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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in pop culture magic

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Using Fictional Magic in Real Magick

Lately I’ve seen a lot of questions online about using fictional spells and magical techniques in real magick.  Things like trying to use “expecto patronum” from Harry Potter or “forzare” from the Dresden Files in actual protection spells.  While this type of pop culture magick seems like a no brainer, there’s actually a lot you need to think about before trying to twist fictional magick into your real magick.

The best argument (in my opinion at least) for using fictional spells and magical techniques in your actual magick is that it allows you to build off of ideas that already exist both in your own mind and in the minds of others.  Why reinvent the metaphysical wheel if there’s already something suitable at hand?  Magick is all about delivering energy charged with intention to an intended target in order to manifest a desired result.  Our spells and rituals are the mechanisms we use to raise energy, charge it, and deliver it to its intended target.  We can do that most efficiently, and thus get the best results, when our minds have clear, easy paths to do so.  Forging those smooth paths takes practice, lots of practice.  However, we can shortcut things a bit by using spells that lots of other people use (getting the advantage of some of their energetic work) or by using words and techniques our brain already associates with the results we’re working towards - this is where fictional spells come in.

To get the most energetic benefit from using a fictional spell or technique it has to be something you know really well.  The fiction we know and love, that we see or read over and over again, has a special place in our hearts and minds.  The fiction we truly love becomes a part of our very being; there is no mental path smoother than those which flow to the things we love.  I’m confident that I can recite the entirety of The Princess Bride at any given moment, plus a good chunk of Harry Potter, and probably several seasons worth of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  These mental paths aren’t just smooth, they’re greased to almost frictionless.  Using the magic from the fiction that you love allows you take advantage of these frictionless paths and send all your energy directly where you intend it, none wasted forging the path.  Sure, you can use that amazing spell you saw once in that one episode of whatever, but unless it made an indelible mark on your very being it won’t be anymore effective than that really well written spell you found on the internet.  While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, you won’t be getting the best bang for your energetic buck.

There are some downsides to using fictional magic as part of real magick.  No matter how much you love it something that your mind identifies as fiction will take some time and effort to switch to non-fiction, though the benefit is usually worth the small energetic cost.  Let’s look at the “alohamora” spell from Harry Potter.  This is a spell used numerous times in the books and movies to unlock doors.  In the Harry Potter ‘verse you just wave your wand, say “alohamora” with conviction, and the previously locked door pops right open.  Sadly, our reality doesn’t work that way so we have to look at intent of the fictional spell to figure out how to translate it into something that works here.  A real spell based on this fictional one might be to inscribe the word “alohamora” onto a candle, charge it with the intent of unlocking a particular path or removing an obstacle to a goal, and then burning the candle to release the energy into the world.  Alternatively, a locksmith who happens to be a practitioner might use the word “alohamora” as a mantra to recite while picking an actual lock to help focus their will and guide their hands.  Both of these real spells use the fictional spell to enhance the real energetic work being done.  I personally prefer to add a few objects or techniques with magickal correspondence to my goal to help add a little “oomph” to my spellwork whenever possible.  However, one could simply focus on their intent and say the word “alohamora” while projecting their intent towards their target, just as the characters in Harry Potter do and it would be a valid spell as long as you truly believe it to be. 

Another hurdle in making fictional magic effective real magick it that the real results will never match up with the fictional results.  One of the most commonly used spells in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series (which I cannot recommend highly enough) is “fuego.”  As you might imagine if you speak spanish or any other latin based language, the fuego spell conjures a large fireball that hurls itself at the caster’s target.  This spell is used multiple times in many books; it’s probably used over 100 times in the series so far.  Both I and everyone else who’s read these books has a very clear picture cemented in their minds of what this spell looks like when it’s cast.  Unless your spellwork includes some pretty impressive professional pyrotechnics, your execution of a “fuego” spell is not going match the picture your head wants that spell to create.  That’s a problem.  Let’s say you wanted to use “fuego” to conjure a protective circle of energetic fire by visualizing the circle of fire while reciting “fuego” as an incantation.  In order to accomplish your goal your spell needs to energetically overcome the your cognitive dissonance of the results not looking the way your mind expects plus the energetic dissonance that every other reader’s idea of what the spell should be in order to manifest itself.  That really limits the ways that fictional spells with firm visual results can be used effectively in real magick.  To use “fuego” in real magick you’d really want to have some actual flame present to help mitigate the dissonance.  For this reason I really wouldn’t recommend using fictional magick with a really strong visual component unless it’s part of a big ritual that can recreate at least part of the expected visuals.

