Pop Culture Magic

The value of irrational thinking

ducktales I've been playing the re-mastered version of Ducktales lately. It's a game which brings back fond memories of my childhood. On one of the levels, the miners are afraid of sounds coming from the mine, so they leave. Scrooge insists that there is a rational explanation and eventually gets to the bottom of the mine, where he discovers a race of underground dwellers who've been causing the noise. Afterwards he tells his nephews how there was a rational explanation for everything, at which point one of them dryly observes that a race of people in the Earth who don't like diamonds is a perfectly explanation. I thought it was an interesting point to make, especially as I'm currently reading Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, which explores just how prevalent irrational behavior is.

Rational thinking is a bit overblown in my opinion. We use rational thinking to explain why we've chosen to undertake a particular action or made a decision, and conveniently ignore the emotional, irrational factors that play a role in our decision making process. And while there might be a rational explanation for everything, it doesn't necessarily mean that explanation is the best explanation out there. There's a presumption that being irrational is bad or that it makes you less in control of a given situation, but I'd argue that what irrationality can provide are alternative explanations that may not overtly make sense, but nonetheless provide a different way to view a given situation and can actually help you find solutions to your problems. It may not be a rational solution, but why stick with rationality?

In one sense, I think the reason rationality is so prized is because it's perceived as a negation of everything that doesn't conform to a neat little package of the universe. Rational thinking has an explanation for everything, or promises that it will, and those explanations will be packaged in a nice safe way that makes sense to everyone. Irrationality isn't necessarily safe. It embraces the unknown and explores the possibilities that the answers may not be known or may not fit conventional thinking. Irrational thinking embraces the validity of believing in spirits as being a reasonable (if not rational) explanation.

I'm not much for rational thinking because I've never found it to be as useful as some people portray it. A lot of my work has come from being deliberately irrational and using the irrational perspectives to gain insight into what I'm working on. I think rational thinking has its time and place, but so does irrational thinking! Embrace irrationality for the possibility of unusual perspectives and non-rational solutions. And explore irrational thinking so that you can understand how you already engage in it, and thus can makes changes in that thinking, if you so desire.

How to use the energy of a holiday in your magical workings

fireworks I always find holidays to be interesting, not only for the dynamics of human behavior that come forth, but also for the presence of the holiday, the energy that courses through it and builds to a quiet but steady hum of tension. The 4th of July is no exception. The tension starts the day before as people get out of work early and start driving to visit family or to buy food or to get fire works. The day of the holiday the tension rises through the day until people celebrate the fourth with firecrackers, with parties, with all the excesses people bring to such matters. And then there is what the day means. For the 4th of July, it's a day of creation, the celebration of the birth of the U.S. It's also a celebration of the concepts of Freedom, liberation, and other assorted values that a person might associate with this holiday. And to me it makes everything that happens a ritual of sorts, not necessarily religious, but holy nonetheless to the people who celebrate it.

Typically when we think of holiday magic, we think of magic associated with religious holidays, but I don't think we should limit ourselves to any given holiday and I also think that if you are doing magic on a given holiday you can tap into the energy of that holiday. Going back to the example of the 4th of July, there is a lot of energy that goes into that holiday, a lot of emotions, a lot of tradition, in a way and so why not tap into that, if it's something you feel inclined to tap into? You could tap into the 4th of July for creative or healing magic. Alternately you could also tap into it for more destructive magic. It really depends on what you want to do with it, but the point is that the holiday brings with it something that can be tapped into.

Each holiday we celebrate has its own energy, it's own tension and associations as well. Valentine's day is a holiday about love and lust, while Christmas is a holiday of both greed and giving. Thanksgiving is a day of thanks and a day of gluttony, while Memorial day is a day of remembrance and honoring the dead. Labor day honors work and people who work, and those are just the major secular holidays. But although those major holidays are secular there is something to be drawn on. So if you want to draw on the energy of a particular holiday look to what the holiday represents, both to yourself, and to people in general. Then plan your ritual for the day of the holiday. If you were to use the 4th of July, for example, you might time the ritual to begin when the fireworks began, using the sounds of the people and the fireworks going off as part of a ritual accompaniment. With Thanksgiving, you could use both the food preparation and the serving of the meal as part of your ritual. If you want to draw on a holiday, you want to  tap into the energy of the day by integrating the actual rituals of that day into your own rituals.

I think that with specific holidays you may want to use specific types of magic. Sex magic would be useful on the 4th and Valentine's day, while candle magic might be useful on Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Memorial day. Think about what practical magic techniques you might use for a given day and ask yourself if those techniques are in character with the holiday. That can help you determine if what you'll do will help you draw on the energy of the holiday or if it'll distract from the energy of the holiday. After all if you want to draw on the energy of a holiday then you want to do activities that complement the holiday.

Some of my current pop culture magic workings

Drake There's a lot of conversation going on right now about the validity of pop culture magic and spirituality in the blogosphere. If you want to see my response to it, go here. But I figure for this post I'll talk about some of my current work with pop culture magic. While my magical practice isn't as focused on pop culture anymore, it's still a significant component of how I practice magic. I'm pleased that more and more people are integrating pop culture into magic, as it is necessary for the evolution of magic. So below are a few case studies of what I've been up to.

