Welcome to another Metaphysical Monday! Today I am talking to an online friend of mine, Jay or ‘Hermetic Imp’, about her experiences as a pop culture witch, and what that means to her. As an area of magic that has always fascinated me but which I’ve remained on the sidelines of, I’m really excited to listen to her thoughts on the subject.
Hello Jay! Thanks so much for agreeing to talk to me, especially with the crazy time difference we have going on between. How are you doing, today?
Hi Lee! The pleasure is mine. Thank you so much for having me! I’m doing alright, just trying to keep busy and safe in these wild times. How are you?
It really has been nuts, but I’m glad you’re getting by.
Would you like to start out today by telling my readers a little bit more about yourself?
Sure! My name is Jay. I’m a nerdy psychology student who adores music, pop culture (obviously, haha), adventuring, self expression, anime, the occult, learning, communication, crime/mysteries, traveling, and the world around her. I work as a diviner under the username Hermetic Imp. I’m a magical girl whose practice revolves around pop culture, spirit work, self discovery, and being of service to others.
I’d love to hear more about your pop culture work. To you, what is a ‘pop culture witch’?
Okie doke! So, to me, despite not personally using the moniker ‘witch’, a pop culture witch/magic user/practitioner is someone who utilizes the symbols, characters, media, celebrities, and fandoms within pop culture to better understand themselves and the world around them. They find modern myths and gods that they see in their everyday life and integrate those ideas and entities into their spiritual and magical workings. They may cast spells using replicas wands, use magic detailed in their favorite book series, or work with pop culture entities to accomplish a variety of things. I… almost feel like that’s a technical definition that removes a lot of the fun and whimsy of pop culture magic, but I think this is the definition that works best for me.
How did you get into pop culture magic? How does it help you to discover yourself?
So, that’s actually a good question I don’t quite have the answer to? I think I just noticed that people did things like Pokemon tarot spreads or made spells based on their favorite anime characters and that made me curious. I researched it and found that it is a thing and one that I had already been doing in my traditional deity work. (I’ve mentioned the story about when I first felt Hermes’ energy while jamming out to How Far I’ll Go from Moana to you before.) Being the nerd I am, I jumped into it wholeheartedly. I was super jazzed to know that I could incorporate my current interests into my spiritual practice.
As for self-discovery… one way it’s manifested lately is through engaging with shows and characters that I resonate with and finding that their struggles on-screen or in books often reflect current issues I’m dealing with. Seeing characters play out said themes and issues leads to epiphanies that give me spiritual breakthroughs and allows me to take another step in my healing process. Along with that, I’ve definitely found that characters having the courage to confront their issues inspires me to do the same, opening up inner pathways I didn’t realize existed. Hopefully, that all makes sense. ^^;
It makes perfect sense, and sounds really nice! So, what does your practice as a pop culture witch look like? Do you have an altar? What is a day in the life like for you?
Okay, so my practice isn’t really that consistent because I’m a spoonie and a busy college student, but my practice typically includes creating and listening to playlists created for my traditional and pop culture deities, watching/reading media that relate to my deities as a devotional act, creating pop culture spreads, creating associations and correspondences for pop culture entities, enchanting merch I’ve gotten, dancing to songs associated with my deities, playing videogames with my deities, buying merch, using pop culture decks, making art, writing about them, and dressing in their colors/clothing depicting them.
I kinda have an altar that has a bunch of pop culture things on it, but I plan on revamping it soon to focus on the fandoms and entities I currently work with. I want to move it closer to my more traditional ones as well.
A day in my life can include any mix of the above. It really just depends on my energy levels. One day, I might dance to their music, write something about them, and create a spell and the next day, I may just watch a show they’re in or that I associate with them.
Casual magic is definitely up my alley, too.
What fandoms and figures do you work with/incorporate into your practice?
So, the biggest ones are Harley Quinn, Criminal Minds, Disney, Sailor Moon, Danganronpa, Pokemon, Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni/When They Cry, Harry Potter, DC, Adventure Time, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Marvel, and The Arcana. As you can see, it’s a fairly diverse set of fandoms. I incorporate each in different manners. For example, The Arcana, Adventure Time, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Madoka Magica, Harry Potter, and Danganronpa are all incorporated via tarot and playing card decks. Sailor Moon, Criminal Minds, Danganronpa, and Higurashi come in through astrological systems. Disney, Harry Potter, Pokemon, DC, and Marvel are incorporated through cleansing, music, spreads, and occasional spellwork. Harley Quinn, Criminal Minds, Sailor Moon, Danganronpa, Pokemon, Harry Potter, and The Arcana are utilized in deity work. Each of these fandoms gets used with shadow work and self love.
I do have a few more fandoms I plan on working with soon, but for now, I think I’ve got more than enough on my plate *laughs*
You definitely have your hands full!
This might also be a silly question, but how do you find interacting with these figures/concepts outside of the realm of polytheism? Do you struggle to separate the two, or is it easy to compartmentalize?
It’s not a silly question at all! It’s actually a really good one that I’ve been pondering over lately. Once I’ve incorporated a fandom into my work, it can be difficult to stop thinking about it in a spiritual sense. My brain will just start making associations while I watch, read, sing, dance, write, or paint that makes enjoying it merely for the sake of enjoying it take a backseat to figuring out how I can use this idea or that character in my practice. I do find it easier to compartmentalize when I don’t work with the series through deity work and intense shadow work though. It really depends on just how big of a part whatever fandom plays in the overall context of my practice.
