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In Defense of Pop Culture Magic

 

When I first wrote the Invoking Buffy article for Newwitch Magazine I got a lot of flak from the occult and Pagan communities. I was accused of being flaky, a fluffy bunny, and a variety of other labels. When I wrote Pop Culture Magick these criticism increased ten fold. Once, when I was talking with a Celtic Reconstructionist friend, she pointed out that her Gods had been around thousands of years, which seemed to automatically confer more validity to her spiritual practices, compared to my own. When I pointed out that the stories around her Deities were the pop culture for the people who had told the stories, I was told that such a perspective was blasphemous and that because her Deities had been around for millennia they were automatically more powerful than any pop culture Deity. And when I was interviewed by Pagan Centered Podcast it was a hostile interview, with their goal being focused on trying to disprove what I practiced. I could probably tell you a few more stories along these lines, but I think you get the idea: Pop Culture Magic, and any associated beliefs, spiritual practices, etc. are considered to be the bastard child of Paganism and Occultism by a good number of people who inevitably seem intent on proving why their beliefs are more valid, more spiritual, more anything than pop culture magic is.  And if you, like me, are associated with practicing pop culture magic you'll be told what a flake you are and how your spiritual practices aren't as good as the person to your left or right who believes in more traditional deities. You'll be told it's fiction and that you're wrong and they're right.

Some of this bias comes from a tendency to revere something that is older or more traditional (older is better), and perhaps even purportedly rooted in nature. While I think its important to maintain a connection to nature, I am skeptical as to how older religious systems automatically ensure that particular connection. If anything, I have found that developing a genuine connection with nature is much more primal and based on your willingness to spend time and effort in nature. For example, choosing to deweed your yard and really put your hands in the dirt to take care of the land is an action that is very connective to nature, with no Deity required to facilitate said interaction. A long hike can also be just as connecting, allowing you to become part of the land by choosing to be in it, instead of merely observing it. The smell of the land, the feeling as you walk it is a spiritual experience that again needs no Deity in order to facilitate it. All that is really needed is you and your willingness to connect with the land and learn from it, as a result of the connection.

Going back to the older is better argument, I'd argue that this tendency to revere what is older is based in part on a desire to reconnect with the traditions of the past that have been lost or obscured due to Christianity or other mainstream religions. There's nothing wrong with wanting to connect to the past, but I don't think that makes the past better. It just makes it a valid area of research to explore. At the same time, no reconstructionist will ever live in the original culture that his/her Deities of originated from or speak the language as it was spoken in those times or live the way the people lived in the past. Those cultures are gone, and we have no way of fully knowing how those people interacted with the deities in question. We can do research and we can speculate and we can reconstruct, but nonetheless any reconstructionist is still a child of modern culture, and none that I've known have forsaken all the modern amenities that we have to live like the ancient people did. So this valuation that older is better seems suspect, especially if they are going to continue to rely upon the trappings of contemporary culture in other aspects of their lives (such as posting blogs).

One argument about why traditional is better is that there is historical basis. In particular Galina argues that heroes such as Achilles, Heracles, etc. were living and that this makes them worthy of veneration, but we don't really know that they actually lived.  For all we know they were just fictional pop culture characters of that era used as stories to demonstrate how a hero should behave. Myths are pop culture, the pop culture of past eras used to instruct people in the norms of a given culture, much as stories are used to day for similar purpose. And just because those myths were written down doesn't automatically mean they are true. There may be a historical basis to the story, but even if there is, well history does get distorted doesn't it? And just because someone lived doesn't mean anything. Lots of people have lived and died. What makes them meaningful is how people choose to imbue meaning into them, and oddly enough you can also imbue a lot of meaning into a fictional character and form a connection as a result.

Another way detractors of pop culture magic try to prove that their beliefs are automatically more valid is the argument that pop culture entities aren't real and don't have power. Sannion claims that pop culture entities can't heal the plague, haven't shown up on the battlefield (twenty feet tall at that!) to drive off the Persians or shown people where to find buried treasure. But you know there's something funny with that claim. Because you know neither have the traditional gods (at least not in living memory). In fact the only way we can determine that they've done what they've done is by stories, by myths. And do you know how those myths come alive? They come alive because of the meaning people imbue them. That's what makes them important to people. Without that meaning, without that belief, the gods would fade away. Belief is an integral source of power for them and while I'd agree that they have a separate existence it doesn't change the fact that their existence is symbiotically linked to the people who worship and believe in them (That might be why their followers are so harsh on pop culture magic...people who direct their belief elsewhere are taking vital resources away from the old Gods).

You know the real irony though? The Greek Gods and Norse Gods in particular have really benefited as a result of modern pop culture. Marvel comics has told new stories about Thor and the Norse Gods and as a result introduced them to people who might otherwise never learn about them because of the mainstream religion. The same applies to the Greek Gods and I think that it's because those deities recognize that the pop culture of today is an effective way to reach out and connect with the people of this time and culture. So pop culture has retold their stories and even told new ones and the traditional Deities have benefited as a result (The detractors never write about that...guess they don't want to acknowledge that pop culture has actually benefited their deities of choice).