On a similar note, a good chunk of fictional magic tends to be overly theatrical, especially magic from television and movies.  Fictional magic is supposed to be entertaining and it can’t be entertaining in a visual medium unless the person casting it is doing something that we the audience can see.  In the movies witches and wizards are always doing big arm movements, gesturing with oversized tools, and shouting into the wind.  As fun as that is, it’s pretty wasteful energetically speaking unless you’re facilitating ritual for a large group that needs those visual cues.  Yes, I can hear you saying “but repeated physical movements help focus energy and smooth pathways.”  Of course they do.  Things like banishing and invoking pentagrams are particular physical movements that serve a particular energetic purpose and can enhance a magickal working in many ways.  However, there’s a line between movement used to focus energy and giant theatrical absurdities that look great and serve no purpose.  It’s a lot like the difference between martial arts in the movies and martial arts in real life.  I’d advise you to choose fictional spells that don’t expend as much energy in casting them as you’re trying to project out to your goal.

Fictional magics can be used in real magick to enhance spellwork and rituals by tapping into the pathways they’ve already forged in our minds.  To get the best results it’s important to be mindful of what shape those fictional spells and techniques already have in our minds and the minds of others.  By working with those ingrained images we can ensure that the energy we raise gets to its goal rather than being wasted forging the path to that goal.  Be mindful of what expectations a fictional spell raises both in how it’s supposed to look as its cast and its end result; be sure that really works with what you want to accomplish.  Choose the fictional magic you want to work with carefully and make sure it’s something that deeply resonates with you in order to get the best possible results.

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Pop Culture Magick at Pantheacon 2016

This year I once again had the great pleasure of presenting pop culture magick at Pantheacon.  This year was all about the importance of doing pop culture magick and how to strengthen your practices.  An amazing group of familiar faces and new friends attended and reminded me just how awesome you all are.  I always learn so much from workshop attendees - big hugs to you all.  For those who weren’t able to attend, or who attended and want some notes, here is a summary of the major points.

Pop culture magick is important work

We are constantly bombarded by media just by virtue of existing in the modern world.  Everything from billboards, advertising, supermarket merchandising, to pop music comes into our brains whether we want it to or not.  All of these things create pathways and links in our minds with the aim of making certain thought patterns more natural.  When we learn to do magick we are deliberately doing just that - forging new pathways in our brains in order to make certain actions (e.g. spellwork) easier and more natural.  Why not take advantage of the trenches that have already been dug?  Pop culture magick is one of the most energetically efficient types of magick out there.

Similarly, mainstream pop culture phenomenons (think Star Wars, Harry Potter, giant pop stars) create massive amounts of energy that can be harnessed by those in the know.  Anyone who’s ever been to a sold out concert or a heavily anticipated blockbuster movie knows that they create massive energetic outpourings, far more than could possibly be used in the normal course of events.  Anyone who’s ever watched a group of toddlers running around has heard and probably said the following, “...if I could just bottle that energy…”  By doing magick with huge pop culture phenomenons you’re doing essentially that - harnessing and using the energy that’s hitting you like a tidal wave any time you walk past a movie theater or, gods forbid, go to the mall.

Further, by using those externally forged channels in our brains for our own purposes we take control of them.  Pop culture magick can essentially overwrite the messages implanted in our heads by advertising by deliberately altering their effect.  I’d bet good money that everyone reading this article can sing at least half a dozen advertising jingles right now.  Take one of those tunes and sing a little incantation to it and suddenly instead of wanting a cheeseburger every time you hear the stupid Red Robin jingle you empower your spell - better for your magick and your budget.  Pop culture magick empowers the practitioner to take control of the subtle mental effects of media exposure.

Levelling up your practice

There are as many ways to practice pop culture magick as there are individual practitioners times the number of fandoms they work in.  Ultimately every practitioner needs to find the practices that work best for them, but there are two techniques that I feel have tremendous potential and are generally underrated: cosplay and fanfiction.