Nathan Drake: Discoverer of lost items

At the beginning of this year I discovered the Uncharted video game series. While the first game was a bit lackluster in my opinion, the second and third game are amazing. You feel like you're in a movie. Even the musical score supports this feeling. In playing the game I felt like I got to make a connection with the main character and there were three traits I felt were useful: His ability to find artifacts that were lost (you collect them throughout the game), his problem solving abilities, and his luck. So I figured if I ever needed to I could call on his help for finding something I've lost. I've had three occasions where I've needed his help. Once was to find my phone (I'd left it in a restaurant) and the other two times were to find keys. Now I imagine that all of you know how frustrating it is to lose something and not be able to find it, especially when you need it. In each case, I started humming the theme song of Uncharted to evoke Nathan. Then I asked him to find the objects in question and show me a map of how to find them. Each time I did this, within a couple minutes I got a map that showed me where to go and each time I found the item in question.

I figure if I'm stumped about a problem I can also call on Nathan to help me discover possibilities for solving the problem. I haven't had to as of yet, but I'm sure I'll need to. And he's lucky...he's fighting scores of goons and who know's what else and he always comes out on top, so that's something else I figure I can draw on.

Kratos: Time and Time Again

If you're familiar with the God of War series then you know of Kratos. What's fascinating about Kratos isn't just the fact that he's the archetype of rage and vengeance (as well as the God of War), but the fact that in most of the games time is an element that he uses to his advantage. The most recent game, for example, allows the character to construct or deconstruct items, while in other games he is able to slow down time. Pretty nifty skills. While I already have some Time Dilation techniques I can use, I'm never one not to experiment or explore an idea that's presented in a different way. So in the case of Kratos its involved actually calling on him to slow or speed time up for me, which has been useful for reaching several business appointments. I could do it myself, but the point was to see what he could do. When he does it, he projects a cone of greenish energy that is used to either speed up or slow down time. It's projected into the environment, but doesn't effect me. And as with Nathan I hummed the theme music to evoke Kratos.

Those are examples of working with pop culture entities and I used them to show how such entities can be used to effect events as opposed to just personality traits. But I'd be remiss in not including a practical pop culture oriented technique that the magician could do him/herself.

Sharing Images

Something I've noticed with blogs is that if you include a picture its more likely to grab the attention of people and get them to go and read your blog. There's nothing inherently magical in that, but it's occurred to me that one way you can charge sigils is to simply share a picture of the sigil on social media. You can even embed the sigil into a picture if you'e got the right skills and then people can charge it up for you. Each sharing of the sigil fires it off while also charging it with the attention of the people who look at it, like it and comment on it.

So those are a few pop culture magic workings I've been working on. There's a few I haven't shared either and those will have to wait until I write the next Pop Culture Magic book. There's a lot to explore with pop culture magic if you have an open mind.



Why I think of myself as spiritual

spiritualI couldn't resist including the above picture for this post, just because it is a good question and I see this meme done a lot. It's a good example of pop culture magic actually, but that's a different topic altogether. To answer his question however, I'd say I'm not cherry picking the parts of religion I like, but rather creating my own spiritual identity and practice which doesn't necessarily involve a conventional approach, which is what I think of when I think about religion. The actual impetus for this post came from this post on the Wild Hunt Blog where Jason Pitzl-Waters discusses how he thinks that "more and more people are finding Paganism not as discrete religions, but as a part of an open-sourced kit to build an individualized belief system or practice." On the other hand, Star Foster explains why she's dropped the label Pagan, and I see her reason for dropping the label as being similar to what Jason writes about in his blog. This response from Jason Mankey argues that as long as gods are in the occasion you can't run from the label Pagan. I don't agree with his take on that as I'll explain further below.

I think of myself as a spiritual, but not religious person. I also think of myself as a magician as opposed to a Pagan. I also recognize that in one sense the word pagan is a meta term that is applied to a variety of people who have similar interests, which can include polytheism, Heathenism, Occultism, as well as Paganism. However, much like Star I don't necessarily feel that the label Pagan applies to what I do. And yes I work with more than one deity, but even that as a criteria for being a pagan is suspect. And I don't feel that the practice of magic makes a person automatically a pagan either, especially given that many Pagans have argued that magic isn't an essential part of pagan beliefs. To my mind when that distinction was made, that told me I wasn't a pagan, because to me magic isn't optional and never will be.

If, according to Jason Pitzl-Waters, Paganism is an open source kit to develop personalized belief systems and practices I do wonder why certain segments of Paganism seem to be so intolerant toward the development of such systems and practices. And I have witnessed that intolerance first hand, having been told that what I'm doing is fluffy and not really paganism (which suits me fine). I get why Jason wants to fold all that under the umbrella of Pagan, but I suspect many Pagans would disagree with his assessment and would argue that there is a distinct difference between what is a Pagan belief system and what is an individualized system of spiritual practice and belief.

And aside from that point, there are spiritual paths that might be identified as Pagan, except for the fact that the people who practice those spiritual practices don't think of themselves as Pagans. Heathenism comes to mind, for example. Heathens, as I understand it, don't typically identify themselves as Pagans and don't want to be identified as Pagans. They do worship and work with deities, but that doesn't make them Pagan. I'd argue that what makes anyone Pagan or not is the person's choice to identify as such. If I choose to call myself pagan, then I might be considered pagan, especially if I practice a religious path that is considered Pagan.

