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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in pop culture magic

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Ghostbusters Magick

A few weeks ago I, and a lot of other people, saw the new Ghostbusters movie.  As a child of the 80s I was a wee bit skeptical at first but ended up loving it.  To quote one of my dearest friends, “I didn’t know women wielding proton packs was what was missing from my life.”  Of course me being me, my first thought coming out of the movie was that I just have to work with these characters in my magick - they’re just too awesome not to.  Let’s take a look at the four main characters and explore some of the many ways they can be worked with in pop culture magick.

***spoiler alert - this post will contain spoilers for the new Ghostbusters movie***

Erin Gilbert

Erin is a mainstream academic with a thirst to prove herself, to gain acceptance, and have her work and value acknowledged by those around her.  As a professor, Erin would be an excellent ally to call on for matters of scholarship (study, exams, learning, etc.) as well as navigating bureaucracy (there are few establishments as political and overwrought as higher education) .  Her struggle for recognition also makes her an excellent ally in workings designed to help one gain legitimacy, to be valued for your work, and to overcome obstacles.  I would argue that Erin would also be extremely helpful in workings of self-acceptance and self-esteem.  Throughout the movie Erin struggles with the conflict between being what’s expected of her and what she truly is.  She progresses from hiding her thoughts and values in order to be accepted by the establishment to expressing her true beliefs and taking the risk of really standing up for herself.  Though she can be a little timid at times, Erin is an excellent ally for anyone who has to work in mainstream culture.

Abby Yates

Abby is a significantly less mainstream academic who is willing to take risks and buck authority in order to achieve her goals.  She is bold, passionate, and unapologetic in her approach to life while also being a fiercely loyal friend.  Abby is a fantastic ally for any work that involves going around authority or otherwise subverting the establishment.  She can also be called upon for help standing up for oneself and holding onto the courage of your convictions in the face of adversity.  An unapologetic approach and unhesitant embracing of her own weirdness also make her a good ally in workings of self-esteem and empowerment.  The strong commitment she shows both in pursuit of following her dreams and in support of her friends makes her an asset for workings of endurance, loyalty, and determination.  Abby isn’t afraid to take risks, which can cause problems when caution is needed.  Call on her wisely.

Patty Tolan

Patty is a municipal historian, blue collar worker, and possibly the human embodiment of common sense.  Where many of the other ghostbusters live in a world of theory and academics, Patty’s feet are firmly grounded in the practicalities of everyday life.  Patty is an ideal ally in matters of practical problem solving, creative resource acquisition, and working with people.  Her practicality and resourcefulness also make her an excellent ally in matters of project planning, divining hidden difficulties, and general preparedness.  Her grounding and connections to place also make her helpful as an intermediary in workings to bond with the spirit of place for a given locale.  Her courage and willingness to try new things are well tempered by common sense, making her a very wise helper in determining whether to take a given risk.  Patty may not be as flash as some of the others, but she is the rock that can help you with everyday life.

Jillian Holtzmann

Jillian is the mad scientist of this bunch.  She’s a brilliant combination of Marie Curie, Tony Stark, and Victor Frankenstein; a fearless scientist,  a brilliant engineer, and a mad genius with little respect for safety or the laws of nature.  Jillian is an excellent ally in workings for inspiration, creation, anything involving the manipulation of science or technology, as well as workings to bend the laws of physics.  Where Abby is unafraid to go around authority or bend the rules, Jillian acts as if authority and rules are utterly meaningless and simply does as her brilliant mind tells her.  Call on her when there are no f**ks to be given.  Keep in mind that, while totally awesome, this blindness to caution or safety does make her a bit dangerous and more than bit reckless.

...
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Spell Against Indifference

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Martin Niemöller 1946

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for a while now you’ve probably noticed that the world doesn’t seem so friendly these days.  Honestly, it kinda seems like the nice, comfortable world I’ve always known has caught fire.  Between shootings, bombings, hate, fear, greed fueled politicians, and absurd (to me) infighting in my local communities I’m pretty much overwhelmed with just how insane things have gotten.  At this point I’m virtually paralyzed by just how far down the path to hell our collective handbasket has gotten. 

