Experimental Magic: The Evolution of Magic

Experiment with your magical practice by learning how to apply art, pop culture, neuroscience, psychology, and other disciplines to your magical work, as well as exploring fundamental underlying principles of what makes magic work. You'll never look at magic in the same way!

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Taylor Ellwood

Taylor Ellwood

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.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Role of Belief in Magic

Belief is a powerful tool in magic, and in spirituality in general. Belief is a funnel for attention and intention. Whether you believe in something because you genuinely believe in it or believe in it for the sake of something you are trying to achieve, belief has a purpose in magical work. I find the following passage to be illustrative of the importance of belief in magical work:

Be it noted that we do not have to believe or disbelieve in the actuality of such inner agencies per se. what we must believe in is the possibility they exist in their own state of being, yet are capable of interaction with ours by unspecified means or degrees...We need not believe in 'spirit' unless we want to, but we positively must believe in our capability of living and behaving as if the energies available to such entities might be employed on our behalf. From Exorcizing the Tree of Evil by William G. Gray

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How to Create a Pop Culture System of Magic

In Pop Culture Magic 2.0 I discuss how to create pop culture systems of magic , but what I thought I would share here is the actual creation of such a system. I'm in the process of developing my own system around the Batman mythology. I picked Batman, because I've always liked Batman and felt a connection to that particular mythology. However instead of starting with the obvious approach of working with the characters of the mythology, I decided to take a different approach.

My initial work has been around connecting with the prominent places in the mythology Batman, starting with Gotham City, but also including places in and around it that factor significant into the Batman mythology. One of my reasons for focusing on the spaces of the Batman mythology is because of how the characters (and the writers of the comic) refer to those spaces as living beings. For example, there are numerous references to how Gotham is alive and how different characters need to be careful because of how Gotham can interact with them. Now this might be meant metaphorically, but what it creates is a mythological narrative around the actual spaces in the Batman mythology and that narrative can be worked with as well as working with the characters. I think it can actually enhance the work you do with the characters in this mythology and would suggest that you can apply this concept to any pop culture system of magic.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Dragon Dancer
    Dragon Dancer says #
    LOVE THIS! What a cool idea! I'm not a fan of Batman myself, but I definitely see what you're talking about. Have a quick questio
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Batman is just an example. You ca take what I'm sharing here and apply it to a pop culture of you own choice. Pop Culture Magic 2.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
What is Pop Culture Magic?

When the phrase pop culture magic (or magick) is thrown around, what comes to mind for you? Do you imagine doing a magical working with your favorite pop culture icon or character? Or do you think of developing a magical technique based off a TV show or book? Or do you think of pop culture magic as something else? What I've noticed is that the majority of people who practice pop culture magic tend to approach it in terms of working with pop culture characters and the mythologies around those characters. There's certainly nothing wrong with perceiving pop culture magic in that way, but I think pop culture magic can be much more than just working with your favorite pop culture character (although that can be a lot of fun!)

In Pop Culture Magick, I defined pop culture magic in terms of its resistance to mainstream culture, arguing that the reason to work with pop culture magic was as a means of subversively resisting mainstream culture. I also argued that you needed to work with whatever was popular at the time. In Pop Culture Magic 2.0 (now available for pre-order!) I've revised my definition of pop culture magic substantially, arguing that pop culture is an expression and extension of mainstream culture (as opposed to it) and that a person's pop culture interest doesn't have to be popular in order to be worked with as pop culture magic. However, I don't think pop culture is just about the characters you can work with or the mythologies created around those characters.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    There are collector card games like Magic the Gathering. I suppose that the water cards could be used in a spell to catch pollute
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Those are some excellent examples of pop culture magic and why you might do a working using pop culture mythology and the like.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
What is Pop Culture Paganism?

The term Pop Culture Paganism has only shown up in the last few years. When I wrote Pop Culture Magick no one was using the term Pop Culture Pagan. Now the term is used by some people to describe their spiritual work and its distinct enough from Pop Culture Magic because not all pop culture Pagans practice magic or view it as an essential part of their spiritual work. That's not the only distinction however, between pop culture magic and pop culture Paganism. Pop Culture Paganism involves what I would consider to be a devotional approach to working with pop culture spirits. In other words, there is a recognition that the pop culture spirits are beings that the person wants to work with in a devotional manner, which could include prayers, offerings, and rituals done for purposes of honoring the spirit, as well as other activities that the pop culture spirits feel are appropriate. Given that we're dealing with a modern context those activities could include a different type of devotional behavior that's dependent on the pop culture media that the spirits show up in.