Cosplay is the modern equivalent of ritual aspecting.  Think about it.  Cosplayers spend huge amounts of time, energy, and often money in order to really become the characters they’re playing.  It’s not uncommon for serious cosplayers to spend months creating costumes, props, and working out to more perfectly resemble their characters - just as much, if not more, than a practitioner would before attempting to draw down or embody a deity.  A good cosplayer quite literally becomes their character so long as they’re in the costume.  Done with magickal intent this can be incredibly potent.  I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting a woman who is a strong advocate for equal representation in comics and does so in full batgirl cosplay.  She told me that she would never have had the courage to speak out of fight for what she believes in without the extra strength she feels from wearing the costume.  I’m a little shy for full cosplay, but subtle costuming (a t-shirt here, a bracelet there) can have the same effect when used with magickal intent.  Get creative and do what you’re comfortable with.

...and then there’s fanfiction, the odd cousin that people in the fandom don’t talk about to outsiders.  I like to think of fanfiction as an advanced bardic manifestation technique.  If you want to do a spell where Tony Stark helps you pass your computer science exam or Spiderman helps you stand up to a bullying co-worker why not write it all out as a story?  Stories told in any form (written, drawn, sung, spoken aloud, etc.) have tremendous power.  Bards of old certainly knew this and bards of today are figuring it out pretty quick (think modern “news” narratives and their power in our society).  Use whatever medium works for you and create the story you want to see play out, infuse it with your true intent, and let the energy of the story itself move your magick into the mundane.  Now I can’t write fiction to save my life but even I can think up a story and let it play out in my head (after years of practicing witchcraft I can visualize like a boss), so you can too.  Mary Sue your way to better magick.

Let your fandom be your guide

Once you’ve been doing pop culture magick for a little while you’ll likely find yourself settling into one or two particular fandoms for the majority of your workings.  When/if that happens, or if you just want to deepen your connection to a particular fandom, I suggestion looking to the fandom itself to determine how you focus your workings.  If you’re in the Supernatural or Buffy fandoms it’s probably a good idea to look into defensive magick and working with the paranormal (even if you’re not particularly interested in it) because it’s so intrinsic to the fandom itself.  If you like the X-Men you might look into activism magick; if you like Star Trek think about diplomacy and communication magicks.  Let the intrinsic energies of your fandom direct the focus of the next phase of your magickal development, after all there’s a reason you like the fandoms you do. 

Beyond that it’s just a matter of inspiration and creativity.  Take a closer look at your favorite aspects of your fandoms.  What is it about them that makes them so special to you?  What does your fandom have to teach you and how can you incorporate it into your practice?  Take some time and journal about it in order to really organize your thoughts.  This is a great trick for helping you deal with problematic fandoms.  For example, I’m a huge fan of the Hannibal series but since pretty much everything about it is more than mildly psychotic it can be tricky to work with magickally.  After much contemplation about what I liked I was able to figure out how to do safe and sane magick in that fandom.  I figured out I could work with that particular portrayal of Hannibal Lecter (version control people - version control!) as a model for mindful consumption.  (Yes, I’m weird and a little depraved; I’ve come to embrace it at this point.)  Examine your relationship to your fandom and let that inform your practices.

More than any other practice, in my experience at least, there’s no right or wrong way to do pop culture magick.  It’s all about what resonates with you, what feels the most natural, what feels empowering, and what gets the results you want.  Pop culture magick is getting a lot of attention these days, which means it’s also getting a lot of flack from traditionalists who call it lazy magick.  I say if you don’t like it, don’t do it.  I just want to share what works for me because I think other people might find it helpful.  No one form of magick is right for everyone.  Give it a try and if you don’t like it don’t continue doing it, but if you do like it then come and talk to me :)


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Surviving the Holidays...with Deadpool?

Ah, the holiday season: time of joyous family togetherness, or, if you’re like me, a time for anxiety and generally trying to hide and become one with the wallpaper.  I love my family but they make my brain revert into a horribly awkward teenager for some reason.  Consequently, I feel the need to gird myself a bit in order to face them and being the nerd I am I often turn to pop culture magick for a boost.  A few weeks ago I became the proud owner of a Deadpool ugly xmas sweatshirt and joked over on facebook that I’d use it in a spell to help me make it through the holidays.  Of course that got me thinking about how I might do just that.b2ap3_thumbnail_Deadpool.JPG

In previous writings I’ve advised people not to try and work with characters like Deadpool due to their incredibly unpredictable nature.  For most pop culture workings it is easiest to work with characters that are relatively straightforward and predictable.  You can pretty much always rely on a character like Spock to help you find a logical solution to a problem or for a character like Steve Rogers help you stand up to bullies.  No brainers, really.  It’s far more challenging to work with a character whose actions are difficult to predict.  You never really know what chaotic characters like the Joker, Delirium, or Deadpool are going to do.  Sometimes they’re pretty decent people, other times they kill or maim everyone in the room - you just never know. While it’s difficult to work with unpredictable, chaotic characters, it is possible.  There are two keys to working with unpredictable characters: version control and guidelines they will actually follow.

