Neo-Pagan literature

June 10, 2006 at 3:25 am 12 comments

So I have decided that I will not submit an abstract for the Alternative Expressions of the Numinous conference. It just seems far too intimidating at this stage: I don’t have the time to properly investigate pagan literature whilst working two jobs and doing full time study. However, this really bugs me; the effect of pagan literature on religious identity is so incredibly important, but has been discussed very little, (except by Graham Harvey). I think I will do an indepent study course next year, and further the topic – starting with Marion Zimmer Bradley, moving onto Terry Pratchett and finally Juliet Marillier…

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Entry filed under: Juliet Marillier, literature, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Neo-Paganism, paganism, Religious identity, Terry Pratchett, Uncategorized.

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12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bill  |  June 10, 2006 at 3:47 am

    Ariel:

    I’m so glad you visited and commented on my blog! Your name means: Light or Lion of God. It has always been one of my favorites. But, I’m sure you already knew that.

    Our interests do, indeed, run in similar directions. Please forgive me for being completely ignorant, but you are the first neo-pagan with whom I have ever conversed. I was going to say…that I’ve ever met…but that’s not quite accurate.

    Time does not permit me to ask the boat load of questions running through my mind, but I would be interested in opening a dialogue with you. Could be very interesting and educational.

    Now, as I look back over those words it seems like I’m coming on way too strong. I’m tempted to delete them, but think that I won’t. My interests are honorable and I hope you will be able to discern this. Can you tell me, please, who/what is a neo-pagan?

    Blessings to you,
    -bill

    Reply
  • 2. arielsexegesis  |  June 10, 2006 at 4:03 am

    Blessing to you too, Bill! Trying to define ‘neo-paganism’ is incredibly difficult, due to the individualistic nature of its ‘adherents’. Some define neo-paganism as a branch of beliefs that are not mono-theistic, others define it as a nature religion. For myself, it is many things (being a studies of religion student doesn’t help because I tend to pick things up from everywhere!) I believe the world is essentially, enchanted. I follow the cycles of nature, believe that we are all interconnected, my thoughts create and influence my reality, in pixies, and a variety of others things. I believe that the divine is in everything and in everyone. To me, all religions are in touch with the divine, whether you wish to experience the divine as God, the Goddess, Buddha, G-D, Allah, Pan, Cernnunous, Kerridwen, the pixies – whatever. Confusing hey – lol. Although I am not a “Christian”, I have read much of the Bible and can truly see the divine in its writings. I think Paul said it most poignantly, “There is no Greek nor Jew, nor Man or Woman, for we are all one in Jesus Christ.” Hope I haven’t confused you – I guess, I am trying to explain what I believe in a way that will allow for a dialogue, rather than painting me as a satanist! lol. However, all that being said, many pagans would not agree with my eclecticism, and especially the respect that I hold for Christianity!

    Reply
  • 3. spiritualoasis  |  June 10, 2006 at 4:17 am

    Wow! What a thoughtful reply…and so quickly too.

    It’s obvious that you have spent much time in thought with respect to your beliefs. I really respect this. I’m teaching at the state university in the morning, so I must dash off for now.

    I do sense an connectedness here (what’s that called?) and would very much like to continue this conversation. Hopefully, there will be time to write tomorrow. Until then, grace and peace to you, my new friend. And, good night.

    Reply
  • 4. inaeth  |  August 27, 2006 at 8:04 am

    Arial,

    Just a few questions. How is Terry Pratchet considered to be a Neo-Pagan writer? While he deals with the fantastic, all of the books that he’s written, and I have quite a few of them on my bookshelf, are almost all within the written satire tradition of authorship! The same question applies to Marion Zimmer Bradley. Although she did not write very many satirical works, the majority of her works had social implications for the human stage that was present at the time of her writing, and can be interpreted in light of social commentary.

    I would think that if one wanted to study Neo-Pagan literature, one would almost have to certainly start with the Farrar’s book _A Witch’s Bible_. Of course, one would also have to include Raymond Bucklands seminal work _Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft_. Maybe Starhawk’s book _Spiral Dance_ would also be a good inclusion?

