Magic on the Horizon

Evidently unemployment has a beneficial effect on blogging.

Today, we'll go over some background information for our next series of posts, whose topic will by the collectible trading card game Magic: The Gathering. Released in 1993 and developed by mathematician Dr. Richard Garfield, Magic established the trading card game as a genre, and may safely be acknowledged as the most complex card game in the world, with about 15,000 unique game cards at present. In this game, two or more players combat each other using spells represented by cards which they've organized into decks. In theory players can build their decks using any of the cards printed since the game's inception (though different official tournament formats only permit the use of certain cards, banning or restricting the use of some), so the possibilities for deck building are broad indeed.


More Cat Cosmology

Long time no ranting, it seems. While I gather my wits to prepare the next concerted series of posts, whet your appetites on these morsels, some afters to the considerable meal that was our examination of Longcat.


Longcat: Religion?

In the last two posts, we considered the possibility of a religious idea system based on the internet phenomenon Longcat, first drawing out the ultimate sacred postulate "Longcat is long," then examining the cosmological axioms which arose around this postulate. We have made our way from the top of Roy Rappaport's theoretical hierarchy down to the middle. Recall from our first overview of Rappaport that beneath second-order cosmological axioms are third-order rules of conduct and fourth-order on-the-ground conditions. In a way, these third and fourth tiers are where the real doing of religion takes place: in the rules and prescriptions for what to actually do on account of the cosmology outlined above, and in the pressures which feed back into the religious system from adherents where the ideas meet real-world conditions.


Longcat: Cosmology

Having familiarized ourselves with Longcat and the implications of ultimate sacrality in the postulate "Longcat is long," today we will consider the feline internet phenomenon through the second tier of Rappaport's fourfold lens. Recall that below ultimate sacred postulates Rappaport ranks cosmological axioms: ideas about how the world is structured and functions in light of the ultimate sacred postulates which stand above such axioms. As we noted in our first discussion of Rappaport, cosmological dualisms are particularly good examples of such axioms, and in Longcat's case a readily apparent dualism exists.


Longcat: Ultimate Sacrality

In the unlikely event that you are on the Net, reading this post, and you are unfamiliar with Longcat, we shall begin with a brief introduction of perhaps the world's most famous feline. Astoundingly, Wikipedia seems not to have an entry for Longcat (yet), so my own general understanding of the phenomenon will have to do.


201 Toolkit: Roy Rappaport

Roy Rappaport's Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity is the silver hammer in my theory and method toolkit. The year I took Religion 201 it was the last book on the syllabus, the final addition to our already extensive set of theoretical lenses. However, having only a week to read through almost the entire book (the last handful of chapters were not assigned, and I only read them later on my second pass through the book), and given the complexity of Rappaport's many arguments as well as the sheer density of his writing (which is excellent and eloquent), much of it simply went over my head. It wasn't until I was re-reading the 201 syllabus a year later in preparation for my junior qualifying examination that I revisited Rappaport and had a chance to not only read the entire work, but go over it much more carefully.

Religion 201

Most of the analytical tools at my disposal to study religions were given to me in a course called Religion 201: Theory and Method in Religious Studies. A core departmental requirement, the semester-long class basically read a book per week, each one meant to be a lens through which one could examine subject matter. Our set of lenses came from several disciplines, including psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Prominent authors on the syllabus the year I took the course included William James, Emile Durkheim, Catherine Bell, and Clifford Geertz.

More than just publishing my own blabberings, I would like to share some of the tools I use with others, so you, dear reader, can see the oddities I see through the theoretical and methodological lenses with which I was equipped as a religion major. Accordingly, from time to time I will post a brief overview of some element of my own training in theory and method, a screwdriver or a chisel or a drill from my own religious studies toolbox. In honor of my old theory and method course, this series of posts shall lovingly be dubbed "201 Toolkit."


A Curious Endeavor

What is the significance of the presence of various deities as summonable creatures available to assist the player in the Final Fantasy games? Was all that talk of mono- versus polytheism in Battlestar Galactica just fluff? Is there something about the element bismuth which manifests the awesomeness of godhead to posters on 4chan? Is the trading card game Magic: The Gathering a complex system of ritually manipulable sacra? Is the animated series Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann a treatise on mysticism? Why is Longcat so long?

No doubt you have questions like these, too.