As for the fictional characters...are they really fictional? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe we are tapping into an alternate reality where they do exist. Even if we aren't, I think that what makes the pop culture entities meaningful is the meaning imbued into them by people. In other words, just like traditional deities they need some belief in order to have any real presence in a person's life.  Jason notes that pop culture entities achieve solid results when it comes to helping people change habits and behaviors, whereas more traditional spirits are better at effecting events. And perhaps the reason for that is that people can relate to the pop culture entities better than they can to the more traditional deities. Maybe Peter Parker isn't a god, but I bet a lot more people can relate to him and his trials than to Heracles and his trials. Some of that is due to the simple fact that Peter Parker is more contemporary, more modern, more or less a part of THIS culture, with all of its problems and all of its triumphs. Heracles is part of a different culture, a different time, with different problems...not someone you'd want to emulate as Sannion points out...not that you'd necessarily want to emulate Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne, or Clark Kent either.

I've actually had some solid results occur with Pop Culture Magic entities that weren't just psychological changes. And I disagree with the notion that "fictional" characters are automatically not real (Which Sannion, Galina and others advocate for). I have a 16 plus year relationship with Thiede, a "fictional" character that says otherwise, and that relationship has had a profound effect on my life and magical work (he has played a significant role in the development of space/time magic techniques I've written about and that many people use to make real changes to events in their lives). Similar interactions with other pop cultures has inspired practical magical techniques based off information they provided me, which hasn't merely been a change in behavior, but has instead involved more practical effects. While said entities weren't directly responsible for said changes, they gave me ideas to work with that in turn became practical magic techniques. And there are a couple of examples of pop culture work that focused on shaping events such as working with Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series to find lost items and working with with Potterverse to stimulate interest the occult (especially around the time the first movie came out). 

That said, as I cite in Pop Culture Magick, and Jason mentions in his post they are also quite helpful with behavior modification. Jack offers his own perspective, which I like, which ultimately boils down to the fact that compilation of various magical practices into a new magical practice is nothing new, and that from a magician's perspective is that you get results (which I wholeheartedly agree with). The fact is I've gotten solid results with pop culture magic, and I've had interactions with pop culture entities that are and have been meaningful and aren't mere flights of fancy or fantasy. I consider the pop culture entities I work to be real entities by virtue of the relationships that I've developed with them. And I'm not alone in feeling this way like I was in 2004. And interestingly enough, Gus diZerga shares a bit of pop culture magic history in this article which seems to demonstrate that there is some reality to pop culture entities, wherein he shares how people encountered Darth Vader as an entity. Having actually done some in-depth internal work with the Emperor from the Star wars mythos I can tell you there is something more to the characters than just some fiction. The Emperor never seemed fictional to me, and having had a taste of the dark side via his teachings I found it to be extremely relevant to the work I was doing with the element of emptiness.

At the same time it is also heartening to see that more people are supportive of exploring pop culture and its integration into magical and spiritual work. Such support wasn't something you saw as much of a decade ago, and yet now more people are supportive of pop culture magic and recognize that it can be spiritually and magically valid for people to draw upon. Perhaps the best evidence of this can be found on Tumblr, where people share their pop culture magic ideas and workings. The point is you're not alone anymore. There will always be nay sayers who feel threatened by the idea of pop culture magic for whatever reason. My advice? Don't spend too much time focused on them. Focus on doing your magical work and let that speak for itself. Certainly I've never let the nay sayers discourage me and as I see the continued rise of pop culture magic I feel some pride in playing a part in its development (with more coming down the line). Pop culture magic is here to stay, and it is part of the evolution of magic and spirituality. 

 

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Taylor Ellwood is the author of Pop Culture Magick, Space/Time Magic, Magical Identity and a number of other occult books. He posts about his latest projects at Magical Experiments. He is also the managing non-fiction editor of Immanion Press. Taylor lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two kids, as well as 7 cats.

Comments

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Friday, 24 May 2013

    When I pointed out that the stories around her Deities were the pop culture for the people who had told the stories...
    As a Hellenist, I wouldn't call that "blasphemous", but it's also a really unequivalent comparison. "Pop culture" of the 20th and 21st Centuries really has no equivalent in the ancient world —at the very least, no surviving equivalent.

    At the same time, no reconstructionist will ever live in the original culture that his/her Deities of originated from or speak the language as it was spoken in those times or live the way the people lived in the past. Those cultures are gone, and we have no way of fully knowing how those people interacted with the deities in question.
    Except that they're not. More often than academia supports, the "commoners" of the lands of Greece, Ireland, Scotland, Scandanavia, France, Germany, Italy, and so on, maintain some clearly adapted form of the ancient religion. There are numerous roadside shrines in Greece where saints sit alongside ancient deities, and so on. A festival of Dionysos continues in Tyrnavos, Greece, in spite of centuries of objections from the Orthodox church. People in Livadeia still highly revere the nymph Herkyna of her eponymous river. No, it's not "the exact same thing", but neither was Archaic Greek polytheism to Hellenistic Greek polytheism. Engaging the modern face of these cultures on some level is pretty necessary to "doing it right", in my opinion, cos clear constants of culture tend to remain. Of course when you set up a premise to fail, it will inevitably seem to, even if it's not true, because you'll naturally reason that its failure was genuine and not a product of your own design.