I'd argue that Paganism is more of a religious movement than a spiritual movement. There are many Pagan religions, but I don't think that because someone is spiritual it automatically makes them pagan. Certainly the quote from Pink that Jason cites doesn't support that she views herself as Pagan, so much as she found Paganism to be a source of inspiration for her own spiritual work.

As I mentioned above the word pagan is a meta label. It's applied to anyone who practices non-monotheistic religious practices and spirituality as a way of describing those practices. And in that sense, I do embrace the word pagan, because it is a meta label that encompasses what I practice. But as a label of religious practices, I don't see myself as a Pagan. And many other people don't as well. The meta label is convenient, but also creates an illusion about Paganism that isn't accurate in the way that some people might like it to be. Just because my spirituality happens to include practices that could be perceived as Pagan doesn't necessarily mean the label fits. What determines if the label fits is the person's choice to identify as such.

At this point a person might say, "Fine and well Taylor, but then why do people like you use the word Pagan at all?" And the answer is that Pagan, as a meta-label, has become so embedded in our culture and in how many people describe their spiritual practices that choosing to come up with something else is not easy. And lets be honest here...while the word Pagan has stigma attached to it, the word occult or magic has a lot more stigma attached to it. And speaking as a writer, when I write books I am writing for an audience that includes people who identify their spiritual working and practice as Paganism. They aren't my sole audience, but they are a significant audience and what I'm writing about can be applied to their spiritual practices, if they choose to do so. There's also something to be said for encountering people that you can share a spiritual practice with. Where do you find those people? How do you determine if those people possibly share similar values or beliefs? The meta label of Pagan is how people answer those questions.  That's why I use the word Pagan. I don't perceive my spiritual practice as being that of a Pagan, but I do recognize that elements of it can be attributed to Paganism, and that I can find kindred spirits using that same meta label because it fits, however loosely, to what they practice.

On a Different Note...

I thought I'd share a link to Justin Moore's blog. He's doing some interesting work with the elemental balancing ritual. What I like the best about it is that he's making it his own.

Book Review: Cupid's Poisoned Arrow by Marnia Robinson

This book is an intriguing read that explores the physiology behind sex and orgasms, and makes the argument for having sex without orgasm as a way of creating stability in a relationship. The author does a good job of exploring the physiology and cites some interesting research to show how orgasm impacts the behavior of people. She also does a good job of introducing Karezza as an alternate sex technique that people can use to avoid having orgasm. Perhaps what I liked best about this book is the exploration of bonding behaviors and how those bonding behaviors can be used to create stronger relationships. The suggestions she makes demonstrates that bonding behavior can offset dysfunctional behavior and actually help people communicate better.

However, there's also some flaws in this book. Some of the anecdotes that she uses are a bit extreme, and I question whether sex via orgasm was the sole problem. At times the author comes off as a closet homophobe and also views activities such as BDSM as being unnatural. And while the author does cite some interesting research about the effect of orgasms, she doesn't explore how bonding behaviors could impact the downside of orgasm, nor does she explore the cultural issues around bonding behavior, and why those cultural issues might contribute to some of the dysfunctions.

It's an intriguing book and it makes thought provoking arguments about the effect of orgasm on the physiology of the brain, but there's also a lot she doesn't explore, and without that exploration it makes it hard to determine just how accurate her information is.


Snow White Mythos in Pop Culture

I recently saw the movie Mirror Mirror. A little while back I also saw the other snow white movie that came out this year. And of course Once Upon a Time has Snow White as a main character, as well as the wicked Queen. There is a lot of focus on the Snow White Mythos, and when this kind of attention happens its worthwhile to pause and take notice. I find it fascinating how much Snow White has become popular. It shows how a story can endure and go through changes in its appearance that nonetheless still supports the original story.

From a pop culture magic perspective, the snow white mythos is prime estate. Whether its the movies or the show there's a lot being done with snow white and it's worth studying. Pop culture is about relevance. Why something is popular is based on how it speaks to the needs of the people at a given time. Snow White has relevance because it speaks to the desire people feel to come out of a bad time, but also the need to find someone who represent the hope they need to feel as they weather that bad time.

Snow White has become more relevant because people identify with the story. The princess is oppressed by the evil queen who fears her power. The princess runs away and tries to get help, while the queen does whatever she can to stop the princess. And so on and so forth. There are variations of the story which the current movies and show are presenting. And those variations are what keeps Snow White relevant. By seeing the myth retold in contemporary culture, explored in context to the demands and needs of the time, the myth is refreshed, rejuvenated, made into something relevant to the times. The myth is reborn and people's buy in to it is also reborn.

When I look at Snow White mythos right now I see strong female leads who come to the rescue of the Princes who are in love with them. I see allies who can help her, but often require her help as well. I see an evil queen who is much more than evil. I see characters people can relate to, that embody the times we live in. And that's the beauty of a mythology evolving. It provides us a chance to see the mythology change and be reappropriated by the themes of the times.

