Working with Pop Culture Characters

Chakotay
Chakotay

Recently I wrote about how I work with the First Officer of Voyager, Chakotay.

Anyone can work with TV or movie characters to help them in magic and in internal work.

We can use promotional material from the studio that picture the character, or toys of the character, to connect to that particular character. In my case, I used a Voyager officer teddy bear as a physical connection to the character. For other characters, you may use props that were created for that character – such as a wand for a Harry Potter character.

Working with a character that is portrayed in a TV-Show or Movie can be tricky. The character is played by an actress or actor, and we need to be careful to work with the character, and not the person playing them.

Robert Beltran
Robert Beltran

In my work with Chakotay, I very explicitly am working with the character. The Actor who plays the character, Robert Beltran, is still around, and I don’t want to impact him directly. I don’t know what kind of person Beltran is, so I don’t know what kind of energy he would bring to a working. Also, and possibly more importantly, I don’t have any relationship with him, nor do I have any reason to think that it would be okay to work with his energy or life.

Whatever the system we use, it is upon us, the magic workers, to do our best to understand the impacts of our workings. If we are working with characters to help us in our workings, we need to be sure to work with the characters.

Actors are not their characters, and we have no reason to conflate the two in our workings.


Image of Chakotay is a promotional image from Voyager Season I. Image of Robert Beltran from Wikipedia.

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Pop Culture? Pop Magic? Where does it fit?

dresdenRecent years have seen a new crop of superhero movies – which include some Norse deities. There are books and TV shows about a private investigator Wizard named Harry Dresden. The magical world of Harry Potter has been a huge hit in books, movies and theme parks. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen the Pokemon Go craze hit the US. And we are getting updates about the casting for the movie version of Gaiman’s book “American Gods.” There is the never-ending stream of comics, games, tv-shows, books, movies, and toys that bring magical characters to popular consideration.

All of these bring magic and deity to mainstream pop culture, and a lot of focus, thought, and energy goes into the creation, representation, and study of the characters.

For those of us who are studying more traditional forms of magic and religion, where does this fit? For me, the answer is – wherever it makes sense.

Some people, myself included, will work with the different characters as thoughtforms. Others will work with the characters as if they were gods, or archetypes, or don’t work with pop culture characters at all. Some people define the magical systems from the comics, shows, books, movies, and games as functional magical systems that they work with – complete with deity, holidays and correspondences. There are a lot of different ways that individuals can work, or not work, with pop culture characters.

chakotayRecently, I’ve been having a challenging time being pulled in multiple directions by my personal and work choices. To help me understand my own feelings and ways to work with them, I did a pathworking to chat with the thoughtform of Chakotay, the First Officer on the Starship Voyager. In the show, the character of Chakotay deals with the balance of personal and work life, personal feelings and what is best for the group, and all while being someone who others look up to but who isn’t the person in charge. As a fan of the Star Trek series, and of Voyager specifically, working with that thoughtform makes sense for me.

I could be working with a shared thoughtform that has been created from all the combined attention that has been paid to the character, or framing my own emotions and thoughts in that form so that I can have a conversation with them. Overall, it doesn’t really matter.

Each person will use their choice of pop culture if they decide to, and it’s not up to us to decide for other people. It is, however, up to us to understand if using pop culture in our own spirituality and magic makes sense for ourselves.


Images are PR or promo images from the respective book or show.

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A Week of Devotions

2016-01-05-08.26.25I find that I have very limited time in the mornings – it’s a balancing act of getting to work early enough, and making sure that I get enough sleep. Even with the limited time, it’s still important to me to have time for morning devotionals, but how do I honor all the beings I want to honor?

My solution was to honor different beings on different days.

I blend Welsh and Norse Hearth Cultures in my practice, so my daily practices reflect that. The challenge for me with doing Daily Practices has always been finding time to do the work.

Five days a week, my devotions are specific for one of the Kindreds or a specific Deity – a different Being or set of Beings every day. Saturday and Sunday are more flexible. Some weekends, I will do trance, or a full Core Order of Ritual rite.  This way I can fit my devotions into my busy life as well as have time for the work for my courses.

If you’re having a challenging time working with multiple Beings, maybe you can try divvying up the days.

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Blessed Solstice to one and all!

SummerPoppy

Assuming that I got my timing right, this post should go out on the exact minute of the Summer Solstice!

This day, well not exactly on the calendar, but this High Day, marks the end of my 5th year in ADF. I have to say that it seems that I’ve found the right “place” for me at this time.  I haven’t been this engaged in another group for this long for a while.

At the Solstice, we experience extremes – either the shortest day or the longest day – depending on which solstice it is. This is a turning point. The Wheel turns and the light grows, or the light shrinks. Either way, the light is doing the opposite thing than it was doing just moments before. On the Solstices, we stand in that liminal space, between growth and contraction. This is the perfect spot for deciding where your next step will be.