    We can do research and we can speculate and we can reconstruct, but nonetheless any reconstructionist is still a child of modern culture, and none that I've known have forsaken all the modern amenities that we have to live like the ancient people did. So this valuation that older is better seems suspect, especially if they are going to continue to rely upon the trappings of contemporary culture in other aspects of their lives (such as posting blogs).
    This seems to reek pretty heavily of a strawman argument, and even more preposterous, you seem to be admitting that you're argueing against something nobody actually does. This isn't about building a time-machine, and no serious pagan/polytheist, of sound mind, applying a reconstruction method to practise will ever claim it to be. It's about adapting the ancient ways to modern realities. It's both traditionalist AND modernist, because it frankly has to be.

    This method is not about throwing out everything that came about after, say, 500CE and going all lud in some commune in the mountains (as much as argueing with people on the Internet makes that idea sound appealing, sometimes, no thanks, I like my computer, and Dexys Midnight Runners LPs, and Calvin Klein shirts, and 5% RedCard discount at Target, among other things), it's about taking history and ancient practises and fitting it into a modern life. It's the "best of both worlds" for people invested in reconstructing not the ancient world as a whole, but the continuum of religious practises that connect this world with that world. Reconstructing that continuum, yes, involves looking at historical paganism as it actually was, not as we imagine it to be or want it to be, and making logical adaptations where needed, but that's really not a hard thing to do.

    One argument about why traditional is better is that there is historical basis. In particular Galina argues that heroes such as Achilles, Heracles, etc. were living and that this makes them worthy of veneration, but we don't really know that they actually lived. For all we know they were just fictional pop culture characters of that era used as stories to demonstrate how a hero should behave.
    Er... Achilles was a right bastard, and Orion wasn't much better (as a Boeotian-focused Hellenist, Orion's hero cult is important to my religion, and I'll be the first to admit that his character, as portrayed in his mythology? he's no [s]Moses[/s] Superman). You're not arguing against anything that traditionalists have actually said, you're arguing against your own misconceptions and putting up your own notions to validate.

    Furthermore, the historicity of the contents of the Hellenic hero's tomb is less important than both the tomb itself and the fact that the belief in this person's historicity is tied to the local identity of the people of that town. Compare the belief in historicity of not only Saints (in Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran traditions), but the character of Jesus Christ --there's a lot less primary material supporting the historicity of Yeshua of Nazareth, and not to mantion many early Saints, than there is material supporting the idea that Orion was a real, albeit mythologised person.

    Myths are pop culture, the pop culture of past eras used to instruct people in the norms of a given culture, much as stories are used to day for similar purpose.
    Actually, ancient fables are probably a better comparison. Fables are not myth, but short little allegorical morality fiction that illustrate aceptable behaviour. Mythos, on the other hand, are narrative texts central and sacred to religious practises. Redefining "myth" as "pop culture" doesn't make it so.

    And just because someone lived doesn't mean anything. Lots of people have lived and died. What makes them meaningful is how people choose to imbue meaning into them, and oddly enough you can also imbue a lot of meaning into a fictional character and form a connection as a result.
    So... we can't "prove" the heros of ancient myth actually lived or anything, but even if we could, so what? Just what is your argument here?

    As for what makes them more meaningful to a religion than, say, you, or Batman, or my cat, is the fact that their believed existence is central to the cultural identity of the religion. Much the way that the presumed existence of saints and Jesus is central to the identity of many Christians, regardless of "proof".

    But you know there's something funny with that claim. Because you know neither have the traditional gods (at least not in living memory).
    Again, you present these arguments in a manner designed for failure, as if it proves what you say. Can't prove a negative, so just assert it never happened, and this makes you right? I'll beg to differ on both your assertion and your method of arguing it.

    In fact the only way we can determine that they've done what they've done is by stories, by myths. And do you know how those myths come alive? They come alive because of the meaning people imbue them.
    The fact that they've maintained these meanings across centuries and across cultures and religions (albeit in different ways) certainly helps, too. When Isadora Duncan, early 20th Century modern dancer, claimed to have been instructed in her art by Aphrodite, what reason do I have to doubt this? Must I believe that Aphrodite necessarily materialised in corporeal form before Duncan, or do I simply need to believe that Aphrodite, in Her own ways, guided Duncan, and Duncan herself believed it, as well?

    That's what makes them important to people. Without that meaning, without that belief, the gods would fade away.
    And yet they somehow haven't. Interesting.