Social Media, Technology and Magic

Recently Jason from the Wild Hunt reported that Scarlet Imprint is leaving Facebook. Scarlet Imprint offered their own explanation of leaving Facebook as well as a critique of technology. Finally here is a report on how Facebook's changes in terms of reach have affected people and businesses, specifically in terms of cost involved in order to reach your entire fan base. I don't care for how Facebook has changed the ability of a given business or person to reach his/her followers, which is why I think its important to use multiple social media, but I'm also not going to write FB off just yet.

Scarlet Imprint decries technology and social media as a dumbing down of magic and claim they wouldn't be online if it wasn't for the press. Perhaps they wouldn't be. They go on to argue that people who discuss their magical work online are diminishing their work. That's the gist of their message. It's ironic then how much modern technology they do use, but they likely have realized that a business that isn't online is less likely to be discovered.

They'd no doubt be appalled that I take a different tact. I'm one of those magicians who likes incorporating technology and pop culture into magic. I'm one of those "low" magicians. I think Facebook and other social media can be useful for sharing information and I think its good to get the information out there to people who might otherwise never be exposed to it. I even think its possible to apply magic to social media (a subject for a book). I don't think its wise to write off social media and while I think they make some valid points it all comes off as elitist. That may be a compliment for them.

I'd definitely like it if Facebook went back to letting businesses reach their fans without charging for it, but I'm still going to post on Facebook and on social media in general. After all, its thanks to social media that I have really found my fan base. Pre-social media, I honestly wondered who was reading my work and/or what they were doing with it. Social media showed me what people are doing and gave me a chance to answer their questions and comment on their work. I don't see that as a diminishing return, but rather as a chance connect with people who appreciate my work and want to stay dialed into what I am doing.






How I apply pop culture to the principles of magic

  My approach to integrating pop culture into magical work is one that is informed by my understanding of the principles of magic. When I think of the principles of magic I don't think of ceremonial magic or tools or other such things. I think of what makes magic work and then I think about how I can apply pop culture (or other interests) to those principles. I don't go with just any form of pop culture either.

With pop culture entities, the choice is dependent on what is really popular at the time. The truth is that most pop culture entities don't have the same staying power that your traditional entities have. They become popular for a while, hit a zenith, and then fade away. Some like Harry Potter have enough staying power that you can work with them for a while, but the majority are fads, liked one day and forgotten the next. My choice to work with a given pop culture entity is based on what that entity represents as well as what it can do. I make rare exceptions where I'll work with a pop culture entity regardless of how popular or not its, but that's based on a deeper recognition that speaks more to the influence of the entity in my life as opposed to the world at large. If I do work with a pop culture entity its because I recognize that entity has significance in a way that I find useful to further my own work.

With techniques, I get pickier. I won't draw on the description of a given technique in pop culture unless I think it'll actually connect with the principles of magic. For example, in the Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, they included appendices where they described in depth how magic was supposed to work and how it interacted with possibilities. What I read made sense and when I applied it to my own magical work, I found that it worked. On the other hand I wouldn't draw on the Harry Potter universe's approach to magic because its mostly based on a push button/spell approach to magic. There's some explanation of how specific types of magic are related to emotions, which could be useful, but for the most part magic is never really explained in depth. You wave a wand, you say a word, and it just happens.

I also don't always draw on explanations of magic in pop culture for my inspiration in magical work. The book Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud has nothing to do with magic, in an overt sense, but his explanation of how comics work, particularly how they are read and the space/time dynamics involved have inspired a couple of techniques on my part that have proven useful.

I don't use every single bit of pop culture that comes my way. There's a lot of it that I don't see as useful or relevant to magical work, but I figure the people who develop pop culture probably do some research and/or just happen to put a lot of effort into explaining their particular universe and how everything works. And I respect that and if I think it is actually relevant to how I can meaningfully practice my own magical work, I'll use it. What makes magic work isn't the tradition or ceremonies...its your understanding of how it works and your ability to implement that understanding in your life.

Of Words and Worlds


I've always been fascinated by how words can create worlds. Or maybe its better to say they channel worlds. Regardless, what fascinates me the most is that the word is really an expression of reality that is half way between idea and reality. It is the beginning manifestation of possibility into reality, a way to establish something that is separate and distinct from the entropy of all possibilities.

In the Spiritual Dimension of Music, R. J. notes that "The word is the power exhaled by the mysterious source or Spirit. In physics it is known as the origin of the universe while in metaphysics it its known as the origin of worlds" Reading that made me think of the big bang as this explosive word uttered into the void that turned possibility into reality. And why not?

As a writer and also a bibliophile I really appreciate the power of words, in terms of what they present: Concepts made into inky flesh and shared and spread through the comprehension of the meanings embedded in the words. But it goes beyond that. In Pop Culture Magick, I wrote about how I thought of as Fantasy/SF books as channelings of other worlds or variations of this world that could be accessed through the word and also through imagination and magical work. It's still something I identify with. When I read the Shannara for examples, its not just words I read, but a reality I experience. I am there with the characters, experiencing what they experience and becoming a part of that world while I read about it. The word acts as a reality tunnel bridging the gap between the person's imagination and the actuality of the word s/he is reading about.

When people turn the word into ritual and magic it becomes even more real. The work Storm, I, and others have done with Dehara, a system of magic based off the Wraeththu series is the choice to bring something back from a "fantasy" world and turn it into a reality here that people can interact with more directly. Is it just pop culture, or is it more real? When I take the concepts written about in the DeathGate Series in regards to space/time magic and turn them into viable practices that can actually work, does it matter that the concept was initially found in a fantasy series? I don't think so.

