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

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
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)
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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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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
5 Must Have Magickal Apps

The best magickal tool is the one you have on hand when you need it.  I own wands, swords, athames, censers, candles, and all the other accoutrement one might expect of a witch, but what is the tool I use most often?  My phone.  Why?  Because I always have it on me, unlike the vast array of traditional tools that live at home on my altar.  Here are my top five most frequently used magickal apps, in no particular order.

1. Kindle.  Thanks to cloud based storage I have access to my entire digital library anytime, anywhere I have cell signal.  I frequently use my Kindle app to look up references from spell books, herbal formularies, and field guides.  If you’re out and about in the world and need to look up correspondences, herbal contraindications, or who’s who in the witchy world then this app is invaluable.  Unfortunately, a lot of the best magickal books aren’t available digitally yet, so it’s no substitute for a proper library.

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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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