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  1.  (9676.1)
    Hey guys, I've had this idea kicking around in my head for quite some time about a group of Urban Shamans in the near future dealing with a technologically obsessed culture, not to mention "supernatural" threats. Think something like Sons of Anarchy meets The Dresden Files.
    The point of this topic is that I want to get it right, and this is something there isn't a ton of accurate information available on the web. The wiki pages for modern primitives and urban shamanism are about a paragraph each.
    This is the first place I thought to ask after an initial Twitter inquiry, who do I talk to? Who do you guys and gals think are the most prominent people in the fields? I am going to try and send Fakir Musafar an email, but who knows if he'll respond.
  2.  (9676.2)
    Herp A Derp.
    Talk to whoever. From what I've seen there's no centralized head figure; but from what I've seen it's kinda a everyone making crud up as they go along to best suit their environment and needs; more of a personal thing than an organized religion thing with a 'these are our gods, this is how you worship them, this is how we make our swag, these are our important folk' deal.
    The groups I know of tend to be reclusive and wary of newcomers &/ or media; but at the end of the day most neopagans I know of work and practice their religion as a solitary, private thing. The larger groups in my area are Wiccans & Asatru/Heathens.
    Last I checked there were some IRC and LiveJournal groups, but I haven't really been interested in group stuff for a while, and I'm settled in my own beliefs, so I'm not sure where to point you.

    Also, Neopagan, Modern Primative, and Urban Shamanism aren't mutually interchangeable words.

    In anycase, good luck with your writing, and hope you find what you need.
  3.  (9676.3)
    That sounds a bit like Grant Morrison's The Invisibles, which actually might not be a bad place to start. I'm sure if you emailed Grant he could be bothered to rant about chaos magic for a bit.
  4.  (9676.4)
    Awesome, Thanks! I haven't read the Invisibles, I'm gonna go snag that up and then see about emailing Grant, from interviews I've seen he seems pretty open about all of that stuff to anyone who asks.
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeMar 22nd 2011
     (9676.5)
    Er... what do you want to know?

    You might be best off just making up something completely new and doing it your own way, with your own rules. I have massive, massive disdain for, for example, Jeph Loeb's Vertigo series 'The Witching Hour' where he obviously did some research and wanted to 'get it right', but picked utterly the wrong source material. Conversely, James Robinson's 'Witchcraft: La Terreur' did it really well.

    But half of this stuff is people making up bullshit anyway, so you may as well. A while back I did a short piece on the history of neo-paganism, which I could dig up and copypasta, if it may be useful, but srsly - make it up yourself.
    • CommentAuthorArgos
    • CommentTimeMar 22nd 2011
     (9676.6)
    From my understanding Fakir Musafar just studied a lot of old culture body modification and replicated what interested him most. You might do well to just go and research whichever culture you want to replicate (Aboriginal, subcultures of Asia and Africa, etc.) and pull from what strikes you as the most interesting: Native American suspensions, Hindu Kavadi Rituals, the Phuket Vegetarian festivals, etc. etc. I mean, when it comes to being a "Modern Primitive," it's just that - you pull from the "primitive" cultures that resonate best with you and bring that culture into the modern world. Split tongues, for example, while popular now as just a thing to do (well, still extreme and rare, but usually done just cos and not for spiritual reasons), was used in hatha yoga, originally. So like, maybe you could have a character who is a yogi and decides to get a split tongue for that reason. There are no strict rules for modern primitivism.
    • CommentAuthorEmperor
    • CommentTimeMar 22nd 2011
     (9676.7)
    I agree with Oddcult, don't try and get things too "correct," make something up (if you try and get it "right" those who know more about it will spot the flaws, but if it is fictional everyone can just settle in) - you are better off coming up with a coherent system of magic and how it would work in a tech-rich urban environment (how would it work for example with wireless networks and portable devices). Key will be how it all works at the margins, how they might use graffiti or war chalking (compared with sigils) and the role of "outsiders" (tramps and other marginalised groups). Then have a look shamanism and magic and see how that might apply in an urban environment - initiation ceremonies, visionquests, trances, divination, etc. and how things like towers, tunnels, etc. might figure into that.

    I did look into urban shamanism as the background for a story and I found "City Magick: Urban Rituals, Spells and Shamanism" by Christopher Penczak useful, not for specifics but as an example of how a magical system would work in an urban environment. There is a Kindle edition. Looking around you might be interested in "Pop Culture Magick: An Exploration of Modern Magick," which might give you some ideas - like incorporating modern pop culture into rituals (invoking Buffy might more useful than some dried-up minor Assyrian deity). Also useful might be "Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult" and "Generation Hex" which give an overview of what some people are doing in magic.