Right now I’m angry about a lot of things, but the thing that bothers me the most is the complacency and indifference of many of those around me.  If I’m really honest I’m also utterly ashamed of my own complacency.  While magick is no substitute for actually standing up and taking action, it can help by making it a little easier and perhaps a little safer to do so.  Pop culture magick is for a lot more than just fun and games. I decided to take my cue from The Boondock Saints, one of my favorite movies, and create the following spell for ending indifference. 

Boondock Saints Spell Against Indifference

This spell can be done anywhere, at any time. In a pinch just recite the incantation without any of the other trappings.

If the purpose of the spell is to motivate yourself, change all of the “you”s in the incantation to “me”s.  If you want to target a particular person, change the “you”s to that person’s name (take care because there’s some ethical ambiguity as this could be considered coercive - be sure you’re willing to accept the consequences of your actions).

If you can, first take a minute or two to reflect on the state of the world and allow yourself to get angry.  If you don’t have a minute to spare, then chances are you’re already good and mad.  Allow your anger and outrage to fuel this spell.  If you need some help getting angry I suggest spending about 30 seconds on any mainstream news site, listening to some Rage Against the Machine, and/or watching the following clip from The Boondock Saints: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=to5eOs8VRuY

If you can have some properly anti-establishment music or The Boondock Saints running in the background do so. 

If you can, burn a red candle and dragon’s blood incense.

Recite the following incantation:

Open your eyes to the state of your world.  See the hate, the fear, the injustice.  See the open violations of self perpetrated on those around you.  See the insidious, doubtful, aggressions that are written off again and again. See and know the truth.

It is time to stand up.  No more shall this rampant fear and hate be allowed to rule our lives.  Have courage.  Take heart.  Allow the fire of outrage to fuel right action.

Let the burning heart of truth incinerate those that would impede right action.  Let the power of justice protect those that stand up for those that cannot.  The strong arm of righteousness will strengthen and protect you.

We must all fear evil men.  But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men. 

By my will that indifference is cracked, broken, and ground to dust.  What has been seen can never be unseen.  What has been seen must be acted upon.  Destroy that which is evil so that which is good may flourish.  As I do will, so must it be.

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An Accidental Pop Culture Beltane

While I had no plans to incorporate pop culture magick into my Beltane celebrations this year, the powers that be had other plans.  Apparently, when you get a group of Seattle Pagans together and ask them how to come up with a way to clear blocks to abundance and build foundations of prosperity what they come up with is magickal scrubbing bubbles and the nanobots from Big Hero Six.  How you ask?  Well, let me tell you.

For those of you who don’t know, I am part of a duo of facilitators that puts on public rituals in Seattle.  We call ourselves Illustris and do most of our rituals at Edge of the Circle Books near the University of Washington.  Instead of having a large team performing scripted rituals, we co-create our ritual with the participants just minutes before performing it.  This means we never really know what our rituals are going to look like until we’re in the middle of them.  It’s quite exciting and our attendees come up amazing things sometimes. 

For each ritual we establish a magickal purpose for the working to be designed.  This time around we had two: 1) working with the energies of Mercury retrograde to remove blocks to wealth and abundance (whatever that looked like for each participant), and 2) building a sturdy foundation to grow true prosperity.  My brain was totally fogged by allergy medicine, so I was utterly dependent on attendees coming up with good ideas because I had nothing.  I looked around the room and saw one of our regulars snort and say, “Well, the image that immediately comes to mind is a foaming toilet cleaner bomb.  It gets rid of anything.”  Immediately everyone in the room smiled and knew exactly what she was talking about.  Oh yes, we would clear energetic blocks with magickal scrubbing bubbles!  Whoever said commercials were useless?  They get stuck in our heads so well that they make shockingly good common imagery and vocabulary.  We decided we would collectively create an energy ball that we would essentially detonate in the middle of the group to foam away blocking energies.  It worked shockingly well.

