pop culture

How pop culture magic continues to evolve

Batman I came across this article the other day from Frater Isla about pop culture magic. He makes an interesting point when he argues that pop culture magic has evolved from being a technique or tool set to being a form of genuine spirituality. Like him, I've noticed a similar evolution in pop culture magic. I think that where I saw it occur first was with the system of Dehara, which is a magical system and spirituality based around the Wraeththu series. While there is only book on the system of magic (as yet) it nonetheless has continued to evolve beyond the initial work that was done by myself, Storm, and others. And to this day I continue to have a special relationship with Theide Aghama, who is one of the primary Dehara, and at least in my spiritual work, also a spiritual guardian and guide to working with space.

In my own work with pop culture magic, I have always felt that there is a spiritual dimension to pop culture entities that others might write off because it's pop culture, as opposed to being something that is old and traditional. For me the pop culture entities I work with are more than just a psychological category or set of attributes. They are more than just an archetypes or cultural icons. They are alive in their own right. So it doesn't surprise me that other people have similar experiences with pop culture and recognize a spiritual dimension to their encounters with pop culture spirits. In fact seeing this happen has encouraged my own practice and provided some much needed validation.

When I wrote Pop Culture Magick I wrote it primarily as a book that treated pop culture magic as a set of techniques or a tool set you could draw on for magical work. There were elements in it that hinted at how you could explore pop culture magic as a form of spirituality, but it wasn't something I'd fully embraced in my own practice. I'm now writing Pop Culture Magic 2.0 and I'm taking a different approach, which is informed as much by the additional ten years of practice that occurred, as by my recognition that there is more to pop culture magic than just a set of practices. Aside from my continuing relationship with Theide Aghama, I've also been exploring connections with characters such as Batman who has come to have a lot of significance for me. Additionally I've been doing some work with corporate spirits. And beyond that my perspective on pop culture magic has evolved because how I look at the spirit world has also evolved. I see a place for pop culture spirits in the interactions I have with the spirit world and I don't feel this demeans my magical practice or spiritual work, but rather enhances it because it allows me to apply contemporary culture to the spirit world.

That's an important aspect of pop culture magic. Our world has evolved and what we deal with now isn't what our ancestors dealt with. For me, drawing on pop culture as a spirituality allows me to connect it with the contemporary issues of the time. It also allows me to work with spirits that bring their own understanding to the spiritual equation. I recognize that not everyone sees pop culture this way, but I don't think there's anything wrong with applying this perspective to pop culture magic work. If there's a meaningful spiritual connection, explore it, albeit with care, because as with anything else, not all pop culture spirits are your friends.


Pop Culture Magic/Geekomancer survey

mystery I came across the survey below via S. Rune Emerson's post on Pagansquare and thought I'd answer it as well. The idea was originally taken and adapted from asksecularwitch on Tumblr. I would guess that I'd be considered a geekomancer, given my interest in pop culture magic, so I'm answering the survey in that vein.

1. As a Geekomancer or Practitioner of Geekomancy/pop culture magic, where do your moral and ethics come from?

Primarily they come from my own experiences. It's fair to say that I take a situational approach to morals and ethics. I see situations as shades of gray and act accordingly. All that said, I do have some definite boundaries about what I won't do, and as I've continued to do a lot of meditation and internal work, I've found that the chaos in my life has diminished a lot, so I favor applying more proactive approaches to handling situations and recognizing my role in said situations so I can take appropriate responsibility.

2. Is it hard to interact with people who don't relate to the geekomantic/pop culture magic practices?

It can be when it comes to pop culture magic. While that's not the only type of magic I practice, and I have an extensive foundation in Western and Far Eastern spiritual practices, I find that with pop culture magic you either have people who love it and respond well to it (thankfully much more now) or you have people who get bent out of shape and feel it's a threat to their spiritual practices or try to put it down as something which isn't serious magic. For the most part, I avoid interacting with the latter type of people because they already figure they know everything (thus their dogmatism and need to attack something different) and any argument with me is just going to be an exercise in futility for all involved.

3. Have you had any problems with being a Geekomancer/pop culture magic [such as people being aggressive to you because you're a geek]?

