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From Maleck Odinsson comes this topic idea:
“Pop cultural influences on individual practice. Not just stuff like Marvel, but also the Litany Against Fear, etc.”
For me, there are more than a few pop culture influences that have made way into my view. When I first became a Heathen it took a long time for me to see Þórr as red-haired and red-bearded. For a very long time I saw, and even still on occasion, I will see Him as He appears in Marvel productions with long blond hair and a great golden beard. As small as that influence may seem, it really is not when you think about what iconography should be showing up in my head when it comes to my God.
So what about other influences? As an avid reader of Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files, I find a lot of use if I am going to bring together a piece of magic to do it in a fashion similar to Dresden when he forms his own. He incorporates as much of the six senses as he can in his magical work. I find this bringing in of the senses to be a powerful catalyst in magical work, and something I found influencing how I approached it whether I wanted it in there or no. Through Dresden, Butcher also examines how headblind power and authority can make a body of even experienced magical practitioners when faced with novel scenarios. How being hidebound for its own sake is a weakness and accepting new, if radical or challenging ideas, is a powerful antidote to fossilization and corruption.
The Litany Against Fear from Frank Herbert’s Dune was something that hit me shortly after I got into college. For awhile my Dad had read and recommended the Dune series to me. When I finally did it had a profound effect on me, particularly that Litany. I find it a useful mantra not only in dispelling or working through fear, but also in deescalation, grounding, centering, and even shielding work. It can work as a setting of intention prior to or in a working. As in the books, the Litany can be a meditation unto itself.
Can we really avoid pop cultural influences? No, not really. They shape a lot of landscape of the possible within and without us. No small amount of folks have found their way into magic, animism, and polytheism through movies, comic books, music, and other media. No small amount of us make choices on what media to consume or not consume based on our worldview as animists and polytheists. I still hold we need to be really careful of what from pop culture makes it into our spiritual practices. That is true of anything, though, gnosis included.
Why do I not mind the influence of the media like Dune, The Dresden Files on my magical practice? Because the books and other media are not substituting my experience with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir with what is in its pages, but adding to the ideas I have at my disposal for working with Them and understanding Them. I think that is the positive influence of pop culture on a person: if the media can open new doorways of understanding, experience, knowledge, and relationship between ourselves and the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. The negative is when the pop culture begins to supplant or even deny the lived experiences we have, or the history of the cultures that worshiped our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.
In the end what I would like to see is more conscious interaction with media whether we are incorporating it into our individual practices or not. Does this piece of media make me think, question, respond to things from a polytheist or animist lens? Does this piece of media challenge the status quo and makes me consider my relationship with a given God, Goddess, Ancestor, or spirit? Does this piece of media make sense to the point where trying out a given technique, eg the Litany Against Fear can produce positive results? These are just a few questions we can ask as polytheists, animists, and magical practitioners to make more mindful, careful choices in the media we participate in.