    (That might be why their followers are so harsh on pop culture magic...people who direct their belief elsewhere are taking vital resources away from the old Gods).
    Not at all, but this is pure speculation on your part, and you clearly admit it. Your failure to worship something deathless takes no "vital resources" away. You've simply opted out. Oh well. No skin off my back. On the other hand, you really should tread with caution in your existence on "sameness", if only for the sake of your own arguments. So far, the logic you've presented is built on strawman fallacies and negative statements you know you cannot prove and thus don't have to. That's never really been the basis of a strong argument.

    As for the fictional characters...are they really fictional? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe we are tapping into an alternate reality where they do exist.
    And maybe this is all The Matrix? Either way, it's irrelevant. Seriously, the only logical explanation for that final film is that "Zion" is another level of the matrix itself, and that there is no escape from it, but studio meddling prevented that from being made explicit, cos it'd be a downer. If there's been any tapping into an alternate reality, oh well?

    Sure, I'll give that it's perfectly plausible that "fictional" characters may be born of a spirit just as much as the imagination, and that this spirit is strengthened by the adoration of fans, but that's irrelevant. Spirits don't need the same reverence that deities want, but you're welcome to give it.

    Jason notes that pop culture entities achieve solid results when it comes to helping people change habits and behaviors, whereas more traditional spirits are better at effecting events. And perhaps the reason for that is that people can relate to the pop culture entities better than they can to the more traditional deities.
    Or perhaps that the spirits behind those characters are just different, and more personal? Seriously, in Hellenism there's a concept of "agathos daimon", good spirit, that is personal, and works closely to the family's bloodline. The nature of this spirit has been a matter of philosophical debate, both ancient and among modern Hellenists, and sure, maybe "fiction" spirits are a different grade from that, it's certainly possible. Be that as it may, even if one forgets to wind their watch, it's still relevant twice a day --don't take apparent validation of this one realm of plausibility as validation of everything you've said.

    Heracles is part of a different culture, a different time, with different problems...not someone you'd want to emulate as Sannion points out...not that you'd necessarily want to emulate Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne, or Clark Kent either.
    Have you actually read Heraklean mythos? He was driven mad by Hera and made to kill his family --sounds like as much an allegory for mental illness as Peter Parker / Spiderman is, well, a male puberty allegory. Yep, Herakles is completely irrelevant, no-one in this day and age has any clue what it's like to do unspeakable things due to forces outside your control and having to "atone" for those actions. Everyone got cured of that in 1396CE, cos of reasons, schizophrenics (like one of my best friends) are just fangirls seeking attention. Or something. There's no allegorical comparison between the twelve labours and spending three years in a psychiatric hospital, the latter of which doesn't exist because everyone knows that mental illness is just made up.

  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood Saturday, 25 May 2013

    I'm going to reply to your actual comment now. My initial comment was made to make a particular point, but let's focus in on your comment.

    I used the word stories in my post for a very particular reason. Myths are stories, as are Fables. The myths tell stories of the people and their actions. And that key aspect of stories is also found in pop culture of the 20th and 21st century. Comic books, T.V. shows, etc are essentially stories. The circumstances and culture are different, but nonetheless myths from way back when and pop culture from now still are stories. And on an interesting note pop culture of now can still tell some interesting stories within the context of more traditional myth. I'm not sure if you're familiar with God of War, but that would be an example of a modern pop culture myth set in Ancient Greece. I won't pretend that it's exactly the same (it clearly isn't), but the people who put together the story did a lot of research and did their best to draw on relevant elements.

    Except that they're not. More often than academia supports, the "commoners" of the lands of Greece, Ireland, Scotland, Scandanavia, France, Germany, Italy, and so on, maintain some clearly adapted form of the ancient religion. There are numerous roadside shrines in Greece where saints sit alongside ancient deities, and so on. A festival of Dionysos continues in Tyrnavos, Greece, in spite of centuries of objections from the Orthodox church. People in Livadeia still highly revere the nymph Herkyna of her eponymous river. No, it's not "the exact same thing", but neither was Archaic Greek polytheism to Hellenistic Greek polytheism. Engaging the modern face of these cultures on some level is pretty necessary to "doing it right", in my opinion, cos clear constants of culture tend to remain. Of course when you set up a premise to fail, it will inevitably seem to, even if it's not true, because you'll naturally reason that its failure was genuine and not a product of your own design.

    A fair point to make and one I'd actually agree with based on conversations I've had with Recons. And also evident even in Christianity and its appropriation of cultures (and how people native to an area have managed to retain something of the original culture in a different form). And I'd agree with your definition of reconstructionism and fitting the best in both worlds. My point was made tongue in cheek as a response to some of the over the top responses (in my opinion) that I saw in some of the posts I've linked to above.

    Er... Achilles was a right bastard, and Orion wasn't much better (as a Boeotian-focused Hellenist, Orion's hero cult is important to my religion, and I'll be the first to admit that his character, as portrayed in his mythology? he's no [s]Moses[/s] Superman). You're not arguing against anything that traditionalists have actually said, you're arguing against your own misconceptions and putting up your own notions to validate.

