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Author Topic: Pop Culture Paganism: Am I a pop-culture pagan?  (Read 1311 times)

Hariti

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Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« on: March 28, 2020, 01:40:06 pm »
This is something I've been wrangling with for a long while now. Am I actually a pop-culture pagan? I work with a wide range of powers, but they are not, by and large, pop-culture powers. They don't come from popular culture, anyway. I don't worship Khorne or Slaanesh, I'm not a Jedi or Sith, I don't pray to Sheogorath or give offerings to Eru Ilúvatar. Instead, the powers I work with are almost all drawn from real-world historical or modern religious traditions.

BUT—and here's where I feel unsure—I tend to work with those powers through the framework of popular culture. I may not worship Wonder Woman, but I absolutely do see her as a modern manifestation of Shakti. I don't believe in the Force, but I do see it as a useful tool for understanding Atman and Brahman. I could go on all day about these things; I see symbols of the gods and other powers I work with every day, in music, movies, games, book and other pop-culture media.

Lately, I've been drawn toward the Sept from Game of Thrones, as a useful model for understanding my own powers. To the point that I'm using hymns from the franchise in my own devotional work.

So all of this leaves me wondering if I am a pop-culture pagan or not? I don't worship pop-culture figures, at least not conventionally or directly, but they do figure prominently in my practice and in my understanding of the powers I work with.
"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

EclecticWheel

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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2020, 04:23:36 pm »
So all of this leaves me wondering if I am a pop-culture pagan or not? I don't worship pop-culture figures, at least not conventionally or directly, but they do figure prominently in my practice and in my understanding of the powers I work with.

That sounds very enriching!

I have often wondered what to call what I do as well given the mix of elements I engage with.

Labels are only as important as they are useful, in my book.  I have seen practices like yours listed under the pop culture pagan umbrella.  I wouldn't get too attached to the labels and terms, but if in a given context that term proves useful in explaining to someone else an aspect of your spiritual practice, then use it.  If it is not useful, you may need a different term or take a different approach at explaining.

Labels can be useful (or not so useful) when attempting to explain spiritual matters.  You can always clarify what you mean by the label like you have here.  There is no one single authority in pop culture paganism.  I don't see any reason this label could not be applicable here.
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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2020, 11:12:30 am »
This is something I've been wrangling with for a long while now. Am I actually a pop-culture pagan? I work with a wide range of powers, but they are not, by and large, pop-culture powers. They don't come from popular culture, anyway. I don't worship Khorne or Slaanesh, I'm not a Jedi or Sith, I don't pray to Sheogorath or give offerings to Eru Ilúvatar. Instead, the powers I work with are almost all drawn from real-world historical or modern religious traditions.

BUT—and here's where I feel unsure—I tend to work with those powers through the framework of popular culture. I may not worship Wonder Woman, but I absolutely do see her as a modern manifestation of Shakti. I don't believe in the Force, but I do see it as a useful tool for understanding Atman and Brahman. I could go on all day about these things; I see symbols of the gods and other powers I work with every day, in music, movies, games, book and other pop-culture media.

Lately, I've been drawn toward the Sept from Game of Thrones, as a useful model for understanding my own powers. To the point that I'm using hymns from the franchise in my own devotional work.

So all of this leaves me wondering if I am a pop-culture pagan or not? I don't worship pop-culture figures, at least not conventionally or directly, but they do figure prominently in my practice and in my understanding of the powers I work with.

Do you want to be considered a pop-culture Pagan?

I have a lot of places where I drift into pop-culture Paganism, and I'm totally not opposed to the concept of it.  But, my core practice is Norse, so I consider my path Norse-fusion (the other things get added to a Norse base).  I wouldn't be upset of someone referred to me as a pop-culture Pagan, but that isn't the word I use for myself.

I have met some people who consider anyone who uses any modern influences to be a pop-culture Pagan.  But I think a lot of us do that, on some level, because we live in a modern world.  Pop-culture references are what we grew up on, they are our mythology, so I think it's very natural to relate to them, and to relate them to our practice.