Regular readers of mine will recognize that version control is something I talk about a lot in regards to pop culture magick.  In this context, version control is simply figuring out which of the many existing iterations of a character you want to work with in this instance.  There are a lot of different versions of Deadpool out there in the world and their behavior can be radically different.  For example, the Deadpool you get in the Posehn/Duggan era comics is rather different than the one in the Ultimate Spiderman cartoon series (much less murder in the latter than the former).  For a straightforward character I recommend finding whatever version of that character’s personality best suits the working you’re trying to do and using it.  For a less predictable character I have to amend that to: find the version of the character that you know best and that you think might actually listen to you.  In order to work with an unpredictable character sanely you have to know it very well; well enough to understand their motivations and use those motivations in order to get it to do what you want and nothing you don’t want.  That is easier said than done.  For all that I know the Deadpool of saturday morning cartoons is likely to be easier to work with than the comic Deadpool, I don’t watch those cartoons and thus don’t know that Deadpool well enough to hope to predict his actions.  Thus, even though he’s a lot more dangerous, I could only ever work with the comic Deadpool because he’s the one I know best (though I’ve got several years worth of comic Deadpools to choose from, oy vey).

The second key to working with unpredictable characters is by far the most difficult to figure out: guidelines they will actually follow.  By their very nature, chaotic characters don’t like rules.  This is where really understanding the version of the character you’re working with is invaluable.  The only way to figure out how to phrase your working guidelines in a way the character will actually follow is to know that character inside and out.  I can’t see successfully working with this type of character if you’ve only got a casual connection with them.  To get a chaotic character to walk the path you want them to you need to phrase your goals in a way that will make them the character’s goals as well.  Use the thoughts and motivations you know the character already has in order to make them want your goals to happen in the way you want them to happen.  In my “Holidays with Deadpool” thought experiment my guidelines would have to include things like no harming anyone and keeping all snark non-verbal and confined astrally to not spill over onto my hapless relatives.  In order to get his compliance I need to figure out why Deadpool would ever want to be confined to those rules?  I know from the comics that Deadpool has a fairly well developed sense of morality and is pretty big on protecting the innocent, particularly children; he may be insane but Deadpool is a good guy at heart.  He is also incredibly playful, so I know that if I can make fulfilling my goals a game that he can win, Deadpool will toe the line.  Therefore, in order to get Deadpool to help me navigate the holidays while keeping to my rules I have to explain my goal is to maintain the happiness of my family and to make sure that strife doesn’t make my adorable little nieces cry.  As a bonus, he would get points for each time he prevents me from feeling bad without alerting my relatives to his presence or making them think I’m nuts.  If he gets enough points by the end of the night he’ll get an extra offering.  Use your knowledge of unpredictable characters’ thoughts, motives, and backstory in order to get them to want what you want and you should be ok.

Working with unpredictable characters is a calculated risk because you cannot guarantee they’ll behave themselves.  I would only recommend doing so if you really, really know the character well and have a deep enough connection with them that you feel comfortable with what you know they might do in a given situation.  With a firm grasp of the version of the character you want to work with and confidence in guidelines you believe the character will actually follow even someone like Deadpool can help make your holidays a bit brighter.  Do your spellwork safely. Happy Holidays!

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4 Reasons to work with Villains in Pop Culture Magic

Sometimes, with pop culture magic, you want to work with the bad guy, the villain, or the monster. The reasons why can vary from person to person, but I think one reason that stands out to me is that the villain is a character people relate to. S/he is flawed and shows those flaws more readily than the hero might. At the same time, there villain rarely thinks of him/herself as an actual villain. S/he has reasons for taking action and those reasons are sometimes quite valid. The problem is that the action is what makes the character villainous because it isn't the right action (at least according to the mores of society). Working with a villain can be very effective because the villain isn't bound to societal standards and may come up with some creative solutions (as Emily Carlin shares in a post she wrote on the same topic).

