I can honestly say when I started writing the first of this series of blogs on Pop Culture Paganism I did not realize the full scope of its system. Although, it does not resonate with me, I can understand its appeal and how one can employ its system of belief. When I wrote part one what I had thought I understood of Pop Culture Paganism was just one aspect of its thoughts on a spiritual universe. It was not until after I spoke with Taylor Ellwood via email that I began to understand the scope of its complexity. Especially in the idea of whether not one can worship the Justice League as Gods.
Taylor Ellwood considers himself a “magical experimenter” that has created four different systems of magick and is the author of multiple books on advanced and cutting edge magick and Pop Culture Paganism. As a self-taught magician, he has an extensive background in magick and has studied and practiced various systems, including Western Ceremonial Magic, Chaos Magic, Neo-shamanism, Taoism, Dzogchen, and Tantra. Taylor is the creator and founder of the Magical Experiments University, where he offers classes, specialized training, and co-op experiments in magick. And of course he loves pop culture, spending his free time playing video games, reading sci-fi and fantasy books.
EM: After I posted my article on Pop Culture Paganism, I noticed a lot of mixed feelings of its acceptance within the pagan community, How would you approach the negative or purist comments about Pop Culture Paganism? How do you feel is the best way to explain it to the broader community?
TE: I ignore the purist comments about Pop Culture Paganism and Magic. There’s no argument they’ll accept about the validity of pop culture spiritual practices, and so it’s a wasted effort. The best way to explain pop culture paganism to the larger community is to simply share that you believe in pop culture spirits and have created magical workings rituals around that belief that allows them to connect meaningfully with the spirits they’ve chosen to work with. And the advice I would give to someone practicing Pop Culture Paganism is not to focus on trying to get acceptance from the larger Pagan community, but instead focus on connecting with other Pop Culture Pagans and Magicians.
EM: I based my article on a question that was posed to a Facebook group, “Can you worship the Justice League as Gods? In your book, “Pop Culture Magic Systems” you explain how one can create a system of magick and practice from their favorite genre of Pop Culture. Going back to the posted Facebook question, Is it possible to create an entire magick and belief system around the Justice League universe?
TE: Why not? People have done it with the Marvel Universe, so it could certainly be done with the Justice League as well. To do it successfully requires a solid understanding of how magic works and the person should spend some time working with each character so that they can develop the appropriate relationship and understanding of how those spirits will fit into the system.
EM: Do you feel that these characters can be archetypes of the traditional gods or could they just be a new face to an old name?
TE: Do they need to be either? It could be enough that they are spirits in their own right that can be worked with. Of course the other perspectives could also be valid. The only way to find out though is to do the work.
EM: Why do you think “beings” and characters such as Merlin and Hercules are widely more acceptable in the use of magick in the Pagan community rather than let’s say Dr. Strange and Superman?
TE: If it’s old then it has value. If it’s new, then it doesn’t. That’s the best way to sum up why certain spirits are considered more acceptable versus others. It’s worth noting, though both Merlin and Hercules were the pop culture of their time, the myths and that Dr. Stranger and Superman is part of the mythology of our time.
EM: Concerning your article, “How Pop Culture promotes interest in Mythology” on witchesandpagan.com. One thing I found rather interesting was the idea that the Gods are more or less speaking through new platforms to reach a new modern audience. Do you think that new stories based on myths, such as in the new Assassins Creed Origins video game are just extensions to the old myths? And could they be accepted as such a thousand years from now?
TE: I don’t know that they’re extensions, but what I do know is that modern culture’s exploration of older mythology and the new stories that come out are another way for people to discover older mythology and the spiritual traditions that are focused around that mythology. And the benefit for the Gods is that it provides additional vectors for interaction with people who might otherwise never know about them.
EM: As an author and practitioner, you have released many books and articles dealing with Pop Culture Paganism and Pop Culture Magick can you explain a little about the difference between the two? And how they also can go hand in hand with each other?
TE: Pop Culture Paganism involves what I would consider to be a devotional approach to working with pop culture spirits. In other words, there is a recognition that the pop culture spirits are beings that the person wants to work within a devotional manner, which could include prayers, offerings, and rituals done for purposes of honoring the spirit, as well as other activities that the pop culture spirits feel are appropriate.
Pop Culture Magic involves the use of Magical techniques and practices with pop culture, in order to achieve a result and/or do some type of devotional work.
For some pop culture Pagans, the magic is optional, whereas for Pop Culture Magicians, the magic plays an integral role in their pop culture workings. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, however, and can come together if magic plays a role in the pop culture Pagan’s practice.
EM: In part one of this blog series, I mention how I can see traits of the Egyptian God, Anubis in the character of Batman. A few readers were in disagreement. Are there any specifics to the choosing who or how you see a character and the relation to a tradition deity?
TE: I don’t typically match a pop culture spirit with a traditional deity. I prefer to work with the pop culture spirit, in and of itself, instead of trying to map it onto a traditional deity, so I wouldn’t associate Batman with Anubis because they aren’t one and the same, and there is a huge cultural difference between the two.
EM: In my manuscript for “The Little Witches Curriculum” I discuss how children can use fictional characters or their favorite toys as a representation of the gods when building their personal altars. This concept seemed to be well received in the community, why do think the community looks down on adults who would do the same?
TE: If you like pop culture you’re considered a geek or a nerd. And as I mentioned above, what’s old is valued, while what’s new is discounted.
EM: In my research on the topic, I came across a few sites and articles referring to you as the leading expert or the creator of Pop Culture Paganism, to me that would be a tough burden to carry. How do you see yourself within the magickal community?
TE: I didn’t invent Pop Culture Paganism or Pop Culture Magic. I was the first person to write a book about Pop Culture Magic and of course I’ve continued to since then, but I’ve also written books on a variety of other magic subjects. I’m a magical experimenter first and foremost, and what really matters is the evolution of magical practice and theory. Pop culture magic is one avenue for that evolution and I’m pleased my works have helped other people on their own spiritual journey.
EM: I am assuming that you did not just wake up one day and start following a Pop Culture system of magick. When did you start considering yourself a Pop Culture magician and practitioner?
TE: I’ve always had an interest in pop culture, but I didn’t start practice pop culture magic until the late 1990’s. I’d already been practicing magic for 5 years at that point, and I saw an opportunity to take some of the pop culture I enjoyed and apply it to magical practices. That’s when I began practicing pop culture magic.
EM: What can the community and your readers expect to see from you in the near future?
TE: Check out my site Magical Experiments, which also has Magical Experiments University featured on it, where I share online courses I’ve created for people who want to learn my systems of magic. I’m also working on my next book the Alchemy of Life, which is an in-depth exploration of the biochemistry of the body and how to work with it.
List of Taylor Ellwood’s books and publications