I think that what matters is that we are able to turn words into worlds and then interact with those worlds and bring something back to this reality that is meaningful. I don't want to escape into another world, but I do want to learn from the other worlds out there. Even if they don't seem to be real, there is something we can learn from them, and in truth once they've been written about, they've already started to exist somewhere beyond the imagination of the author. They've become a reality of some sort and we are left to translate that reality to our own, if we so choose.

How magic can subvert advertising

Since reading Seducing the Subconscious, I've been thinking about advertisements. Over the years I've done my best to limit my exposure to advertisement, in large part because so much of it is banal, but also because I've always appreciated that underneath the banality what makes commercials effective is their ability to influence subconscious beliefs. Even with no cable, I still get exposure to some commercials. Whether its listening to the radio or seeing a billboard, or watching a commercial on hulu, while waiting for the next segment of a show it is near impossible to avoid advertising. I suspect the only way a person could would be to get rid of access to all media.

So what does the magician do to counteract advertising and its potential effect on the subconscious? One possibility can be seen above, where you subvert the message with a different one that attacks what is advertised. Clever use of photoshop or creating a collage can allow you to create your own "advertisement" that you can then spread on the internet. Or simply use it for yourself every time you feel the urge to get something.

Monitoring your thoughts and desires through meditation can also help you subvert advertising. If you get that sudden craving for a burger, ask yourself what's really motivating it. You might be surprised to realize that what motivates isn't your hunger, but advertisements you've seen. By being aware of those advertisements you can critically examine your desire and then choose to do something different.

You can also work with the corporate entity behind the advertisement or a character in it, although that route can be a bit more dangerous as the corporate entity sees no benefit in being subverted, and if anything wants to subvert you to its own desires, i.e. sustaining its life.

Another approach to take would be doing a banishing ritual that focused on banishing advertisements from your life and home. It might be something you do on a daily or weekly or monthly basis. The idea is that you do a banishing of any unwanted influences in your life. If there are particular companies you've lately shopped at and you normally wouldn't shop there, that could be a time to grab some of the advertising and incorporate into the banishing, with you destroying the advertising in some form or manner.

How would you subvert advertising?

How the Wishsong of Shannara introduced me to music magic

I've been re-reading the Shannara books lately and I just finished the Wish Song of Shannara, which has always been one of my favorites of Terry Brooks's books. Something which always fascinated me about the book was the description of the wish song, which allowed a character to sing illusions and/or possibilities into reality. Reading that book was what inspired me to explore the combination of magic and music, especially via singing.

One of my first experiments with music and magic involved the creation of an entity that could was activated by signing or vibrating its name. I found it to be very useful, because I simply had to vocally sign the name in order to activate it. That was inspired by the Wishsong, and also by William Gray's writing on vocalization. But if I hadn't read wishsong, I wouldn't have thought to explore that direction. While I knew, after reading the book, that I couldn't do what the characters could do, I still felt inspired by the idea of incorporating my voice into magical work.

Even now I continue to experiment with my voice and magical work. I've been practicing throat singing, and also even trying different tongue positions in combination with vocalization to see how it changes the tone and vibration of the sounds. This is especially useful when doing invocations because it allows you to sonically and vibrationally connect with the entity you want to work with.

This is why I love pop culture. It can inspire exploration and experimentation. Most books on magic don't talk about music and magic all that much and so for me my inspiration came from reading a fantasy book that provided an idea I could explore in my magical work.

When Fiction shapes Reality

I read an interesting article which discussed how you can lose yourself in a fictional character and how that can affect your identity in real life: "When you “lose yourself” inside the world of a fictional character while reading a story, you may actually end up changing your own behavior and thoughts to match that of the character, a new study suggests." Reading it reminded me of Pop Culture Magick, specifically where I talk about how you can take on the identity of the pop culture character and mimic their behaviors.

According to the article this is called experience taking and can involve the person taking on the identity of the character, including feelings, emotions, thoughts, mannerisms, etc. But this experience taking only occurs if the person is able to put his/her own self-identity aside in favor of the identity of the character. It's essentially an immersive experience. I'd suggest that this also applies to movies and video games which can be just as immersive as books.

The magician can take this concept and apply it to his/her magical work, whether its with pop culture or more classical culture. It comes down to identification, specifically how well you are able to identify with a particular character and take that character on. And you also have to bear in mind that you are mediating that character's identity. In other words, it's still your perception about the character that's shaping how you take on the identity of the character.

In my own work I've sometimes found it easy to recall a specific character by either visualizing the character or humming a tune from the game that reminds me of him/her. This shows that while reading or watching or playing is needed initially to take on the identity of the character, it's possible to also recall that identity of the character. Essentially you create an anchor around the character experience that is used to recall that experience even if you haven't read the book, etc, in a while.