    Indeed I agree with your assessment of Achilles and Orion. I wouldn't want to meet either of them in a dark or light alley. Nonetheless they are considered heroes and perhaps the issue here is that my conception of hero doesn't fit the concept of hero as you understand it. Fair enough. However the point was made, particularly in Galinna's post that what made them heroes was the fact that they lived and died. In other words they needed to have been an actual living person and to have died in order to earn the title of hero (unless I'm misunderstanding what she wrote?) And I'll grant that in the context of her and your beliefs that this particular aspect is important. On the other hand, in my beliefs its not important when it comes to working with superheros, who I might add are framed within a contemporary cultural lenses of understanding about the term hero, as opposed to the lens you and Galinna are applying. And that's a very important distinction to note, don't you think, because if we aren't even agreeing on the definition of hero then the arguments on both sides are being applied without fully understanding the context of either side.

    Furthermore, the historicity of the contents of the Hellenic hero's tomb is less important than both the tomb itself and the fact that the belief in this person's historicity is tied to the local identity of the people of that town. Compare the belief in historicity of not only Saints (in Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran traditions), but the character of Jesus Christ --there's a lot less primary material supporting the historicity of Yeshua of Nazareth, and not to mantion many early Saints, than there is material supporting the idea that Orion was a real, albeit mythologised person.

    See above comment...I see how its relevant to your definition, not so sure its relevant to mine.

    Actually, ancient fables are probably a better comparison. Fables are not myth, but short little allegorical morality fiction that illustrate aceptable behaviour. Mythos, on the other hand, are narrative texts central and sacred to religious practises. Redefining "myth" as "pop culture" doesn't make it so.

    You and I will have to agree to disagree on this point. My understanding of religious practices the world over is that they instruct people on how to behave toward the gods but also to each other. Yes I get that the Greek myths have some fairly unpleasant people in them, but even within those stories there seems to be some normative values taught, such as for example the consequences that a person faces by defying the Gods.

    So... we can't "prove" the heros of ancient myth actually lived or anything, but even if we could, so what? Just what is your argument here? As for what makes them more meaningful to a religion than, say, you, or Batman, or my cat, is the fact that their believed existence is central to the cultural identity of the religion. Much the way that the presumed existence of saints and Jesus is central to the identity of many Christians, regardless of "proof".

    You actually make my argument for me in your response. My point is that the meaning (believed existence) is central to the cultural identity of a given person. My work with pop culture entities is central to my cultural identity, regardless of proof. It's not about proof, but about the meaningful connection and relationship that has been established myself and the pop culture Deity I'm working with.

    But you know there's something funny with that claim. Because you know neither have the traditional gods (at least not in living memory).
    Again, you present these arguments in a manner designed for failure, as if it proves what you say. Can't prove a negative, so just assert it never happened, and this makes you right? I'll beg to differ on both your assertion and your method of arguing it.


    Actually Sannion made that argument originally in the post I linked to above. My response is a similar argument against what he wrote. And really there's no incidents in living history that I know of where said things happen, but again that comes back to the point you made above regarding belief and proof. That doesn't apply just to you, but also to myself as well.

    The fact that they've maintained these meanings across centuries and across cultures and religions (albeit in different ways) certainly helps, too. When Isadora Duncan, early 20th Century modern dancer, claimed to have been instructed in her art by Aphrodite, what reason do I have to doubt this? Must I believe that Aphrodite necessarily materialised in corporeal form before Duncan, or do I simply need to believe that Aphrodite, in Her own ways, guided Duncan, and Duncan herself believed it, as well?

    Yes it certainly does help and I respect that. I get your point here, but I have to ask why is there a double standard? Why do only you and others like you get to make this claim? Why can't I claim it based off my own experiences and meaningful interactions with my deities of choice? That's a rhetorical question, because the fact is I can make that claim. Now what I can't claim is that my Deities have lasted for thousands of years, and I acknowledge that, but even within their particular lifespan they've undergone changes and provided different meanings and experiences to different people.


    Not at all, but this is pure speculation on your part, and you clearly admit it. Your failure to worship something deathless takes no "vital resources" away. You've simply opted out. Oh well. No skin off my back. On the other hand, you really should tread with caution in your existence on "sameness", if only for the sake of your own arguments. So far, the logic you've presented is built on strawman fallacies and negative statements you know you cannot prove and thus don't have to. That's never really been the basis of a strong argument.

    Actually this was another tongue in cheek response.

    Sure, I'll give that it's perfectly plausible that "fictional" characters may be born of a spirit just as much as the imagination, and that this spirit is strengthened by the adoration of fans, but that's irrelevant. Spirits don't need the same reverence that deities want, but you're welcome to give it.[/b]

    Why is it irrelevant? You're applying your own definition of Deity in this case, without considering what my definition is. It may very well be irrelevant to your definition, but it's certainly not to mine, nor is it irrelevant to what I work with.