I consider naming to be a personal thing, and it sounds like you have qualities that fit with pop-culture Paganism, but also ones that aren't fully pop-culture, so it could absolutely go either way.
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ehbowen

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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2020, 11:22:52 am »
BUT—and here's where I feel unsure—I tend to work with those powers through the framework of popular culture. I may not worship Wonder Woman, but I absolutely do see her as a modern manifestation of Shakti. I don't believe in the Force, but I do see it as a useful tool for understanding Atman and Brahman. I could go on all day about these things; I see symbols of the gods and other powers I work with every day, in music, movies, games, book and other pop-culture media.

Well, I think that you're in good company. Just because the writings haven't changed in 3000-4000 years doesn't mean that the personages which those writings refer to have been static all that time. And I think that my own Godhead is always receptive to suggestions as to how they can act and be more righteous and holy.

Specific example: Numbers 14. My God done had it up to here with the rebellious Israelites, and was ready to wipe them out and start over with Moses to make a new nation. Moses said (free translation), "You can't do that; it'll ruin your reputation; other nations will hear about it; you've got to keep your word no matter what." Orthodox Christian Doctrine (TM) says, "Oh, God was just testing Moses; he never intended to carry out that threat in the first place." I dunno. I now think that my God was well and truly fed up and ready to wad his original plan up and circular-file it...but after hearing Moses's intercession realized, "He's right. Once I make a promise I've got to stick with it and carry it out, come hell or high water (or a certain cross...)." And he integrated that into his personality and has lived by it ever since.

Other possible examples would include God's dialogue with Abraham re: Sodom. Abraham kept lowering the number of righteous men needed for the cities to escape judgment, and my God essentially kept nodding and saying, "Okay, I can go along with that." So if you get in a dialogue with God, I believe that he takes it at least as seriously as you do...but be advised to consider the consequences of your petitions; you're likely to have to live with those consequences yourself.

As far as pop culture...you're not alone in being a Wonder Woman fan; I think that my Girlfriend follows her avidly as well. Now, she's not going to be anyone's puppet (even mine!), but I think that when the writers and other artists come up with their best ideas she says, "Hey, I'd like to be more like that myself!" And she rolls that into her personality. I do remember that when I saw her in that dream she did have long, dark, curly hair....
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Darkhawk

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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2020, 10:05:15 am »
I don't worship pop-culture figures, at least not conventionally or directly, but they do figure prominently in my practice and in my understanding of the powers I work with.

I just wanna note that "worshipping pop culture figures" is an extremely narrow model of pop culture paganism. (And honestly it's one I find a little confusing as The Thing because in my experience it was uncommon before suddenly it was The Way To Do Thing and I can't figure out when I slidersed my ass into a different universe.)

To set aside the whole paganism thing, I present this example of pop culture Judaism. Nobody would mistake popcultural Judaism practices as being "worshipping pop culture figures", I hope, but there is an obvious pop culture worship practice for ya.

I've been known to explain bits of Kemetic theology by talking about The Nothing from The Neverending Story.  Huge chunks of my raw theology pre-conversion are heavily influenced and shaped by Ursula K. Le Guin.  I know plenty of people who use the Litany Against Fear from Dune as a spiritual discipline practice, and there's - as you noted - whole popculturally derived pagan or paganesque religions like Jediism and the Church of All Worlds that are popcultural.  I know people who recite Susan Cooper's poetry at appropriate times of the year, and at least some of that is from The Dark is Rising.

Ever make a devotional playlist/mixtape? Is there a plausible way in which that is not popcultural?

(And remember, everyone, the popular model of what Hell is like is 99% Milton fanfic and thus pop culture, and so are red-and-green as Christmas colours and Easter eggs.)
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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2020, 02:02:40 pm »


To set aside the whole paganism thing, I present this example of pop culture Judaism. Nobody would mistake popcultural Judaism practices as being "worshipping pop culture figures", I hope, but there is an obvious pop culture worship practice for ya.


