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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The role of Immersion in Pop Culture Magic

One of the pop culture magic systems I work with is Dehara, based off the Wraeththu series by Storm Constantine. We're currently doing some work on the next grimoire and as part of that work I've been immersing myself in reading the Wraeththu series, as well as fan fiction set in that universe. By immersing myself in the pop culture artifacts I attune myself to that system of magic, as well as to the characters that may show up as a result. Scientists call this type of immersion experience taking. I get caught up in the pop culture world and change my behavior and thoughts to match that of the characters. Personally I think the concept of experience taking sounds a lot like invocation.

I've been integrating my work with Dehara into my daily work, doing path workings with the various beings I'm contacting as I help to flesh out this system of magic. What's been most fascinating for me though is that my work has shown up in my dreams. I've dreamed of myself as a hara having adventures in the Wraeththu universe. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I'm doing this magical work and also re-reading the series at the same time, creating this immersive experience that effects my imagination and makes my dreams more receptive to continued interactions and work on this system of magic. In both my meditations and dreams the experiences have been lucid. In one case, in the meditation the Hara version of myself experienced a burn on his hand, and my physical hand had a similar reaction, though there was no burn on it.

Immersion in pop culture can occur across multiple forms of media. Video games are obvious examples of such immersion, but what makes reading different is how it engages the imagination differently. A video game or television show provides you the sensorial content, but reading requires you to use your imagination to fill in that information and consequently I think it can draw you in further. If you've ever had the experience where you feel like you've disappeared into a book, its likely because your imagination is fully engaged and placing your awareness into a different space as a result.

Another way you can tell you are engaged in pop culture is when you start to create your own content. The fan fiction of Harry Potter is a good example of such content. Some of it is wish fulfillment about existing characters, but in some cases its also writing about new characters, characters that are modeled off the person writing the fiction. In my own work with Dehara, I've felt compelled to start writing a fictional story set in the Wraeththu universe, a channeling of the experiences my Harish self is having when I do my meditations. I've started writing it and I felt that its deepened the experience even further. I'm investing myself in this identity as much as I'm investing myself in the magical work I'm doing around it.

What makes pop culture magic work is a combination of understanding the principles of magic and the ability to invest your identity in pop culture enough to make it real for you. While for anyone else it may not be real, if you can give enough of yourself to it and accept it as a possible reality, then what you discover is a resonance that allows you to connect with the characters and make them part of your life beyond the immediate gratification of entertainment. The stories come to life for you, and you take part in the experience. The pop culture is no longer just fiction, but something deeper, made so by the simple fact that imagination is so much more than a flight of fancy. Imagination is the compelling realization of sacred possibility provided form and substance by the practitioner and what the practitioner is engaging.

My work with Dehara is an engagement of my imagination, an immersion in pop culture, an a form of identity that allows me to meaningfully make that form of pop culture a part of my spiritual life. Someone else who'd want to work with the system would need to take a similar initial approach, immersing themselves in the Wraeththu series and related works, but more than that they would need to engage their imagination as a way to connect and interact with that world and the characters within it. The same applies to any other system of pop culture magic that a person wants to learn. To make it real immerse yourself in it so that you engage your imagination and connect with the characters who are part of that pop culture. That's the beginning of your work with pop culture magic.

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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.


  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Thursday, 15 January 2015

    Thanks for this column - as a writer of fiction I was particularly pleased. I may work with my own characters at a deeper level because of this.

  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood Thursday, 15 January 2015

    Thanks for commenting. I think this would be an excellent process for working with your characters more deeply.

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Friday, 16 January 2015

    Thank you for relating that experience about the burn on the hand. I had a similar experience recently while writing a novel and was wondering if anyone else experienced such things. I've been writing a novel based on heathen mythology, so the gods and magic are the same system I've already been working in since the '80s. I'm retelling the actual mythology with original material inserted interstitially. Recently I wrote the scene in which Odin gives his eye to the Well of Wisdom. On two consecutive nights I had related dreams, one where someone put an eyepatch on me and told me I was a pirate now, and one where I put a bucket down the Well and it came up with a jack-o-lantern version of a Mr. Potato Head which could talk (in the actual mythology, the Well's guardian Mimir is a talking head also.) On the third morning I woke up with a stabbing pain in my right eye, which, thankfully, did not correspond to any physical wounds, but it sure scared me for a few moments.

  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood Friday, 16 January 2015

    Hi Erin,

    I think you can tell when you've really connected with a mythology (modern or traditional) when you have that kind of immersive experience. It can be a little scary, but also fascinating in its own right.

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