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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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.

Pop culture magic is really an engagement with various forms of contemporary culture. For instance, you can work with (or against) the spirits of a corporation and that could be considered a form of pop culture magic. Or you can do pop culture magic with different types of media such as social media or videos, or design aspects of comic books, writing, or art. Pop culture magic can be the development of a technique inspired by something you read in a fantasy book or watched on a television show. Pop culture magic can also involve harnessing the energy of a modern holiday and turning it into a magical working. I think of pop culture magic as the integration of contemporary into magical work and contemporary culture isn't just limited to the obvious forms of pop culture, but also to other expressions that occur around us.

Pop culture magic can also be a specific system of magic that is connected to an expression of pop culture magic. If you choose to work with My Little Pony and set up a system of magic that integrate the My Little Pony mythology into the principles of magic then you have a system of pop culture magic. I'm currently in the process of developing a system of pop culture magic around the mythology of Batman (and I'll be posting about how I'm creating and working with it on here). Among other aspects of that system, I'm going to explore the role of places in the mythology and how those places can be worked with as well as the characters.

A recent pop culture magic working I did involved using the tiles of a game to create a sigil. Another idea I'm going to explore involves the use of cards to create a sequence. I figure the act of creating the sequence can be used to set up the activation of a magical working. My point in sharing that is that pop culture magic can be worked with in a variety of ways, provided we are willing to look at a given expression of pop culture and ask how it might be matched up to magical principles. Once we can do that, then we can develop a magical working using pop culture. What is pop culture to you andh ow might you apply it to magical principles?

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Taylor Ellwood is the author of Pop Culture Magic Systems, Space/Time Magic, Magical Identity and a number of other occult books. He posts about his latest projects at Magical Experiments.


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Tuesday, 04 August 2015

    There are collector card games like Magic the Gathering. I suppose that the water cards could be used in a spell to catch polluters. The green cards might be used to protect a forest or to promote replanting after a forest fire. There is also the Yu-gi-oh! card game. I guess you could construct an insect deck and a plant deck to protect your garden from insect pests, or perhaps use a winged monster deck to fight the insects.

    There are the various deities in the Runequest, Pathfinder, and Dungeon & Dragons role playing games. I think if you invoke the four quarters and ask your spirit helpers to attend you can turn a regular game session into a magic ritual. Especially if you bless the chips and drinks. You would have to specify what you hope to accomplish of course. For example if you want to empower the Kurds in their fight with ISIL you would need to say so.

    I've seen Batman in my dreams a few times but I don't remember him saying anything. I would invoke him as a dream helper along with Mr. Spock and The Old Fisherman as part of a ritual.

    I have the impression the pop culture magic should be used to address current events. I've received several e-mails about the Department of the interior trying to give away sacred apache land to foreign mining interests. Combining some of the above stuff and assuming I could link up with some other roleplaying gamers who aren't freaked out at the thought of doing actual magic I would start with a deck of red Magic the gathering cards and shuffle them while asking what can I do to help the apache retain control of their sacred land? When the cards feel right I would cut the deck and deal five cards. I would then pathwork each of the five cards, after the first rush of impressions I would ask if there are any specific suggestions for my role playing group. After wards I would devise a scenario based on my impressions.

    At the start of the session I would invoke the four digimon sovereigns from Digimon Tamers. Azulongmon, the blue dragon of the east; Zhuqiamon, the red phoenix of the south; Baihumon, the white tiger of the west; and Ebonwumon, the two headed turtle of the north with a tree growing out of it's back. I then declare our statement of intent to bless and empower the sacred land of the Apache. I would then ask my dream helpers Batman, Mr. Spock and The Old Fisherman to guide and empower our efforts. Assuming I'm the game master the players take turns invoking their own spirit helpers. If I'm a player instead of the Game Master I would invoke my player character's deity as well.

  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood Tuesday, 04 August 2015

    Those are some excellent examples of pop culture magic and why you might do a working using pop culture mythology and the like.

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