Two Popular Misconceptions about Magic

"Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." -Roald Dahl, 1990

There are two popular misconceptions about the practice of magic that occur, which can hinder useful inquiry and understanding of magical work. One popular misconception is special effects magic, the type seen on TV shows, video games, and movies, comics, and fantasy books. For example, Darth Vader using telekinesis to crush the throat of someone, or a sorcerer changing into a serpent or throwing a fireball, etc. The second misconception is a belief that magic will solve all your problems, or as I call it the cure all approach. These popular misconceptions can obsfucate what genuine magical work is about, and typically are sought after because a person desires a sense of power in his/her life.

Special effects magic looks impressive. Who wouldn't find it thrilling to throw a fireball or change their physical shape, or do something else equally impressive? I've yet to meet a magician who can perform special effects magic (without using special effects). If there were such people, I suspect the world would be a different place, though I can't help wondering how such power wouldn't be abused or worse end up like a comic book formula of endless battles and trite commentary. There's also the principle of limitation to consider, specifically the understanding that force needs to be limited in order for form to be realized. In magical work, the achievement of form occurs when force is limited. Additionally, it is understood that when you work with magical energies you can only raise so much of that energy before you hit a limit, and/or have that limit imposed by the forces you are working with. Thus throwing a fireball, which would require a lot of force is not something that will be easily performed. In fact, when you account for the amount of energy needed to generate a fire ball, plus the amount of protection needed by the practitioner while handling said fireball, what you end up realizing is that it's not a very practical working. And if you mess it up, you'll either internally combust or burn your hands or do something else equally messy. The same applies to shape shifting and telekinetically handling objects or crushing people's throats. The physical demands, plus the amount of energy that needs to be raised to perform either feat is not something that is physically or magically possible. Special effects magic looks impressive and thrills lots of people, but a practical approach to magic acknowledges that the main focus of magic isn't to necessarily generate such physical demonstrations and also notes that such demonstrations may end up being more of a waste of energy than anything else.

Then we have the cure all misconception, which focuses on the idea that magic will solve all your problems. The sad fact is that while magic can be used to solve problems, most times its used in that way, it is done so as a reaction and usually what is solved the symptom, but not the underlying issues that need to be examined by the magician. A proactive approach to utilizing magic to solve problems generally involves a fair amount of internal work and a willingness to own your dysfunctions and make changes that resolve those issues, with the understanding that such changes will also improve your life, and surprisingly enough decrease the number of times magic is needed to solve a problem.

There's also the fact that sometimes magic complicates issues more than it cures or resolves them. It shouldn't be surprising that many magicians end up complicating their lives when using magic to solve a problem. The problem might be solved, but not in the way they expected, and it may bring out underlying issues that need to be addressed (thus the need for internal work). A person who believes magic will solve all their problems needs to examine the level of responsibility they are willing to take to have those problems solved, because that level of responsibility is exactly what you'll be dealing with when you utilize magic as a cure all. There is no force that can solve your problems for you, better than your own ability to take responsibility and deal with the problems head on. It can be hard work, but it is good work as well.

In my next post, I'll discuss two purposes magic is used for as well as provide some commentary on what it means when a magician turns a possibility into reality.

Book Review: A Spiritual Worker's Spell Book by Draja Mickaharic

This book, like Draja's others books, is interesting because it provides a variety of spells a person can do as well as case studies of how people have used the spells. I've already tried a couple to good effect and it'll definitely be a useful book to have, especially because I represents the work of an old school magician. My only complaint is that I'd have liked more information about the underlying magical process. Much like other authors who put together spell books, Draja doesn't really explain the underlying mechanics. the few times he does offer some explanation about the process, it proves to be quite fascinating. I highly recommend it as an interesting book on a variety of topics.

Video games, exploration, and the occluded mind

I'm playing Max Payne 3 and Metal Gear Solid 3 right now. In playing both games, I've had to do a fair amount of exploration to find things that the characters could use to help them through their various quests. That's actually a common feature of video games. Most games, at least current games, involve some level of exploration of the actual game levels in order to discover essential items to your quest or Easter eggs that game developers have placed into the game. If the player just relies on the map, s/he won't necessarily find or experience all of the treasures of the game. Those can only be experienced by choosing to experience the territory of the game as it is, while only using the map as a superficial guide. The experience of the game is what makes it enjoyable.

In the Sphere of Art 2 by R. J. Stewart, He makes some interesting points about maps and territories:

When we begin to relate to the territory as it really is, we swiftly begin to lose our limited map. This can be a fearful experience of a joyous one, depending on our individual training, preparation and understanding. To be cast loose without the map that you need for for stability is at risk of going mad in unknown territory, while to throw the map away willingly in full awareness is to embrace risk and enter a new condition of sanity.

The experience of the territory is different from the map, because the territory is the actual experience, while the map is just a description, and not always an accurate one. Usually the map isn't accurate because it can't really show everything that is actually in the territory. This truth applies to video games, mystical secrets, trips on the road, any really any other experience you can have in life. The tendency to rely on the map isn't necessarily bad or wrong. The map can be useful in terms of providing guidance and helpful hints for navigating the territory. But ultimately the map the can only provide a vague sense of the territory.

The experience of the territory is where the magician discovers the secrets and treasures that can only be found by choosing to explore what's in the territory. Just as with a video game character, the magician needs to thoroughly explore the territory of the ritual. The magician needs to be curious and not settle for what is in front of him/herself. After all there are potential Easter eggs just waiting to be found, as well as story elements that might be missed if a thorough investigation isn't performed.

