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Author Topic: Pop Culture Paganism: Am I a pop-culture pagan?  (Read 1314 times)

Hariti

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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #15 on: May 02, 2020, 06:05:08 pm »
magic

Just reminded me of another facet of this discussion; pop culture magic.

It seems to me that pop-culture paganism is associated in the minds of many people with chaos magic, and with magic generally. Which it another reason I suspect the term is a poor fit for my practice—I am explicitly not a practitioner of magic.

My practice is entirely spiritual and religious in nature, centered around worship, prayer, and meditation. There's no spell-casting or anything involved. I almost wish there was another term, "Pop culture religious" or something, that conveys a less magic-centric pop-culture inspired practice.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #16 on: May 02, 2020, 07:00:21 pm »
I like the idea of maybe a new term; pop-culture adjacent, pop culture eclectic or maybe something else that drops those words but those words are useful. I'm curious what you think about the new terminology idea or if you have any ideas.

I sometimes use "pop-culture ancestor worship" to describe what I do.  Deification of dead celebrities is actually a very ancient practice in many cultures, just when it was a long time ago we call them folk-heroes and it's suddenly somehow more acceptable. 

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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #17 on: May 02, 2020, 08:05:19 pm »
... I've noticed there is a tendency to write people off if they use the term "pop culture pagan" as not serious or devoted to their practice.

I've long been strongly of the opinion that dismissiveness of PCP as shallow is largely an extension of the characterization of pop culture in general as shallow, both in the mainstream where it's contrasted with 'high culture', and in pagandom where it's often contrasted with folk culture. The latter in particular is an entirely artificial distinction; as Ashmire alludes to, it's often mere snobbery about how old, or how anonymously-created, a thing is. (The former isn't not artificial, but it's a cultural construct that's an aspect of the larger cultural construct of social class, which is a somewhat more substantial artificial construct.)

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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #18 on: May 02, 2020, 11:24:58 pm »
I've long been strongly of the opinion that dismissiveness of PCP as shallow is largely an extension of the characterization of pop culture in general as shallow, both in the mainstream where it's contrasted with 'high culture', and in pagandom where it's often contrasted with folk culture. The latter in particular is an entirely artificial distinction; as Ashmire alludes to, it's often mere snobbery about how old, or how anonymously-created, a thing is. (The former isn't not artificial, but it's a cultural construct that's an aspect of the larger cultural construct of social class, which is a somewhat more substantial artificial construct.)

Sunflower

This is largely what I've run up against too; there's lots of people even in the pagan community who tend to be critical of "created" things rather hoping to find something more out of anonymous and vague historical annals. The problem of course being, so much is already reconstructed, the authorship is just older. Also, we've seen how troublesome it is to try and recreate things with little historical documentation. It seems like people want it both ways: having the documentation but also the allure of anonymity. I say we embrace useful, modern things because we live in a modern age. Maybe that's not useful for everyone, but I don't see a great reason to dismiss it whole cloth.

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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #19 on: May 02, 2020, 11:30:29 pm »
This is largely what I've run up against too; there's lots of people even in the pagan community who tend to be critical of "created" things rather hoping to find something more out of anonymous and vague historical annals. The problem of course being, so much is already reconstructed, the authorship is just older. Also, we've seen how troublesome it is to try and recreate things with little historical documentation. It seems like people want it both ways: having the documentation but also the allure of anonymity. I say we embrace useful, modern things because we live in a modern age. Maybe that's not useful for everyone, but I don't see a great reason to dismiss it whole cloth.

It smells like respectability politics to me.
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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #20 on: May 04, 2020, 10:33:37 am »
It smells like respectability politics to me.

I'm not sure it's exactly that (as I would define respectability politics), but you're not wrong; it definitely has a similar aroma.

ETA: The people who are all, 'Those pop-culture pagans make us serious pagans look bad!' are definitely practicing respectability politics.

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« Last Edit: May 04, 2020, 10:35:48 am by SunflowerP »
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Sefiru

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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #21 on: May 04, 2020, 06:28:12 pm »
I've always thought Pokemon was ripe for use in pop culture paganism. Using them as stand-ins for nature spirits is a great idea.

