for doing that work. Now it can also be said that symmetry is important outside of The Dresden Files and its true that it is, but in that particular pop culture universe it's that much more important.

So the key lesson here is to make sure you've done your research so that when you're practicing pop culture magic, you know what rules of magic you're dealing with. When you've done some research along those lines it helps you decide if you'll work with that pop culture. You'll know what limits and consequences you're potentially dealing with and how to prepare for them to get the most out of your pop culture magic work.

Taylor Ellwood is the Mad Scientist and Magical Experimenter of Magical Experiments. When he's not working on his latest book or experimenting with magic, Taylor enjoys gaming and exploring the pacific northwest.

*Picture courtesy of Wikipedia

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Taylor Ellwood is the author of Pop Culture Magic Systems, Space/Time Magic, Magical Identity and a number of other occult books. He posts about his latest projects at Magical Experiments.


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