For the second part of the ritual one of our new participants suggested using the energetic equivalent of the nanobots in Big Hero Six to build a foundation for prosperity.  I loved the idea and about half the room immediately nodded their heads in agreement.  The other half of the room went, “What’s Big Hero Six and what do the nanobots do in it?”  So, we spent a few minutes explaining the reference and got sidetracked talking about carbon nanotubes (it was awesome!).  Then a gal brought up the issue that she’d only seen nanobots portrayed negatively in sci-fi and asked for an example of nanobots doing something positive.  Thankfully she was a Doctor Who fan so all I had to say was, “just this once Rose Tyler, just this once everybody lives,” and we were good to go.  (If you have no idea what that means watch the episodes “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances” from the 2005 run of Doctor Who - some of the best television ever made. This clip shows the scene:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhklrve5xmw

The whole situation really highlighted one of the most common problems in doing group pop culture magick - common culture.  People of different demographics have different things in their pop culture baskets.  Hell, people of the exact same demographic are likely to have different things in their lexicons.  We all like different things and thus remember and attach importance to different bits and pieces of pop culture.  The more diverse a group of people is the less likely they are to have a lot of common pop culture (though there’s almost always something there - think blockbuster fandoms like Star Wars or Mad Max).  I don’t generally bring pop culture magick into big public rituals for just this reason, but this time it happened organically and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results.  A little explanation to make sure we were all on the same page and we created the common imagery we need to make the magick work.

Through no intention of my own, I ended up having a Beltane ritual that was filled to the brim with pop culture magick.  The ubiquity of commercials gave us our first working and a combination of Disney and Doctor Who gave us our second working.  What a great time to be a pop culture practitioner!

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Thank you for sharing. I got the scrubbing bubbles reference and I have both the Big Hero 6 DVD and the Manga so I got that refer
  • Emily Carlin
    Emily Carlin says #
    We did have a lot of fun Unfortunately, since our rituals are created on the spot there's no script to share. I would if I could

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Using Fictional Magic in Real Magick

Lately I’ve seen a lot of questions online about using fictional spells and magical techniques in real magick.  Things like trying to use “expecto patronum” from Harry Potter or “forzare” from the Dresden Files in actual protection spells.  While this type of pop culture magick seems like a no brainer, there’s actually a lot you need to think about before trying to twist fictional magick into your real magick.

The best argument (in my opinion at least) for using fictional spells and magical techniques in your actual magick is that it allows you to build off of ideas that already exist both in your own mind and in the minds of others.  Why reinvent the metaphysical wheel if there’s already something suitable at hand?  Magick is all about delivering energy charged with intention to an intended target in order to manifest a desired result.  Our spells and rituals are the mechanisms we use to raise energy, charge it, and deliver it to its intended target.  We can do that most efficiently, and thus get the best results, when our minds have clear, easy paths to do so.  Forging those smooth paths takes practice, lots of practice.  However, we can shortcut things a bit by using spells that lots of other people use (getting the advantage of some of their energetic work) or by using words and techniques our brain already associates with the results we’re working towards - this is where fictional spells come in.

To get the most energetic benefit from using a fictional spell or technique it has to be something you know really well.  The fiction we know and love, that we see or read over and over again, has a special place in our hearts and minds.  The fiction we truly love becomes a part of our very being; there is no mental path smoother than those which flow to the things we love.  I’m confident that I can recite the entirety of The Princess Bride at any given moment, plus a good chunk of Harry Potter, and probably several seasons worth of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  These mental paths aren’t just smooth, they’re greased to almost frictionless.  Using the magic from the fiction that you love allows you take advantage of these frictionless paths and send all your energy directly where you intend it, none wasted forging the path.  Sure, you can use that amazing spell you saw once in that one episode of whatever, but unless it made an indelible mark on your very being it won’t be anymore effective than that really well written spell you found on the internet.  While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, you won’t be getting the best bang for your energetic buck.