What video games have taught me is that unless you fully explore the environment and get very curious you'll likely miss key clues and information and resources that could help you with the game. I find the same is true with magical work, and while I wouldn't necessarily say a magical working is exactly like a video game, there's something to be said for cultivating curiosity in your magical work, to embrace risk and discover what is hidden away.

The magical effects of what you wear

Bill Whitcomb pointed me to an article about how wearing lab coats make people smarter. It was also found that when volunteers wore other coats they didn't do as well as on the tests. It was only when they were told that they were wearing lab coats that they performed better. So does this mean there's something magical about lab coats?

Not at all. If anything what it really demonstrates is that people read meaning into items of clothing and associate specific behaviors with those items, which causes them to then embody those behaviors when they wear the clothing. In other words, there's nothing inherent to a lab coat that makes a person smarter. It's the person's perception about the lab coat and what it imbues them with that causes them to associate intelligence with it. Scientists and doctors wear lab coats and generally we think those types of professions are populated by intelligent people. So a person puts on a lab coat and performs better, but the coat has nothing to do with it. That person could focus just as intently without the coat.But the perception associated with the coat is what makes all the difference. I put on the lab coat and because I associate specific attributes with it, suddenly I have access to those attributes.

Perception is a powerful tool, both in every day life and in magical workings. I've discussed using clothing to invoke specific traits or behaviors and this is a prime example of how this principle works. It's similar, in my experience, to putting on a suit. You feel a sense of change, both in terms of how you perceive yourself and how other people perceive you. It's magical in its own right, but its also perception. Understanding that distinction helps you also understand how to use perception as tool in its own right. That's when you get into some interesting experimentation with perception and clothing, specifically in terms of how you can manipulate your own perception or even the perception of others based on how you present yourself.

One of the reasons I wear a hat with a multicolored feather is because when I go out in my professional clothing it sticks out. It's an anomaly compared to everything else I'm wearing. It allows me to show my personality while also invoking the professional persona I've chosen to adopt. It's fun for me, and I've experimented with it further just in terms of letting my "true" self shine through with people in professional settings. I actually think its helped business a bit. So I think if you experiment with clothing and your perception of it you'll likely see similar results with what was discovered with the lab coats. Give it a try and let me know!

Book Review: Thinking, Fast and Slow (Affiliate Link) by Daniel Kahneman

In this book, the author explores intuition and rational thinking, in particular focusing on both the strengths and flaws of intuition. The author does a good job of presenting his research and reinforcing it with case studies. He makes it easy to understand the concepts. What I found most fascinating was how much we take for granted intuition in terms of what it tells even though it can be wrong. We don't really question that and he explains why we don't question it. This is a great book to read if you are interested in psychology or social behavior.

Re-branding myths

I'm currently re-playing the God of War video game series. Its one of my favorite series and part of what I like about it is that it re-brands the Greek myths. You're playing a character who fights all the Greek Monsters and challenges the Titans and the Gods and runs into the other heroes of Greek Mythology. You're experiencing the Greek myths through the lens of Pop Culture. You see this replicated in pop culture a fair amount. Whether its Marvel comics with their exploration of Thor and Norse Mythology or various video games that explore different mythologies from a modem perspective, there is a re-branding of myths that occurs. And there is also the infusion of new contemporary myths, such as what we find with Batman.

It serves as a way of introducing people to cultures and mythologies they may not have encountered otherwise. And sometimes it inspires research and study to find out more. Purists will argue that a game such as God of War is inaccurate because it reinterprets myths and inserts a character that was never part of the mythos. There is truth to that statement, but that's why it's a rebranding of mythology as opposed to the actual myth.

The re-branding of mythology is good because it shows us how timeless the myths are and how we can't leave them behind. We retell them, we reshow them and maybe we change them a bit, but nonetheless we are influenced by them and the power they have in our lives. They live on in us, not only in the reading of the original myths, but the reinterpretations of them that are created in contemporary culture.

My altar redone and claimed

Recently Kat and I captured a few wild kittens and tamed them. During that process we allowed them to use my altar as a den of sorts, so for a little while it wasn't an altar so much as home. Now the kitten are relatively tame and enjoy the exploration of our entire home. As such I've reclaimed my altar, but I decided to play with it just a bit. I usually have the chess set arranged in the pre-game pattern but this time I decided to set it up as if a game was already being played. I'm not entirely sure how I'll experiment with this as yet, but I do have some ideas, as it pertains to wealth magic, and even magic for my life. I could associate different pieces with people or events happening in my life (or that I want to happen) and then use the chess board to "play" the possibility field into my favor.

I've added some modeling clays and also a bag of body paints, a reminder of how important art is to my magical workings, and the need to re-integrate it into my work. Now that I'm feeling back to my creative genius, the need to express it is something I'm planning already for a ritual next weekend.

Elephant also has a prominent role on the altar. He has for a while, but I think he'll have an even more active role soon. The Memory box is in its usual space, as our the dual Tarot decks I use in my readings. It's good to have my altar back. It's going to be seeing a lot of activity in the coming months!

