Posts tagged ‘archetypes’

Looking at Pop Culture Paganism

After writing about how non-traditional deities and spirits may or may not fit within my concept of polytheism, I was curious to learn more about the ways it manifests. Plus as I confront the truth, that really I am not all that culturally Celtic, I need to ask the question what is my culture, and how might I draw from it? 

Myriad Ways of Pop Culture Paganism– Answers from Vanaheim blog-

Pop Culture Paganism may include any of the following:

(I’ve bolded items that I feel open to exploring)

  • Using words and phrases from pop culture in ritual (for instance, “So say we all” instead of “So mote it be”, calling the quarters using Hogwarts Houses, etc.)
  • Using a picture or other representation of a character to represent a traditional deity (ie. using a picture of Yue from CardCaptor Sakura to represent Mani or another moon god, in this case, it was because the character looked like how I pictured Mani)
  • Using fairy tales, Arthurian legends or participating in the Hail Columbia! project in ritual and/or magic (all of these examples are examples of popular culture that is very old being used by modern people)
  • Related to the first, but practicing pop culture magick (as in Taylor Ellwood’s book on the subject, Pop Culture Magick)
  • Creating tools based on pop culture artifacts for use in ritual and/or magick (designing a tarot spread based on a character in a book)
  • Participating in and creating religious organizations/ritual and/or a sacred calendar based on works of fiction (Church of All Worlds, Storm Constantine’s Grimoire Dehara)
  • Traditional deities using pop culture entities in order to communicate with followers
  • Seeing a pop culture entity as an aspect of a traditional deity
  • Working with pop culture entities as archetypes
  • Working with pop culture spirits as egregori or constructs
  • Honouring pop culture entities as deities and/or spirits in their own right (this includes from one’s own work, although some prefer the term “modern culture Paganism” for this practice (Jack of Dreams uses “fictional reconstructionism” for this)

This feels silly but also fun. I feel like I’m taking off the corset of reconstructionism, and I can finally breathe. One of the things I love about paganism is the role that imagination can play in our faith.  

Ideas to explore:

*Jack from English folklore, the Fool as archetype in general (I see Fool distinct from Trickster) Robin Hood (I see him as a folkloric cousin to Fionn Mac Cumhal)

*Finding depictions of deity in pop culture- either explicit or ones that I associate- one idea I saw suggested (in a Llewellyn Witches’ Calendar from the earlier 2000s that I haven’t been able to find since) was Brighid linked with Rosie the Riveter in her blacksmith aspect, and I also thought of Betty Crocker as the hearth aspect. Any ideas for the poet?

*Using a story (from modern fiction, fairy tale, film etc) as a ritual narrative, psychological healing tool (particularly “Girls Underground” stories)

*Research local folklore/history (I’ve been talking about doing that for how long?)

Problems/Issues of Consideration:

*If it’s a live action TV show/movie, I have trouble mentally separating the character from the actor. Not as much of a problem with animation, unless it’s a celebrity voice actor whose character essentially embodies the celebrity. I was thinking about this in relation to Jareth, the Goblin King from Labyrinth, whom I’ve heard is popular with PCPs. Very cool character, easy to connect him up with older faerie lore, but yeah can’t separate him from David Bowie. 

*I’m more comfortable with older things that are out of copyright. It’s not so much concern for getting in trouble for infringement, though depending on what a person did (such as a public ritual) it could be a problem. It’s more that it’s something that exists primarily so some corporation can make money and it will change it as it sees fit.  So one’s personal vision will get screwed with. But with King Arthur & Robin Hood for example, people can do endless new creative things with, and there’s no one actor or depiction that necessarily sticks out in your mind in a way that’s distracting. 

*With stuff that is more recent, I’m more comfortable with things in books or static images than in TV/film. It’s easier to imagine it yourself rather than having the TV/movie version stuck in your head. 

Past posts that are related:

When the Gods Become Real,  Archetypes vs. “Real Gods” 

Snow Queen, Snow MaidenSpirits of WinterJack the English Trickster/Fool

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August 15, 2014 at 3:42 am 11 comments

When the Gods Become Real

One thing that became apparent from the Pop culture Paganism discussion last year was a lot of assumptions people were making about how historic myths are, and where the distinctions lie.  The problem is if these assumptions are false then their whole religion falls apart. Hence part of my reasoning in the Authenticity post.