On occasion, mainly when dealing with dogmatic people who think they know everything about magic. Otherwise, it hasn't been an issue. I did go trough a love/hate period with pop culture magic, due in large part to the hostile reactions I got toward it, but I've come to realize that what matters is that what I do works and that I'll find other people who want to share in it, if they feel called to it.

4. What is your opinion on what constitutes "magical orthodoxy?"

Hmmm...I think magic practice can be perceived as a process and if you understand the process, i.e. how magic works, you can apply it to anything you want to draw on. The key is to recognize that the props are merely window dressings, and the real process is what you actually do with magical work.

5. How do you interact [if at all] with more 'traditional' or culturally-accepted spirits and gods?

I have some interaction with a few such beings and we seem to get along fine. I treat them with respect, much as I'd like to be treated.

6. Where are the origins of your practice?

I wanted to practice magic since I was 7 or 8 and first began reading fantasy. Eventually I discovered magic was real and I started experimenting with it. My experiences form the basis of my practice, but they are also informed by my studies and interests. I'd have to say that Raistlin from Dragonlance is part of the origin of my practice. I always resonated with his character and what that character went through, and why magic is so important. I felt and feel the same way to this day.

7. What are the big items that you practice within your practice [example: Divination, Spellwork, Herbalism, Spirit Work, etc] and how do you deal with them on a fundamental level as a Geekomancer?

Meditation, practical magic (sorry I don't do spells), entity work. And ow I deal with them...I make it a part of my everyday life.

8. Have you met other magicians like you?

There's a couple of people I've met in person who have a similar interest in pop culture magic, and a larger amount online as well. That said, it's few and far between, and when you add in my other interests such as space/time magic or Inner alchemy, it becomes even smaller. I'm a pioneer of experimental magical practice, but its good to see more pop culture magicians.

9. Do you have any core doctrines, practices, or principles that you work through? [Such as: Using X gemstones because Y, for example]

I treat magic as a process, and I'd say that informs everything else I do. In that process can be found the principles of magic. My approach to magic is methodical, and that kind of thinking is what really makes my practice what it is.

10. How long have you been practicing Geekomancy, pop culture magic vs Any Other Type of Magic [assuming you've practiced more than Geekomancy]?

I've been practicing pop culture magic since 1995, which is just two years after I started practicing magic. I started sharing my work in 1997 and eventually wrote Pop Culture Magick in 2003 (published 2004).

11. How do you view concepts like the soul, ghosts, afterlife, etc?

I don't really care to be honest. I've had enough near death experiences that I know there's something on the other side, but I figure it'll be important when I'm dead.

12. Is there are particular location that you practice in and what are the reasonings for that?

I do magic anywhere, because it is everywhere.

13. Compared to others [either who have answered this survey or who you've met] what is your feelings on others who practice Geekomancy/pop culture magic? It makes me happy to see other people practicing pop culture magic and it makes me feel vindicated that i'm right that pop culture magic is a viable form of magical practice.

Bonus: What comes to mind when I say: "Balloon"?  Loud scrunchy noises, hot air, and bright colors. Pop!


Vanity as a form of pop culture magic

Taylor 1998 One of the aspects of social media which really fascinates me is how much it appeals to the vanity that many people have. Facebook is a prime example, wherein people will post a variety of pictures of themselves, as well as various things associated with themselves such as pictures of the food they are eating, activities they are doing, etc., often for an audience of people who they don't even know in person. You see similar variants on sites such as Google + and Twitter. And what you'll also see is that a lot of people will end up feeding the vanity of a given person by liking the photos and/or commenting on them. You see this vanity occur also when people share text updates about activities they are doing. Other people will like the update and sometimes comment. And all of this activity creates a kind of vanity magic in my mind, where what people are interacting with is an idealized version of the person who's updates and pictures they are liking and commenting on. I say idealized because whatever is presented to people is purposely chosen and creates a filter. What we see and read is presented to us and craft's a particular image, which may not be "real" but nonetheless becomes a reality in and of itself, and an entity in its own right.

I've seen this principle of vanity employed over the years with celebrities and other authors. For that matter, in my own way I've used this principle as well, because the truth is that no matter what I present on here or else where, it will always be filtered and biased. Social media may offer an illusory belief that we can share an unfiltered perspectives of ourselves, but think carefully about your own social media interactions. What are you really presenting?

