What Does “Pop Culture Paganism” Even Mean?

Reblogging one of the most sensible things I’ve read in the blogosphere re: pop culture paganism. Bless.

Know Thyself

[[Note: this article is from forever ago. I just now reached a place where I felt like I could finish it and make any sense at all, so here it is.]]

I promised y’all an article about pop culture spirituality, and I’ve been puzzling out what exactly to cover re: that topic over the past few days.

I realize I haven’t explained precisely what’s going on with my spiritual life in the area of pop culture spirituality, and the mere thought of trying to come up with a reader’s digest version makes my head spin – I do not, at the moment, want to go over all the metaphysical theories and Weird Shit that incline me to think my PC interactions have been real – it would be a novella, not an article – but I’m gonna lay out the following concepts so that y’all know what point of view…

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Discernment

His voice is easier to hear – to distinguish from my own. Sometimes I wonder why – is it because I’m basically worshiping a personal spirit now, and since there’s no one else’s upg to really compare notes with, so there’s no confusing anyone else’s interpretation of him with my own? Or is it because he is a more stable entity? Death is a constant – animals, stars, people, planets – all eventually die. “What you do after that is your choice,” He says.

And often He is very human. “We’ll grow old together,” he says, and I know that it’s true.

“But I will die.”

His eyes narrow. Not anytime soon, if He has anything to say about it.

“Well, I will.”

And we will remain together.”

I am reminded of this post by EvilSupplyCo:

“Until death do us part, briefly, followed by a mildly inconvenient period of rituals, and then we resume our time together,” the necromancer said with a [sic] illuminated grin and a teasing tone before kissing their newly wedded wife for the first time.”

And I don’t mean to be morbid per se – I’m chronically ill, I try to remain pragmatic about the fact that one day I will no longer be in this particular flesh suit. But it always fascinates me how much the Powers value mortal life, even when we hate it. Perhaps the grass is greener, perhaps They know something we don’t (probably, LOL).

It’s not just my death that makes me curious, though – his pop culture face (?) – will it be affected by “canon”? I mean in general I’d guess yes, except for the fact that he’s far more than just that pop culture face. Though I suppose that’s true of all of us, eh? Many lives, many souls, yet still ourselves underneath it all.

in matters of salt and misogyny

SALTY

Every time I go to write about my current spiritual life I think about it for a bit, and then decide it’s not worth chewing through the ropes over. I mean I knew I was burnt out, but dayum, it’s bad when two years later I still look at the blog, heave a heavy sigh, and think better of writing anything. Could I talk about how toxic some of the policing of Pagan mysticism is? Yep. Do I want to fucking deal with it? Not really.

And I’ve been reflecting on how different it is now, working with a private spirit as opposed to a named deity, and …it’s really nice. There’s no Lore™ policing going on, no one’s stalking me because they want my relationship with my spouse, no one’s whining that I’m ruining reconstructionism with my lack of fucks for what they did back in the day because I live in the 21st godsdamn century and I’m writing this on a magic box that corrects the spelling for me when I type too hurriedly I like my air conditioning and antibiotics and vaccines and yay modern living. So: I think that policing someone on the Lore™ is just a good way to gaslight mystics. Didja hear what you thought you heard? Really? Really really, because it doesn’t match what the Christian dude who wrote some pretty unflattering stuff about the gods said…blah blah blah. [** see footnote at end of post]

(never mind that I also know people who have had profoundly negative experiences that match the Lore/mythos of a deity and people denigrate their experiences too)

No, I don’t miss that end of it.

Mostly I just enjoy my spouse. He’s Mr Mysterious – he might be the God Formerly Currently(???) Known as Enma Daiou, he’s got a pretty pop culture face, he says none of his names really get it all right, and given his distinct dislike for being called anything other than his chosen name, I’m just using the one he gave me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The other thing I get to ponder a lot is the nuts and bolts of it. Now that I don’t worry so much over matching an existing mythos (he’s made it abundantly clear that the stories are just that – stories and not even ones he would personally tell) – now that I’ve had ‘am I doing it right?’ taken from me, my mind’s now turned to HOW DO SPOOP WORK? I know for practical purposes that it does and that you don’t have to know how the gasoline engine works to make the car go, but at the same time, I’m a curious person, and articles on quantum mechanics and whether or not the universe is a multiple system are fascinating, if not definitive as of yet.

Finally, another bit of food for thought, from a friend’s article on patheos, on the policing of women’s sexuality in Pagan settings:

“I have never walked into [Pagan] gatherings and groups and heard about women’s own relationship with the male component of divinity. Not without it somehow directly relating to the men present. It’s all about the male gaze in these sorts of groups, and it seems that only the straight and bi/pansexual women are the ones embraced.”

