August 2012

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On Pagan Narnia and General Thinky-ness

I've been thinking about [info]elfwreck's Journalspherical Religion Talky-Thinkiness post and this one is most definitely inspired by it though not necessarily 100% related.

Firstly, like many of the comments attached to the post, I don't think pagans have the same need or desire for a Narnia effect. We already have a ton of stories and ways of expressing divinity, dogma, and religion. Most of us don't take any of these stories literally. When we feel appropriately moved we write new stories as we see fit and because of the nature of a non-centralized non-unified group, we can add these stories directly to canon and no one cares or protests so long as one doesn't try to label zie's practice inappropriately.

My mentor once told me that Mastery isn't about attaining something or learning x skills, it's about being able to be change. For me, change is really a defining point in paganism. It's a good and celebrated thing and it's painful and crushing. It's new and exciting as well as terrifying and unknown. It's constant and expected as well as sudden and flaky.

All of this rambling about how there could never be a pagan allegory because there is not One Myth, there are very few people who take their mythos literally, and often times pagan flavored writings can be added into canon if they are steeped the way Narnia is for Christians do NOT mean that I don't wish there wasn't more pagan themed works in the world or that I don't hunt for pagan writings to read.

If I were looking for something that has a similar feel to Narnia only for pagans I think I might pick Coraline the movie. I caught it recently and it's beautiful, rich, and full of the familar blanket that I think of as my patch of paganism.

On the other hand, unlike Narnia where I think children of all ages can read it or see the movies, I'd be hard pressed to recommend Coraline to children ten and under. Narnia, because it's Christian, follows a well known script and as a child I was never worried for the characters or their success. Who was good, evil, misguided and who would ultimately live or die was predicable to me and I think it's probably predicable to most children. The bad stuff is all known bad stuff.

Coraline is beautiful and unpredictable. There is no safe space. There are elements I recognized now at the age of twenty three that I would never recognize as a child. Even with cues I saw and got, I was more invested/worried for Coraline and her family. Part of that comes from the whole pagan vibe though. Nothing is purely good or evil and there are pros and cons to any choice you make, none of which has to be inherently damning.

Perhaps I just don't give young children credit for the level of complex and unclear waters they can master.

As a side bar I really do love Pullman's atheist Narnia in His Dark Materials.

When I was younger I used to think that both L.J. Smith's works and Anne Rice's works had some pagan flavor in them. Looking at it now, I see they wore accessories while still upholding Christian values. The focus in most of Smith's work was on the one truth whether it was love, one's place in the world, or the way to wield power. The Right vs Wrong all dressed in Christian standards seems well worn. As for Rice, some of what I'm looking for is there in the Vampire Chronicles. I think Tale of the Body Snatcher and probably Queen of the Damned have some very interesting pagan thought paths you could run even if the over all framework is in a good vs evil God exists and he so does Menoch and they are all powerful.

Other writers or works that meet my need half way seems to be Piers Anthony. His Incarnations of Immortality is set in a Christian system, but I think it subverts how the system is meant to be viewed as the one and only and perfection itself into a group of people who fuck up and who work right along side other lesser known systems. This doesn't stand outside of the Christian world, but it seems to stand firmly in a pagan world as well as a Christian one.

The Animorphs series feels like it should be acknowledged somewhere here. A series that is told through first person accounts of five humans one alien and sometimes other voices seems like is should be on the list. The drastically varying perspectives (so drastic in places that it almost feels like characters are describing different events), thoughts and takes have a polytheistic vibe for me. They work in a whole tapestry of fate, alternate reality theme later in the series that seems to scream no one true story. The way moral dilemmas are handled as the children fight a secret war for freedom seems decidedly UnChristian in several areas. One of the characters glorifies war and death and really loses all sense of self outside of war in destroying. Another character holds on to aspirations of fame and money and glory throughout the war and in the peace time becomes a major movie star. Another loses himself completely in the animal world and freedoms humans can never know in their own forms. The One True Couples in the book all fail and the one character who felt most committed and least likely to move on from her pairing is engaged and most happy after the war. There are surface Christian bits: an all powerful mysterious race that could stop this war and make life perfect but doesn't exists in a very "I'm God and you other creatures are my disciples" kind of way though how the characters think of this race and react to their presence is anything but worshipful.

So, I'm not 100% sure what my point is here. I think I just wanted a post about paganism in books or what could be pagan in books. So yeah, mission accomplished.

Comments

Haven't made it down to elf's post yet, but you're generating some thought in my brain pan, which may be a good thing for one of us, at least. I'll try and get back to this once things have congealed a bit.