There are some downsides to using fictional magic as part of real magick.  No matter how much you love it something that your mind identifies as fiction will take some time and effort to switch to non-fiction, though the benefit is usually worth the small energetic cost.  Let’s look at the “alohamora” spell from Harry Potter.  This is a spell used numerous times in the books and movies to unlock doors.  In the Harry Potter ‘verse you just wave your wand, say “alohamora” with conviction, and the previously locked door pops right open.  Sadly, our reality doesn’t work that way so we have to look at intent of the fictional spell to figure out how to translate it into something that works here.  A real spell based on this fictional one might be to inscribe the word “alohamora” onto a candle, charge it with the intent of unlocking a particular path or removing an obstacle to a goal, and then burning the candle to release the energy into the world.  Alternatively, a locksmith who happens to be a practitioner might use the word “alohamora” as a mantra to recite while picking an actual lock to help focus their will and guide their hands.  Both of these real spells use the fictional spell to enhance the real energetic work being done.  I personally prefer to add a few objects or techniques with magickal correspondence to my goal to help add a little “oomph” to my spellwork whenever possible.  However, one could simply focus on their intent and say the word “alohamora” while projecting their intent towards their target, just as the characters in Harry Potter do and it would be a valid spell as long as you truly believe it to be. 

Another hurdle in making fictional magic effective real magick it that the real results will never match up with the fictional results.  One of the most commonly used spells in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series (which I cannot recommend highly enough) is “fuego.”  As you might imagine if you speak spanish or any other latin based language, the fuego spell conjures a large fireball that hurls itself at the caster’s target.  This spell is used multiple times in many books; it’s probably used over 100 times in the series so far.  Both I and everyone else who’s read these books has a very clear picture cemented in their minds of what this spell looks like when it’s cast.  Unless your spellwork includes some pretty impressive professional pyrotechnics, your execution of a “fuego” spell is not going match the picture your head wants that spell to create.  That’s a problem.  Let’s say you wanted to use “fuego” to conjure a protective circle of energetic fire by visualizing the circle of fire while reciting “fuego” as an incantation.  In order to accomplish your goal your spell needs to energetically overcome the your cognitive dissonance of the results not looking the way your mind expects plus the energetic dissonance that every other reader’s idea of what the spell should be in order to manifest itself.  That really limits the ways that fictional spells with firm visual results can be used effectively in real magick.  To use “fuego” in real magick you’d really want to have some actual flame present to help mitigate the dissonance.  For this reason I really wouldn’t recommend using fictional magick with a really strong visual component unless it’s part of a big ritual that can recreate at least part of the expected visuals.

On a similar note, a good chunk of fictional magic tends to be overly theatrical, especially magic from television and movies.  Fictional magic is supposed to be entertaining and it can’t be entertaining in a visual medium unless the person casting it is doing something that we the audience can see.  In the movies witches and wizards are always doing big arm movements, gesturing with oversized tools, and shouting into the wind.  As fun as that is, it’s pretty wasteful energetically speaking unless you’re facilitating ritual for a large group that needs those visual cues.  Yes, I can hear you saying “but repeated physical movements help focus energy and smooth pathways.”  Of course they do.  Things like banishing and invoking pentagrams are particular physical movements that serve a particular energetic purpose and can enhance a magickal working in many ways.  However, there’s a line between movement used to focus energy and giant theatrical absurdities that look great and serve no purpose.  It’s a lot like the difference between martial arts in the movies and martial arts in real life.  I’d advise you to choose fictional spells that don’t expend as much energy in casting them as you’re trying to project out to your goal.

Fictional magics can be used in real magick to enhance spellwork and rituals by tapping into the pathways they’ve already forged in our minds.  To get the best results it’s important to be mindful of what shape those fictional spells and techniques already have in our minds and the minds of others.  By working with those ingrained images we can ensure that the energy we raise gets to its goal rather than being wasted forging the path to that goal.  Be mindful of what expectations a fictional spell raises both in how it’s supposed to look as its cast and its end result; be sure that really works with what you want to accomplish.  Choose the fictional magic you want to work with carefully and make sure it’s something that deeply resonates with you in order to get the best possible results.

