Book Review – Pop Culture Magick
Pop Culture Magick
by Taylor Ellwood
Immanion Press, 2004
Reviewer: Eric “Daven” Landrum
I’ll admit that when I first heard of this book, I was really skeptical. When it was published, I didn’t know Taylor, and I remember the calls that he was a sellout, a poser, and an idiot. That a book based on popular culture and especially the “Buffy Summoning” was just a stupid, fluffy concept. I refrained from commenting because I hadn’t read the book, but to me it sounded interesting since at its core, as Chaos magick uses the same concept.
Now I’ve read this book and I think it deserves an honored place next to Oven Ready Chaos. For those of you who aren’t familiar with that book, it is considered to be a seminal work of Chaos magick.
I will state this from the outset — this is not a book for a novice magician. It is a book that is dense with information and it makes huge assumptions as to the reader’s experience level and knowledge. This is a text that pretty much requires that the reader be very familiar with their own magical system and to have multiple years of experience casting spells and manifesting their desires.
Taylor takes the reader from that starting point and shows them how their magical works can be even better by using pop icons in their workings. The primary concept in this book is that if magick is affected by the amount of people believing in it, then it can be made even more effective by using symbols and icons that masses of people already believe in, like pop culture icons. Using a figure like Wolverine from the X-Men for the cynical Ronin figure in a working for warriors would be even more effective since Wolverine himself has such a fan following, and belief has already charged the idea of Wolverine that you will be using. Heck, to listen to many scholars, this is exactly how the Gods were created — a pop culture icon given enough power and belief so that it goes really well.
He explores this concept as well as the benefits and pitfalls of working with this kind of energy. He also shares some personal works and examples throughout. Just about every mass media method of communication is listed, with a few exceptions. While television, music and movies are all put together in one chapter, it is still noted that it is possible to work with those entities coming from that media outlet. I think I also just realized why he gives those such a brief treatment; the fact that icons coming from those outlets pass by in a flash and by the time one really learns the icon well enough to work with it, the attention of the culture as a whole has moved on to other things.
There are some things I had a problem with, and it is not the material itself.
His delivery is pretty dry throughout. This is partly because of his background in academia, which tends to dislike descriptive and imagination stirring phrases. The tone, while sounding arrogant, actually isn’t. It is the tone one generally has when very experienced in an aspect of life and are trying to transmit that professional competence to an audience.
The anime part of the book, where he is taking specific anime series and using them to illustrate his point, uses series that are popular but may not be known to the reader. One example of this is he goes into great detail comparing the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion to the Kaballah (which honestly I believe it is based on in the first place). Throughout that section he makes a basic assumption that the reader is as familiar with the series as he is, so he doesn’t explain things to those who may not know what happens in the series. Readers would have to watch the entire series and the movie just to make sense of that section of the book. He does this again and again in the video game section as well, and you can see hints of it in other areas. So while the concepts are solid magical work, these sections I feel could lose the reader.
I’m going to give this book 4 stars out of 5, ultimately. The somewhat limited appeal, the assumption of knowledge in the latter chapters and the tone conspired to reduce the score from the 4½ I wanted to give it. But still, this is a hugely needed work, and anyone who is involved in the esoteric, magick, Discordianism, pop culture, chaos workings or even standard ceremonial magicians or witches would be well advised to read this book, if for no other reason than to understand this important core concept.
I know I’ll be recommending it to many, many others. Taylor, my hat is off to you, my friend. Well done.
©2006-2013 Eric “Daven” Landrum. Edited by Sheta Kaey
Eric “Daven” Landrum is a Seax Wiccan and the author of Daven’s Journal.