  • Mythological heroes (Heracles, Perseus, Odysseus) were historic and therefore worthy of cultus
  • Superheroes were never real people there therefore can’t be “real” gods
  • Certain characters in medieval Irish and Welsh literature, written by Christian monks were all historically worshiped as gods.
  • A counter-point by others: mythology and folklore was the pop culture of its day

Does this imply that the “high gods” of Olympus and Asgard (etc) were originally human, and that makes them more real? The funny thing is good ol’ Euhumerus made that argument a long time ago, that the gods were all deified humans, but he used that as a rationalist explanation of religion, and his ideas were later used by Christians to discredit polytheism. Which is rather ironic given their spiritual focus on a historic deified human.

While there are some who literally worship Superman, Sunweaver was originally just talking about using characters like him as a metaphor, but even that people freaked out about.  Saigh also writes about using a modern warrior woman character as an icon at her shrine, to serve as inspiration but clarifying that she is not worshiping her as a being. Gefnsdottir shares an intriguing anecdote: “A woman who posts on one of the fora where I lurk had been trying to get pregnant for a year without success. At the end of the year, she remembered a particular ritual from the Kushiel’s Legacy series, wherein D’Angeline women (who can’t get pregnant otherwise) light candles and pray to the goddess Eisheth to “open the gates of their womb”. She decided to perform the ritual, and the following cycle, she became pregnant, and has had no problems since.”

The evidence of worship of many supposed Irish divinities is sketchy and even more questioned is the divine status of characters in the Mabinogi tales such as Manawyddan and Arianrhod.  Some of their names are cognate with the Irish (Manawyddan=Mannanan, Llew=Lugh) memories of gods that have been “demoted” to powerful humans in the stories.  Other characters can be seen as heroes or demi-gods worthy of honor as well. The lines between God, Sidhe, Human Dead and Hero are very blurry in Celtic and Germanic traditions, and they often aren’t as clear in Greek & Roman traditions as people think they are. (Saigh addresses this historical iffy-ness in her above post)

Nowadays, instead of Euhemerus, we have scholars like Ronald Hutton that tell us, sorry to burst your romanticized bubble but that holiday custom was invented by a Scottish nationalist, and that god you’re worshiping was invented by a poet.  Nothing against Hutton, he has been a needed correction to Robert Graves and Margaret Murray, but what he says is historical should not determine our religious practices. If you want your practice to be all historically attested, fine but you’ll constantly have to re-invent the wheel whenever the new scholarly journal comes out.

This is why I’m becoming more comfortable with the idea of honoring folkloric and older literary figures as deities.  I prefer older characters (19th century or earlier) not due to the “older is more authentic” mentality necessarily but because they have had time to show their cultural staying power and relevance.  Also, by then the copyrights have often expired and the commercialism has faded.  A lot of characters come and go in waves of popularity, others stick around for decades or centuries.  At some point, new gods and spirits appear to us. Maybe they are old gods in new guises, trying to be noticed. Maybe they are totally new. Maybe old gods do disappear and reappear in other forms? But we can’t really tell for sure what’s new and what’s old we just have to follow our instincts. I think it’s the spiritual equivalent of evolution and biodiversity. Spirits and their cults and religions have their own eco-spiritual niches, they evolve with the times- or at times they die and come back in a different form if their “niche” no longer fits them.  Some spirits also broaden or narrow their cultural or geographic territory. Gaia, for example from what we know historically wasn’t worshiped very much as a goddess in ancient Greece, she was more of a distant, cosmic principle. But now she is widely worshiped among Neo-Pagans and even Hellenic recons due to modern ecological consciousness.

This is a rather rambling post- I am sorting out a lot of tangled threads, I’m sure I’ll find some of them are strong material, while other strands are thin, weak and don’t lead me anywhere.  Eventually I will start some more weaving!

More bloggy links-

Stone of Destiny: No Capes “Because fandom is not worship. Worship involves pouring energy outward to achieve a result.Fandom, on the other hand, is about the self. It’s about satisfying a need that we feel, filling a hole that our modern society has forgotten how to satisfy.”

January 21, 2014 at 11:43 pm 2 comments

Favorite “A” PBP Posts

The fun of Pagan Blog Project, is getting the chance to find new bloggers, rediscover others I have read in the past, and read posts sometimes on the same topics from a variety of perspectives. I find myself reading blogs that I otherwise might not based on my interests, anything from a Chaos Witch to a Kemetic Polytheist from Illinois.  I set aside any misgivings I have over the broad use of the term “pagan” and realize that across these diverse paths, I can find something interesting to read on any of these blogs. Some of it may be more personally relevant than others, but even when I encounter viewpoints that are rather “out there” by my standards like godspouses, Otherkin, Lokeans etc. I find they challenge my assumptions.  Maybe at the end of the day I will still disagree, but I will do so for better-informed reasons, not unfair prejudices, and at least I will better understand why you believe or practice the way you do. And I might end up defending you next time I’m in a group of snarky reconstructionists.