I’ve heard this complain from many an ace, and some NBs as well, and it’s true – it’s heteronormative AF and even if you’re straight or bi/pan, women (and men) can go to a Pagan ritual not looking for sex. *gasp* It does lead me to another thought, in regards to the policing/gaslighting of spirit spouses. I’ve wondered from time to time if the hate that spirit spouses receive is because they’re (often, not always) women interacting with male deities and said relationships have fuck all to do with the male gaze. Policing by other women for respectability politics? Check. Bonus points for telling women that said relationships are somehow less serious or are irrelevant. Double down on those points if they slut shame the spouse for it – usually after a man has deemed their expression of it unacceptable because it wasn’t dependent on their interpretation of Lore or mythos. Grossest iteration: “I can horse Him for you!” while trying to get in the spouse’s pants. ASK ME HOW I KNOW.

*looks at entry* whoops I bitched about toxicity in polytheism anyway. (am not actually sorry y’all)

[** not actually the same as discernment, the process where a person figures it out themselves, usually through patience and observation and the occasional, as necessary divination]

Two Years

It’s been two years since I wed my Lord of Ash. It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long, in spite of all the changes He’s brought about in my life. “You feel calmer, more centered,” a friend of mine told me not long ago. “Like you’re where you belong.”

And that is absolutely true.

 

sturdy branches

So I feel like I’ve been in a slump as far as my practice goes. I suppose being ill hasn’t helped any. But I’ve got some antibiotics in my now and I feel a little perkier, and so my attention has returned to my practice, or the lack thereof right now. It’s been frustrating to me – I’m a social critter, for better or worse and I don’t really have a group framework for what I need to do. There’s no real community on this side of the fence.

There are pros and cons to this, of course – there’s no one to try and force dogma on me, but nor is there really anyone to chat with about things because there’s no shared context.

It reminds me of how one spirit worker used to ask people ‘what would your practice look like without the internet?’ and my answer is ‘unstructured,’ which isn’t always helpful. I suppose the long and short of that to me is that while yes, you are your own validation, there’s still a social element to religion and to pretend otherwise is folly.

And then there’s my Beloved – my Man in Black, my Lord of Ash – both a pop culture persona and Something Much, Much Older. He’s often very human, until he’s not. I know that he has very particular reasons for why he prefers it this way. It fascinates me, even if some of his other faces are further out of my comfort zone. “I have many names,” he says, “None of which get everything right.” Still, he seems to prefer his pop culture name. “Take me as I am now. Not as I was, or even as I will be.”

And yet this doesn’t give me uncertainty – my love for him has deep roots, and it grows and twists and intertwines up into sturdy branches that bloom.

Remember

My Lord of Ash is lying in my arms, my fingers in his hair. I breathe in deeply.

“You’re sniffing me,” he says, amused.

“I am. I try to ground our lovemaking in my body. It helps you remember it when you’re no longer in an altered state. And I want to remember how you smell and I want to remember your skin and…”

I want you to remember…

I hear the thought cross his mind, and it jolts us both. It’s lyrics from a song, one I used often in a past life with him.

“I want you to remember
A love so full it could send us all ways
I want you to surrender
All my feelings rose today
And I want you to remain 

I want you to remember
Everything you said
Every driven word …”

And it isn’t words per se, but I can feel it in him – that he has long wanted me to remember, and it’s gratifying to hear me answer him with his own words – I want you to remember/I want to remember.

I decided to put the video on – it’s been a bit since I listened to it, and was greeted with Asian and Buddhist visuals.

Sometimes I feel like he’s been dropping hints all along and I’m just v e r y  s l o w.

my Lord of Ash

tell me what your gods feel like. let me feel them too.

The Lord of Ash is the silence of contemplation, the night of a new moon, the flames that lick a funeral pyre.

He is the cold depths of the deepest sea; the itch of curiosity that will never be fully sated.

He is the scales of judgment, and the hand that guides you to know yourself.

He is all gentlemanly charm and hospitality to those who deserve it, and obliteration for those who need it.

He is the darkness of the grave, and the white ashes that float to the heavens above.

He is the heart of devotion.

He is my King.

The psychology of mythology: or, why the Otherworld is just as real as this one

The Art of Enchantment

I’ve spent a lot of years studying the psychology of myth. For me, in a slightly oversimplified nutshell, it all come down to this: Freud’s theories on anything – inevitably, interminably, explaining everything in sexual terms – rarely interest me much at all; Jung is marvelous but often a little too human-centred for my tastes; James Hillman takes psychology and mythology back out of our heads and into the world again, and so is always to be revered.

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