So you’ve decided you want to bring pop culture into your spirituality. You’ve picked your entities (or they’ve picked you), you’ve started constructing your pantheon. Now what? The next step is to put it all into action. But how do you know what to offer your entities? How do you know what they’ll like?
The short answer is ‘canon’, but that doesn’t answer every question. In fact, the more you bring your characters to life the less obvious the answers will be. You’ll have to rely on your ability to keep them in character while traveling uncharted territory. And really, it’s nowhere near as difficult as it might seem.
Offerings: These are easy to distinguish if you have enough canon material to work with. Whatever source you’re drawing from, make sure you’ve seen/read/heard it a number of times and recently. Become familiar with your entities. Then start writing down everything you know they like on one page. Offerings can be just about anything: food, objects, natural resources, energy, etc. Offerings can also be candles in a color associated with them, music that they’ve sung or listened to before, anything. Keep writing. Write until you can’t think of any more, make your favorite food, then come back and write more.
On the next page, write down things that you think they’ll like. These are things not necessarily mentioned in canon but for which a connection can be made. I’ll talk more about this under Subtle Characteristics.
Beware: Just because an entity might enjoy something does not mean it’s always the best thing to give them. Giving season one Dean Winchester alcohol may sound like a good idea but you might want to keep it away from season seven Dean. Stefan Salvatore, being a vampire, inherently enjoys human blood, but would you really want to give it to him? God, I hope not. Helpful tip: After you’ve compiled your lists go down them and cross off anything you feel might be a bad idea.
Symbolism: Say you want to decorate your altar with something nice that represents your chosen beings, or you want to carry an object of importance around to remind you of them. This is where symbolism comes in. I’m not going to lecture you about the importance of symbolism; you’ve all been to middle school (I think). But how do you tell if something is a symbol or not?
Easy answer: Do you think it’s symbolic of something? If the answer is yes than it is. It doesn’t matter what the next believer or fan thinks in this department. If you believe there is an important symbol about your deity then there is.
Harry’s owl is a symbol. Katniss’ bow is a symbol. Xavier’s wheelchair is a symbol. Castiel’s trenchcoat is a symbol. I can go on and on but my thoughts mean zero in your path. This is your chance to look at the objects and actions of the character and figure out what is important to them, to you, and how you can incorporate that in your life. Take some time with this step; some symbols may be easy to catch, others will pop up later on. And remember: if you’re looking for something to remind you of them but can’t think of any symbols there’s nothing wrong with carrying around a small picture, drawing, or quote by them! Sometimes simplest is best.
Subtle Characteristics: You know those people in fandoms who write outrageously long metas about things that never happened to characters in canon, while you’re sitting there going “you have too much time on your hands”? Well, I’m not saying you have to become that person, but picking up a few meta skills certainly won’t hurt.
As you travel further down your path you might start wondering if your being will like something that never appeared in canon, or if they would approve of a certain situation that was never even touched upon. If you’re a Godphone you can probably just ask them. For the rest of us, subtle characteristics and critical thinking will be our guide. This requires you to spend a lot of time thinking “based on x happening and y being a common thought process, how would this being respond to z?” It requires a lot of cutting and pasting things that happened way long ago with seemingly unconnected things that happened more recently to come to a conclusion. Most of all it requires you to think like the being. For some people this comes naturally. For others it might seem intimidating, and that’s okay.
If thinking like the characters is difficult for you start with something small. Read a little fanfiction (yes I did just say that). Ask well-known people in your fandom for recommendations so you don’t accidentally read a bunch of ooc fics. See how other people portray the figure. Ask yourself if it feels right: Would x really do/say that? When you feel comfortable enough to move forward, try your hand at writing fanfiction. If you’re not a writer it’s okay! You’re not being judged on style or grammar or how big your vocabulary is. This is only for you. Don’t read them immediately after. Move on and keep writing. After you’ve written a few go back and read the first. Ask yourself the same questions. Go through each fic (while writing more) and watch yourself grow. Keep reading the fanfiction of others. You’ll slowly find yourself thinking like your characters.
The more you know your character’s thought process the more you’ll be able to deduce about how they’d feel about certain situations. You may find that an offering under the second list would be perfect for them, or you may cross it off.
Don’t expect to become a pro over night with this. It’ll take time, effort, and a lot of patience, but you’ll get there. And in the end it’s worth it to understand them just a little more.