Among the most popular topics for this letter were altars, ancestors and animism- to respond/link to my faves on those they may need their own posts. I was also pleasantly surprised to see another post on anthropology, from an Italian pagan (post in English) I thought hers was actually better than my own!

Archetypes– like my earlier (non PBP) post Echtrai and Wild Forest Gods both added some nuance to the fierce theological/philosophical debate going on concerning archetypalism vs. “hard” polytheism.  From Echtrai: “Archetypes have their place. I really enjoyed learning about them in my literature class, for example, and there are absolutely people who work with archetypes – including myself. I’m not attempting to bash that practice in any way – but working with an archetype and trying to shove a different deity into that archetype are two different things, and the second certainly has no place in my polytheism.”

Apples– show up as a key symbol is several mythologies Donald Engstrom has some interesting UPG about a prairie-dwelling apple goddess, Conor Warren’s is short but poetic & insightful. More personal reflections at the Crossroads Forest.

Activism– near & dear to my heart of course. Prairies & Pyramids connects activism to the Kemetic concept of Ma’at (cosmic justice) Ci Cyfarth wonders if Pagans are more or less likely to “get active”

Antlers– Sulischild writes on the symbolism of antlers (as compared to horns) and Wicca Artifact has a lovely poem about Elen, a British goddess who may have been associated with reindeer.

Answering an Atheist: Why My Religion Isn’t Harmful– response to atheist’s youtube video. Huge shock! Most of the generalizations he makes on harmful effects of religion aren’t very relevant to pagan paths.

Absent Gods/Absent Believers– Grumpy Druid- on the long period when the West forgot its gods “All along, the gods waited for us to come back. The Christians have their ‘prodigal son’ archetypes and talk of Jesus waiting for people to go back to him, but these gods waited fifteen centuries for us to come back. And we did.”

January 12, 2014 at 12:13 am 4 comments

Ded Moroz- Father Frost

A Deeper Exploration of the Spirits of Winter discussed in my earlier post.

Summarized from Wikipedia

Ded Moroz- “Old Man Frost” more frequently translated as “Father Frost” is a  Russian personification of winter, with a long white beard and fur coat, who visits children to give them gifts.  He is often accompanied by Snegurochka (don’t ask me to pronounce that one!) the “Snow Maiden” said to be his granddaughter.

Because of the strong ties between the Romanovs and the Russian Orthodox Church, the celebration of Christmas was banned by the Soviets and instead Dred Moroz was promoted instead of St Nicholas, and he brought gifts on New Year’s Day. Of course, after the fall of communism Christmas came back, but Dred Moroz and his equivalents in other Slavic countries continued. In some countries he visits on New Years, in others Christmas.

It’s not clear if Dred Moroz owes his origins to an earlier Slavic god, but he was not invented by Soviet propagandists, but is part of native Russian folklore. However, before the 19th century he seems to have been a more sinister figure which makes sense considering this is Russian winter we’re talking about.

Snegurochka- the Snow Maiden may have been a literary addition- seeming to originate from a couple of fairy tales written in the late 1800’s.

Poking around here are some more links I found:

Why Ded Moroz is Infinitely More Badass than Santa Claus  Just a goofy blog post, but makes some good points

Ded Moroz vs. Santa Claus  an advertising art studio’s analysis of visual differences between the two

Residence of Ded Moroz & Snegurochka a tourist website’s description of the village where they are fabled to live. Interestingly it mentions Ded Moroz being a smith who chains water in river and lakes with “iron” frost. Smiths show up a lot in folklore and myth as having magical powers.

Father Frost, Snow Maiden Iced Out of Tajik New Year’s Celebrations In former Soviet-ruled Central Asian countries, that are predominantly Muslim there is some controversy over these customs.

January 1, 2014 at 7:59 am 1 comment

‘Nuff Polytheist Street Cred?

Last spring I went along with members of my Unitarian church to visit the Hindu Temple of Minnesota. It’s actually the largest Hindu temple in the United States! It’s a beautiful building, and I was very honored and grateful for the opportunity to see it. I just wish I’d had more time to explore, because the tour guide spent way too much time (in my opinion) explaining Hinduism, after we had already learned the basics- from another member of the temple who teaches classes there. He kept emphasizing, and wanted to make sure we all understood before we entered the sanctuary filled with shrines of gods, that Hindus are really monotheists. It seemed as if he were desperately trying to convince us of this, and essentially apologizing for his religion’s polytheistic veneer. That he was worried that Unitarians, who rejected the Trinity and affirmed the Unity of God, would pass judgment on Hinduism. Obviously, he doesn’t know us very well.

