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Paths Blogs

Specific paths such as Heathenism, blended traditions, polytheist reconstructionism, etc.

Pop Culture Magick vs. Pop Culture Paganism

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

"Don't mix pantheons."  I hear this frequently in Pagan circles.  I have heard it for as long as I have been Pagan.  And I've never heard it challenged.  The idea is that we aren't supposed to invoke Kali and Loki in the same ritual, for example, or Zeus and Odin, or ... pick two any deities from any two pantheons.

This injunction is often made by hard polytheists, but is made by some soft-polytheists too.  Often they are quite open about their disdain for those who mix pantheons.  It is seen as a form of immaturity or ignorance.  Others see it as a sign of disrespect.  I hear this no-mixing-pantheons talk so often, it seems it must happen a lot, so I wonder why all the pantheon-mixers aren't speaking up in their defense.

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  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven says #
    Here's what I might say about the subject. I love Thai food. I mean I really love Thai food. I also love the experience of Thai f
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I took a college class on the History of the Ancient Near East. I remember the teacher telling about a king of Babylon sending a
The Last Ravenwood: attending a festival in the woods in a wheelchair

2015 was going to be the last Ravenwood. Prudence has been putting on Ravenwood since the early 90s, with her local group Freya's Folk, and at first under the umbrella of the national organization The Ring of Troth, and then the American Vinland Association, which was one of the two successor organizations to the old RoT, the other one being The Troth. Using a state park for heathen festivals had always been intended as temporary, and Prudence had bought land farther north years ago. She has been slowly improving the land at Folkvangr over the years and is almost ready to pass it on to someone who will start holding festivals on it. This campground in the redwood forest held a glow of nostalgia, but it was time for the last one. 

I was very invested in going to the last Ravenwood, both emotionally and literally. Emotionally invested, because Ravenwood had been my first experience of the heathen community. It was the place where I first met other Asatruars, after having only known Wiccan Pagans in high school and college. Ravenwood was a heathen festival held on Mt. Tamalpais in California, near where I used to live in Sonoma. I had not attended since I had moved to Nevada in 1995. Literally invested, because I intended to sell my books there, I had bought copies of my new book No Horns On These Helmets, and of my nonfiction books, to sign and sell at a vendor table at the festival.

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"It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of a living god."

-- Hebrews 10:3

Recently, Pan-devotee Jason Mankey stirred some pots by asking whether the current interest of many Pagans in the Morrigan is "just a fad." Jason, who is himself a polytheist, was not suggesting that the Morrigan is not real. After all, he admits, his own patron deity, Pan, was once a "fad" circa 1800-1920. But, nevertheless, the word "fad" is a provocative term. morriganMorpheus Ravenna, herself a devotee of the Morrigan, responded that the use of the word "fad" in this context is dismissive and direspectful. More importantly, she says, it's shallow:

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The Many Faces of Minoan Dionysos

Most people are familiar with Dionysos as a vegetation god. In fact, that’s how he started life (so to speak) among humans, dying each year at the time of the grape harvest. In the Mediterranean, where Crete is located, that happens most years in late August or early September. So in many ways Dionysos is similar to the other dying-and-reborn vegetation gods we’re familiar with from the Near East, Europe and other regions. But as so often happens, cultures change over time, inventing or importing new ideas and layering them onto what’s already there. Something like that happened with Dionysos in ancient Crete.

Before we get to his details, though, let me explain a bit about how the Minoan pantheon works. Rather than having a particular slot in a human-style family tree, the Minoan gods and goddesses unfold out of each other in a multi-faceted fashion. In a way, all the deities within the Minoan pantheon can be considered reflections or facets of the Great Mother Goddess Rhea. But for practical purposes, they behave as individual deities with their own personalities and qualities. This henotheistic setup can make it difficult to tease out exactly which aspects go with which deity name, and to sort out whether two different names belong to two different gods or a single one. In addition, as Minoan society changed over time, more layers were added onto those already-complicated facets, and some of the deity names only come down to us in later forms, from languages and cultures foreign to the Minoans. I’ll do my best to untangle some of the bits about Dionysos today. I’ve worked with him for a long time and as far as I can tell, these aspects of him manage to work well together in spite of their apparent differences.

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Opening the Way of the Sacred Fool

When I first became interested in Paganism, one of the things that drew me in was the idea of women's spirituality and bringing the unique experiences of being a woman (often left out of Christianity and Judaism) into my path. As I further explored though, many of the concepts mainstream feminism focused on, like how to juggle career and motherhood, didn't seem to resonate with me. The way I think, and how I communicate is shaped through my perspective as an autistic woman. Along with the growing, mostly online neurodiversity community, I came to see autism not as a set of deficits, but as a different way of thinking and being. I found further inspiration in the GLBT community, as I saw folks like P. Sufenas Virius Lupus honor queer ancestors, heroes and deities. As a bisexual, I drew on that heritage, while also looking to eccentric inventors, artists and mystics throughout history and disabled gods like Hephaestus. I felt a calling to share this understanding of disability as a part of human experience, rather than something to only be pitied, "fixed" or medicalized.

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  • Jan Johnson
    Jan Johnson says #
    I'm looking at the Way of the Sacred Fool much as you are, Mariah. I'm ADD, CFS/FM, a former Christian chaplain (now a retired Pag
Spirits of Place - What They Need You to Know

It's just after noon. The weather is warm. There's a slight breeze that causes the leaves high in the canopy to rustle. The redwoods are creaking as they rub against each other. Loud raven clicks and caws punctuate the quiet forest. I'm one of only a few people standing in the camp grounds and we are all silent, breathing deeply, settling our rushed minds and sinking in, just sinking in.

In two hours witches from all of over the world will arrive. Some journeying to these woods for the first time, others coming home as they do each year. There will be hugs and kisses and hearty shouts of "oh! There you are. I'm so glad you came back." After the hub-bub of getting here subsides and the first night's dinner dishes have been put away, it's time for ritual.

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  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven says #
    Raggedrose - Thank you for your comment. The forest is indeed in a transitional space. What we look at as Ancient, in many cases,
  • Raggedrose
    Raggedrose says #
    Mendocino Woodlands is indeed a powerful and wonderful place. The forest there is in transition, which makes it only more so. It w
  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven says #
    Thank you Steve. Your connection to and passion for the Spirits of Place and the planet we share is obvious and runs deep. Be wel
  • steve
    steve says #
    The title really caught my attention, the Spirits of Place, and that's due to my own interaction with the spirits of places. They

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