This principle of vanity has been in effect for far longer than social media, but social media makes it blatant. And consequently the magician can also experiment with such vanity. For example, I've purposely chosen to write fictitious status updates on my Facebook timeline for the purposes of creating a vanity narrative about myself. Recently I've observed someone else who has chosen to take pictures from her list of friends and use a picture of a friend as her Facebook avatar, again as a way of experimenting with the vanity principle.

I think you can take it even further. You can purposely create this persona of yourself with specific pictures chosen and text written that creates an alterego of sorts. It could be the creation of the person you wish you could be, or it could be something else altogether, with the comments and likes received used to not only fuel the existence of this alterego, but also it's connection with you and how you become it and vice versa. Then this vanity becomes an identity magic used to establish a new identity for yourself. In fact, I'd argue that what social media really presents to people is an opportunity to re-create their own identity within in an environment of participation, where other people's interactions help to shape the new identity being formed through social media actions. I see this kind of vanity as a form of pop culture magic, where technology and audience participation and interaction is used to create the social identity and reality of the person.

The picture I've included in this post is a picture of me circa 1998, at State College. I present it with a sense of amusement, as much of my image has changed and yet hasn't changed. The past presents its own vanity, its own persona, all of which feeds into this social identity/reality. In fact, when you think about it, what social media has really done is allowed us to connect our past and present images and commentary to the internet and injected all of that into the superconsciousness of humanity, in a much more conscious way than had previously occurred. The reality of our identities are mediated now as much by the audience all of us have as by our own attempts.

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 Immanion Press is so Important to me

Immanion Press I don't write much about the work I do with Immanion Press on this blog. Indeed, as far as many of you know, I'm just one of its authors. But the truth is I'm not just an author of Immanion Press. I'm also the Managing Non-Fiction editor of Immanion Press. (Cue in the jokes about being a Hair club for men member). For me, Immanion Press is one of the vehicles by which I express my passion for writing and publishing and magic in the world.

My service to Immanion Press is one of the ways I give back to the magical community and is also an offering to the magic itself. I am not paid a salary at Immanion Press. I get a small royalty for books I edit, but I don't get paid for the layout I do, or a lot of the other work I do and I am fine with that. My service to Immanion is a dedication of love to occult writing, occult authors, and to the magic itself. It is done because I want to publish books that I know will likely not see the light of day because other publishers are afraid to touch the books. It is done because I want to empower authors who have had bad experiences with other publishers, and show them that someone has their back. Indeed as I write this I reflect on an email a prospective author sent me on Thursday, telling me how validated she feels to have a publisher interested in her work who will respect her voice, who will edit the book, but not to commoditize it for the mass market. I like hearing that because to me a publisher has two clients: The Authors and the Readers. Too often, imo, most publishers focus on the latter and forget or neglect the former.

Way back in 2003, I had written Pop Culture Magick. I shopped the book to Weiser, New Falcon, and a couple other publishers. In some cases I didn't hear back from the publishers and in other cases, I got a rejection letter. I was told that my book was too niche and controversial. I was told that I shouldn't try to publish it because it wouldn't sell. So during a trip to England, I talked with Storm Constantine, owner of Immanion Press, and to this day a good friend of mine. I showed her my book and even though Immanion Press had originally been intended for Science Fiction and Fantasy books, she saw the potential in my book and agreed to publish it. In 2004, Pop Culture Magick was published and thus we started the non-fiction line of Immanion Press. It strikes me as ironic that NOW bigger publishers want to publish books on pop culture magic. I guess it's no longer so controversial, but in 2003, a decade ago, no one would touch my book. I doubt I'll ever really get the recognition I think is deserved for paving the way, but I know I paved the way. Not just with my books either, but with other books by other authors as well. Of course, I didn't do it alone.

I had help over the years from the authors, from Storm, from Kat, and from other people and I am thankful to all of them to this day, because the nonfiction line for Immanion Press couldn't be what it is without the authors, editors, and volunteers who've offered time, blood, and sweat to make things happen. Immanion Press has always been a team effort, and so really it's that all of us paved the way to one extent or another.