To put it in perspective, of the ones I listed, I have the most issues compartmentalizing with Harley Quinn, Sailor Moon, Danganronpa, and Criminal Minds. Pokemon and Harry Potter were big interests beforehand, so I can enjoy those with little to no issue. The Arcana has a love component to it (it’s in part a dating sim) that I get caught up in without worrying about spirituality. That’s likely due to me working with the character Asra primarily when it comes to divination, so there’s a level of removal from it being wrapped up in more emotional and intense aspects of my practice. The same can be said for the ones I didn’t list with Harley.
Does it work well with other areas of your practice? Do you find that they often overlap, or that you keep them seperate?
It definitely works well with other aspects of my practice. I think there’s a lot of overlap between pop culture magic and other spiritual practices. Both give insights into yourself, people, and your environment - they shape your worldview for better or for worse. To me, pop culture is just one medium of self discovery rather than being a whole different beast from more traditional practices.
You mentioned that your faith involves service to others: is pop culture magic a part of that, too?
Most definitely. I don’t do many spells and the ones I do are focused on myself as I always worry about the effects I may unintentionally cause. However, I do use pop culture in my readings. I may use my replica Arcana deck or my character playing cards, I may tell a story a client can relate to, or I might reaffirm messages they’ve gotten through music or other media. Pop culture is an open and accessible thing for all of us. That’s what makes it so powerful as a practice.
And how do your non-pop culture deities and spirits interact with this side of your magic? And - sorry, this is a very ‘grand’ question - what role do you feel pop culture polytheism has in the world of more ‘traditional’ pantheons?
My spiritual team actually loves this side of my practice! It’s actually the way they’ll end up telling me things a lot of the time because they know it’ll catch my attention. I’ve had plenty of times when music will sync up with something I was thinking or worrying about for reassurance. I’ve gotten messages from movies and shows. I remember “It’s a leap of faith” following me after I watched Into The Spider-Verse and had it confirmed by Hermes that it was a message to have more faith in them having my back. I’ve played games with him and Freyr, danced to Charlie Puth and Jaime Fox with Apollo and Dionysus, sung with Bast and Harley, invited my deities to watch things with me, and so on and so forth. I’ve never had trouble balancing these different aspects of my path - they just naturally dovetailed together.
As for your second question - and there’s no need to apologize!- I think that pop culture polytheism is primarily a modern manifestation of the same archetypes and themes that have played out in stories for millenia. Not all of us connect with the old gods and they understand that. That’s likely why we have series like Percy Jackson or American Gods that allow us to meet these gods again through a slightly different guise. Along with that, it’s easier to relate to pop culture entities than traditional ones for some because, much as Homer and other writers during Ancient Greece shaped Hellenism through telling stories that extolled Greek values and beliefs at the time, modern pop culture extols our current values and evolves as we do.
Pop culture has honestly been around forever - we just give more credence to the ancient stories because they’ve been around longer, thus they’re more established - especially research-wise. Praying to and interacting with modern pop culture spirits seems more like wish fulfillment because as we grow up, we’re taught not to believe in fantasies and imaginary friends. We’re told that it isn’t possible for Harry Potter to speak to us as much as Heracles/Hercules. We’re taught that spirituality is meant to be taken serious all the time, which I think pop culture paganism and magic counteracts. Yes, spirituality is important, but so is taking it easy and nurturing that inner child. If someone connects to Optimus Prime more than Ra or Odin or Zeus or Cernunnos, what’s the harm? They all share the archetype of The Leader, The King, The Benefactor. They value justice and knowledge. They are forced to make decisions for the whole rather than just the individual. There are so many similarities that people don’t always want to see.
Pop culture moves us on an emotional level and I truly believe that means something. We value our practices and entities because they speak to us on a fundamental level. Pop culture does the exact same thing, which is where its worth lies. There’s also the fact that it’s more accessible or stepped in mysticism as traditional paths are. It’s open to everyone in a way nothing else is.
That’s a really touching way to put it, and I understand entirely. If it weren’t for some books, I would never have become a polytheist.
On a less heartwarming note, are there any difficulties you experience in your work or research? Any limitations?
Oh definitely. It can be hard to know where to start because there aren’t a whole bunch of credible sources on pop culture magic - it’s primarily based on personal accounts. While those are useful in giving examples we can build off of, it can be frustrating when everyone interprets things differently. This isn’t a unified discipline, so you can’t be sure of anything until you experiment. I don’t have hundreds of books and years of research to examine like traditional practitioners do. I actually have to depend on connecting the magical systems of pop culture to traditional ones to have them work rather than them standing on their own. While that’s great for creativity, it can be a bit daunting at first. I still run into issues about how to approach a particular fandom and spirituality. It’s kinda like writing by the seat of your pants - which I do often do - in that you never know what’s going to happen until it does. It feels very unstructured and that’s what can make it or break it for people.
You’re doing a good job from where I’m standing!
Thank you for talking with me today! To close off, what is one piece of advice you would give a witch looking to get into this field of magic?
Thank you for having me! It’s always a joy to talk to you, Lee. As for advice, I’d say take it at your own pace. Don’t feel rushed to catch up with everyone else. This field is one that is just so personal -pace yourself so that you can find what truly does and doesn’t resonate for you. Avoid wish fulfillment too. What or who calls out to you may take you by surprise, but it’s worth it even if they’re not your favorite character or fandom. You’ll figure it out as you go along, as scary as that sounds. But, that means you get to build something that speaks to you in a way that another path may not. Go slow and enjoy the ride. I wish you all the very best in your journeys.
Jay is a black pop culture magical girl practicing in South Korea. She enjoys using divination, pop culture, and evolutionary astrology in combination to make a practice that is modern, relevant, and accessible for herself and others. Jay is currently studying to get her Master’s in Forensic Psychology and to become a Counseling Astrologer. She works as a professional diviner and astrologist on her website. In her free time, she can be found watching anime and crime shows, reading, singing/dancing, listening to music, and spending time with friends and family.