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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Pop Culture

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
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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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
New Faces for Old Gods

 

What does it mean for old gods and their worshippers when the old gods are given new faces and personas in pop culture media?  The recent upswing in portrayals of old mythic figures in pop culture (think of the Marvel movies, comic books like The Wicked and the Divine, TV shows like Supernatual, books like The Gospel of Loki, etc.) has put modern practitioners, especially polytheistic pop culture practitioners like me, in a bit of a quandary.  What do you do when you’ve been working with a deity for years and suddenly a character with their name, but a whole new mythology and personality, becomes a pop culture sensation?  If you’re introduced to a mythic figure via a bit of pop culture can you work with the old god with the same name?  It can be more than a little confusing.  In this article I’ll try and clarify a few points and, hopefully, soothe a few ruffled feathers.  

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Pop Culture Magick vs. Pop Culture Paganism

As you begin to wade into the world of Pop Culture Magick it’s important to understand the difference between Pop Culture Magick and Pop Culture Paganism.  You’ll often find these words thrown around interchangeably (I’m certainly guilty of doing it on occasion), but they’re actually distinct terms. While every practitioner will define them a bit differently, the definitions below should help you to navigate these fundamental concepts. 

Pop Culture Magick (PCM) is the use of pop culture stories, characters, images, music, toys, etc. as magickal mechanisms – the tools and techniques you use to bring your magick into being. That might mean doing a guided meditation to talk to Abraham Van Helsing about vampires, using an action figure of the Hulk to house a protective egregore, invoking the fortitude of your level 10 Paladin in Dungeons and Dragons, performing a prosperity spell that calls on Daddy Warbucks, or myriad other actions. PCM isn’t a new way of doing magick, it’s magick that calls on powers and ideas that are more immediately present in most peoples’ everyday lives than most of the mechanisms in more traditional magick. PCM may or may not have religious elements involved, depending entirely on the practitioner. In and of itself PCM is no more religious, Pagan or otherwise, than any other set of magickal techniques like candle magick or herbal magick. PCM is just the use of pop culture elements in magickal practices.

Pop Culture Paganism (PCP) is the use of pop culture characters and stories as either an approachable face for traditional Pagan deities and powers, or as a substitute for more traditional powers and mythologies. That could mean communing with Eros via the character of Capt. Jack Harkness (from Doctor Who and Torchwood), working with Diana in the guise of Wonder Woman, using Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a spirit guide, etc. It can also mean worshiping Tolkein’s elves as representations of nature, working with the Small Gods of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, or creating your own path using various pop culture elements. PCP is all about working with the powers you find that resonate with you, regardless of whether or not they’re accepted by the larger magickal community. PCP may or may not involve PCM or more traditional magicks, depending entirely on the practitioner. On its own, PCP is simply the use of pop culture in the furtherance of the practice of Pagan religions.

My current personal practice uses a lot of Pop Culture Magick, but not a whole lot of Pop Culture Paganism. As a person who loves books, movies, graphic novels, and gaming it seems natural to use the things I love as part of my magickal practice. If I’m going to have a plushy Chtulu sitting in my cubicle at work, why wouldn’t I infuse it with a spell to ward off annoying co-workers? After seeing Doctor Who wield a sonic screwdriver like a magick wand in episode after episode, why wouldn’t I use my sonic screwdriver flashlight as a wand? These are things that I have a deep personal connection with (in Tumblr speak: my fandoms give me feels). The fact that I can have these things sitting openly on my desk at work without anyone looking twice is merely a bonus.
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I don’t currently do much with Pop Culture Paganism, but I used to. As I talked about in my last post, when I first started getting into Paganism I had a hard time connecting with various deities and traditional powers because I felt that they were pretty far removed from my everyday life. Honestly, how much deep and meaningful reverence does the average computer nerd have for ancient agricultural deities? These days I do have that kind of connection with my deities but it took a lot of work. For me it took years of study and repeated workings with the traditional powers to build a strong connection. I can achieve that same level of connection with a pop culture figure by reading the books I love or watching my favorite movies. That’s not to say that I regret taking the time to forge the relationships I now have with deity, far from it. However, if back then it had been openly acceptable to do Pop Culture Paganism I probably would have run down that path as fast as I possibly could.

The beauty of Pop Culture Magick and Pop Culture Paganism is that they are so very individual. Each practitioner gets to pick and choose their very favorite things to work with in the best ways possible for them. There are basically no rules, no dogma, about how to work with pop culture, what is or isn’t “correct.” Each practitioner gets to define PCM and PCP for themselves, choosing to mix them or keep them separate as works best for them.