    Reply
  • 5. Natalie Rae  |  August 27, 2006 at 9:48 am

    Firstly, I agree with you. Pratchett is a brilliant satirist and Bradley is one of the best social commentary fiction writers that I have come across.

    I’m not too sure on the status of Mr Pratchett’s religiosity. It is clear that he is an occultist: he makes reference to knowledge of classical texts by Aliester Crowley for a start. Although Pratchett may not be a pagan, he provides a clear outline of the pagan community. However, my interest isn’t actually in whether or not Pratchett is pagan, but the fact that his novels have been instrumental in the development of the religious identity of pagans. Indeed, his notions of belief, deity and magic are instrumental in chaos magick especially and in paganism in a more general sense. Pratchett’s notion of ‘octarine’ is actually used by chaos magickians. The thing here is that he provides narratives and character through which people may identify with. Graham Harvey has written extensively on Pratchett’s relationship to paganism

    see: http://web.uni-marburg.de/religionswissenschaft/journal/diskus/harvey_2.html

    the article is freely available.

    Marion Zimmer Bradley’s books are what actually brought me (and many others) to paganism. Bradley was herself a practicing wiccan for a number of years, although late in life she converted to Christianity (I think Episcopialism) – though I could be wrong. Bradley’s Darkover novels portray the practice of magic and ritual very similarly to wiccan practices. My main interest in Bradley is her novel, The Mists of Avalon. Here, Bradley ‘reclaims’ the myths, on both a neo-pagan and feminist basis. Her novels have been instrumental for many peoples ‘conversion’, for lack of a better term, to neo-paganism.

    While all the books you have included above are most certainly influential pagan texts, they are all of a non-fictional nature. My interest in these texts is how fictiona narrative impacts on the development of religious identity. I’ve been looking at it from the basis of narrative psychology and Hjalmar Sunden’s role taking theory. Also, Bradley’s Mists interests me because of her rewriting of traditional myths – which is becoming a growing trend in neo-pagan circles. Indeed, Bradley’s retelling is considered in pagan circles to be a ‘true’ telling – her tradition has gone beyond the words of christian story keepers…..

    Reply
  • 6. inaeth  |  August 27, 2006 at 10:07 pm

    Oh! I’m sorry, I must have mis-read the article. (Or it might have something to do with the Martini that I was sipping on at the time… 🙂 )

    I love Bradley. Althought I’ve never read _The Mists of Avalon_, I did read _Firebrand_, which I think is the same premise as Avalon, although it is taking back the dialectic of Homer in regards to Cassandra.

    As much as some theologians may want to deny it, the tradition of a religion or praxis is fleshed out in the stories that surround it, which generally tend not to come from the source works that may be involved.

    I had no idea that Pratchett may have been, or is, practicing Chaos Magick. Do you know if it is within the tradition of AO Spare, or something a little bit more eclectic like the works of Robert Anton Wilson? I’ll have to reread some of his novels to catch a glimpse of the Crowley works that were referenced. Perhaps it’s in the novels dealing with the bumbling wizard? (I’m sorry, can’t recall his name right now.) I generally tend to focus on the novels starring Granny Weatherwax. She reminds me of some of my relatives… 🙂

    Reply
  • 7. Natalie Rae  |  August 28, 2006 at 1:05 am

    I’ve never read Firebrand. I actually like Bradley’s Darkover series much more than her other books, but, for the study of religion, Mists is the most important and widely read. In fact, althoug I thought it was a beautiful text, I found it incredibly depressing and have been putting off reading it again!

    I’m not too sure if Pratchett is practicing Chaos Magick! – I am aware that the chaos magickians like him though! I can’t really answer if his theories coincide with Spare’s – although I am aware of the basic theories of Spare, I’ve never read his books and I’m not into the entire sigil thing. However, I am quite fond of Anton Wilson – I can definitely see parallels between Wilson and Pratchett.

    I can’t remember off the top of my head which book referred to Crowley. However, I am pretty sure that Good Omens does.