    You might also want to look at Charles Stross Laundry books as he has a system of technologically-based magic that might be a useful parallel for what you are looking to do - a couple of the stories are free to read online if you want a taster.

    And don't take it too seriously ;)
    •  
      CommentAuthorallana
    • CommentTimeMar 22nd 2011
     (9676.8)
    Also, Neopagan, Modern Primative, and Urban Shamanism aren't mutually interchangeable words.

    yeah.

    also, white people generally don't source their "authentic" shit. know what i mean? the "modern" and "urban" and "neo" is, in my humble and totally biased opinion, most often code for "not really very good." i'd think you'd have a better time creating a believable character by copy-pasting out of some Vice Magazine articles.

    if you're still intent, though, you might attack from the middle-class-white-person angle and maybe talk about Stelarc and Donna Haraway and everything BoingBoing has ever posted about body-hacking and people who drink colloidal silver and um those people that obsessively track their own biorhythms and also this, which is fifteen years old...

    also, Fakir won't email you back, but Lukas Zpira might. still, you'd have a better chance talking to a documenter of those sorts of scenes than the people perpetrating them.
  5.  (9676.9)
    I'm currently doing some writing that involves cultural clashes, and I've found these anthropology lectures recorded recently in Berkely to be a fantastic help! Podcast + Course Details - They cover the history of Anthropological thought, giving a good idea of what types of thinking are very outdated, and a firm groundwork on thinking constructively about cultural relativism. From there you should have a better idea of where to look for source material (your best bet is probably finding relevant ethnographies written by reliable researchers).
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeMar 23rd 2011
     (9676.10)
    Second Penzack and the Disinfo stuff. Although, it is getting oddly dated even so soon, in the way that anything cutting edge ten years ago tends to be.

    Charlie Stross' Laundry books are an excellent example of taking stuff that he knew about himself; maths, coding and computer programming, and the Lovecraftian mythos, then doing his own thing in a reasonably logical way. That's how to do it. Stick with something you know about and are comfortable in anyway, then base it on that.

    Another, perhaps unexpected thing I'd recommend as 'doing it right' would be Supernatural, the TV series. It tends to use Hoodoo for its magical type stuff, which fits in well with the backwaters America tone of much of the show and as it's fairly syncretic anyway, for example, mixing catholicism with native american and african stuff, it works well in that context. But it also means it's flexible enough to serve as whatever kind of plot device they want to turn it into without particularly bothering anyone.
  6.  (9676.11)
    Thanks for everyone's responses. I know that
    Also, Neopagan, Modern Primative, and Urban Shamanism aren't mutually interchangeable words.
    Those people do sometimes run in the same circles and a lot of the beliefs parallel and use a lot of the same things.
    As someone has always considered myself a modern primitive in the fact that all of my piercings and tattoos have been spiritual events instead of "oh this will look cool". I'm very interested in tribal cultures and their practices and how they can apply to modern day living.
    I think I will take the "make shit up as I go along" approach, but at the same time I don't want to disrespect anyone either. It's just that these thought processes are so new, and yes to me, 15 years is still new to a belief system, that it's still being formulated, even the people doing it don't know what they're really doing.
    As many of you have said,
    But half of this stuff is people making up bullshit anyway, so you may as well.

    I'm going to look into all of the stuff recommended, I already have the Disinfo: Book of Lies, I should thoroughly comb through it.
    • CommentAuthorEmperor
    • CommentTimeMar 23rd 2011
     (9676.12)
    Charlie Stross' Laundry books are an excellent example of taking stuff that he knew about himself; maths, coding and computer programming, and the Lovecraftian mythos, then doing his own thing in a reasonably logical way. That's how to do it. Stick with something you know about and are comfortable in anyway, then base it on that.


    Indeed - write what you know. As you are a modern primitive that sounds like a great place to start - anything that has significance has the potential to be used in a magical way (I suspect, with some solid research, you could do something interesting with Russian mafia tattoos). That way there will be a solid, believable core to your story, even if you then use that as a springboard to something wilder and stranger.