    Or perhaps that the spirits behind those characters are just different, and more personal? Seriously, in Hellenism there's a concept of "agathos daimon", good spirit, that is personal, and works closely to the family's bloodline. The nature of this spirit has been a matter of philosophical debate, both ancient and among modern Hellenists, and sure, maybe "fiction" spirits are a different grade from that, it's certainly possible. Be that as it may, even if one forgets to wind their watch, it's still relevant twice a day --don't take apparent validation of this one realm of plausibility as validation of everything you've said.

    That's his validation, not mine. I acknowledged his validation, but also went on to disagree with it and cite my own experiences, which you didn't even address.

    Have you actually read Heraklean mythos? He was driven mad by Hera and made to kill his family --sounds like as much an allegory for mental illness as Peter Parker / Spiderman is, well, a male puberty allegory. Yep, Herakles is completely irrelevant, no-one in this day and age has any clue what it's like to do unspeakable things due to forces outside your control and having to "atone" for those actions. Everyone got cured of that in 1396CE, cos of reasons, schizophrenics (like one of my best friends) are just fangirls seeking attention. Or something. There's no allegorical comparison between the twelve labours and spending three years in a psychiatric hospital, the latter of which doesn't exist because everyone knows that mental illness is just made up.

    And here's where the sarcasm really comes out and make you a fallacious argument, as well as certain assumptions. As a matter of fact I have read the myths of Heracles and I never stated that he wasn't relevant...I stated that he was part of a different culture, time, and problems. He got hit with divine madness, which as far as I can tell (and what science seems to support) is not the case with schizophrenia. Comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges.

    That said I'm sure that anyone who has killed someone else in a fit of passion could identify with Heracles, especially if s/he feels a need to atone. For that matter people who've been convicted of lesser crimes might feel the same. On the other hand, the same applies to Peter Parker, who although not struck with madness nonetheless failed to take action and be responsible and thus lost his uncle and also has spent his life atoning for that action. And I think people can identify with that as much as, if not more than with Heracles. After all while I can say I haven't always taken responsibility the way I should have, I can say I haven't killed anyone in a fit of divine madness.

    You don't have to agree with my beliefs and I suspect if we were really to hash this out we'd discover that we're operating on different definitions, values, and cultural identities. Fair enough, but that doesn't make what I believe less valid that what you believe and I and others shouldn't be raked over the coals because you don't agree with my beliefs.

  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood Friday, 24 May 2013

    It's interesting that you throw in the fallacies and negative statement arguments, because to be honest with you I've seen plenty of it in the articles I've read from the people intent on disproving pop culture magic. I'm guessing if it makes you defensive and that you don't care for it in this post that you can probably understand why and I and others don't care for how the other side has approached the subject either. I deliberately chose to write this post in this way to address what was written because of how it was written. If you don't like it when the shoe is on the other foot, then perhaps the best thing you could is refrain from telling other people why how they choose to practice their spirituality and magical practice is wrong.

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Saturday, 25 May 2013

    You know, I'd be willing to admit that there are negative statements and fallacious logic in the posts of others if you'd bother to cite it. As it stands, your vague allegations don't come across to me as a statement of confidence in your argument, but a quasi-dogmatic expectation of faith. If you don't want to convince people of your position, then faith-based reasoning is perfectly acceptable --but then if you don't care to convince people, why bother making attempts at defending your position and then backing out?

    Contrary to what many have accused me of in this latest drama, I really don't care what you believe in, especially if you claim it works for you. But if you're going to defend your position with fallacious logic and negative statements that don't really have anything to do with your opponents' positions, then I have no personal or ethical issues with pointing that out.

  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood Saturday, 25 May 2013

    Well since you asked...Your responses in particular caught my eye. You practically leaped down Sunweaver's throat in her post, and focused more on how her perspective didn't fit within your own beliefs than in actually addressing what she was discussing. Frankly it came off as reactionary and fallacious because you weren't really intent on addressing what she wrote so much as forcing your own views, complete with sarcasm, down her throat.

    Even your previous response to me reeks more an attempt to discredit what I wrote, mixed in with sarcasm, than an actual engagement with I wrote. I actually am going to respond at more length to your comment, because it admittedly deserves better than the initial response I gave it.

    Sannion's latest post, and several of the others on his blog are focused more on attacking the concept of pop culture and spirituality as opposed to really trying to understand and still disagree with it. Galinna's post is a bit better , but ultimately goes in a circle that focus moreso on disproving the pop culture beliefs within the framework of her own beliefs and the others I linked to are actually fairly reasonable in their objections, but what stands out to me the most is just how reactive y'all are to the idea that people would integrate pop culture into their spirituality or even that they might take a concept such as Arete and try and apply it to their work. You tell us our entities are fictional and expect what? A recanting of our beliefs. It doesn't really work that way. What it indicates is that you're not even open to considering the possibility that for each of us a very real and meaningful relationship has been forged with a "fictional" entity. Instead you (collectively) insist on applying standards of YOUR Beliefs to ours.