I consider myself both a pop culture Pagan and magician (in my next post I'll define what I think of as pop culture magic). In the context of being a pop culture Pagan, I find that there is a blending of magic into that Paganism, but that's because magic is an essential part of my spiritual work. In that context, let me share what my pop culture Pagan practice looks like. I work with the Dehara, which are based off Storm Constantine's Wraeththu series and are hermaphroditic deities. Each day I offer them a prayer of thanks for their presence in my life. Additionally I've integrated them into my magical work. For example, Thiede is the Dehar of Space and plays an integral role in my system of space/time magic. In addition, in Grimoire Kaimana, Storm laid out a wheel of the year associated with the Dehara, which can be worked with in terms of connecting with them. I've lately been looking into creating some correspondences around the Quabalistic Tree of life for the Dehara, as well as exploring some other alternatives to developing this particular spiritual path further. For me, this work is part of my spiritual work, a communion with spiritual beings that I feel a strong resonance with because of their nature and perspective that falls outside traditional gendered polarities. I'm not the only one to work with Dehara and what I've consistently found is that people involved in that path feel it fits them and that they fit it, which I think is an essential part of a spiritual calling.

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How Pop Culture Introduced me to Magic

I read my first fantasy book when I was 7 or 8. It was The Hobbit and it conjured up a magical world of adventure that I was fascinated by. I didn't stop at The Hobbit. I read the Greek Myths and then I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy and later the Dragonlance sagas. Inevitably my favorite characters were the magicians or the people who somehow or another got some magical object that gave them an advantage in the adventure. As I grew up, I never got over my fascination with magic or fantasy books for that matter. And as I read each book, I thought about magic a lot and wondered if it was real or just some element of fantasy. Yet it was because of fantasy books that I discovered that magic was real.

When I was 16, a fellow student in my high school sat me down and told me about his experiences on the astral plane. He later admitted that he told me his experiences because he noticed I liked to read fantasy books and he was hoping to freak me out. The last thing he expected was for me to ask, with baited breath, if I could learn myself and if there were books on the topic. The next day he brought me a couple books and I eagerly read them and did the exercises, to see what would happen. At last, I had found out magic was real and more importantly that I could do it myself. It wasn't the same magic as what I read about in fantasy books, but it was something and I took that to heart. I read every book I could find and talked with whoever else was interested in the same topics. I tested everything I read, eager to see what I could do and how far I could take it.

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The Subjectivity of Spiritual Experiences

Lately, in my meditation group, we've been doing some work with space/time magic meditations and with spirits associated with space and time. In our most recent session I had the group do a meditation with Purson, a goetic demon who has some specific skills related to time. What I also told the group was that it's important to recognize that their experience of Purson is subjective and that he is only as real as that person wants him to be. That may seem like an odd statement to make, but the group was comprised of people that ranged from atheists to people who believe in the objective existence of spirits, and so I felt it was important to acknowledge that a wide range of experiences could happen that would nonetheless be significant to each participant and wouldn't necessarily invalidate any of the experiences. All the participants accepted that explanation and then we had our various encounters with Purson.

Spiritual experiences, by their nature, are subjective. For example I believe that spirits are objective beings in their own right. Note the word believe. Believe is a word rooted in subjectivity. That's what I believe, but I can't really prove it. I can tell you about my experiences and I can cite other people who've had experiences in their own right which tells that what they encountered is real, but its ultimately subjective. For that matter so is the argument that the spirit is just a psychological aspect the person is drawing upon. Again we can find a variety of people who will argue that position and draw on their experiences, but it's still subjective.

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The Value of Taking a Moment of Stillness

Every day I make it a point to give myself a moment of stillness. That moment of stillness isn't a short moment either. It's as long as it needs to be. Usually it occurs shortly after I've had breakfast and before I've started my work day. I do it then because I'm still just waking up and its an optimum time to still myself before getting into whatever the day will involve. This moment of stillness is my meditation time. I do a series of meditation exercises, all of which lead me deeper and deeper into a state of stillness, which unfolds within it non-conceptual awareness.

Non-conceptual awareness is the experience of being without doing, judging, categorizing or filtering anything. You just are. The value of that experience is that it allows me to just be without stressing about anything I need to do. Sometimes in the process of doing that work, some emotions will come up or some thoughts will happen and I don't go out of my way to dismiss them. I just let them be as well, because I find in doing that it really brings my awareness to where I need to be, present with whatever is coming up that needs to be worked through, accepted, or otherwise processed.

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