BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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Addendum II: On Stories of Our Own


I am disappointed -- again. 

In my perpetual hunt for Pagan- and polytheist-friendly fiction, I have dug through stacks and files and shelves of fantasy and science fiction and mystery. Many times, I have thought "hey, this is it!" Only to be disappointed. Poor research, flat characterization, muddy plot lines, and -- worst of all -- terrible use of mythology and dreadful depictions of Deities. Far too many of them read like fill-in-the-blank stories with this-or-that mythology slapped on top for a bit of color. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again: we need to write more of our own stories.

I'm not just talking about applying a Pagan veneer to what could be a Christian or Jewish or Zoroastrian story. I mean making Pagan spirituality and identity central to the characters' lives and to the plot.

Here are three examples, which I am currently working on (e.g.: do not steal these ideas, they're mine, I'm simply using them as how-tos):

I am currently hard at work on an alternate reality science fiction romance novella. It is set in a universe in which the Roman Republic -- not Empire, the Republic -- never fell. The central character is a Vestal Virgin who has faithfully served her Goddess and the Republic for twenty years. She loves Vesta and she loves the work she does for her Goddess. But she also feels a pull to do other things, to leave the sanctuary of the temple in Rome and perform works out there in the wider solar system. She is torn between what she perceives to be conflicting devotional calls. Her identity as a Vestal, as a sworn priestess and devotee of a Goddess, is not tacked on or artificially applied; it is central to her character and to the story as a whole.

Here's another example; this one is urban fantasy and is set in a modern city where polytheism is the norm. Kemetics, Hellenistai, Heathens, Hindus, Buddhists, and a dozen other traditions are all represented and all equally accepted. When the central character -- a Heathen police officer -- realizes exactly what it is that they are facing and just how terrible it is, he warns his fellow officers to make peace with their Gods and ancestors, and call on any divine aid they can. There is no exceptionalism here, no argument that one tradition or one Deity is superior to another; their variety is embraced and celebrated.

Finally, there's the contemporary romantic thriller which is meant to take place in the "real world." This one focuses on a Congressional aide who survives a mass shooting at a civil rights rally. He is (understandably) traumatized and turns to the faith of his childhood: Wicca. He moved away from it as he got older, but now, hurting and in need of healing, he returns to his mother's coven. He finds solace and new meaning in the rites and prayers he only vaguely understood as a child. The Wiccan faith is central to his renewal and rebirth.

There, see? Not difficult. Pagan- and polytheist-friendly stories are easy to write if they are conceived and written as Pagan/polytheist stories. Please, no more fill-in-the-blank stories where spirituality and devotion have so little to do with the character and plot that literally any tradition could be inserted and have no discernible effect on that plot. Give me stories set in ancient Egypt where devotion of those Gods is tangible and inherent and necessary to the story. Give me an urban fantasy in which an Iroquois detective calls on the spirits and the surviving traditions of her people to stop an ancient evil. Give me a science fiction tale in which a shaman must connect with the anima loci to ensure a peaceful, environmentally-friendly colonization.

Hop to it! Our community and our Gods deserve no less.


[Picture credit: "Melpomene, Erato, and Polymnia" by Le Sueur (1652-1655). Image courtesy of wikimedia commons.]

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


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