I had to say...this linked post is brilliant!
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Haptalaon

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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2020, 09:52:51 am »
This is something I've been wrangling with for a long while now. Am I actually a pop-culture pagan? I work with a wide range of powers, but they are not, by and large, pop-culture powers. They don't come from popular culture, anyway. I don't worship Khorne or Slaanesh, I'm not a Jedi or Sith, I don't pray to Sheogorath or give offerings to Eru Ilúvatar. Instead, the powers I work with are almost all drawn from real-world historical or modern religious traditions. BUT—and here's where I feel unsure—I tend to work with those powers through the framework of popular culture. So all of this leaves me wondering if I am a pop-culture pagan or not? I don't worship pop-culture figures, at least not conventionally or directly, but they do figure prominently in my practice and in my understanding of the powers I work with.

I think part of the problem with pop culture paganism is like a culture of sneering around it; at least one blogger I very much admire has an effortpost about why worshipping Superman trivialises the concept of worshipping actual GODS. I like pop culture paganism a lot, but also kinda vibe with the post because she's talking, in part, about the "fandom-like" elements of some online pagan spaces, which seem to talk about divinities as if they were interacting with fandom characters rather than the awesome/terrifying face of the infinite. After all, this same blogger understands their hard polytheism through Jim Morrison from the Doors as Dionysus/the movie Labyrinth, and so forth.

(I looked for the post and couldn't find it; the author did a trim of their old posts so some were deleted, but this post is something of the kind)

Another aspect: pop culture paganism comes out of chaos magic, which itself tends to be irreverent and playful and wilfully/joyously shallow in the way it appropriates images.

So part of me is thinking this question is rooted in...I think there's an often implication that pop culture magic is necessarily shallow, or fluffy, when that's absolutely not the case.

I'd go one step further than "modern music on playlists is pop culture magic". I think a heck of a lot of "traditional witchcraft", and Margaret Murray, and even literal Wicca is arguably pop-culture magic. Tradcraft draws from...the popular beliefs about witches in the 16th century. How is that not pop culture? Murray and Gardener were cherrypicking bits of folklore and discovering divinity within them. How is that not pop culture? Herne the hunter, for example. Or Robin Hood.

So to me, there's several strands here:

  • Use of popular culture in ones practice on a fundamental level i.e. worshipping Eru Illuvitar
  • Use of pop culture elements in ones practice (music, or poetry from fantasy novels, or god-images from comics)
  • Approaching magic/religion in an irreverent/playful way, or using a rational/psychological framework for what you're doing

I don't know which, of any of these, would be the most important definitions for Pop Culture Magic. But I'd probably say 1, 3, and then 2.

Also, wrt Illuvitar, I have at least one figure in my pantheon who is (among other things) syncretised to Elbereth of the elves, and also Mary from Catholicism. And sometime after making this connection, it occured to me that Tolkien almost certainly was seeing Elbereth as a syncretic Mary. So...I think trying to tease out what is and what is not pop culture paganism is a messy task.

Lately, I've been drawn toward the Sept from Game of Thrones, as a useful model for understanding my own powers. To the point that I'm using hymns from the franchise in my own devotional work.

I do this (although I'll be looking up the Game of Thrones hymns for my Commonplace Book; I already use bits of the Night Watch oath). I describe myself as pop-culture positive, rather than a pop culture pagan.

So for me, the distinction is...my primary practice is land-centric, deity-devotional-religion, and local spirit work. I'm just an insatiable magpie about pulling in other sources. I think if someone self-identified as a pop culture pagan, my expectation would be that the center of their practice was a pop-cultural pantheon, or an occult path centered around pop-cultural magic.

One thing about my path specifically (but this is a true for a lot of "pagans" who aren't in a reconstructionist polytheism thing) is that we don't have any spiritual material: no bible, no poems, no songs, nothing we can reconstruct from a burial chamber. So if you want to do something earthy & folkloric & vaguely pagan spirit-of-the-land, you're stuck with pagan sources, or appropriating things out of a wider culture. For me, that alone is not distinctive enough to refer to it as "pop culture paganism". That's just being part of a pop culture.