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Pop Culture Magick at Pantheacon 2016

This year I once again had the great pleasure of presenting pop culture magick at Pantheacon.  This year was all about the importance of doing pop culture magick and how to strengthen your practices.  An amazing group of familiar faces and new friends attended and reminded me just how awesome you all are.  I always learn so much from workshop attendees - big hugs to you all.  For those who weren’t able to attend, or who attended and want some notes, here is a summary of the major points.

Pop culture magick is important work

We are constantly bombarded by media just by virtue of existing in the modern world.  Everything from billboards, advertising, supermarket merchandising, to pop music comes into our brains whether we want it to or not.  All of these things create pathways and links in our minds with the aim of making certain thought patterns more natural.  When we learn to do magick we are deliberately doing just that - forging new pathways in our brains in order to make certain actions (e.g. spellwork) easier and more natural.  Why not take advantage of the trenches that have already been dug?  Pop culture magick is one of the most energetically efficient types of magick out there.

Similarly, mainstream pop culture phenomenons (think Star Wars, Harry Potter, giant pop stars) create massive amounts of energy that can be harnessed by those in the know.  Anyone who’s ever been to a sold out concert or a heavily anticipated blockbuster movie knows that they create massive energetic outpourings, far more than could possibly be used in the normal course of events.  Anyone who’s ever watched a group of toddlers running around has heard and probably said the following, “...if I could just bottle that energy…”  By doing magick with huge pop culture phenomenons you’re doing essentially that - harnessing and using the energy that’s hitting you like a tidal wave any time you walk past a movie theater or, gods forbid, go to the mall.

Further, by using those externally forged channels in our brains for our own purposes we take control of them.  Pop culture magick can essentially overwrite the messages implanted in our heads by advertising by deliberately altering their effect.  I’d bet good money that everyone reading this article can sing at least half a dozen advertising jingles right now.  Take one of those tunes and sing a little incantation to it and suddenly instead of wanting a cheeseburger every time you hear the stupid Red Robin jingle you empower your spell - better for your magick and your budget.  Pop culture magick empowers the practitioner to take control of the subtle mental effects of media exposure.

Levelling up your practice

There are as many ways to practice pop culture magick as there are individual practitioners times the number of fandoms they work in.  Ultimately every practitioner needs to find the practices that work best for them, but there are two techniques that I feel have tremendous potential and are generally underrated: cosplay and fanfiction.

Cosplay is the modern equivalent of ritual aspecting.  Think about it.  Cosplayers spend huge amounts of time, energy, and often money in order to really become the characters they’re playing.  It’s not uncommon for serious cosplayers to spend months creating costumes, props, and working out to more perfectly resemble their characters - just as much, if not more, than a practitioner would before attempting to draw down or embody a deity.  A good cosplayer quite literally becomes their character so long as they’re in the costume.  Done with magickal intent this can be incredibly potent.  I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting a woman who is a strong advocate for equal representation in comics and does so in full batgirl cosplay.  She told me that she would never have had the courage to speak out of fight for what she believes in without the extra strength she feels from wearing the costume.  I’m a little shy for full cosplay, but subtle costuming (a t-shirt here, a bracelet there) can have the same effect when used with magickal intent.  Get creative and do what you’re comfortable with.

...and then there’s fanfiction, the odd cousin that people in the fandom don’t talk about to outsiders.  I like to think of fanfiction as an advanced bardic manifestation technique.  If you want to do a spell where Tony Stark helps you pass your computer science exam or Spiderman helps you stand up to a bullying co-worker why not write it all out as a story?  Stories told in any form (written, drawn, sung, spoken aloud, etc.) have tremendous power.  Bards of old certainly knew this and bards of today are figuring it out pretty quick (think modern “news” narratives and their power in our society).  Use whatever medium works for you and create the story you want to see play out, infuse it with your true intent, and let the energy of the story itself move your magick into the mundane.  Now I can’t write fiction to save my life but even I can think up a story and let it play out in my head (after years of practicing witchcraft I can visualize like a boss), so you can too.  Mary Sue your way to better magick.