It was upon a Summer Solstice when I went to my first Druidic ritual, and when I started identifying myself as a member of ADF. It was at that ritual – one that I drove two hours to a strange city and strange group to participate in a ritual of a strange tradition. It was a very liminal time for me – and I haven’t regretted that step at all. If you’re considering doing something different

Once again, as happens twice a year, we stand in that space again. Where will you take your next step?

Addendum:

For folks who might be interested in Druidry,  ADF, or Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship, Inc., is one of a number of different Druidic organizations that are currently active internationally.  The are other organizations that I’m most familiar with are the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD), the Ancient Order of Druids in America, and  the Anglesey Druid Order. There are a lot of other druid groups – Wikipedia talks about a lot more of them than I’ve listed here.

 

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When your mind won’t engage

Creating a Book of Shadows

Some days, try as you might, your might just won’t engage with whatever it is that you think it should be doing. Or maybe it’s something that you want to do, or feel that you need to do, but … those brain cells just aren’t firing.

Depending on what’s going on with you – inside and outside – there can be a lot of different reasons for this lack of engagement. The only way to find out what it is, is to ask yourself. Is it something that you actually want to be doing? Is there something else that you’d prefer to be doing? Are you sick or exhausted? Are there things that you’re allowing to distract you? Did you spend 30 minutes cruising Facebook instead of writing a blog post? I hope that you see where I’m going here.

If you can figure out why your brain won’t engage in a particular task, you can try to re-engage. Often, though, I can’t understand why I’m distracted. In those cases, I’ll often try to distract my brain with something entirely different. For example, if I’m trying to write a blog post that just isn’t happening, I might go and play the piano, or cook dinner, or spin some yarn – something that takes a very different type of focus. If the thing I’m trying to do is writing – blogs or coursework – I will sometimes sit down at the computer and start a train of thought document … words that I think go right onto the screen. Sometimes this helps, but at other times, I end up working out something that’s been bothering me.

And there are times when you just accept that there’s something going on and that you’re not going to get it done. Whatever “it” is – it’s not going to happen now. Maybe later. For these times, I keep a to-do list. It’ll go down on the list to be addressed later. And if it never gets addressed, maybe it wasn’t that important after all.

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Words from the Hávamál

As I spend time researching ancient myths and stories, I am often reminded that we need to interpret the stories with consideration for the culture in which the myths were recorded.

Title page of a manuscript of the Prose Edda, showing Odin, Heimdallr, Sleipnir and other figures from Norse mythology
Title page of a manuscript of the Prose Edda, showing Odin, Heimdallr, Sleipnir and other figures from Norse mythology

For the last few months, I have subscribed to  Huginn’s Heathen Hof‘s “Daily Hávamál” email. In this mailing, we get a verse of the Hávamál in both the original language, Old Norse, and in modern English.  Each verse is also interpreted with respect to today’s Western world.

In many cases, the Hávamál provides wisdom that is easily translated to today. For example, stanza 118 warns the reader about the danger of “malicious words,” while other stanzas talk about not speaking with idiots (don’t feed the trolls!). Yet, there are other verses that seem to indicate that all women are evil, or otherwise malicious.

How do we interpret these verses then? We have to look at the culture in which they were written down.  The source of the Hávamál – The Eddas – were written down by a Christian man.  While Snorri seemed interested in preserving the myths of Iceland, it would have been incredibly difficult for him to remove all of the Christian influences for the late 12th and early 13th centuries when he lived.

We also do not know for certain how women and other groups were treated in the culture in which the stories are set. We can make the best interpretations of the information that we have, but we’re just making interpretations.  Primary sources that are objective are nearly impossible to find.

So, how do we work with texts such as the Hávamál? We do as they do over at Huginn’s Heathen Hof – we re-interpret.  We try to understand what the underlying story or lesson is behind the words and see how that applies to our modern life.

How do you interpret the ancient stories and myths?

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Time go out .. I have to pee: or the impact of habits that we gain growing up

I realize the title is a bit .. interesting 🙂 My husband and I were getting ready to head out to visit some friends, and I realized I had to go to the bathroom. C is used to this by now, so he just chuckled and waited. The funny part was that I had just gone 10 minutes before, and I don’t have any kind of physical condition that makes me want to go often. It’s habit.

When I was growing up, my Father loved to take us out for a ride in the car. We would drive all over the place and find some of the coolest new areas. But … there was one catch. He hated to stop until we were there. So you REALLY had to go before he’d stop. Everyone went to the bathroom before we left. It was a habit.

It’s a habit that continues to impact me all these years later.

There’s a reason for this story.

We all grow up unconciously learning habits. Sometimes these habits help (like brushing your teeth before bed), sometimes they hurt, and sometimes they are neutral. The key is to identify these habits and decide what we want to do with them.

The helpful and neutral habits are usually easy – we can leave them in place if we like, but those harmful habits. The habits that can hurt ourselves or those around us. Those habits we should face, recognize and decide what we wish to do – do we accept that part of ourselves? do we change it? or do we ignore it?

What habits do you have from childhood? Have you decided to keep them? or change them?

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Daily devotions

Freya altar with runes (image by me)

As part of my spiritual practices, I spend time every day connecting with the Kindreds. Depending on what’s going on and the time of year, my methods change slightly.