    Also monitor the news for strange crimes, odd belief systems and the like and keep an eye on the latest developments in technology and weapons, as well as what people are doing in body modification and see if you can get them all to collide together. Be open to synchronicities too - I got nearly the entirety of a short story out of random bits that seemed to want to accrete themselves around a kernel of an idea, so I let them: captcha codes on a blog posting, randomly clicking on from a Wikipedia page I was looking at for a completely different reason and that kind of thing. Don't fight it, just go with it - the hope is it adds a layer of unexpected details that more mirror life in all its messiness but you'll find that, instead it probably fits in seamlessly.
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeMar 23rd 2011
     (9676.13)
    Okay. Here's the copypasta. It's copyright me and I politely request it is not copied anywhere else and I reserve all rights:


    Very brief history of british paganism


    Right. Here's my very, very quick and slightly dodgy history of paganism in the UK.

    I'm doing this off the top of my head and without checking sources, so please bear that in mind.

    Okay...

    Back at the dawn of time, in the midsts of history, everyone was pagan and prayed to the goddess and there were mountains and waterfalls at Glastonbury and dragons flew about everywhere.

    Actually, it wasn't like that at all.

    Life was pretty difficult and people made up their own supernatural explanations for the weather and tried to bring meaning to things they couldn't explain. They did this by anthropomorphising these concepts. Making them like themselves so that they had a face and a voice and could be related to. So gods were born. We might as well call these different gods of nature 'pagan'. They lived all around, but also in the sky and sea. Some people tried to study these gods, and to learn from or influence them. So religion was born. Different ideas about religion came and went with the people as they moved about and invaded each other.

    So, in the UK there were a whole bunch of different pagan religions and gods that we don't know a massive amount about, before the Romans came along and brought their gods and stole a few of ours. They wrote a little bit about the Druids, whilst killing them, because they were leaders and administrators, of sorts, whom the Romans feared may be the focal point for rebellion.

    Just a little bit before they decided to become Christians the Romans left Britain and they left a few of their religious ideas behind, and a few of the pre-existing ones had a bit of a go again, but then the Vikings decided to raid and invade and some settled in the East of the country and they brought their big hairy gods with them too.

    Everyone fought each other most of the time and got along some of the time and the land was divided up into different tribal areas, most of which had their own gods.

    Then the Romans decided to re-import Christianity and through a series of tribal leaders and later kings turning to Christianity, bits of Britain gradually became more united and also Christian.

    William Rufus was supposedly the last pagan king of england, after a few Christian ones, but there are several silly stories about him, which can probably be ignored.

    Now, lets skill forward a few hundred years to a bloke in Wales called Edward Williams, who called himself Iolo Morganwg. He fancied himself as a bit of a poet, so he researched the old bardic traditions, which had a bit of a link to druidry. Their old tales and stories about the older gods were handed down through an oral bardic tradition, and he got into this and decided to be a druid and to reinvent druidry. He wasn't reeeeaally pagan, though, and most of the prayers that he wrote referred to 'God'.

    Iolo inspired a few druidic societies and groups to be set up and these did their thing in a fairly Christian way, much like the other friendly societies and mutual savings and pensions groups and drinking clubs that also existed. He did also take some ideas from the bardic sources he found that were
    vaugely pagan and also spent most of his time off his tits on laudanum and opium.

    Okay, that's enough about druids for a bit. Back to them later.

    Well... in the nineteenth century you had people getting interested in magic and alternatives to christianity and also getting their kit off in public. The golden dawn and various other magical societies were doing their thing and some intellectuals advocated a return to Roman and Greek values. Things were changing slightly and radical thinkers were getting some of their ideas heard.

    You also had stuff like the Wind in the Willows, which was a beautiful pastoral story about animals, which had a chapter where Pan featured as a great horned god.

    Aleister Crowley was shagging, snorting or injecting pretty much anything he could and there were all sorts of magical and quasi-magical groups forming.

    Then, in the 1920s an academic called Margaret Murray did some research into the witch crazes and witch trials and decided she'd found evidence that the covens of witches mentioned were actually the descendents of an ancient goddess based religion.

    So, a few magical groups that were already in existence decided that that's where their origins must have been, and that they were really witches and had been all along without even knowing about it!
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeMar 23rd 2011
     (9676.14)
    Enter Gerald Gardner.
    Oddcult Feb 25th 2009 edit (5138.6)
    Gardner had lived in the far east and wrote about things like knives, as he had a bit of a thing for them. He was also involved with various semi-magical groups and masonic type orders, and had acquaintances with people like Aleister Crowley and also Ross Nichols (whom we shall come to shortly).

    He met some folk down in the new forest, who were doing something a bit like witchcraft. So, he decided that he was going to revive what he called 'The Witch Cult' along the lines that Margaret Murray laid out, and also bunged in a load of stuff from the New Forest people he'd met. He asked Crowley to write him some rituals (probably) and Crowley asked for some money in return (probably) and so Wicca was born. He also liked getting his kit off, and being tied up and whipped, so these elements made their way into Wicca. Wicca was faaairly pagan at this point, but was still more about angels and classical or magical ideas, instead of what we think of today as paganism.

