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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Review: Pop Culture Systems

Over the last few years the use of pop culture in magickal practices has grown by leaps and bounds.  As pop culture magick practices grow, becoming more widely accepted and practiced, so does the the need for more cohesive systems for sharing and deepening those practices.  In Pop Culture Systems: How to Create Your Own Pop Culture Magic System, Taylor Ellwood outlines some of the many ways that a practitioner can draw upon pop culture to create a coherent and powerful magickal system. 

Pop Culture Systems aims to help the experienced practitioner take disparate one-off pop culture practices in a particular pop culture universe and combine them to create a fully developed system of magick.  Ellwood defines a system of magic as: “a series of processes and techniques developed by a magician for the purposes of connecting with the divine (in whatever form the divine shows up) and for turning possibilities into reality.  The system is used to organize these processes and techniques so that they can be shared with other people, either through books (such as this one) or through classes or in-person transmission.” (p. 19)  The beginning of the book covers how to choose the pop culture universe you want to work with and the various elements within that universe that would be specifically incorporated into magick.  For example, if a practitioner felt pulled to work with the Firefly universe they would need to examine what resonated with them and why, and how that might harmonize with magickal practices, as well as ways canon behaviors and ideologies might clash with magickal goals. 

The middle of the book goes into the details of creating your own system.  This is done largely by mapping characters, tools, symbols, locations, and other elements of the chosen pop culture, to magickal correspondences or mechanisms in existing magickal systems.  For example a practitioner wanting to work with the Harry Potter universe might map the four Hogwarts houses to the four elements, or someone wanting to work with the Dresden Files universe might map the main characters onto the traditional eight sabbats.  This part of the book also touches on ways to create a system based on systems of magic in fiction and gaming mechanics.  Ellwood emphasizes that once correspondences have been mapped the practitioner must do meditations, pathworkings, and small magickal tests to make sure the correspondences hold true in practice. 

The end of the book examines some of the reasons and ways a practitioner might choose to share their system.  Some of the reasons cited include being able to solicit outside feedback, deepening practices collaboratively, and having a way for your system to live on beyond the practitioner’s own personal practice.  Ellwood suggests reaching out to mundane fandoms, beyond known magickal practitioners, as a way of sharing a system.  The book concludes with a few essays from other pop culture practitioners giving their take on pop culture systems.

Pop Culture Systems gives the reader a quick and easily understandable overview of how to create a system of magick based on a pop culture universe.  One of the book’s strengths is its use of a wide variety of fandoms in concrete examples to illustrate the core concepts.  With example taken from everything from Lord of the Rings to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, there is something to resonate with almost everyone.  Further, while most of the methods discussed seem fairly common sense once read, they’re not necessarily things that would occur to the average practitioner on their own.  Ellwood effectively addresses a lot of the complications and stumbling blocks a practitioner can face developing their own magickal system, saving the reader a lot of unnecessary trial and error.  While solidly aimed at the experienced practitioner, this book can be enjoyed by newer folks with an eye to prioritizing what they learn and how to begin putting together some of the foundational pieces of a pop culture practice. 

For me, there were two main drawbacks to this work.  First, the writing style is somewhat repetitive.  Ellwood goes over the main concepts many times, and while some repetition is helpful for memory retention it does grow stale.  Second, Pop Culture Systems focuses exclusively on systems based on a single pop culture universe.  Most of the pop culture practitioners I know work across multiple fandoms, and while the core concepts of the book can be applied to a multi-fandom practice with a little tweaking it’s never addressed.  These drawbacks are fairly minor and don’t take away from the validity of the core content.

Overall I would recommend Pop Culture Systems for experienced pop culture practitioners looking to deepen their practices within a specific fandom/universe or those wishing to include others in their practice.  The book is a quick and easy read that gets the reader thinking and asking the questions they’ll need to answer to create their own magickal system.  If you’re looking to create a system of magick that is all your own and includes the pop culture you love, this is a great place to start.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Myth of Pagan Enlightenment

When I first began practicing magic, I had this naive belief that every pagan and occultist I would meet would somehow be more enlightened. Part of me wanted to believe that the people I would meet would have their acts together, be living a better life than everyone else. And perhaps I also hoped that some of it would rub off on me...that since I was now practicing magic I too would become a more enlightened person.

I eventually discovered that the enlightened Pagan/occultist was a myth. My fellow Pagans and occultists weren't any more enlightened than anyone else was, and neither was I. We are just like any other person, with our own faults, reactions, and everything else that comes with it. 

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
How to unlock hidden universes

I recently visited Disneyland for five days. During those 5 days all I did was go on rides, and experience the magic and wonder of Disney. It was a liminal experience. I wasn't engaged in my usual routine and in some ways it very much felt like I had entered a pocket universe. When my trip was over it took me several days to get back into my regular routine.

If you've ever attended a Pagan conference or festival, you've undoubtedly had a similar experience. Once you go into the conference, you enter a different space and you encounter a difference sense of time. It is a space and time that is sacred in its own way, created by the intentional consciousness of the people participating in that space, similar to a ritual, but different as well, because you participating in this group consciousness, but it may or may not have required an overt ritual to occur.

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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.

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What do you do when your magic is in a slump?

The other day, in the Magical Experiments Facebook group, I asked the members of the group to share with me what challenges they are experiencing in their magical practice. One of the people shared that they were experiencing a slump in their magical practice. It just didn't feel exciting or shiny or magical like it had before. When I read what the person was experiencing, I really resonated with it because sometimes I've felt the same way about my magical practice. 

The first time I experienced a slump in my magical practice, I was really surprised at how hard it was to motivate myself to do the daily magical work I'd committed myself to doing. It wasn't just an off day. It stretched into days and then weeks. I was seriously worried that I'd lost touch with the magic.

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6 Fantastic Ways your Imagination can turn Possibilities into Reality

When you think of the imagination, do you think of it as as a sacred magical expression of your true self, or do you treat it as a childish fancy, something to be boxed away and forgotten? For many people, the answer unfortunately is the latter...they treat it as a childish fancy and as a result ignore its power, to their detriment. For even when you treat your imagination as a childish fancy you are still applying it to your life, but not in a way that truly empowers you. Your imagination is a double-edged sword and if you don't learn how to work with it as a sacred magical expression you'll miss out on applying one of the most potent magical tools you have that can help you transform possibility into reality and align fortune in your favor.

So how does imagination turn possibility into reality?

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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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