    I don't have a problem with people saying here are our beliefs and here's why in the parameter of those beliefs what you practice doesn't work, but I recognize that for you it seems to work and that it might have some validity within your structure. But that's not what happened. What's happened is: "Our beliefs and practices are right and yours are wrong" That message is sprinkled throughout the various blogposts I cited above in the article, and yes you are one of those people who have stated that in your own sarcastic way.

    You claim you don't care what I or others believe in, but the fact that you've gotten so involved in this drama says otherwise. If you don't care, why even respond? And if you read my article above the various statements I make are responses to similar statements made by others in their own blogs, which has to do with their positions. Heck, I practically quote Sannion several times, but I'll get into that in my lengthier response to your original comment.

  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood Sunday, 26 May 2013

    I can't reply directly to your comment, but hopefully you'll see this.

    I acknowledge that there is about ten plus years of baggage that informs my responses to what other people have written. And in going back and looking at your responses to Sunweaver I can see what you were concerned with. I think you could've presented it better and less combatively and you might've gotten a more receptive response from people.

    It's much like you telling me I'm either a guilt tripper or incredibly simple. Reading that didn't really make me want to respond any further to you. I'm responding to the latest comment because I think it's a valid point and you actually presented it in a way that made me feel comfortable responding. Just some food for thought for you. You make some good points, but they got lost at times in how you present them. I'm guilty of it as well at times, including in some of my responses to you and even this essay.

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Sunday, 26 May 2013

    I think the question I'd ask is: How productive has all of this been for you? Personally I don't feel it's productive. I've had this argument so many times that it's old hat, and pretty stale. Yes I get that some people find that pop culture magic is objectionable My advice? Get over it. It's here to stay. It's not going anywhere and getting bent out of shape about it isn't really useful.

    If you think that's all others are saying, then you clearly stopped reading a long time ago. I have nothing to say to a person who is more interesting in combating what they think I said than they are in a reasonable debate with what I've actually said.
    I get that you have been met with a lot of opposition in the past, and some of this probably continues --but not everyone who sees reason for debate is against you. It might be wise to unload some baggage so that your journey is light enough to really appreciate what people say.

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Saturday, 25 May 2013

    Well since you asked...Your responses in particular caught my eye. You practically leaped down Sunweaver's throat in her post, and focused more on how her perspective didn't fit within your own beliefs than in actually addressing what she was discussing. Frankly it came off as reactionary and fallacious because you weren't really intent on addressing what she wrote so much as forcing your own views, complete with sarcasm, down her throat.
    You know, I'm really bored of people claiming that others "shove beliefs down another's throat" because two people who, apparently, are claiming to be of basically the same religion are disagreeing on a blog. If I claimed to be a practising Catholic, but didn't believe in transubstantiation, something very vital to Catholicism, and some other Catholic called me on it, would you say that they were shoving their beliefs down another's throat? If I claimed to be Shinto, but only worshipped the Mayan deities, would a Shintoist who actually honoured Shinto deities be "shoving beliefs down another's throat" because they called me on it?

    If one claims to be of an established religion, but clearly holds beliefs and/ or maintains practises well outside those of that religion, people of that religion are perfectly free to debate what that person even practises. Furthermore, ffs, it's a blog on the Internet, I'm not a parent forcefully indoctrinating a child or a politician trying to legislate my own church's beliefs --which is how that phrase is typically used, because it implies a "force-feeding" of ideals that impede personal freedoms. All I've ever said is that Sunweaver is free to believe whatever she wants to, but if she's going to maintain beliefs considerably foreign to the religion she claims to be, she owes it to others to make that distinction. Language does not develop in a vacuum.

    If you really can't tell the difference between what I've said and, say, the mother from Carrie, then frankly, I feel you're either far too simple to even bother arguing with, or you're, frankly, one of the worst kind of manipulative guilt-trippers I've met since Catholic school.

    Even your previous response to me reeks more an attempt to discredit what I wrote, mixed in with sarcasm, than an actual engagement with I wrote.
    Except that you clearly seem unable to grasp certain ideas, like how the sweeping inaccuracies you presented are a part of your argument. Facts are necessary for engagement, and when the facts you present are inaccurate, a reader has every right to point that out. You don't want facts to get in the way of your beliefs? Present your beliefs as justified by experience (which I have no means of arguing against) and your own opinions (which, being truths subjective only to your own experiences and preferences, like "I think pop culture makes a decent base for a new religious movement") rather than presumed fact (like "Ancient myth was pop culture", which is a statement of presumed fact subject to verification by specialists in relevant fields). If you don't care about facts, then no-one can discredit the ones you present. If you present factual, or rather presumed factual statements, then those statements are subject to verification.

    This is not a hard concept to understand.

    You tell us our entities are fictional and expect what? A recanting of our beliefs. It doesn't really work that way.
    Neither I nor any of my friends have expected anything of the sort. On the other hand, if one wants to play the same game as those reconstructing ancient ways, or academic pagans, then one really has to understand the fundamentals of presenting facts versus opinion, on historic versus personal, or at least learn to stop being so surprised when someone else says "er... no, that's not historical / that's not what that means in the context of that practise...", cos that's really what's going on.