    In essence, I’ve picked up on Pratchett’s description of magic and how it works more than anything. In one of the Granny Weatherwax novels, the younger witch (the dippy blonde thing) wants to cast an emergency spell – but has to go and find her ornamental athame etc. Granny and Nanny tell her that intent is all that matters and use a wooden spoon. He points here to the importance of intent and will….

    Also, his concept of diety strikes me as very chaos like. In Small Gods, he talks of gods that get smaller and eventually whither and die based on belief. For myself (and of course, due to the nature of chaos magick I could have a different understanding from any other chaos magickian) I see dieties as being reliant on belief for power. –> anything exists and is separate from me based upon the belief of someone, somewhere.

    Reply
  • 8. inaeth  |  August 29, 2006 at 9:35 pm

    I think you are right about the book _Good Omens_. I also think that is one of the books that doesn’t buy into the whole myth of Crowley being a Satanist. Even a cursory inspection of his non-fiction works reveals his loathing of the philosophy behind Satanism. Then again, with him being so anti-Christian, it’s no wonder why he hates a theology that is generally nothing more but an inversion of Christianity.

    As far as the intent and will part, this coheres nicely with most explanations of the “power of Faith”, magickal rituals, and magickal ceremonies. Although, to tell you the truth, I like Edding’s explanation of it better in his BelGariad series. His use of the “Will and the Word” for his system of supernaturalism in his novels congeals nicely with the explanation of the use of imagination and Will within the use of current day Magick.

    I’ve always wondered why the Goddess of Stuck Drawers seems to be such a minor Diety in the Discworld universe. Seems to me that She should be an important player in the politics of deity in that world… 🙂

    Reply
  • 9. Natalie Rae  |  August 29, 2006 at 11:40 pm

    I don’t actually get the entire satanism thing at all. While there are a few good ideas – all and all, the seem to be practicing an inversion of what they hate – xtianity. And boy, do they Christian bash or do they Christian bash. It’s all rather childish to me. The entire emphasis that it places on ‘me’ and selfishness – bruugh.

    I couldn’t get into the BelGaraid – I’ve read the first one.

    Reply
  • 10. inaeth  |  August 31, 2006 at 10:12 pm

    I concur with you about Satanism. The whole religion seems so… childish. I think that if someone would want a philosophy/praxis/religon that enunciates man’s individuality, then one would be better served following Objectivism and the other writings of Ayn Rand.

    The whole reason why I liked Eddings first two series, the Belgariad and the Mallorean, is because I loved his use of sardonic wit within the novels. Not to mention his type of dry humor resembles my own in real life.

    I’m trying to think of other Neo-Pagan writers that you may be able to use in your paper, but right now I’m drawing a blank. I don’t suppose Anne McCaffrey qualifies, but I think some of the works by Piers Anthony might. Specifically, his two novels _Isle of Woman_ and _Shame of Man_. Although I haven’t read them, as outside of his _Incarnations of Immortality_ series I consider him to be a hack writer, I have heard some good things about the novels.

    Also, something I just noticed at the local bookstore in my area is that Donald Tyson has written two fictional works dealing with the Necronomicon. I can’t remember the name of the first of the novels, as they did not have it stocked on the shelves, but the latest one that was published was entitled _Alhazred_, and seems to take a new approach to the topic. (Generally, those who espouse the Necronomicon as a source I typically ignore, as they are ignorant of Lovecraftian tradition and history.)

    If I come across any others, I will be sure to post them! 🙂

    Reply
  • 11. Natalie Rae  |  September 1, 2006 at 12:52 am

    Perhaps I’ll have to pick up the Belgariad again – I do remember the sarcastic tone of the novel.

    No – I don’t think McCaffey is pagan or writes about pagan ideals. I’m pretty set at the moment – Bradley, Pra.tchett, Marillier (whose an Australian Druid) and Niel Gaimann – if you haven’t read Gaimann I would highly recommend that you do

    in 5000 words that will probably be too much – lol.

    Reply
  • 12. hiutopor  |  September 17, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Hi all!

    Very interesting information! Thanks!

    G’night

    Reply

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