Pagan Studies

Focusing on the Arte Magical as a practice and profession, we study various facets of magic through the lens of both classical and modern perspective. From ancient myth to urban legend to fiction and philosophy, all viewed through the eyes of a very practical magician.

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My Little Pokemon: Adventures in Faeryland

This week has been very busy here in Geek Central, NV.  Pokemon X and Y just came out, and three of us have been exploring the wild world of strange talking animals for quite a while.  This isn't actually terribly unique, considering that six months out of the year, there's a heavy amount of obsession over My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

In this house, a geeky obsession is more than a sudden-and-inevitable commitment of time and finances.  It's a chance at initiation into some of the magicks of the world.

While sitting here and watching two of my boys froth over their Pokemon battles, I myself was exploring the online wikis for these games, learning about their legends.  There were, of course, the expected stats: growth and evolution progressions, abilities and special skills, elemental types...

And then there were these spooky little treasures-

Banette: generates energy for strong curses by sticking pins into its own body like a voodoo doll.  According to legend, Banette live in urban areas to seek out the people that threw them away and haunt them.

Literally, it's a possessed doll which is now seeking revenge upon the owner who discarded it.

Or how about Cubone, who wears the skull of its dead mother on its head?

Or Chandalure, who absorbs spirits of people and transforms them into flame, leaving their bodies a discarded husk?  Those whose souls are consumed completely in this way wander this world forever as ghosts.  Oh, and don't forget that one of Chandalure's abilities is to wave those flames around like a Will o' Wisp, fascinating and entrancing people into danger.

Or Absol, who is literally an omen of death and destruction, kind of like the Grim.

Essentially, Pokemon are just one of many ways the Japanese concept of the otherworld appears in their fiction.  Like European Elphame and Faery, it is home to strange and often terrifying creatures, with its own rules and strange laws.  To practitioners of Shinto, kami and other spirits of the Floating World live right here just like the Greeks believed, and we interact with them regularly, all unknowing (except for those who possess the Sight or practice magic such as onmyoudou, the Japanese form of Taoist sorcery).

A lot of fictional worlds are very much like this.  Take Piers Anthony's Xanth series, for example.  In that world, demons are the force which underpin all of the magical potency of the realm.  Xanth is separated from the mortal world (called Mundania) by a strange border which can be crossed only in odd ways.  It has strange rules (everything seems linked to word-play and puns, all souled creatures have a magical talent, etc.), and populated by strange beings (centaurs, harpies, unicorns, etc.)

There is a singular force which holds sway over all of the place, which manifests as a face born of the living rock (and also a number of other, more interesting forms).  The sovereign force is named
X(A/N)th, which is not a name but rather a formula expressing its ascendancy in a never-ending contest between itself and other powerful demons, including our own demon E(A/R)th.

Or perhaps My Little Pony?  Ruled by a powerful sovereign force represented by the Princesses Celestia and Luna, it is a place where strange rules hold sway (the Elements of Harmony are the 'physics' of this world).  Populated by strange beasts (unicorns, pegasi, manticores, gryphons, etc.) and distant from the mortal world (although early generations had human visitors ranging from witches with ill intent to human friends like Megan), there are areas of 'Equestria' which are sometimes terrifying (in a relative fashion).

Now, anyone who uses faery tales in their magic will tell you that magic is not free, and that there are always consequences for working with the faery magicks.  The realms of the Fair Folk are not for children, and early tales still demonstrate that.  However, these stories inform a lot of what people see as magical practice these days- the Queen of Elphame's initiation of bards, for example, or perhaps the rules for interacting with faeries.

So too- these modern realms of Faery have their own rules as well.  Want to summon elemental spirit animals to protect you?  Grab a red-and-white spherical talisman, and your handy cellphone or 3DS with Pokedex in hand.  Want to spread a little Harmony into the world?  Grab up a horn, and learn how to use the elements of kindness, laughter, generosity, honesty, and loyalty as magical forces.

And remember- just because these are children's television shows and video games, doesn't mean they don't also follow the same rules as anything of Faery.  Be honest, respectful, and be careful of what you eat and drink.  Never break a promise, and never be rude.

Oh, and the new type of Pokemon released in this new generation of games?

Fairy type.

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S. Rune Emerson has been practicing witchcraft and sorcery since the early 90's, and has been teaching since 2004. He is the founder of the Risting Tradition of American Witchcraft, which is a large title for a small local tradition based in Northern Nevada. He also heads a coven tradition called the Cabal of Nocturne, and works as a diviner at Pathways Spirit, a metaphysical shop in Reno. He likes to describe his life as "extraordinarily simple." He is fond of observing that magic as a profession is the somewhat honest alternative to those of the same mindset as criminals- smart, lazy, and prone towards thinking outside the box, often in areas of questionable morality. He believes in a strong standard of accountability in magical practice, and has very strict ethics. He's also very opinionated about nearly everything.


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