A couple of months after Pop Culture Magic was published, Nick Farrell emailed me and asked if Immanion Press would consider publishing his book Gathering the Magic. It's a book about magical group dynamics and big surprise, none of the bigger publishers wanted to publish it. So I asked Storm about it, and Immanion Press took it on. I was still just an author then, but as more authors found out about us, and discovered that we wanted to publish intermediate to advanced books on magic that were for niche markets and that no book was too controversial for us, Storm asked me if I would be willing to be the managing non-fiction editor. She respected my expertise as an occultist, and the way that I knew the market. I said yes and I began what has been and continues to be one of the most important callings of my life: I publish the books other publishers won't touch because I know there is a market and that those publishers are wrong. They don't get it...how can they, when what they are focused on is really the bottom line? And I get why they are...and they have a place, and the books they publish have a place, but even so, on a certain level they just don't get it, and they never will. They aren't publishing for the same reason and what they publish is for a larger market. They aren't going to publish the controversial books, the risky books because they don't want to alienate that larger market. But the truth is that anything that is published is bound to offend someone. It's not always about hitting the largest market possible. It's about reaching the right market...the right people and meeting their needs even if it isn't an automatic hit. It's about knowing the market, knowing the people, knowing what they want...and knowing that giving it to them does involve some risk, because you can't please everyone...and maybe you shouldn't.

Working at Immanion Press hasn't always been easy. At one point I came very close to leaving, burned out, and fed up with how taken for granted I felt by everyone involved. And being a strong personality, I know I am not always easy to work with and that I've made a few mistakes along the way. But overall, I love the work I do at Immanion Press and over time the process has gotten easier. What people forget sometimes is that Immanion Press is a small press. We don't have a paid staff of editors, publicists, marketers, etc. We run on a tight budget and the people who work for us get paid in royalties. And yet they do it anyway, which I am so thankful for...because they believe in the vision of Immanion Press. They believe that what we are doing is important enough to support it. And despite not having what traditional publishers have, we make it work and we find ways to help our authors out. It's not a perfect system, far from it, and sometimes it doesn't work out as well as it could. But we make it work anyway.

And I am proud of our authors and books. I am proud that I've played a role, however small it is, in helping authors launch their writing career and when I see that one of my authors got a book published by another publisher I feel good about it, because I know that getting published by us helped with that. We publish the controversial books, and we also bring books back into print and what we have available is awesome. We've published books on the subjects that the other publishers won't touch and we've played a role in getting conversations to happen. We've also told the authors that we want them to write in their voices and that we won't sanitize those voices. At the same time, we've insisted on academic standards of in-text citation and quotations, which readers tell me they love because they see it so rarely in the majority of books published on magic and paganism.

At this last Pantheacon, two of my authors, Tony Mierzwicki and Crystal Blanton, told me in their respective ways how much they liked working with Immanion Press. Tony told me how he'd shopped his book Graeco-Egyptian Magic everywhere and was about to self-publish it when he remembered meeting me and decided to see if we'd publish his book. We said yes and he told me how getting his book published opened doors for him. He told me how much he appreciated a free marketing seminar I gave to the authors (and inspired me to start it up again for my authors). And I know that even if he never publishes another book with us, we played a role in his life and in his writing that he'll always remember. And that touched me so profoundly and I was so grateful for his appreciation and recognition of Immanion Press and my role in all of it.

And at one point I was talking with Crystal and she abruptly stopped me and said, with much emotion, "Thank you" several times. And later she told me how much she appreciated my vision for Immanion and she said that she didn't think I knew what an impact I had on her community because of how I'd supported her as an author and as an editor of The Shades of Faith Anthology we published. And she's right I didn't know it, but that weekend gave me a glimpse...and later she acknowledged at a panel my role in the anthology and how I'd recognized I wasn't the right person to edit that anthology, and that I knew I needed to find someone who could do it justice. I was so touched by what she said, so honored that she felt I had contributed to her vision and work.

And I've had other authors on occasions tell me similar things and I have always felt touched. To me that is the biggest payoff. I have helped authors reach their audience. I have respected their voices, their culture, their audience...I have done my job as a publisher and an editor and as a magician...I have believed in them and provided a platform to help them reach others who can believe in them as well.

And I've continued to write my books and place them with Immanion. I'll admit I do find it frustrating when I go to Powells books and don't see my books on the shelves or the Barnes and Nobles because we use print on demand and because we don't take returns. Yet that frustration pales to the joy I feel writing my books my way...knowing my voice will be respected, knowing that the cover of the book will be the cover I pick. And I know I'm reaching my audience. I'm reaching the people who need my work and that is what is really important.