Recently Vincent Piazza wrote a post about horror magic, where he explores the history of horror film. One point he makes is that horror films show the ills of society and what happens if we don't learn to work with the shadow within us. That's wise advice and the second reason to work with villains because sometimes what we learn from them is something about ourselves and how to avoid making the mistakes the villain has made. Of course, if we do choose to work with a villain or a monster, some caution is warranted in how we work with them, but in all honesty the same cautions apply to working with any pop culture character.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

It’s that time of year again when the air is crisp, the sidewalks are damp, and every food item you can buy comes in “pumpkin spice.”  Oh yes, it’s almost Samhain.  This season is a gift for pop culture practitioners, as the trappings of magick are just about everywhere hidden in plain sight in friendly pop culture packages.  Everywhere you look things are draped in spiders, bats, witches, cauldrons, and cobwebs.  Every television show has a Halloween special and spooky movies play on every channel; at least one channel seems to be playing nothing but Tim Burton movies.  I am so very ok with this.  One of my all time favorite movies that plays non-stop this time of year is The Nightmare Before Christmas.b2ap3_thumbnail_Photo-Oct-25-1-58-20-PM.jpg

In case you’ve been either living under a rock or on some kind of crazed media fast for the last decade or two (in which case, what on earth are you doing reading this?), The Nightmare Before Christmas is an animated movie about the Pumpkin King having an identity crisis and trying to steal Christmas.  Much adventure, spooky ennui, and singing ensues as a result.  It’s very fun and you should really see it if you haven’t.  I like many things about this movie, but what I really love is the message of self-acceptance that comes through it.  As with all Tim Burton movies the main characters in The Nightmare Before Christmas, Sally and Jack, are off-beat and a little strange.  They go through times where they doubt who they are and try to conform themselves to someone else’s ideals to varying degrees of success.  Ultimately the two find strength, fulfillment, happiness, and love once they fully embrace the individuals they really are inside, instead of trying to be someone they’re not.  There’s a similar message of self-acceptance and embracing of one’s inner and outer weirdness in most of Tim Burton’s movies.

In homage to our patron saint of eccentricity, here is a spell for self-acceptance.

Burtonesque Spell for Self-Acceptance

Choose your favorite Tim Burton character that has a journey of self-acceptance in their movie.  I recommend Jack Skellington or Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas, Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice, Ichabod Crane from Sleepy Hollow, or Victor Van Dort or the Bride from The Corpse Bride.  Find a good track of Danny Elfman music to play in the background (e.g. The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack https://open.spotify.com/album/32hXKuDkMnpQaOI67xQj86 or the title theme from Beetlejuice https://open.spotify.com/track/7pTPxLkJ7ezXv2r6mJOT3T).

Play some appropriate music (or run a movie) quietly in the background.  If you normally cast a circle before doing spellwork do so now. 

Light a candle in your favorite color (a tea light or chime candle would be ideal) and either burn your favorite incense or anoint yourself with your favorite essential oil or hydrosol (or do both).

Take a moment to think about the character you’ve chosen and their journey.  Did they begin as awkward and unsure of themselves and find confidence?  Did they begin lost and adrift to emerge and find purpose?  Think of the qualities of their character and their journey that particularly speak to you.  What aspects of their journey do you need in your life? 

In your own words either speak aloud or write out 2-3 characteristics of the character’s journey to self-acceptance and empowerment that you need in your life.  Say why you need them and what you hope to accomplish by incorporating their power into your life.  Finish by either making a small offering appropriate to the character you’re drawing from or making a specific pledge to do so in the near future.

Let the candle burn while the music plays.  Dispel your circle if you cast one.

Once you’re finished it’s a great time to rewatch the movie your character came from and release any excess energy.

Moving forward you might choose to carry around a picture or toy of your character to remind you of your working.  Wearing a t-shirt, hoodie, costume, etc., of your character is also a great way to strengthen your working.  I’m a fan of using nail art as a reminder of this type of working.  (I’m a big fan of Espionage Cosmetics’ geeky decals)
b2ap3_thumbnail_Photo-Oct-25-1-55-09-PM.jpg

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  • Janet Boyer
    Janet Boyer says #
    Great post! I just bought Nightmare Before Christmas a few weeks ago. We're going to watch it before Halloween! Just watched Corp
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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