    At the same time as Gardner was inventing Wicca, other people got interested in Witchcraft and also decided that they had their own ancient heritage and version of it. One of these was Robert Cocrane. More on him later too.

    Okay, back to Druidry. Since Iolo thingy, there were plenty of Druidic groups, but a mate of Gerald Gardner's, Ross Nichols, who was a member of a one of them. He loved all that old welsh poetry stuff, so decided to form a new druid group, the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, which was a bit more like Wicca in that it wasn't Christian, but took much of its inspiration from welsh and bardic stuff, including ideas about gods and spirits and heroes from the older stories.

    The other druid groups stuck around and are still around, of sorts, but Nichols writings and the work he did led to what we know as modern Druidry.

    That'll do about Druidry, I think. OBOD continued and is still going, and other druid groups decided that they were pagan too. And then they split. And reformed. And got drunk. And fought. And made up. And argued. And got drunk. Repeat ad nauseum.

    When in 1951 the Witchcraft Act was repealled, Gardner published a few books about Wicca and its popularity grew, due to the fact people thought they might get a shag out of it, and see some people nekkid, and also because they now wouldn't be arrested for it.

    Gardner went to hang out at the Museum of Witchcraft on the Isle of Man and founded and worked with various covens around the country.

    Now, er...

    Oh yeah. Doreen.

    I <3 Doreen.

    Doreen Valiente got involved with Wicca after hearing about it in some dodgy magazine or other, and met Gardner and became Wiccan. However, she thought that some of the stuff in there was a bit pants. Mostly Crowley's stuff, so Gardner let her rewrite it.

    The stuff that she put in was a lot more pagan, and also goddess focused. She then fell out with Gardner and met with various other people who said they were witches, including the previously mentioned Robert Cochrane. He turned out to have been talking nonsense about various things too, so she also fell out with him.

    Along the way, joining various groups, then falling out with them, Doreen Valiente left in them a lot of writing that was much more pagan and less strictly magical or Crowley-like than they had been.

    Then Alex Sanders came along and said his granny initiated him when he was little, but that was nonsense too, but he was actually a Gardnerian, who Gardner wouldn't acknowlege because he was a tiny bit gay. So Sanders founded his own tradition and initiated loads of people. That's Wicca then.

    Old Craft comes from various people and groups, like Robert Cochrane's who might or might not have had some links to pre-existing magicians or magical groups, but they also decided they were pagan on hearing Margaret Murray's theories.

    Then you've got the heathens and northern traditions. Umm... I'm not all that up on them, but they didn't undergo the same kinds of reinventions and changes that the other pagan religions did, and were around in various forms in scandanavia and europe until they had their serious revivals in the 1960s and 70s. These revival groups also all fell out with each other and split. And got drunk. And split. And reformed. And got drunk. And fought. And made up. And argued. And got drunk. Etc.
    Oddcult Feb 25th 2009 edit (5138.7)
    Somewhere along the line people started printing zines and newsletters, so a pagan scene that put people in touch with other pagans became distinct from the occult scene and groups like the Pagan Front were formed, which decided that being open about being pagan was okay, and some kinds of official recognitian were needed.

    Then they thought that being called the 'Pagan Front' sounded a bit confrontational, and calling their magazine 'The Wiccan' was a bit exclusionary, so they changed it to the 'Pagan Federation' and 'Pagan Dawn'.

    Then the people who started and sorted all this out fell out with each other and split. And got drunk. And split. And reformed. And got drunk. And fought. And made up. And argued. And got drunk.

    Somewhere along the way, all this stuff got exported to the USA. Where the Americans did two things. They either became uber-strict about the rules and because quite fundamentalist about their approach to paganism. Or they utterly sanitised and tamed it so that it was hideous and fluffy and nice and super appealing to teenage girls. You also had people like Starhawk and the Dianics who took Murray's witch cult myth a bit seriously as a feminist political statement.

    Then all that stuff was reimported back to the UK. Stuff like Cochrane's version of witchcraft came back as a strict, fairly hardcore version of what it was, and Wicca became the 'eclectic' mess we see today when it got appropriated by horrible New Agers.

    Then the Internet happened. And everyone got to be able to find out about paganism. And a few daft films and TV programmes nicked its language and ideals.

    Then everyone thought they could be a Druid or a Witch or a Wiccan.