However, I have gotten the impression that Hindus, in general aren’t especially concerned with whether they are “really” polytheists or monotheists.

As for Neo-Pagans, at one point we were just polytheists worshipping different gods, but then one day it became a big deal who believed the gods were “real” individuals and who saw them as aspects of a whole. And then we had to get into a perpetual debate over who was a real, bona fide polytheist. Not one of those fake fluffy Neo-Wiccans.

There is a difference between viewing the Gods as psychological Jungian archetypes vs. different aspects of the Divine or the Consciousness of the Universe, or something. “Hard” polytheists often claim all “softies” are proponents of the former. Soft polytheists are also said to not view the Gods as “real”. My inclination is to ritually treat the gods as separate beings, and to take an agnostic position about whether they are ultimately One, because in the truest sense of agnostic, its on such a distant level from human comprehension.

We can’t claim to be any better than monotheists in this regard. They’ve spent thousands of years arguing how separate the persons of the Trinity are, how divine Jesus is, or whether honoring Mary, saints and angels is idolatry. In the end they could call Trinitarian Christians “soft monotheists” and Jews, Muslims, Unitarian Christians and Bahai’is “hard monotheists”. But does it really matter? Don’t they all worship the same God? And sorry Hindu assimilationist apologists, and Great Mother Goddess worshippers– but most of these monotheists do not see you as part of their fold.

I think what matters, as far as as figuring out who has what in common with me, and who I might want to include in my community, or be a part of theirs- is functional polytheism. Of the aforementioned Hindus, some  focus on meditating on the Oneness of the Universe (Brahman) and others more on puja devotions towards particular deities. You could say that these folks are functional polytheists.

So call yourself a polytheist. Or don’t. But don’t go out of your way to claim that your gods are all really One in some way that doesn’t really reflect your religion. Practice intellectual honesty. And tolerance, respect- don’t make absolutist statements that ridicule or condescend towards other peoples’ beliefs. Above all, be true to yourself, your gods and your communit(ies) and culture.

December 6, 2013 at 5:28 am 2 comments

Jack, the English Trickster/Fool

As I’ve explored various European traditions over the years- Irish, Scottish, Greek, Norse/Germanic- I’ve found aspects of each that are familiar to my cultural world-view, background and upbringing, as well as aspects that I struggle with as they feel too foreign & alien. But I can’t deny who I am- and while I was raised to think of myself as proudly Irish/Scottish, my culture is mostly English and German in origin.

I’m starting to experiment with the idea looking at possible pagan roots behind English folk culture- fairy tales, ballads and legends. One that comes to mind is there are seemingly countless stories, songs and nursery rhymes with characters named Jack in them. They are not necessarily the same figure- Jack being a nickname for John is a kind of “everyman” archetypal young Englishman- even their flag is called the Union Jack. But what they generally have in common is that Jack is a trickster, a thief, and a fool. The series of graphic novels- Fables features various characters from fairy tales and nursery rhymes, including Jack, who is a composite of many of these tricksters.

Jack & the Beanstalk, Giant-Killer are the most well-known fairy tales. There are many that are traditionally told in the Appalachian Mountain region of the U.S. and some of these likely have roots in England and Scotland.  Here is a web page of Jack Tales, and another specifically for the Appalachian stories.

Jack of all trades, but master of none- a saying, once again referring to Jack’s foolishness.

In cards the Joker is sometimes called Jack, corresponding to the Fool in a Tarot deck.

Jack-in-the-box- a wind-up toy, when Jack pops out, he usually depicted as a jester.

Jack in the Green- figure in May Day parades & pageants- a person (or effigy) covered in garlands & greenery, and pulls pranks. He is sometimes identified with the Green Man, Puck/Robin Goodfellow, and the Green Knight in Arthurian legend. He also appeared in other spring celebrations: Easter Monday, St. George’s Day (April 23) and Whitsuntide (Pentecost)

Jack Frost- a spirit of winter, who paints the leaves red, orange and yellow in the fall, and patterns of frost on windows.

 Jack o’ Kent– wizard/magician who often beats the Devil in bets & games. (this is another common folk theme)  Stingy Jack also fools the Devil- this is an Irish legend said to be the origin of the Jack o’ Lantern

I’m not sure where this is going, but like Jack I’ll have fun wandering off exploring it.  I’m curious what other people have done,  spiritually and/or magically with English folklore.

This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project

May 11, 2013 at 8:12 am 6 comments


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