I've recently thought about how Pokemon could fit into Kemetic practice - Ancient Egyptian folklore involved many kinds of monsters, and they had magic items by which some monsters could be controlled and used to defend against the rest of them.

There is nothing new under the Sun. :)

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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #22 on: May 04, 2020, 06:32:20 pm »
it's often mere snobbery about how old, or how anonymously-created, a thing is.

The dividing line often seems to be 'was this around for Victiorian folklorists to record it', so I have a suspicion where that snobbery came from.

StellarWind

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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #23 on: May 04, 2020, 09:22:51 pm »
I've recently thought about how Pokemon could fit into Kemetic practice - Ancient Egyptian folklore involved many kinds of monsters, and they had magic items by which some monsters could be controlled and used to defend against the rest of them.

There is nothing new under the Sun. :)

Indeed! Not quite this point exactly but did start to investigate Kemeticism more closely after diving into pop culture practices. I found it to be very versatile with my view of divinity and the depictions of the gods as often being meshed with animals spoke to me as well. Kemeticism is very interesting!

Haptalaon

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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #24 on: May 06, 2020, 08:14:30 am »

Thanks, I am not very deep into it yet but I was starting to fall away from my practice until I had a lightbulb moment where I realized it was something useful to keep me connected to the divine. Everyone has their own path and this is a system that works reasonably well at least for me. I'm excited to know there are others out there who feel similarly!

Two things about Pokemon:

I am pretty sure the original Ellwood Pop Culture Magic book actually has a chapter on using Pokemon cards to call in egregores.

And surely, Pokemon as a cultural concept ultimately comes out of Japanese folklore/religion/shinto? I am not an expert in this topic, so don't want to use the wrong terminology. But things like paper lanterns that come to life in a lot of manga, or the raccoons in Pom Poko, or all the spirits and dragons and shape-shifters in Spirited Away, or Totoro in My Neighbour Totoro, they come into Western popular culture as "tropes from Japanese anime", but that's actually rooted in a longer history of Japanese animism? I don't have the terminology & hope someone will be able to sharpen/focus what I'm saying with their knowledge. In short, however, I think it's a Western perspective to see pokemon as "cartoon characters" just like Mickey Mouse. I think you could absolutely view Pokemon through the lens of Japanese folklore, which depicts the world as filled with animist/spirit/little gods/presences.
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Haptalaon

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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #25 on: May 06, 2020, 08:26:14 am »
This conversation about age/respectability/shallowness is fantastic. I absolutely agree.

The dividing line often seems to be 'was this around for Victiorian folklorists to record it', so I have a suspicion where that snobbery came from.

The Victorian Folklorists are themselves a bit of a mess. Hutton has a fantastic, but depressing, chapter about this in Triumph of the Moon. Essentially, just like the Victorians did with natives of far away lands, wealthy hobby folklorists would rock up in rural British locations to do "research". But they were pretty shameless in making things up to fit a narrative, or trampling over the locals. Concepts like "no one knows the origins of this tradition, but it may be connected with ancient fertility rites" were pushed, even when there were living people who knew when it had been invented, what it represented, and why they did it. Generally treating people as if they were not intelligent agents, capable of interpreting their own actions, instead needing an outside academic to explain it Correctly.

(Which depressed me, because I think that's a cool part of folklore, the idea that things are ancient but half-forgotten: it's such a huge part of how we think about folklore, it absolutely underpins how we feel about may poles and morris dancing, it's central to folk horror, journalists still haven't got past the Murray hypothesis...because it's an attractive theory.)

(And also because these dudes are now our only source for so much lost lore, and if they'd done their work better then we'd have more actual data now. So this "ancient things are better" belief is actively detrimental to history/anthropology/etc. Hutton has a similar bit on his book about the Druids, about druid-revival figurehead Iolo Morgannwg - who published an important three-volume series of surviving ancient poetry, which he padded out with his own work which he passed off as ancient, thus derailing decades of academia which took his books on trust. It's tragic.)