Let your fandom be your guide

Once you’ve been doing pop culture magick for a little while you’ll likely find yourself settling into one or two particular fandoms for the majority of your workings.  When/if that happens, or if you just want to deepen your connection to a particular fandom, I suggestion looking to the fandom itself to determine how you focus your workings.  If you’re in the Supernatural or Buffy fandoms it’s probably a good idea to look into defensive magick and working with the paranormal (even if you’re not particularly interested in it) because it’s so intrinsic to the fandom itself.  If you like the X-Men you might look into activism magick; if you like Star Trek think about diplomacy and communication magicks.  Let the intrinsic energies of your fandom direct the focus of the next phase of your magickal development, after all there’s a reason you like the fandoms you do. 

Beyond that it’s just a matter of inspiration and creativity.  Take a closer look at your favorite aspects of your fandoms.  What is it about them that makes them so special to you?  What does your fandom have to teach you and how can you incorporate it into your practice?  Take some time and journal about it in order to really organize your thoughts.  This is a great trick for helping you deal with problematic fandoms.  For example, I’m a huge fan of the Hannibal series but since pretty much everything about it is more than mildly psychotic it can be tricky to work with magickally.  After much contemplation about what I liked I was able to figure out how to do safe and sane magick in that fandom.  I figured out I could work with that particular portrayal of Hannibal Lecter (version control people - version control!) as a model for mindful consumption.  (Yes, I’m weird and a little depraved; I’ve come to embrace it at this point.)  Examine your relationship to your fandom and let that inform your practices.

More than any other practice, in my experience at least, there’s no right or wrong way to do pop culture magick.  It’s all about what resonates with you, what feels the most natural, what feels empowering, and what gets the results you want.  Pop culture magick is getting a lot of attention these days, which means it’s also getting a lot of flack from traditionalists who call it lazy magick.  I say if you don’t like it, don’t do it.  I just want to share what works for me because I think other people might find it helpful.  No one form of magick is right for everyone.  Give it a try and if you don’t like it don’t continue doing it, but if you do like it then come and talk to me :)


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Surviving the Holidays...with Deadpool?

Ah, the holiday season: time of joyous family togetherness, or, if you’re like me, a time for anxiety and generally trying to hide and become one with the wallpaper.  I love my family but they make my brain revert into a horribly awkward teenager for some reason.  Consequently, I feel the need to gird myself a bit in order to face them and being the nerd I am I often turn to pop culture magick for a boost.  A few weeks ago I became the proud owner of a Deadpool ugly xmas sweatshirt and joked over on facebook that I’d use it in a spell to help me make it through the holidays.  Of course that got me thinking about how I might do just that.b2ap3_thumbnail_Deadpool.JPG

In previous writings I’ve advised people not to try and work with characters like Deadpool due to their incredibly unpredictable nature.  For most pop culture workings it is easiest to work with characters that are relatively straightforward and predictable.  You can pretty much always rely on a character like Spock to help you find a logical solution to a problem or for a character like Steve Rogers help you stand up to bullies.  No brainers, really.  It’s far more challenging to work with a character whose actions are difficult to predict.  You never really know what chaotic characters like the Joker, Delirium, or Deadpool are going to do.  Sometimes they’re pretty decent people, other times they kill or maim everyone in the room - you just never know. While it’s difficult to work with unpredictable, chaotic characters, it is possible.  There are two keys to working with unpredictable characters: version control and guidelines they will actually follow.