I'm writing a book on Wealth Magic and I flirted with the idea of letting another publisher publish one of my books. I even sent a proposal in and then...I went to a panel held by the publisher and in that panel I heard everything that was an antithesis of my approach to publishing. They wanted trendy, marketable ideas. They wanted books that had cute titles and approached magic in a hip marketable manner that would hit the largest market possible. I left feeling sick to my stomach and I knew that none of my occult books will likely ever be published by a larger publisher. I simply can't imagine emasculating my vision and my words in that way just to make a buck. And I don't feel they will really get my vision or my approach or understand that I know the market better than they may know it. I know I'll write non-occult books (I'm starting one as soon as I finish the wealth magic book) and those books will go to more mainstream publishers, but my spiritual work, the work that touches the heart of the universe and speaks the language of magic...that work needs to be the way it is...not written for a general audience...not written to make a buck, but written to speak to the people who need it...written in my voice, written the way I want it to be written. And yes it means my books will always be with a small publisher. It means that I won't get some of the advantages that some of my other occult authors have. And I can live with that...because even though its a harder road to walk and there is more work on my end as an author, I've already been doing it for ten years, and I like how I feel about myself as a writer and as a magician. I don't say that to pass judgments on other authors. I recognize that many of the other occult authors have had awesome relationships with the publishers they've worked with. I just feel that for me I know where the home of my occult books are...and hopefully always will be. And that's Immanion Press. My press...my publisher and one of my loves. I love Immanion Press. I love what we stand for and I love that I serve the magic with the work I do for the press. That is more important than anything else. I serve the magic.

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.

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.

The Magic List

Recently my wife introduced me to the show My name is Earl. It's a hilarious show with an interesting premise about Karma and lists. On a side note I am glad I discovered this show now, as opposed to a few years back, as I can happily indulge in bad accents, which this show definitely provokes.

But what has interested me most is the concept of the list, and Karma holding the main character to fulfilling the list. The character needs to make up for all the bad things he's done so he can live a good life. It's simplistic in a way and the character's choice to do it is based more on a selfish desire than a genuine wish to make up for harm done, but he changes as time goes on.

I don't necessarily think I'd go and create a list of every bad thing I've done, but I do think there's some truth to the notion that how you live your life creates what comes into your life. For a long time I lived a very chaotic life. Some of that was due to circumstances I had no control over initially, and some of it was due to my own choices. I wouldn't say it was a bad life, but it was chaotic and as such I encountered a lot of chaos as well. Then eight or so years ago I started doing internal work such as the elemental balancing ritual and meditation to work through the internal chaos. And as I did this work, I gradually found that my life started to change. Less chaos, more stability, and more realization of the impact my actions had on others and myself.

Continuing to do this work even now has shown me that it is possible to change your life, but to truly change you must be willing to examine in depth and take responsibility for your choices and the consequences of those choices. I am not an enlightened person and I have definitely made my share of bad choices and mistakes and hurt some people along the way. I'd never deny any of that, for the denial of such things denies an essential part of my life and identity. But even as I don't deny my choices, I also don't deny that I've made some good choices and had some positive impact on others through those choices. Most important however is the continued work to recognize and release myself from reaction so that I can make choices from a well-considered, conscious place of mind, body, and spirit.

A magic list might just be what some people need to change their lives, but genuine change must occur at the core of the person, through a realization of what the person can become, as opposed to some nebulous force that holds you accountable to change. If changed is prompted by an external force is it really genuine? Only if that change brings with it a realization on your own part of a desire to change yourself because you recognize a need to be responsible to yourself and others for your actions. Transformation starts from within and manifests outward in the way you live your life and in what kinds of situations you encounter as a result of your actions.

I can't say I'm a good person. Then again it's not necessarily my desire to be "good." (whatever that is). I can say, more and more, that I am a person of my own conscious choices and that I am content to live with the consequences of those choices, even when those consequences aren't favorable. I couldn't have said that 8 years ago. It's the conscious choices you make, both internally and externally, that speak to your identity and its expression on the world. You don't need a magic list or Karma for that...but what you do need is a willingness to hold yourself accountable and make your choices based on values you have chosen as opposed to ones provided to you by someone else. Move beyond your reactions...embody the life you want to live, based on the values you've chosen. That's magic...living life on your terms.