    And some people in the UK thought this was great. And some hated it. And they all fell out with each other. And got drunk. And their groups split. And reformed. And got drunk. And fought. And made up. And argued. And got drunk.

    And that's about it, really.

    Oh, and somewhere along the way, someone I'm really terrified of, even now, because she is mighty and ferocious, called Feorag, on the old UK Pagans Mailing List had a rant about 'Fluffy Bunny Pagans', sometime around 1995. And that's where that phrase was born.

    Ah, that'll do for now. Ali's version of the history of paganism in the UK.
  7.  (9676.15)
    Nicely done, Oddcult.
    I would note that the (indeed fearsome, but also a nice lady) Feorag is Charlie Stross's life partner...

    @RandomEntity: If you want to play with the nuts and bolts of how magic is done by modern (mostly urban) practitioners, you'll probably need to have a look at the Chaos mages. Peter Carroll, Phil Hine and & Ramsey Dukes are the key names. I'd also recommend Issac Bonewits' Real Magic as a good guide to possible 'rules' of how it could be done. For a strong antidote to the theory stuff, practitioners like Francis Brakespere and Kali Black are also worth a punt.

    (And I'll blow my own trumpet a little - you might find my Guttershaman series of some use.)
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeMar 23rd 2011
     (9676.16)
    @Cat Vincent - I'd disagree that chaos magic is now a modern thing. It's pretty much over as an active movement.
    • CommentAuthoradrian r
    • CommentTimeMar 23rd 2011 edited
     (9676.17)
    Someone I'd throw into the mix is Phil Farber, whose take on magic is informed by NLP and neuroscience, particularly mirror neuron research.

    youdothatvoodoo
  8.  (9676.18)
    @oddcult ...but as a technique and influence - and a possible basis for a fictional system - has something valid going. And I'd submit that Dukes at least is still worth reading.
  9.  (9676.19)
    I think chaos magic not being 'an active movement' is probably the best outcome for it really. I always saw it as a template rather than a system. From my reading into chaos magic (and postings from people far more knowledgeable than me on the internet) it seemed the best thing to do was read a bunch of different people's thoughts on the matter and then toss it all aside, letting only the parts that resonated deeply to bubble up to the surface and become part of your 'system'.

    So from that point of view I think reading into some of the chaos mages would be great for RandomEntity.

    I don't 'practice' enough, but I've been reading relevant stuff again to try and get my brain to click with it all again. Will be bookmarking this discussion so I can come back to it. All of this stuff will probably inform a novel I plan on writing one day, but at the moment it's just a google doc with a bunch of links, quotes and notes, and I've got no idea when I'll get a chance to actually start on it.
    • CommentAuthorroadscum
    • CommentTimeMar 26th 2011
     (9676.20)
    Life was pretty difficult and people made up their own supernatural explanations for the weather and tried to bring meaning to things they couldn't explain. They did this by anthropomorphising these concepts. Making them like themselves so that they had a face and a voice and could be related to. So gods were born. We might as well call these different gods of nature 'pagan'. They lived all around, but also in the sky and sea. Some people tried to study these gods, and to learn from or influence them. So religion was born. Different ideas about religion came and went with the people as they moved about and invaded each other.


    Now i wasn't around at the time so this is just supposition, but i suspect observation and prediction were important too. Some people led lives that enabled them to notice where the sun rose and sank on the horizon each day and how that and the movements of the stars changed with the passing of time. Paying close attention to this and noting what happened when gave them the mystical ability to measure the passing of time and predict with accuracy what would happen next, whether the days would lengthen or shorten, when the weather would begin to grow warmer, when to plant, when to harvest. Useful, practical stuff, the knowledge of which showed that you really were a bit special. Add to that some knowledge of herbalism and perhaps a bit of simple chemistry, coloured smoke and things that go bang - all gained from patient observation and passed down the generations as jealously guarded secret knowledge - and you've got a class of people who have some very real and useful powers. The other stuff, the things that they don't know, like how the world began and what pushes the sun across the sky, well you can just make something up and as long as you keep getting the basics right, when the winter will end, what herb to use to cure the shits or make you see the spirit visions, you'll be fine.
    Landscape is important too, the valley where the sun goes down on the longest day or where the midwinter moon rises, where to leave your dead and how to align their tombs - circles and standing stones, carved spirals and turf mazes, don't forget all that. It wasn't and isn't all gods and mumbo jumbo, magic only got its reputation as a thing of power because it has a real, practical, useful side.

    Ahem...yes, well, i'd best be off then, goodnight all.