Regular readers of mine will recognize that version control is something I talk about a lot in regards to pop culture magick.  In this context, version control is simply figuring out which of the many existing iterations of a character you want to work with in this instance.  There are a lot of different versions of Deadpool out there in the world and their behavior can be radically different.  For example, the Deadpool you get in the Posehn/Duggan era comics is rather different than the one in the Ultimate Spiderman cartoon series (much less murder in the latter than the former).  For a straightforward character I recommend finding whatever version of that character’s personality best suits the working you’re trying to do and using it.  For a less predictable character I have to amend that to: find the version of the character that you know best and that you think might actually listen to you.  In order to work with an unpredictable character sanely you have to know it very well; well enough to understand their motivations and use those motivations in order to get it to do what you want and nothing you don’t want.  That is easier said than done.  For all that I know the Deadpool of saturday morning cartoons is likely to be easier to work with than the comic Deadpool, I don’t watch those cartoons and thus don’t know that Deadpool well enough to hope to predict his actions.  Thus, even though he’s a lot more dangerous, I could only ever work with the comic Deadpool because he’s the one I know best (though I’ve got several years worth of comic Deadpools to choose from, oy vey).

The second key to working with unpredictable characters is by far the most difficult to figure out: guidelines they will actually follow.  By their very nature, chaotic characters don’t like rules.  This is where really understanding the version of the character you’re working with is invaluable.  The only way to figure out how to phrase your working guidelines in a way the character will actually follow is to know that character inside and out.  I can’t see successfully working with this type of character if you’ve only got a casual connection with them.  To get a chaotic character to walk the path you want them to you need to phrase your goals in a way that will make them the character’s goals as well.  Use the thoughts and motivations you know the character already has in order to make them want your goals to happen in the way you want them to happen.  In my “Holidays with Deadpool” thought experiment my guidelines would have to include things like no harming anyone and keeping all snark non-verbal and confined astrally to not spill over onto my hapless relatives.  In order to get his compliance I need to figure out why Deadpool would ever want to be confined to those rules?  I know from the comics that Deadpool has a fairly well developed sense of morality and is pretty big on protecting the innocent, particularly children; he may be insane but Deadpool is a good guy at heart.  He is also incredibly playful, so I know that if I can make fulfilling my goals a game that he can win, Deadpool will toe the line.  Therefore, in order to get Deadpool to help me navigate the holidays while keeping to my rules I have to explain my goal is to maintain the happiness of my family and to make sure that strife doesn’t make my adorable little nieces cry.  As a bonus, he would get points for each time he prevents me from feeling bad without alerting my relatives to his presence or making them think I’m nuts.  If he gets enough points by the end of the night he’ll get an extra offering.  Use your knowledge of unpredictable characters’ thoughts, motives, and backstory in order to get them to want what you want and you should be ok.

Working with unpredictable characters is a calculated risk because you cannot guarantee they’ll behave themselves.  I would only recommend doing so if you really, really know the character well and have a deep enough connection with them that you feel comfortable with what you know they might do in a given situation.  With a firm grasp of the version of the character you want to work with and confidence in guidelines you believe the character will actually follow even someone like Deadpool can help make your holidays a bit brighter.  Do your spellwork safely. Happy Holidays!

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4 Reasons to work with Villains in Pop Culture Magic

Sometimes, with pop culture magic, you want to work with the bad guy, the villain, or the monster. The reasons why can vary from person to person, but I think one reason that stands out to me is that the villain is a character people relate to. S/he is flawed and shows those flaws more readily than the hero might. At the same time, there villain rarely thinks of him/herself as an actual villain. S/he has reasons for taking action and those reasons are sometimes quite valid. The problem is that the action is what makes the character villainous because it isn't the right action (at least according to the mores of society). Working with a villain can be very effective because the villain isn't bound to societal standards and may come up with some creative solutions (as Emily Carlin shares in a post she wrote on the same topic).

Recently Vincent Piazza wrote a post about horror magic, where he explores the history of horror film. One point he makes is that horror films show the ills of society and what happens if we don't learn to work with the shadow within us. That's wise advice and the second reason to work with villains because sometimes what we learn from them is something about ourselves and how to avoid making the mistakes the villain has made. Of course, if we do choose to work with a villain or a monster, some caution is warranted in how we work with them, but in all honesty the same cautions apply to working with any pop culture character.

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