Pop Culture Meditations

I’m quite lucky in that most of my (online) religious community and friends are also geeky and heavily involved in fandom of some sort. Even while our religions and fandoms may not be the same, there has been a deep well of information and ideas to draw into my own practice. We have a tendency to toss out the random ideas – curses drawn from movies or television, correspondences made around cartoon characters, superheroes elevated to god-status (well, that’s hardly new) – and see where those ideas spin and weave. From Pandora and iPod music divination to blog ‘bibliomancy’, we’ve got whole new areas to explore for devotion (and magic).

This has been on the front of my mind as I begin restructuring my altars and deciding which practices to keep and which to cut, which serve and which I continue ‘just because’. (Though perhaps some people will find that ‘because reasons’ is a good enough…reason.) I already know which practices I’ll definitely be keeping, while some will have to be shelved while I think about why they’re necessary, and there are other practices I’d like to start.

Guardians of the Seasons by ~Ronobo

One of these is centered around characters from a variety of popular children’s movies – Rise of the Guardians, How to Train Your Dragon, Tangled, and Brave. Whatever it is about these movies and the specific combination of them that has certain section of the internet so enamored, I have no clue. As for why I personally love them, my best answer would be that animated movies have been and will likely always be my preference, and you can’t be in fandom for long without wondering, “Hey, what would happen if we shoved these characters into the same room/universe?” And then you add in some spiritually-minded folk, and you get…well.

Correspondences and debates over what characters could be connected to which seasons, mumblings and murmurings over what the characters would oversee if they were gods or demigods or spirits, and questions on what altars to them would look like. And then those questions go from theory to practice, and people start practicing together and talking about it, and then more fictional-focused practices start popping up because there is something infectious and inflaming about the stories our culture paints on the screen.

Weirded out yet?

I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about the pop culture and fictional influences that brush against my more religious practices, largely because it makes me uncomfortable to discuss very openly outside of my group of friends. It’s much easier to say, “Oh, I really like the stories,” or, “They inspire me to be more.” Those are both true statements. I’ve had discussions about what the stories mean to individual people and how they have re-awakened in a lot of us a strive to be more alive and in love (with life, with each other, with whatever!). Most Pagans will acknowledge that stories contain great power, and many times I’ve heard, “Myths are just stories, but stories have power.” So it really shouldn’t be nerve-wracking to talk about veneration of fictional characters. I suppose I could just use a bit more Gryffindor courage.

I started thinking about this sort of practice, though, when I began asking ‘why’. Why are people who worship made up gods told they’re ‘doing it wrong’? Why can’t I venerate a fictional character, especially one that’s going to be important to me anyway? Why shouldn’t I? Quite often, these characters feel closer to me than many gods, and I enjoy their stories more than most myths. Quite often, it has been their stories – read in libraries or hidden moments or with a flashlight when I should have been asleep – that kept me going when life was swinging at me. As I said in my last post, my prayer and adorations keep me stable and happy. And so does fandom and fiction and creativity.

I’ve never been one for boxes anyway.

About Aine

Aine Llewellyn is a 20 year old girl creature currently mucking about in southern Arizona. She enjoys the winters and rain but can’t stand the heat. She is a difficult polytheist that natters on and on about her faith.

  • http://aediculaantinoi.wordpress.com/ P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    I have yet to see Rise of the Guardians (or any of those other three films)–but, from what I’ve heard, Rise would have a lot of appeal for me, since it features a drowned-and-divinized (sort of…?!?) character, who also happens to be the one that I’ve found very hot since I first saw him…

    I often wonder if these archetypal similarities are things that need to be paid more attention to when they do come up. It’s not to say that Antinous and Jack Frost are “just archetypes,” but instead that drawing from a similar well might lead to natural resonances between certain figures, etc.

    • http://daoineile.com Aine

      Argh, my throat gets all clogged just thinking about Jack Frost…I admit, he was why I saw the movie. And then I saw it and felt a mighty need to know every about the universe it was in because it is FANTASTIC.

      I certainly agree on the archetypal similarities – as you said, not as ‘just archetypes’ but in ‘what is this similar to’ or ‘what does this feel like’ ways. I also think we should pay attention to the stories we tell and the stories that are popular in our culture, but that may be because I just love stories anyway P:

  • http://thecauldronborn.blogspot.com Michael

    I think it comes down to what the gods actually are. Do we believe that the gods are objectively real beings, or are they manifestations of our own psyches, Jung’s archetypes? Or are they just mythologized distant memories of remarkable, but not divine, human beings?

    If you think they are B or C, I suppose there’s no reason you couldn’t add fictional characters to your personal pantheon, since the gods themselves are fictional (or fictionalized history.) But if A, then the answer to your question is that the gods are real, fictional characters are not.

    If A, if the gods are objectively real, then veneration, offerings and ritual are tools to build relationships between us and them. Between real beings and real beings. If A, then characters in stories may be inspiring and worthy of attention and contemplation, but they’re ultimately the inventions of their authors and have no reality outside the imagination. You’re actually relating to some aspect of a writer, expressed through the character.

    If B or C, though, then sure, why not?

    • http://daoineile.com Aine

      Hm, I disagree that characters are ‘aspects of a writer’. As a writer myself, my characters certainly aren’t aspects of me. That makes for…poor writing. If you’re going to tell a story, you need to tell the story without sticking too much of yourself in there, or things get messy and the story becomes a long drawn out therapy session, which is something few people enjoy reading.

      Of course, I hold a belief in both ‘a’ and ‘c’, but, as stated in other posts, I’ve never been fond of firm divided lines. Adding in that we have accounts of humans being divinized, well…it’s more complicated than three clear-cut options. Not to mention, one doesn’t have to venerate just gods or deities but can have practices around spirits and such.

    • Drekfletch

      That A presumes that there can be no new gods, new beings. What is to say that a new being couldn’t come to be and take the mantle of a cultural entity?