Symbols, Archetypes, and Reality in Once Upon a Time

I love the new show Once Upon a Time. It's an intriguing mix of Faerie Tale with Modern world. Hopefully it'll last more than one or two seasons. Perhaps what I love most about is the intersection of symbolism, character archetypes, and reality. In one sense, the show is depicting two alternate lives for each character, and yet in another sense its depicting how people in a small town end up trying to embody and act out faerie tale roles they've been assigned by a child trying to find meaning in his life. You can interpret it a variety of ways I suppose, and that's where I see the show as a kind of magical act/metaphor of reality.

What makes it so evocative is the ability to portray two different realities and while it can be argued that the faerie tale reality is the "past life" of the characters, it's also their future and present, because they are stories constantly retold and relived in the imagination of the people telling them.

At the same time, this show also explores the modern "real" world as a faerie tale world in its own right, something not real, but just as made up and surreal as the faerie tale world...and why not. It makes perfect sense to treat the modern world as just another faerie tale, but what I find so fascinating is how in one degree or another the characters are playing out the themes of their lives, becoming the archetypes or at least trying to as some part of themselves rebels against the curse.

I have no doubt I'll have further analysis of this really fascinating show. I'm admittedly geeking out a bit, but this kind of analysis and research is part of how I create effective pop culture magic workings. The more enthusiasm you invest the more real it becomes, and that's part of what makes pop culture magic viable...Plus in this case it also is combined with my interest in how pop culture reinvent and retells older mythology in modern contexts!

Pre-makes: an example of retro pop culture

I've started doing some research for my new Pop Culture Magic book. Bill Whitcomb recently told me about Pre-makes, which are little video previews of current movies remade as if they had originally been shot in the early fifties. The one above is a pre-make version of Ghostbusters. Aside from the charming use of older footage, these premakes grabbed my attention because of how it combined retro pop culture with modern versions of pop culture.

I think, with the right video skills, it'd be easy to make any of these premakes into an audio-visual enchantment or evocation of some kind that could be charged by the views, and even social media activity that people created around the videos. You could even set it up that every time the video was shared it was fired again. These kinds of videos can provide an infinite variety of opportunities for the enterprising magician who has time and expertise in making them.

Looking at this video, what I was most struck by, however, was how the person who created it was able to take themes from a later movie and apply them to a collage of images from older movies and "re-make" the story or at least a trailer of the story. It illustrates how themes can be re-appropriated into different media, and also how no story is so original that there isn't some basis for it in the past.

What do you think?

Archetypal actions

I've been watching Nikita lately, which is the newest rendition of La Femme Nikita. In one of the episodes, the actress playing Nikita does the famous action of diving into the laundry chute to avoid being incinerated by the missile. You know the action I'm talking about. It's the action that occurred in both movies and likely occurred in the other La Femme Nikita series as well. It's what I call an archetypal action, an action that defines and embodies the archetype or character. It makes you think of all the iterations of that character. It brings that character to life for you.

If you're an actor, or a magician doing that action can also make for an effective invocation, though I'd recommend against diving down chutes to avoid being incinerated. My point being however that if you look at pop culture and mythology in general you will likely find specific actions or activities that a given character, god, etc did and those actions are part of the archetypal consciousness of that being. You may even find that there are actions that repeat across different cultures, with the result being that the action taps into something deeper than the faces that happen to display the action. You tap into the essence of the archetype, something faceless, that nonetheless represents what it is you want access to. An archetype isn't just the face, after all...it's the actions that embody the concept.

Part of my work with identity has involved using space and movement to shift identity. Archetypal actions can be a part of that work, particularly when you want to invoke a spirit by embodying it. Actions allow the spirit to take over, to possess and become part of your experience even as you enter into its experience. I've done such actions in my work with Elephant and Dragon for example, but also with various characters I've worked with. By mimicking the movements and actions, a person invites a different body awareness, and can use that awareness to call to the entity of choice that s/he wants to work with.


Drawing on Pop Culture Influences

I like to experiment with pop culture in a variety of different facets in my life. Recently I needed to MC a local business event and beforehand I decided that I'd draw on Jim Morrison's (from the Doors) influence. He was a charismatic person who could really rev up his audience.  To draw on his influence, I listed to the album An American Prayer. I thought it was most useful, especially because it includes some of his poetry. I was very selective about what I'd draw on from him. I didn't want to draw on any of the self-destructive habits or behaviors he'd exhibited. I just wanted access to his eloquence and showman ship. To draw on that, I said the first few lines of An American Prayer (Is everyone in? Is everyone in? The ceremony is about to Begin...Wake-up!!!). I didn't say to it anyone, but I did say it aloud, and then I allowed those parts of his persona to interact with mine.

I did an excellent job with MCing the event. I had a number of people come up afterwards and tell me that they really enjoyed how I presented the event and walked people through it. Even today, I got a compliment from someone who'd been at the event last week. Any praise I received I offered to Morrison.

For experimental purposes, what interested me most was doing a working where I'd draw very selectively on the entity in question. I found it very useful to only focus on specific attributes I wanted. By being very clear about this, the invocation I did effectively allowed me to draw on what I needed without any unwanted contamination.

I think this approach could be applied to more traditional entities as well as other pop culture entities. It comes down to identifying both the desired and undesired attributes, so that you can draw on what will help you, without bringing along unwanted behaviors or actions. Selective invocation of attributes is possible as long as you can identify the attributes you want to draw on.