During the winter – the rainy months – I tend to do devotionals all indoors. I have altars set up in my bedroom and in my craft room. Because I work with multiple Gods, Spirits and Ancestors, I will do devotionals to different beings on different days. I’m trying to keep to a weekly cycle – so Wednesday is Odin’s day, Friday is Freya’s day, etc … In addition to the gods that I work with, I also put time aside for my Ancestors and the spirits of the land.

My indoor devotions are pretty simple. I greet the Kindreds and call upon the particular being that I am doing a devotional for that day. I will make an offering for the being while talking about my relationship with that being. Offerings can include water, grains, herbs, incense, or sometimes something that I have created. Usually, I keep the items that take more time to create for when I’m doing a deeper working or when I’m asking for something specifically. I then thank the being and say goodbye.

When it’s not raining and is a relatively warm temperature outside, I will do devotionals to the tree and the plants in my patio container garden. In these cases, my offerings are usually water that has sat overnight in a copper cup. I use a small silver bowl to pour the water towards the tree or in my patio plants.

I think that it doesn’t matter how you view the god(s), spending time with the various spirits, beings, archetypes that you do believe in is a big part of deepening your spirituality.

I’d love to hear how you do your daily devotions.

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Why I offer Tobacco to Odin

TobaccoFor those who are not familiar, I regularly make offerings to deity in my devotional practice, and Odin is one of the gods that I work with.

In a recent online chat, I brought up the idea of offering tobacco to Odin. No one else in the chat did the same, and I got a couple comment about it being odd because tobacco was from North America, so I thought that a blog to explain might be good.

One of the aspects of Odin that I work with is the Wanderer. In the Eddas, we find Odin wandering the world to seek wisdom and knowledge. I see Odin wandering the world, smoking his pipe and seeking out new information. I realize that in the time of the Eddas, it was highly unlikely that there was tobacco (at least not that we know of) but it seems appropriate to me.

I believe that our gods change. In talking with Kristoffer Hughes at Pantheacon, he is ecstatic that the Welsh gods are present here in the US. The gods move, they change. Maybe not as fast as humans do, but as humans worship them, they experience life through us – and those experiences can change them. It’s not everyone’s point of view .. it might be just mine 🙂

So, I will continue to offer the Wanderer artisan tobacco, while standing on this American soil … for as long as it continues to be accepted.

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On Evil – while in bed

One of the interesting things that happen when you’re studying Theology and your partner is willing to have some pretty in-depth conversations on the topic, is that you have these conversations in bed.

The other morning, one such conversation happened. The topic of the week for my class is theodicy.

Merriam-Webster online defines “theodicy” as “defense of God’s goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil” (1)

So, the topic of the conversation was about the divine and the existence of evil.

From a pagan perspective, what is evil? And how do our gods factor in? The answer will vary depending on who you ask, but here’s my answer.

We started out thinking through the various pantheons with which we are familiar – Welsh, Irish, Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Greek and Roman – for gods who’s purpose is to eradicate evil. We couldn’t find any. Some gods are about Justice (Tyr, for example) but there’s nothing that defines good or evil in their mythos.

So, how much impact do they have on the good and evil in the world? And do they grok(2) good and evil?

When you start to define what is “evil” you need to include the various socio-cultural variations. Generally, good and evil acts are defined such that they ensure the continuation of the society and the individuals. Good actions help the society to survive, evil acts work against society.

There are places where it’s not considered evil to perform female circumcision, and places where it is considered evil. Usually, things like murder are considered evil, but there are areas of the world, and sub-cultures, where groups of individuals are not considered “people” and thus killing them isn’t murder. These are pretty stark examples – I’m sure there are a lot of more subtle differences between cultures.

Given these differences, how do we define evil? The answer, at least to me, is that we can’t define a global “evil” until there are behaviors that are considered unethical world-wide. Then those behaviors can be global evils.

Some behaviors ARE considered unethical worldwide, although there are still pockets where these behaviors might be accepted.

So, evil is a human construct. It’s up to us to define what is good and what is evil. Generally speaking, murder, theft, torture and abuse are considered evil. In Western cultures, we add in the idea that discrimination on race or biological gender is unethical. We are slowly expanding this to include discrimination based on sexual identity.

To me, evil consists of intentional, unnecessary harm to another being. There are may ways that we unintentionally cause harm – like when we say those words that are unexpectedly cruel, or accidentally step on someone’s foot. Those aren’t evil acts if they are accidents or the result of choices that were not properly thought through.

Intentionally making choices that you know are harmful, or that you know are against the laws of the land or against social norms against causing harm, are evil.

Sometimes good people make bad choices and intentionally do evil things. It’s up to them, though, to make it right once the harm has been identified.

Good and evil are human constructs and human choices. It’s up to use each to make the best choices possible.

Notes:
(1) http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/theodicy.
27 Mar 2016.
(2) Grok: to understand something at the most base level. To truely “get it.” http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=grok

image from Chris Baker on freeimages.com

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