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  • Samantha
    Samantha says #
    I love the idea of pop culture magick. At first the idea seemed different, but it sounds extremely fun. I'll have to start explori

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Finding Pop Culture Magick

A lot of people have been asking me how I got into pop culture magick of late. It’s a difficult question to answer because it’s always been a part of my magickal practice. When I was a little girl I remember imagining Rainbow Brite protecting me from thunderstorms and nightmares. When I was a teenager I would “talk” to Hamlet and Horatio when I felt misunderstood and needed guidance. So even before I knew what real magick was, I was doing bits and pieces of pop culture magick. I suppose the first time I intentionally did pop culture magick, though I didn’t call it that at the time, was when I first started working with the elements.

For my use of pop culture magick to really make sense you’ll need a little context. I grew up in a household where hiking and enjoying nature were valued side by side with science and engineering. I remember meandering through woodland trails in the North Cascades while talking to my Dad about NASA, Star Trek, and fairy tales interchangeably. My love of mountains and general geekery were born and nurtured at the same time and in largely the same way, so they’ve always been intertwined in my mind. For me, there’s never really been a separation between the magicks of nature and the realities of the mundane world.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Thank you for sharing. I once had a dream where I was in a barren dark grey wasteland. Ahead of me were the goggle boys from the
  • Dragon Dancer
    Dragon Dancer says #
    Oh. My. Gods! I think I've done this in the past and never even known it! I surround myself with fandom and fantasy, always have
  • Emily Carlin
    Emily Carlin says #
    I'm so glad you enjoyed the article There will be many more to come. Please let me know if you have any particular questions or

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.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Thank you for relating that experience about the burn on the hand. I had a similar experience recently while writing a novel and w
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Hi Erin, I think you can tell when you've really connected with a mythology (modern or traditional) when you have that kind of i
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thanks for this column - as a writer of fiction I was particularly pleased. I may work with my own characters at a deeper level b
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Thanks for commenting. I think this would be an excellent process for working with your characters more deeply.

I've just finished re-reading the Deathgate Cycle, a 7 book series published in the early 1990's and one of my favorite fantasy series. One of the reasons I like the series so much is the appendices, which the authors created to explain various aspects of the series, including how the magic in the series works. Although neither author is a magician, so far as I know, the detailed explanations they share provide a lot of insight into not the magic of their series, but magical work in general. For example, one of the concepts they talk about is the importance of definition in magic, and how definition shapes the raw possibilities into something that a person can understand apply to the world around him/herself.

I read the Deathgate cycle when it first came out, before I started practicing magic. It's fair to say that reading those appendices certainly had an effect on how I thought about magic, once I started to practice it in earnest. The concepts presented provided a way to understand magic that made sense to me, because what was presented was a very methodical approach to magic that made sense. That I would find some similar approaches in actual books on magic only confirmed to me the value of looking outside of strictly magical texts to find inspiration in my magical work.

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I'm currently replaying the God of War series. Each time I play this series, what fascinates me about it is how Greek mythology is portrayed in the game series, and how that very process of representation consequently creates new interest in the original mythology. And this isn't just limited to God of War. I've noticed this same phenomenon with the Percy Jackson series, Marvel's version of Thor, and other modern variants of older mythology, which simultaneously create new mythology and also revitalize older mythology by getting people interested in the source material.

While there may be some knee jerk reactions to this concept from purists, I think that its worthwhile to examine and understand how pop culture can revitalize interest in older mythologies, and how this may even be intentional on the part of the deities associated with those older mythologies. The reason it may be intentional is that said deities recognize that one way to get attention, belief, and eventually worship involves utilizing the medium of modern culture in order to get in front of the various people who might be receptive to those deities. And in this age of multi-media, the opportunity to get in front of such an audience is unparalleled for there are more people living now than have ever lived in previous eras of history.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Mariah Sheehy
    Mariah Sheehy says #
    A lot of us have our pop culture gateways to paganism! For some it remains part of their path, others move beyond it. For myself,
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Good point about the UPG of authors.
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    New versions of mythology for the modern world are perfectly fine, as long as they don't insult the beings being portrayed. My gen
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    I'd agree that not everything produced is accurate to the original mythology and that in some cases it can be quite a different st
  • leonard wilson
    leonard wilson says #
    Great observation , i to enjoy the God of war series , later find myself brushing up on mythology , i just never made the connecti

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