So yeah, endorsed. If they found a rite which wasn't actually all that old, or which had some trivial meaning, we know at least some of these chaps had no qualms about investing it with a sense of ancientness and significance.
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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #26 on: May 06, 2020, 12:23:59 pm »
And surely, Pokemon as a cultural concept ultimately comes out of Japanese folklore/religion/shinto? I am not an expert in this topic, so don't want to use the wrong terminology. But things like paper lanterns that come to life in a lot of manga, or the raccoons in Pom Poko, or all the spirits and dragons and shape-shifters in Spirited Away, or Totoro in My Neighbour Totoro, they come into Western popular culture as "tropes from Japanese anime", but that's actually rooted in a longer history of Japanese animism? I don't have the terminology & hope someone will be able to sharpen/focus what I'm saying with their knowledge. In short, however, I think it's a Western perspective to see pokemon as "cartoon characters" just like Mickey Mouse. I think you could absolutely view Pokemon through the lens of Japanese folklore, which depicts the world as filled with animist/spirit/little gods/presences.

I think you're onto something about the East Asian view of spirituality in general--by my understanding, animistic spirituality is simply a part of life in these places, rather than some kind of special thing separate from the rest of life and the world. In China, the same word (tao, meaning "way") is used to refer to a spiritual philosophy and to name streets. In Japan, a former Shinto priestess can decide to make a career out of using animistic principles to teach people how to better clean and organize their homes. It's just another aspect of the world they live in.
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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #27 on: May 06, 2020, 06:42:08 pm »
And surely, Pokemon as a cultural concept ultimately comes out of Japanese folklore/religion/shinto?

The direct origin of Pokemon is, IIRC, the hobby of collecting stag beetles and having them fight each other.

Many individual Pokemon are based on creatures from Japanese folklore, but there are also several based on European folklore (vampires, werewolves etc) or real-life animals.

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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #28 on: May 08, 2020, 01:40:43 pm »
Two things about Pokemon:

I am pretty sure the original Ellwood Pop Culture Magic book actually has a chapter on using Pokemon cards to call in egregores.

And surely, Pokemon as a cultural concept ultimately comes out of Japanese folklore/religion/shinto? I am not an expert in this topic, so don't want to use the wrong terminology. But things like paper lanterns that come to life in a lot of manga, or the raccoons in Pom Poko, or all the spirits and dragons and shape-shifters in Spirited Away, or Totoro in My Neighbour Totoro, they come into Western popular culture as "tropes from Japanese anime", but that's actually rooted in a longer history of Japanese animism? I don't have the terminology & hope someone will be able to sharpen/focus what I'm saying with their knowledge. In short, however, I think it's a Western perspective to see pokemon as "cartoon characters" just like Mickey Mouse. I think you could absolutely view Pokemon through the lens of Japanese folklore, which depicts the world as filled with animist/spirit/little gods/presences.

Your analysis makes sense to me; through this sort of exposure is probably the first time I was even opened up to non-Christian religion as a kid. I have a lot of respect and sympathy for Shinto, Taoism and the various assorted East Asian animistic religions as a result. I'd say that they inspire my practice rather than they are my practice. They have in many ways been a profound impact on my worldview besides just my religious tendencies. Seeing the small spirit presences has always made more sense to me than a Christian Omni-god, personally. It jives well with my Pantheistic outlook as well.

I bought the Ellswood book recently but only started it and am not very far along yet. I will make some time this weekend to read it more.

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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #29 on: May 08, 2020, 02:10:46 pm »
I think you're onto something about the East Asian view of spirituality in general--by my understanding, animistic spirituality is simply a part of life in these places, rather than some kind of special thing separate from the rest of life and the world. In China, the same word (tao, meaning "way") is used to refer to a spiritual philosophy and to name streets. In Japan, a former Shinto priestess can decide to make a career out of using animistic principles to teach people how to better clean and organize their homes. It's just another aspect of the world they live in.

That mindset appeals to me as its a lot of how my religion works as well; I treat it as another facet of life; treating the divine as immanent and avoiding the gnostic temptation of saying "spirit good, material bad" and not treating the world as some spiritually cursed or diseased place but rather trying to engage with it and live life to the fullest.

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