    Somehow "eclectic" has become a dirty word that people who are into a very personal, self-empowering sort of paganism don't want to be associated with --and yeah, maybe they want to incorporate some of the historical practises into their own, but there's honestly a point where it stops being historically-based and starts being something very new, and very personal, and it's no longer the historical-based, shared-practise of a community, but something that, frankly, is "eclectic" by definition. That's just fine, I never said it wasn't, and no-one I respect ever said it wasn't a fine thing to do. On the other hand, if one is going to use the language of history-based paganism in one's very personal and eclectic practises, then one isn't doing oneself any favours to be hurt or angered when that community says "hey, no, that's not what that means". You're welcome to believe and practise whatever you want, but when you start co-opting the language of a religious community to mean something else, don't be surprised when you get called out. I don't care what you do with your own practise, it has no effect on mine; but if you're going to make a post on a popular site like Patheos, as Sunweaver has, claim to be of my religion, redefine my religious language to some quasi-Jungian etymology that's completely foreign to the language of my own religion, don't be surprised when I call you out for misrepresenting both yourself and the religious language you appropriate.

    You claim you don't care what I or others believe in, but the fact that you've gotten so involved in this drama says otherwise.
    See comment directly above.

    In Hellenic polytheism, "hero cult" means something very specific. Believe whatever you want, but if you, like Sunweaver, want to call yourself of my tribe, and appropriate the religious language of that tribe, while practising something very far removed from the established practises, and repurposing the words to your own definitions, don't e surprised when you're called out. If you're going to present bad facts based on your own misconceptions that have no basis in history, or just plain present your own opinion as factual, don't be surprised to be called out by others.

  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood Saturday, 25 May 2013

    Disagreement is a fundamental part of life, but yes it is arrogant to assume my way is the only way and what's sad is that such arrogance is displayed in the Pagan and occult communities far too often. We deal with it enough from the mainstream religions.

    I think the question I'd ask is: How productive has all of this been for you? Personally I don't feel it's productive. I've had this argument so many times that it's old hat, and pretty stale. Yes I get that some people find that pop culture magic is objectionable My advice? Get over it. It's here to stay. It's not going anywhere and getting bent out of shape about it isn't really useful.

  • Frater Isla
    Frater Isla Saturday, 25 May 2013

    That's what's really been bugging me about it. I can deal with people disagreeing with me (if I couldn't, I'd be pretty stupid to go blasting my ideas at everyone in a blog), but it's the arrogance of assuming your way is the only way, and everyone else is wrong. Someone needs a heavier diet of Robert Anton Wilson in their lives. Maybe it would make them a less easy target for trolling.

  • Frater Isla
    Frater Isla Friday, 24 May 2013
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood Friday, 24 May 2013

    Thanks for sharing. Honestly not really concerned about it. I wrote this post to make a point and the point has (hopefully) been made. Now to get back to more productive uses of my time.

  • Frater Isla
    Frater Isla Saturday, 25 May 2013

    The good news is, this 'controversy' is bringing us lots of new readers! And now I'm going to order your pop culture magick book. Good job making our lives better, ya goofs.

  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood Saturday, 25 May 2013

    Glad you'll be ordering the book. As for the debates...lots of rhetoric with no one really swayed one way or another. It's hard to do that when the terms being used are being used differently by each party.

  • Frater Isla
    Frater Isla Sunday, 26 May 2013

    Good point. And I've found that most internet 'discussions' are just ego dancing. I've maybe gotten two actual responses where I feel like someone wants to debate and not argue. Going to try working on new posts and just forget about all the silliness.

    At least I got a new internet buddy out of the deal ;)

  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood Sunday, 26 May 2013

    Yeah we both did :)

  • Rhiana
    Rhiana Sunday, 26 May 2013

    Let me start off by saying I find both arguments be they pro or con to have valid points. Having said that, I often wonder why we as pagans, heathens, wiccans and even christians often feel the need to define our Gods/Goddess' and spiritual paths by the times and cultural ideology we live in instead of seeking out the Gods/Goddess' we claim to believe in, that are real to us and allow them to define us and absorb their essence and cultural idenity into our daily lives. Be it modern pop culture or ancient established cultures that have been around for centuries. In western society we often mold our Gods/Goddess' to fit us and our lifestyle instead of allowing those very eternal beings to mold us. While magic is much easier to define by us and out cultural ties both modern and ancient for magic is merely a system that anyone can learn if they are willing to put forth the effort therefore making it much easier to quantify verses attempting to quantify the spiritual mysteries that have been and should still be prevalent in all cultures especially those of a pagan origin. My opinion only for what it worth.

  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood Sunday, 26 May 2013

    I think the recons would argue that they have allowed the gods to find and shape them. As for myself, any entity I'm working with is shaping my identity on some level. I think of it as a symbiotic relationship, where both entity and person are shaped by the relationship.

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