[Edited to fix link code - SP]
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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2020, 04:00:52 pm »
I think part of the problem with pop culture paganism is like a culture of sneering around it; at least one blogger I very much admire has an effortpost about why worshipping Superman trivialises the concept of worshipping actual GODS. I like pop culture paganism a lot, but also kinda vibe with the post because she's talking, in part, about the "fandom-like" elements of some online pagan spaces, which seem to talk about divinities as if they were interacting with fandom characters rather than the awesome/terrifying face of the infinite. After all, this same blogger understands their hard polytheism through Jim Morrison from the Doors as Dionysus/the movie Labyrinth, and so forth.

Fandom has, to a great extent, taken the place of certain aspects of religion in the modern age anyway. The way mythology was constructed in the past, for example, very much resembles the making of current media franchises (but without the thorny issue of copyright--the gods are public domain).

Gods can be the awesome face of the infinite and silly fandom characters; that's why both tragedy and comedy existed in Classical Greece, both The Bacchae and The Frogs.

That said, yeah, some people do go overboard in trivializing the gods this way. By the same token, some people shy away from frivolity too much with their Powers.

Quote
So for me, the distinction is...my primary practice is land-centric, deity-devotional-religion, and local spirit work. I'm just an insatiable magpie about pulling in other sources. I think if someone self-identified as a pop culture pagan, my expectation would be that the center of their practice was a pop-cultural pantheon, or an occult path centered around pop-cultural magic.

I think this is a fair definition, but that it also outlines just how blurry the lines are.

Religion is, or at least once was, a part of popular culture.
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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2020, 06:27:33 am »
Gods can be the awesome face of the infinite and silly fandom characters; that's why both tragedy and comedy existed in Classical Greece, both The Bacchae and The Frogs.


I think about this a lot, and what I've always assumed - I'm not a Hellenic, though, so don't have much evidence - is that...the silly fandom Greek myths are a bit of a distraction for understanding what Greek religion was actually like. The myths and plays and so forth are very engaging as art, but the gods as ritual/mystery/strangeness must be a different branch of archaeology. I'm happy to be corrected on this, however.

I also think a lot about how Christianity is most people's interior model for what religion "is", when it is in fact just one of many neutral & varied ways a faith can be. So, I think I am a little disoriented by the playfulness and irreverence with which the Greek authors wrote of the gods, because it absolutely does not map onto how contemporary Christians approach the divine (with great seriousness, and often with a dislike/fear of parody and even new creation of a religious character). & I need to keep reminding myself that one of the great pleasures of paganism is learning how differently a religion can be "done", and this may be one of those times.
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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2020, 03:35:16 pm »
I think about this a lot, and what I've always assumed - I'm not a Hellenic, though, so don't have much evidence - is that...the silly fandom Greek myths are a bit of a distraction for understanding what Greek religion was actually like. The myths and plays and so forth are very engaging as art, but the gods as ritual/mystery/strangeness must be a different branch of archaeology. I'm happy to be corrected on this, however.

The plays themselves - the performances, the competitions, the compositions - are part of Dionysos's cultus. Including the comedies.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dionysia
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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2020, 09:58:53 pm »
I think about this a lot, and what I've always assumed - I'm not a Hellenic, though, so don't have much evidence - is that...the silly fandom Greek myths are a bit of a distraction for understanding what Greek religion was actually like. The myths and plays and so forth are very engaging as art, but the gods as ritual/mystery/strangeness must be a different branch of archaeology. I'm happy to be corrected on this, however.

Some philosophers did argue that the gods were perfect, and I'm inclined to agree that in general, Hellenic society looked to the gods as divine models for behavior in complicated, ambiguous ways--they were allowed extravagances humans were not, on account of their extraordinary divine authority, but overall, they acted in accordance with proper mores. Zeus womanizes to act out the Classical ideal of the conquering male spreading his bloodline; Hera persecutes his paramours and victims because the Classical wife is supposed to protect the sanctity of marriage but is not allowed to challenge the husband. But the gods weren't just worshiped by elite philosophers; different people brought different perspectives to the myths, some reverent, some subversive (mythopoeia could be political), some just silly.

In a lot of ways, ancient polytheistic religion was flexible and intellectually vigorous in a way some modern religions (especially mainstream Christianity) are frequently not. It was routinely accepted that gods were different in different places, and differences and similarities were studied and assimilated into a multicultural discourse instead of subjected to destruction. So polyvalent thinking about religion was probably a lot more prevalent than it is today--that is to say, people were more likely to be able to accept conflicting truths about the nature of life and reality, to accept that Dionysos could be a terrifying borderline-anarchic implicitly queer revolutionary force of ecstatic nature as well as a bumbling drunken awkwardly crossdressing fool.

Quote
I also think a lot about how Christianity is most people's interior model for what religion "is", when it is in fact just one of many neutral & varied ways a faith can be. So, I think I am a little disoriented by the playfulness and irreverence with which the Greek authors wrote of the gods, because it absolutely does not map onto how contemporary Christians approach the divine (with great seriousness, and often with a dislike/fear of parody and even new creation of a religious character). & I need to keep reminding myself that one of the great pleasures of paganism is learning how differently a religion can be "done", and this may be one of those times.

At some point the idea of a singular unquestionable canon of religious truth was invented and from there everything went downhill.
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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #11 on: May 01, 2020, 10:13:05 pm »
So all of this leaves me wondering if I am a pop-culture pagan or not? I don't worship pop-culture figures, at least not conventionally or directly, but they do figure prominently in my practice and in my understanding of the powers I work with.

Why not invent a new bit of terminology, like "pop cultural eclectic polytheist" or "pop-culture-adjacent"?

I wonder often myself about how accurate it is to call my practice "pop culture paganism," as it could just as easily be described as a hero cultus revival. I begin to suspect it is frequently an arbitrary distinction.
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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2020, 05:38:23 pm »
So all of this leaves me wondering if I am a pop-culture pagan or not? I don't worship pop-culture figures, at least not conventionally or directly, but they do figure prominently in my practice and in my understanding of the powers I work with.

Interesting question and I too have been grappling with this question! Some of the other posts have hit on different things but 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. Maybe its wrong but that's what makes me hesitant to use it for myself.

I'd say that in my case though I still qualify for the label because I use pop culture concepts and figures to personify divine ideas. I don't worship them as literal beings but I see them as modern, times-adjusted images that I can relate to easily in my nature worship practice. In my example, many Pokemon are great stand-ins for vague nature spirits that I struggle to conceptualize as a 21st century American.

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.

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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2020, 05:43:59 pm »
Interesting question and I too have been grappling with this question! Some of the other posts have hit on different things but 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. Maybe its wrong but that's what makes me hesitant to use it for myself.

That may be part of why I use it--as a sort of take-that to the idea that pop culture paganism is shallow. My practice has involved ensouling my right arm with the spirit of a dead rock star via tattoo magic...not shallow.

Quote
I'd say that in my case though I still qualify for the label because I use pop culture concepts and figures to personify divine ideas. I don't worship them as literal beings but I see them as modern, times-adjusted images that I can relate to easily in my nature worship practice. In my example, many Pokemon are great stand-ins for vague nature spirits that I struggle to conceptualize as a 21st century American.

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.
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Re: Am I a pop-culture pagan?
« Reply #14 on: May 02, 2020, 05:54:47 pm »
That may be part of why I use it--as a sort of take-that to the idea that pop culture paganism is shallow. My practice has involved ensouling my right arm with the spirit of a dead rock star via tattoo magic...not shallow.

That's a great point and a reason I should be more open to it, I think you've given me pause to reflect and try using it again.

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.

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!

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